Become a farmhand in style

RURAL EXPERIENCE: Children get a taste of what farming life offers at Lillydale Farmstay in the Gold Coast hinterland.
RURAL EXPERIENCE: Children get a taste of what farming life offers at Lillydale Farmstay in the Gold Coast hinterland. KATHY SUNDSTROM

A COW'S tongue is surprisingly large, wet and seems to have sticky bits on the end. A baby deer sucks milk from a bottle with ferocious intensity. And some breeds of chickens lay blue eggs.

These are just a few new bits of information gathered after spending a weekend doing my kind of farming.

Doug, my husband, has always wanted us to move to a farm.

But I like the distraction a town offers. And I like concrete as I'm not particularly fond of the creatures that inhabit the great outdoors.

Lillydale, in the Gold Coast hinterland, offers the opportunity to experience life on a farm at your leisure.

You can feed the animals, go on a tractor or horse ride, milk a cow and catch a fish. Or, you can enjoy the luxury of the cabin, the quiet of the country and the cool of the swimming pool and simply relax.

Or, you can combine both and include a walk in the Mount Barney National Park, which offers the best bushwalking experience we've had in Australia.

You can experience all of this and it's only about a three-hour drive from the Sunshine Coast.

The moment we arrived at Lillydale and surveyed its exceptional mountain surrounds, we made a collective "aww". This grew louder when we walked into our self-contained house, situated about 1km from the main homestead, giving us plenty of privacy.

The accommodation is clean with a distinct up-market touch while not appearing snobby. It has all the luxuries you can hope for including a dishwasher, a big-screen television and DVD.

We arrived too late for the last animal feeding of the day and decided to explore the on-site maze. We also rejected the offer of a fishing rod for the stocked dam, opting instead for a DVD and a relaxing night in.

That was a good option as we had to be up and ready for the 8.30am animal feeding.

The animals are remarkably accepting of excitable visitors who take turns feeding them.

Even Bessie, the cow, remains calm as a group of children try milking her.

The chickens don't seem to mind being picked up, even by a three-year-old. And searching for Easter eggs can't even compete with the fun of searching for genuine chicken eggs in the barn.

Farmers Doug and Pam Hardgrave and their children began welcoming tourists to their property in 2000.

They had already spent three decades living and working the land before deciding it was time to share it with others. So many of the buildings are steeped in local history, including the the table tennis room - the town's former dance hall. We had to drag our tribe away from the farm to experience some of the beauty of the surrounds at Mount Barney National Park.

They moaned and whinged for 3km until we reached the Lower Portals: an incredible array of rock pools to swim in, with plenty of little waterfalls and natural jacuzzis to ease the walking wounds and quench a thirst.

Unfortunately, our three-hour walk meant we had less time to enjoy the farm.

And the next day we only had a short time to kayak and do a walk to the "dinosaur cave".

This is why I recommend at least a three-day stay. You could then have time to go for a horse ride, do some saddle-club or try abseiling.

We'll have to save those experiences for our next visit.

LILLYDALE FARMSTAY

WHERE: Gold Coast hinterland, near Rathdowney

WHAT: Award-winning accommodation on a working farm

COST: From $295 a night.

Tariffs include twice-daily animal feeding at 8.30am and 4pm, and activities such as collecting eggs, milking a cow, kayaking and boating, fishing, a hedge maze, saddle club, walking trails, ping pong and a boomerang-throwing lesson.

>> Read more travel stories.

Topics:  farm stay, gold coast, lillydale, travel, travelling



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