I have been through several iterations of this blog post now, in the vain attempt to make it absolutely perfect – because that’s truly what this experience deserves, perfection. However, I’ve realised that despite the words I carefully select or the photos I choose to upload, it will never be as good as experiencing it first-hand, which is why anyone reading this should book a Scenic Rim Trail by Spicers getaway now. Having said that if you have landed on this little blog in the hope to discover a bit more about what’s in store for you during this incredible 4-day/3-night stay with Spicers Retreats (complete with stunning trails, “glamping”, gourmet meals and a night staying at flagship property Spicers Peak Lodge) then please, read on.
I was fortunate enough to be invited to experience the Scenic Rim Trail by Spicers on a famil after attending the launch event back in June this year and with the trekking season drawing to a close early Spring (and my birthday just happening to coincide with one of the scheduled October walks) I packed my Salomon trail runners and Hatha Clothing leggings for a 4-day get away with the parents.
Having really no idea what to expect before we arrived, I can honestly say that it surpassed all expectations. Taking you into the Scenic Rim region of South East Queensland and into the foothills of the Great Dividing Range it gave me a true understanding of why the trail has been accepted as one of the Great Walks of Australia. Here is an overview of what to expect from this incredible luxury adventure experience…
Day 1 – MT MITCHELL PLATEAU (Full Day Walk)
The Trek – Mt Mitchell Lookout
Your journey starts and ends at the Maryvale House, a privately owned farmhouse just off Cunningham Highway. Here you’re greeted by your expert guide and handed your day packs (filled with your camel pack, lunch and Scenic Rim Trail mug) for the first day of trekking, while your luggage is whisked away to await your arrival at Spicers Canopy – the luxury “glamping” property in the Spicers portfolio.
From here, it’s only a short 10-minute drive to Cunningham’s Gap where the trail begins from a very non-descript clearing on the side of the road. After approximately 5kms of walking up a winding path through rainforest and bushland terrain, listening to the various native bird calls and taking in the flora (long pants are recommended to avoid stinging nettles…I trode carefully), you arrive at the Mount Mitchell lookout. Sweeping panoramic views of World Heritage listed national parkland is your reward. And what a reward it is.
Lunch is also enjoyed at the summit and is generally consistent on trekking days – DIY wraps (niftily stored in compartmentalised Tupperware in your pack) are sure to be hungrily devoured by the group along with fresh seasonal fruit, a muesli bar and of course a cup of tea.
From here it’s around a 10km trek downhill into the gully and along the creek, homeward-bound for Spicers Canopy. After a few steep declines and navigating over rocky creek beds you emerge from the scrub and into private Spicers property – one of Spicers only working cattle farms that supplies prime quality beef to the hotel group’s fine dining restaurants.
The descent is well worth the effort, particularly if you’re privileged enough to witness a brand new calf, which had just been born open it’s eyes for the first time! Truly magical moments like these are not uncommon on the trail and things as simple as spotting a koala can remind you how wonderful nature really is.
The Accommodation – Spicers Canopy “Glamping”
As you ascend the final hill, you’re greeted with an awesome view of the site you will spend the next two nights. With the sun slowly setting in the distance, Spicers Canopy basks in a beautiful soft light and is truly a sight to behold. Greeted by the staff and welcomed with champagne and scones straight out of the oven served with freshly churned clotted cream and preserve (which, trust me you will devour swiftly) you’re left to freshen up and settle in before dinner is served at 7pm.
The site really is extraordinary, even the tents alone are mind-blowing. Walking up onto your “private deck” and stepping into your tent complete with polished floor boards you’ll find your bags waiting alongside a handwritten greeting card and you have to resist all temptation not to just plant yourself face down in the giant, cloud-like bed complete with crisp white linen and plump goose feather pillows. Swivel around and you notice not only a bathrobe hanging in the corner but also lights over your bed and a lounge chair and throw.
The bathrooms are located in the main house and although communal, they certainly aren’t any less luxe. Each of the three bathrooms has a toilet and shower stemming off the main basin area with fresh white towels replenished daily and an abundance of beautiful Appelle products.
Once refreshed you can choose to join everyone in the main living room by the wood fire for some pre-dinner wine and a cheese board. It’s a wonderful way to wind down and really get to know your fellow trekkers – we discovered we had one of Tourism Australia’s “Best Jobs” winners, Graham Freeman, a very inspiring young man, amongst the group!
(We were very fortunate in that our group was smaller than the average, which also enabled a great group dynamic. Everyone, including our guide Ben – who was an incredible host and whose passion for his job was infectious – was genuinely lovely. The enthusiasm about the walk and willingness to support of one another was overwhelming. Emma, Andrew, Graham and Ben you were all amazing – it’s thanks to all of you that the experience was so special for us).
