THEY say a change is as good as a holiday. So that means 18 holidays await on the newly launched Sunshine Coast Hinterland Gallery Trail.
Eighteen galleries from Landsborough in the south to Eumundi in the north and Kenilworth to the west have come together to produce a free, easy-to-read guide highlighting the hinterland's artistic diversity and promoting art for art's sake.
While a leisurely three-day tour of the galleries with a couple of nights on the Blackall Range would perhaps be the best way to follow the trail, the Daily road-tested nine galleries in Landsborough, Maleny and Montville on a four-hour outing for a snapshot of the hand-crafted woodwork, exquisite gold and silver jewellery, and myriad artworks from various media on show.
First stop, the Landsborough Galleries.
The Landsborough Galleries is a purpose-built showroom and home to owners Jack and Giovanna Olive.
The gallery itself is a vibrant place displaying paintings by several local and international artists on the boldly painted walls.
Giovanna describes the work of popular artist Donald J. Waters, for example, as "a splash of colour", but the description would fit the effervescent lady herself.
His lively work contrasts nicely with the subdued, soothing greens, browns and blues that colour the drive from the coast inland.
Giovanna took us on a guided tour of the gallery, sprouting interesting facts and enthusiasm for the display.
However, she only reveals her own artistic merit and sense of adventure towards the end of the brief tour.
Giovanna is a scuba-diving sketch artist and painter extraordinaire, and visitors could spend hours listening to tales of her underwater adventures.
Another brief drive brings us to a small, well-lit gallery with an interesting mix of glasswork, paintings, sculpture, masks, and jewellery at Art on Cairncross in Maleny.
Casually leaning against an $8800 Rhyl Hinwood sculpture, owner Tony Gill confidently said, "We are the art region of Queensland".
Tony and wife Jane change their main gallery exhibition monthly to highlight regional, national and internationally renowned artists.
The gallery has commanding views of the Maleny countryside and emanates an air of serenity.
While the neighbouring restaurants are tempting, stops three and four in Maleny await.
David Linton Furniture and Timber Works is a gallery where we could spend far too much time gazing at and exploring the jumble of timberworks and richly polished hand-crafted furniture.
The closer you look, the more you see of the timber items on display. Wooden spoons lie on chopping boards placed on tables to help create the gallery's earthy, natural, almost rustic feel.
Boasting everything from letter-openers to surfboards, as well as a token wagon wheel, this is a good place to pick up a gift with items to suit a range of budgets.
Stop number four at Peace of Green, within walking distance of David Linton's gallery, proves an even more diverse sensory experience.
Peace of Green in Maple St displays work from many Maleny artists in a range of quirky styles.
The word "organic" springs to mind when describing the gallery, and the contents suit Maleny's down-to-earth style to a T.
Five galleries at Montville are next on our list, all within walking distance of each other.
And they prove as diverse as the first four, with everything from the cosy cottage feel of traditional Montville Art Gallery, to beautiful nature shots (Nature's Image Photography) to glinting gold and silver jewellery (Bold In Gold), colour therapy and glassworks (Illume Creations), and a sophisticated traditional gallery pumping out music by legendary Louis Armstrong (Main Street Gallery).
Finally, a short drive along a mountaintop road takes us to Clouds of Montville, for a look at scenic accommodation options.
Clouds offers four cottages, and 10 self-contained units, as well as, we suspect, exceptional service - if the welcoming hospitality is anything to go by.
The accommodation standard is everything that could be expected from a boutique B'n'B, but what really shines is the friendly, accommodating attitude and demeanour of owner Angus Richard.
The view from the front of aptly named Clouds is picturesque, to say the least, and an ideal spot to relax after a long day sight-seeing and buying up big on artworks.
Our journey taking in half the stops on the Sunshine Coast Hinterland Gallery Trail has been a long and winding road, filled with colour, warmth and scenery.
This half-day holiday has been well worth the effort.
Sunshine Coast Hinterland Gallery Trail maps are available at information centres, each of the four accommodation options grouped as http://www.montvillegetaways.com.au/ or at any of the galleries at the trail.
For details, call 5429 6404 or 5442 9174.
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