From rainbow beach to the Mary Valley, discover all the Gympie Region has to offer. Experience natural beauty and unforgettable moments with a visit to this vibrant part of Queensland.

Take a Culinary Journey with GourMay in May

March 2023

One of Australia’s richest food bowls, the Mary Valley – just north of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland – is set to celebrate its outstanding produce in the appropriately named Mary Valley GourMay Festival throughout the month of May.

European settlers may have first flocked to the Mary Valley and Gympie in the mid-19th century for the prospect of gold, but today, it is golden fruit, vegetables, dairy, herbs, and meat that deliver the region’s earthly treasures.

The Mary Valley is located just an hour’s drive north of the Sunshine Coast, and two hours from Brisbane Airport.

With fertile land and microclimates, the Mary Valley can produce everything from the more traditional dairy, beef, pineapples, avocados, and limes to more exotic persimmons and feijoas. Even the Spanish grape tempranillo has found a home in the Valley.

GourMay Mary Valley is a celebration of the farmers, producers, and creators, whose hard work and passion bring flavours to the plate.

It’s a great opportunity to meet the people behind the produce, who put joy on the plate. It’s a month full of events that will appeal to lovers of good food and authenticity.

GourMay in May - group of people on a farm tour.

Mary Valley farm tours.

Imbil Town Square and Rail Park: A foodie’s paradise

Festival Day will be held on Saturday 6 May 2023 in Imbil Town Square and Rail Park, providing a perfect introduction to have an initial ‘Taste’ of the Mary Valley. There will be talks, cooking demonstrations, exhibitions, and competitions.

Reflecting the Mary Valley’s role in the food chain, in the GourMay Garden the Macadamia Conservation Trust will share the story of the wild macadamia and how all macadamia trees can be traced back to the area.

Witjuti Grub nursery owner Veronica Cougan will explore growing edible natives. Rebecca Dart will share her knowledge of the benefits of edible bamboo and Amber Scott, from Kandanga Farm, will explain the importance of Farming with Nature.

The main event however will be a cook-off – a Ready Steady/ Mystery Box ‘cook-off’ between local foodies.

The contestants will be given a box with a couple of items, including a voucher to spend in the market, and ‘Sunshine Coast Foodie’ Martin Duncan will set the timer going for contestants to create a dish that will be judged for the title of ‘GourMay Cook of the Year’.

Imbil’s exciting new Wild Vine Café will host Mary Valley’s Boozy Brunch as well as a Cocktails and Canapes session in the newly created village gardens, which also chart the history of the township.

Kandanga Farm Store will host a dinner curated by bush foods expert Peter Wolfe. They will also show off the benefits of ‘syntropic’ farming in their organic gardens.

Try out cooking demos, competitions, and more

A wide range of produce-led events will be held during GourMay, including:

  • WINE DEBUT: From Vine to Glass. WindRush Estate’s Tempranillo 2020 Launch Event.
  • WINE LUNCHES: Dingo Creek Vintners Lunches.
  • FOOD FESTIVAL: Kenilworth Tasting Festival.
  • CAMPFIRE DINING/MUSIC: ‘Bellbird and back… a taste of the trail’ involves a gentle half-hour stroll along the Mary Valley Rail Trail to a bellbird habitat where a campfire dinner with local foods and music will await. Relax with new and old friends while listening to music under the stars.
  • HERITAGE railway, the Mary Valley Rattler will operate Tasting Trains throughout May.
  • FILM: A short films festival will be held at Kandanga Hall themed around “Food at their Heart”.
  • ART: The epicurean theme continues with master artist Ian Mastin exhibiting a collection of food-inspired works at the Art on Yabba gallery in Imbil.
  • PHOTOGRAPHIC COMPETITION: There will also be a GourMay Mary Valley photography competition based on photos taken during the festival.

Get ready to GourMay: Unforgettable experiences and accommodation

There is plenty of accommodation in Mary Valley and Gympie during the Festival ranging from hotels to glamping, cabins, and farm stays.

Ideal for a short break, Mary Valley offers a myriad of activities including horse riding, kayaking in search of platypus, trekking, cycling, and shopping in atmospheric heritage villages.

The program for the GourMay food festival will grow over the next month, and full details of events can be found at

The Mary Valley GourMay Festival is being made possible through the support of the Mary Valley Chamber of Commerce, Gympie Council, Queensland Hydro and Vintitech, and many other local operators.

As a affiliate, Jocelyn Magazine earns from qualifying purchases made through links in this post.


GourMay in May_Man holding two bottles

Lotza LimezFarmer’s Markets.

Story and photos contributed by Visit Sunshine Coast.