Dinner, which is a rather monumental and hearty 3-course affair, is then served at around 7pm. Spicers Canopy has also just acquired a new chef, Dominic, who did a marvellous job considering we were his third group of trekkers he’d catered for. Dominic’s menu varies depending on the available ingredients his inspiration, but to give you an idea of what you may be treated to…
Entrée: Chicken and Leek Pie
With flaky, melt in your mouth pastry covering an intensely creamy chicken and leek filling, it was a delight diving the spoon into the middle to uncover a wonderfully thick soup of rich, warming flavours.
Main: Steak on the Bone with a Smoky Tomato Glaze
Everyone at the table took great satisfaction in eating this dish. Perfectly cooked beef on the bone – fresh from the paddocks outside – slathered in a sticky glaze of soy, Worcestershire, tomato and Dijon mustard. It really was divine. Served with broccoli and sweet potato mash we were struggling to finish it all!
Dessert: Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream and Flambéed Strawberries
Spongy chocolate cake with a thick layer of sweet ganache-like icing on top was paired with the tartness of freshly flambéed strawberries straight out of the saucepan. Decadent in flavour and calories it goes without saying that we were all well satiated by the end of the meal.
And that’s just day 1!
Day 2 – RIVER LOOP + Governors Chair Lookout
Early mornings are beautiful at Canopy. If you don’t mind the natural alarm clock of cattle mooing in the fields it’s incredibly serene and makes you feel a million miles away from Queensland’s capital. Although quite fresh at first, it doesn’t take long for the morning sun to warm the tent. If you’re lucky to be awake before the rest of the group it’s a wonderfully meditative walk down to the fire pit or the boundary fence to bask in the golden-amber light of the morning, and listen to the sounds of nature as it wakes up to another day.
Despite the hearty dinners, breakfast is equally substantial each morning. With cereals and coffee laid out for you if you rise early, you can also expect a full cooked breakfast at 9am – complete with scrambled eggs, bacon, mushrooms, grilled tomato and toast.
The Morning Trek – Creek beds and Farmland
This half-day walk takes you up-creek and further into the farmland on the Spicers property. A wonderfully melodious walk, with plenty of native birdcalls to decipher, it’s a cruiser start to the morning with the break for morning tea set in a picturesque billabong. Moving away from the creek and into farmland and green fields, expect to come a across several herds of beautiful jet black cows…and if your travelling in October, plenty of adorable frolicking calves with tufts of hair spiking up from their quizzical heads.
The scenery is picture-perfect, quintessential Australiana with patches of green fields, Eucalypt trees and long grass. Heading up the final hill you see Spicers Canopy come back into view, perched on the crest of the hill with smoke rising from the wood-fired pizza oven…
If you’re lucky, Dominic will prepare a gourmet assortment of devilishly good pizzas, which are lovingly crisped in the outdoor pizza as you arrive back from the walk. The waft of the smokiness of the charred wood coals is the perfect welcoming, along with the sound of icy cold beers losing their caps. When the rustic style pizzas arrive fresh from the paddle onto the table, it’s a tough decision between Gourmet Supreme (with huge slices of spicy salami, capsicum and mushroom), Cheese (think thick chunks of gooey brie) and BBQ Beef with Olives (tip: the latter uses fresh beef from the farm and was my pick of the three).
You may also catch an early glimpse of your dinner for the evening emerging from the pizza oven…a giant slab of pork belly with a serious outer layer of crackling.
The Afternoon Trek – Governors Chair Lookout (Optional)
After your lunch has settled and you’ve had time to digest, you may have the opportunity to head up to Governors Chair Lookout. After a quick freshen up and grabbing only your camel pack, this walk combines some serious four-wheel driving where you may encounter a bull the size of of a rhinocerous and attitude to boot (thank goodness our guide Ben knew what he was doing!) along with a cruisy half-hour walk through National Parkland along a wide track. It’s a lovely change of pace and allows you to actually look up from where you’re placing your feet to appreciate the scenery and surrounds.
Once you reach the top the views across Fassifern Valley are just spectacular. Stretching from Mt. Greville, past Lake Moogera, Mt. Alford and all the way across to Mt. Moon it’s almost unimaginable that Brisbane is a mere hour and a half away. Sitting in “Governors Chair” itself, where early governors of Queensland would apparently sit and rest when their duties called for them to journey through Spicers Gap, and you can immediately understand why this particular rock was so popular.
Heading back down into the gully and its golden hour at it’s best. As you emerge from Spicers Gap State Forest and back into open farmland, dusk is well and truly setting in. If you’re lucky your guide will pull over for a photo op (cheers Ben!) and allow you to take in the surreal setting of sun kissed treetops to the west and a full moon to the east.
Once again, you can expect serious fare for dinner on your second night at Spicers Canopy with Dominic working hard at the stove.
Entrée: Fresh Jap Pumpkin Soup, drizzled with cream
Dominic’s style of cooking is to really let the quality of the ingredients shine through. Adding only a bit of chicken stock his pumpkin soup was full of flavour and sweetness, whilst thick and creamy in consistency.
Main: Crispy Skin Pork Belly served with potatoes, carrots, broccoli, roast apple and a balsamic glaze.
