This week I wanted to introduce you to the Mary Cairncross scenic reserve in the Sunshine Coast hinterland. Maleny isn’t a big detour for the main highway and a visit to this park is an option even if you’re only passing through or visiting the area for the day. The pristine tract of rain forest includes a 2km easy walking loop track that is flat and suitable for ‘off-road’ pushchairs and wheelchairs. Opposite the park you’ll get incredible views back over the glasshouse mountains National Park and there’s a large reserve area with plenty of space for kids to run around and a popular activity playground. For your picnics there are sheltered picnic tables in good supply and clean toilet facilities are available onsite. If you prefer there is also a cafe onsite serving drinks, snacks and meals during the day.
The information centre opens at 9am but if you want to get out on the track while it’s relatively quiet you are able to get access from 7am. The caretaker opens the side gate just past the information centre early each morning and you can access the track from there.
Although it’s a loop track volunteers in the information centre will usually ask that you complete the circuit in a clockwise direction, keeping left at the forks. By doing that visitors are spaced more evenly and everyone will have a better chance of spotting a variety of wildlife. We’ve always seen several pademelons on the track and in the bush near the edge and it’s been a good spot for sighting the elusive catbird and whipbird that are so often heard but not seen. It’s also good for small yellow birds with a profusions on yellow-throated scrubwrens and eastern yellow robins.
The red legged pademelon is a rainforest wallaby that’s common in the area and these great mums are doing their best to keep up the local population numbers. Often you will see a young pademelon with them and another in the pouch, they may also have another embryo that waits in a natural form of suspended animation until the older sibling has stopped suckling and left the pouch to prevent the accommodation becoming overcrowded.
We’ve been less successful with spotting the mountain crayfish whose prolific burrows are visible under the piccabeen palms. Likewise the frogs that are heard loudly proclaiming their territory at the river outlook platform keep themselves well hidden and us coming back.
Management and plans for Mary Cairncross scenic reserve
The reserve exists on 55 hectares of sub-tropical rain forest in Maleny on the Sunshine Coast Hinterland. At one time rain forest like this covered the Blackall range but now it’s a remnant that’s being preserved as a living museum thanks to the generosity of the the family of Mary Cairncross who donated the parcel of land under a deed to honor their mother and ensure the rain forest would be protected in perpetuity.
The reserve is now managed by the Sunshine Coast Council who staff the information center with friendly volunteers and a caretaker lives permanently on site to ensure the area remains well maintained and that the gates are locked and unlocked each day.
On our most recent visit (January 2016) we noticed a display promoting extensive work and investment about to be undertaken tearing down and replacing the long standing information centre and cafe into one much larger and ultra modern facility comprising additional gift shops and meeting rooms. Several people going through at the same time as us did voice concerns at the change and what it might mean having such a large development taking place on the fringe of the rain forest. Locals and interest group have also voiced concerns over the years but with council obtaining federal and state government funding commitments in late 2015 it now looks almost certain to proceed as soon as the council approves its funding allocation in 2016.
Time will tell what the long term impact is but currently it’s a well maintained track that’s visited by an excellent selection of birds and wildlife as well as visitors so we trust that remains it’s primary focus. The park is a wonderful facility for locals, families and visitors to the area but just in case it suddenly becomes a stopping point for an excess of tour buses and conference attendees you might want to take the opportunity for a visit sooner rather than later.
Access and fees
Access to the Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve is at 148 Mountain View Road in Maleny and is well signposted as you come through the township. You’ll need your own transport to get up there and there’s onsite parking available. There is no fee for entry but a gold coin donation is appreciated and helps towards upkeep of the tracks and boardwalks that protect the health of trees and wildlife.
Signs ask people to stay on the path which is essential for the ecosystem with the popularity of the park now receiving 200,000 visitors annually. As we heard one Grandma quietly explaining, those roots are like the trees fingers, if someone jumped on your fingers it would hurt wouldn’t it so we don’t do that. The child stopped stomping and returned to asking questions about the bird they could hear. Best example of parenting I’ve seen in a long time. The child might be too young yet to understand that repeated footsteps across the soil and roots transports fungus and foreign material into the area and makes a weakness that lets pathogens and disease enter the tree but she did understand that you don’t harm something on purpose.
Enjoy your stop at the reserve and remember to grab something slightly warmer to put on than you think you’ll need if you’re coming from the coast. It’s not a long drive but it is always several degrees cooler up the mountain and that can be a real blessing on a scorching summer day.
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Have you visited Mary Cairncross Scenic Park or any of the national and regional parks on the Sunshine Coast? I’d like to know your favourites in the comments below.