Click the link above for a glimpse of what you’ll experience!


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Learn, Laugh & Live Healthy with PooCast Podcast

Are you curious about how the foods we eat impact our health?

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Travel back in time on a classic steam train

Have you ever wanted to travel back in time? If so, and you’re in the Sunshine Coast or Gympie areas, then you’re in luck… well, almost.

Riding the iconic Spirit of the Mary Valley Steam Train is the closest I’ve come in recent years to experiencing an authentic railway journey in the Gold Rush era. It was the next best thing to actually being onsite in the 1800s.

And, I didn’t need a DeLorean time machine as seen in the 1985 American science fiction film Back to the Future to get there!

I travelled from Hervey Bay to the Gympie Historic Railway Station in my 10-year-old black Nissan X-Trail, picking up my daughter and three of her children along the way.

Nestled in the heart of the Sunshine Coast hinterland, the Mary Valley Rattler runs between Gympie and Amamoor stations.

This vintage C17/967 locomotive and wooden carriages take passengers on a journey through picturesque rural landscapes and quaint country towns, providing a uniquely charming experience that is not to be missed.

So, jump on board with us and enjoy the ride!

Mary Valley Rattler - Gympie Station

Waiting to board the Mary Valley Rattler at the Gympie Historic Railway Station.



Disclosure: As a affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases made through links in this post.

A Brief History of the Mary Valley Rattler

The Mary River line, launched in 1881, was an important transport link in the region’s Gold Rush era for transporting materials and equipment in and exporting the gold out from the area.

As the golden era ended, local calls for the railway line to be expanded through the Mary Valley to cater to the fast-developing agriculture, dairy, and timber industries.

In 1915 the rail line was extended to Brooloo, which led to the establishment of small townships at Kandanga, Imbil, Amamoor, and Dagun.

The line operated for nearly 100 years before being closed in 2012 for safety reasons.

However, thanks to the Gympie Regional Council providing funds and a passionate group of volunteers putting in the hard yards, the Mary Valley Heritage Railway was restored as a major tourist attraction.

They were successful in getting the heritage-listed railway up and running again in 2018 and now tourists can enjoy all the Mary Valley Rattler offers while supporting a vital piece of Australian history.

Whether you’re a railway enthusiast or just looking for a unique way to see the stunning Mary Valley region, the Mary Valley Rattler is sure to be a highlight of your trip.

You’ll love the Rattler’s friendly, casual atmosphere

There’s no need to worry if you’ve never been on a heritage railway before—the friendly Mary Valley Rattler staff are more than happy to help you with anything you need.

When we arrived at Mary Valley Rattler’s historic railway station in Gympie, a friendly volunteer was there to greet us. She even offered to take our photos with our cameras in front of the entrance.

Inside, a welcoming attendant checked our bookings and gave us an overview of what was available at the station while we waited for our three-hour Classic Rattler Run to start.

The Rusty Rails Café had delicious food options for breakfast or lunch. We could also choose a Rattler Railway Company Coffee or other beverage.

The gift shop was stocked with railway souvenirs and the museum with memorabilia from bygone eras. There was even a porter in a period costume who was happy to be photographed.

As a not-for-profit organization, any Mary Valley Rattler purchases we made supported its ongoing restoration and preservation, so the future of this historic rail experience is ensured.

Mary Valley Rattler - Boarding

Boarding the Classic Rattler Run from Gympie to Amamoor and return.


Visiting the bygone era of coal-fired locomotives

Once we were settled in our seats, we sat back as we waited for your journey through the scenic Sunshine Coast hinterland to begin.

Soon, the smell of burning coal filled the air, steam hissed and the engine tooted as the train pulled out of the station.

We were on board one of several vintage carriages filled with visitors from Mackay, Maryborough, Hervey Bay, Gold Coast, and New Zealand.

Pulling us was the C17/967 locomotive that was built in 1950 at Walkers Limited in Maryborough, Queensland.

Mary Valley Rattler - Google Maps

As Jeff, the volunteer carriage attendant, punched holes into our vintage-style train tickets, he fueled the kids’ anticipation by telling them about the Harry Potter-like tunnels they’d see on this trip through the Mary Valley.

Another volunteer asked around for any birthdays, anniversaries, or other celebratory milestones that anyone onboard was having on or near that day.

Our Mr 13, who was about to turn 14, ducked for cover, anticipating that everyone onboard singing Happy Birthday to him would be embarrassing!

However, a number of other passengers volunteered to tell of their special days.

Looking around the carriage interior, our trio – Mr 6, Miss 9, and Mr 13 nearly 14 – were fascinated with the polished brass railway luggage racks overhead, the leather 1950’s bench-style seats, and other historical fittings.