The promise of pork belly had been on my mind all afternoon and so I had high hopes for this dish. Fortunately for me, crunchy, salty crackle covered succulent, juicy pork that just dissolved in the mouth. The sweet roast apple was the perfect accompaniment and was balanced by the acidity of the balsamic glaze.
Dessert: French Yoghurt Cake, Vanilla Ice Cream and Flambéed Strawberries
This cake was a lot lighter than the chocolate cake of the previous evening, although just as moist and perfect in texture. Again served with flambéed strawberries and vanilla ice cream, I was too full to finish but enjoyed those first few mouthfuls of a classic combination.
Day 3 – SPICERS PEAK EXPLORATION (Full Day Walk)
The final day of trekking takes you 10km up, down and across Spicers Peak Mountain, homeward bound for Spicers Peak Lodge where you are to spend your final evening and fourth morning. As you’re informed from the beginning by your guides it is considered to be the most strenuous of the 3 days. A word to the wise? Wear hiking pants that cover all of your legs. Stinging nettles are quite prevalent and to continuously tiptoe around them would only add to physical demand.
Of course before you set off you are well fuelled with a full cook-up breakfast (again).
The third day of trekking also happened to be my birthday and I don’t think I couldn’t have asked for a better way to celebrate! We set off that morning with the promise of champagne and birthday banana cake, kindly baked by Dominic (I wonder how he knew it was my favourite?) waiting for us upon our arrival at Spicers Peak Lodge. And of course there was the obligatory group shot as we farewelled Spicers Canopy…
The Trek – Spicers Peak
Within the first hour you quickly realise why this is the toughest day with several serious inclines up toward Spicers Peak Mountain. It isn’t until you exit the private property and head into National Park, however that the real climbing begins. Clambering up rocky outcrops and ducking and weaving under tree roots it really is like an adventure park for adults…with one stretch of the walk conjuring images from Lord of The Rings.
Morning tea arrives before you know it and is your reward after hauling yourself up the rocks using a rope as a hoist. Served in the sun on a rocky ledge located on the far northern corner of Spicers Peak, think freshly baked brownies, muesli bars and cups of tea in your Scenic Rim Trail mug.
Cracking on swiftly and your surrounds quickly change from Australiana bushland to rainforest almost at the drop of a hat, it’s strangely Narnia-like and unworldly. The temperature also immediately drops, which comes as sweet relief and you notice a significant alteration in the sounds around you – from the wind whooshing past your ears and the low pitched buzz of flies and native bees to the sing-song call of the whippy bird and that faint cicada hum.
A note on the rainforest – make sure you’re watching where you’re going. Mainly just to ensure you don’t run into any stinging nettles or have an unwanted encounter with a Gympie Gympie tree (their leaves are GIANT and if one catches you as it falls from above your skin will feel like it’s on fire – which, if it does occur, your guide will address with duct tape and a crash course in waxing). Also, if you’re fortunate (or unfortunate depending on the way you look at it) you’ll be privy to an up close encounter with a wild Python. This huge, impressive creative is probably going to be less excited to see you than you are it…as we could tell when it assumed its strike pose…but it is an incredible sight to see in the wild and a rare opportunity.
Once you well and truly (and cautiously) pass the Python, it’s not long until the rainforest literally stops, just as abruptly as it started. You’re back out in the sun and wind as you navigate the final ridge up toward Spicers Peak Lodge property. It’s a stunning last stretch of trail, with views that make you fully appreciate how far you’ve come and how lucky we are to live in a country with such diversity.
Trek the final 250m to the boundary gate of Spicers Peak Lodge and you’re rewarded with the words “This is where luxury begins…” (sweeter words were never spoken to a group of thirst, sweltering trekkers). Reaching the final crest of the grassy green hill and you have awe-striking views of the Miss Daisy strewn paddocks surrounding the architectural wonder that is Spicers Peak Lodge. It’s truly a sight to behold and enchanting as you pass dozens of cows with their calves – standing literally metres away from you – as you make your way toward the grandeur of the Lodge.
Upon arrival it’s backpacks down and champagne glasses up to congratulate one another on trekking 1 of the 8 Great Walks of Australia. A marvellously rewarding experience thanks to your informative guide and attentive hosts (Ben, Dominic, Erin and James you couldn’t have made the trip more special if you tried), wonderful fellow trekkers (again, thank you Graham, Emma and Andrew and of course my wonderful Mum and Dad) and breathtaking scenery all intermingled with the magic touch of Spicers. It certainly left this blogger completely converted! Bring on the next luxury adventure holiday I say.
FYI Dominic’s banana cake was to die for. Moist and not to sweet the cream cheese icing was dangerously addictive and if it weren’t for the 7-course degustation that was on the menu for dinner I would have polished off several slices.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this travel series with all the luxurious details of our Spicers Peak Lodge experience. Think gastronomic delights, uber-luxe accommodation and all those finishing touches you expect from a five star hotel.
P.S. I would love to hear from anyone who has experienced the Scenic Rim Trail or any of the other Great Walks of Australia! And if not does this inspire you to give one a go?