Best pubs in Queensland: Range forest protects its secret
YOU can gaze at Brisbane's soaring skyline from the veranda of the Regatta Hotel or watch the surf rolling in at the Kings Beach Tavern or even contemplate a sugar harvest from The Garradunga just south of Cairns.
But only here, in crisp, clean air 683m above sea level, can you sit in a Queensland pub sipping cold beer and gaze at rainforest rolling away to meet the horizon.
It took a bunch of young Americans to open our eyes to the beauty of Eungella, 80km west of Mackay where, in one of Australia's oldest subtropical rainforests, is a hotel with a sublime view sweeping 80km down the Pioneer Valley.
Mackay oldtimers who remembered the American servicemen traipsing through the city during World War II often mentioned three defining characteristics - they ate only with a fork, they drank large volumes of beer and they loved Eungella.
More than 70 years after the adventurous Yanks piled into cars and jeeps and trekked up a mountain to what they referred to as "the woods", Australians appear steadfast in resistance to the extraordinary charm of what, to the local tribe, was "land of the clouds".
Mackay residents will drive up on a winter Sunday to sit by the fire with a pale ale and inject a little European glamour into their lives at The Chalet.
And the handful of international visitors who are in on the secret will crowd the bar as they prepare for rainforest treks or head off to Broken River to marvel at the platypus.
Manager Tess Ford often ponders how it is that a pub that leaves European tourists awe-struck somehow remains off the national radar.
"We live in what is simply one of the most beautiful places on the planet and a lot of people don't even know we're here," she said.
The pub, which became a pub in 1968 when it got its liquor licence, always had a touch of class. James Scullin, who was our 9th prime minister 1929-32, made his way up the imposing Clarke Range in 1934 to open the place.
For decades a healthy population of dairy farmers and timber cutters drank their rum at the bar on cold winter nights but industry deregulation downsized the local population and left tourism the life blood of The Chalet.
Bartender Tanisha Smith works in an office with a million dollar view, occasionally enhanced by hang gliders who launch from the platform that hugs the cliff face.
"It's friendly, it's fun, it's got the greatest view on earth and we all love it up here," she said.