Mary Valley Ratter - Amamoor platoform.

Amamoor platform.

Through the open-air windows that had wooden shutters, which could be pulled down or up to open or shut, we watched the world go by.

As we crossed old wooden bridges and went through tunnels, pulled along by a full-scale, genuine steam locomotive we felt like we were travelling back in time.

The rolling hills blanketed with farmland and quaint townships offered us a visual escape from our fast-paced lives, adding to how brilliant this adventure felt.

For the next hour, the train rattled along, taking us on an enjoyable journey through the township of Dagun and on to Amamoor, a quaint little town filled with old-fashioned shops and market stalls.

There we watched as the rail staff turn the C17/967 locomotive around on a huge turntable before heading back to Gympie.

Mary Valley Rattler - Amamoor

Turning the Mary Valley Rattler at Amamoor.

Dagun, the next stop on the Rattler’s journey

The ‘All Aboard’ call came sooner than expected and we were soon back in our seats, anticipating our next stop at Dagun where the locals welcomed us with live music and market stalls, as well as delicious tastings of local wine and cheese.

There were also old-time games available to play, making this a perfect opportunity to enjoy the company of friends and/or family while exploring what makes these places special.

All too soon, again, we were back on the Rattler returning to Gympie.

As we rolled into Gympie, the town that is reputed to have saved Queensland, it was time for one of nature’s greatest shows: the annual display of jacaranda flowers.

We were treated to an amazing Spring show of purple blossoms. Miss 9 was especially pleased to see the display… every year in early October, in the lead-up to her birthday, jacaranda trees bloom just for her!

Mary Valley Rattler - Dagun

Market day at Dagun.


You’re spoilt for choice of things to do on the Rattler

There’s no shortage of options from which to choose when it comes to a Mary Valley outing:

  • The Classic Rattler Run takes passengers on an exciting adventure on the C17 steam train from the Gympie Historic Station through the scenic Mary Valley and the small town of Dagun, before arriving at the Amamoor Heritage Station.
  • The All Stations Train allows passengers to explore more of the region, stopping at both the Heritage Dagun Station and the Amamoor Station.
  • The Rattler Tasting Train is a fun experience for the whole family. Hop on board the Heritage Railmotor RM76 – which traditionally ran the Brooloo line to Gympie providing a daily link to the town for shopping, transportation of goods, and children getting to school.
  • Ride with Driver Experience lets you ride as a guest in a cab with train drivers (18+ years old).

Choice of packages

  • The Mary Valley Rattler’s Ride and Dine package includes priority pre-boarding, assigned seating, morning tea onboard, lunch at the Rusty Rails Café, and a bottle of water.
  • The VIP Club Car package allows you to enjoy priority preboarding, cheese plate and beverage onboard the Club Car, access to the verandah for stunning photos, plus water and a souvenir cooler.
  • Pets are welcome aboard on Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays (terms and conditions apply).
  • Get your day underway at sunrise with the Rattler’s drivers on a Light Up & Workshop Tour, which includes a hearty breakfast of your choice in Rusty Rails Café.

Education trips and special occasions

  • The Mary Valley Rattler offers an educational and fascinating journey back to a bygone era for students of all ages.
  • The Rusty Rails Café at the historic Gympie Station can cater to up to 120 people, with a menu that has been designed to be light and contemporary.
  • Special Occasions can be tailored aboard any of their fleets, with dedicated staff on hand to help plan the perfect event.
  • Ample parking is available for coaches, and they recommend pre-booking for groups of over 10 people.
  • The Rattler regularly hosts themed outings such as Halloween and the Agatha Christie-styled Murder on the Mary Valley Rattler. 

Visit the Rattler website for more information.

Experience the beauty of rural Queensland, Rattler style!

If you’re looking for a fun day out, with beautiful scenery and a friendly, casual atmosphere, the Mary Valley Rattler is definitely worth checking out.

It’s an experience you won’t soon forget!

Sit back, relax, and enjoy the gorgeous Sunshine Coast hinterland—all while supporting a vital piece of Australian history.

We’re sure you’ll love the experience!

Mary Valley Rattler - Return Journey

Spectacular scenery on the return journey to the Gympie Historic Railway Station.



If you go:

Gympie Historic Station

Tozer Street, Gympie, Queensland 4570, Australia

P: (07) 5482 2750




Mary Valley Rattler is open 7 days a week except for Christmas Day.
Please note its hours may vary on public holidays.




If you visit in May, check out the Mary Valley GourMay Festival.
Click the link above for a glimpse of what you’ll experience!


With thanks to the Mary Valley Rattler for hosting us for this very special experience.


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