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Things to do in Maleny | Day trip and weekender ideas

Its proximity to Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast beaches combined with the abundance of things to do in Maleny make it an ideal day trip. If you have the time it’s also an ideal spot to stay a night or two in the peaceful hinterland surrounds and experience even more of its natural beauty and friendly community.

view of Glasshouse Mountains from Mary Cairncross Reserve

Getting to Maleny and finding you way around

A 90-minute drive from Brisbane, around 95km, will have you in the hinterland village of Maleny on the Sunshine Coast. The village community offers opportunities for friendly cafes, some artisan shopping and great local produce. There’s a small weekend market, stunning gardens, rainforest walks, hiking trails and swimming holes. It’s a town with a whole lot to offer visitors and those lucky enough to live nearby.

Click on our map of Maleny below to download it on Google maps. It’ll help you to find all our top recommendations we cover below as you start to explore Malaney and the Sunshine Coast Hinterland.

Looking for other destinations to explore out of Brisbane or the Sunshine Coast? Click the link to check out our guide to 25 of the best day trip options.

Our top things to do in Maleny

1. The Mary Cairncross Reserve & discovery centre

To be honest this can be a day out on its own. Between the reserve complete with BBQ and picnic facilities, fabulous children’s playground, plenty of space to sit or take on a family game of backyard cricket, the rainforest walkway, the discovery centre, a great cafe and a viewing deck with incredible views out over the rural farmland to the Glasshouse Mountains there really is something here for ALL the family.

Toni at strangler fig on Mary Cairncross boardwalk

We love the Mary Cairncross Rainforest walk here as somewhere to bring visitors to the city or those who find it difficult to hike but want to experience the beauty of the Queensland rainforest for themselves. It’s a relatively small tract of land

Visiting the Mary Cairncross Reserve is free. You are welcome to bring a picnic or BBQ to enjoy in the reserve, use the playground and walk the rainforest trail at no cost.

The Discovery Centre asks for a gold coin donation that goes towards the maintenance and upkeep of the fabulous facilities and the interactive displays and the knowledgable volunteers from the area are excellent so I would highly recommend going in, especially if Australia’s rainforests are fairly new to you.

The cafe has a wonderful indoor and outdoor seating area with incredible views and enjoying coffee or lunch is another way to support the work done here.

We have a full guide to the Mary Cairncross Reserve if you would like to read more when planning your Sunshine Coast visit.

2. Maleny Botanic Gardens and Bird World

The Maleny Botanic Gardens and Bird World are private gardens. The entry fee for the gardens is $16 for an adult or the combined ticket including the aviary is $35. You can also check for online deals which can often save a few dollars.

Maleny Botanic Gardens view out towards the Glasshouse Mountains

The gardens are situated on a stunning 110-hectare hillside property with spectacular views of the Glasshouse Mountains. The gardens themselves cover around 18 hectares that were carefully planned and terraced to fit the terrain and incorporate water features, sculptures and plantings. It really has been beautifully done.

It’s been a couple of years since we were out here and we must add it back to the list soon, I’m sure many of the areas will have grown up and been even more spectacular as they mature.

One thing for the must do list when you are here is to stop in at the cafe for the Devonshire tea. It was lovely to see that the various components were locally made and that it was served with clotted not whipped cream as a real Devonshire tea should be. Not only delicious but enjoyed in a little pavillion with a stunning view of the garden and mountains it real is a wonderful experience.

The bird world aviary is also part of the complex, we didn’t go through there as we were a bit short on time and being active birders we generally prefer to see them in the wild. If you have an interest in exotic birds this might be something you really enjoy.

We did love meeting the alpacas though, very cute and keen to pose for photos!

3. Lookouts in Maleny

There are a few areas to pull off the road and take in the incredible views of the surrounding rural land, rainforest, the coast or the Glasshouse Mountains depending on which one you pick.

Maleny lookout towards the Sunshine Coast beaches

One option mentioned above is from the Mary Cairncross Reserve 2nd story lookout which is the image at the top of the page, or you can simply stop at the side of the road opposite and enjoy a panoramic outlook from the grassy bank.

If you continue driving past on the same road you will come to McCarthys lookout which can be a little quieter and easier to stop at if Mary Cairncross carparking is full.

Another great lookout is on the Landsborough – Maleny Road on the downhill side and that also has an incredible green view but that direction looks through to the Sunshine coast and ocean beyond. On the map this one is marked as the Skipper Musk Teahouse Lookout, there’s a bus stop here but no teashop which could be a bit confusing. The spectacular view is worth pulling off the road for though.

4. Obi Obi Boardwalk

This was one we stumbled onto without really knowing it was there. The Obi Obi creek itself is a feature of several short hikes and spots we regularly go to around Maleny but this Obi Obi boardwalk was new to us.

Obi Obi boardwalk

The trail is a walking path that starts right in the village. The boardwalk section is right at the start behind the cafes, it then transforms into various pathed and gravelled sections but they are all wide, well-drained and easy walk paths.

The trail runs from the showgrounds through to the village then under the road and on out past the golf club to Fairview, a historic home in the area. It then cuts through back down Parkland Drive and rejoins the walkway just before the Platypus viewing platform and you follow it back to the village. It’s a decent walk, it would be around 6 km to do that loop but you can easily turn around and retrace your steps at any point.

From just after the boardwalk section you’ll join a sculpture trail that was established in 2015, some are easy to spot and others have already been partially reclaimed by nature. Drew’s extra height let him point out the platypus carved into a stone pillar behind the tall grass and it turned out to be a real sign of things to come further along.

5. Spot a Platypus

One of Australia’s cute but unfortunately rare endemic critters is the platypus. These little water living marsupials are furry with an oversized duck-like bill and paddle tail. They are only found in freshwater rivers and creeks in eastern Australia including Tasmania.

Platypus swimming in river
Photos on this site are usually our own but this one is a stock photo taken at Eungella National Park. I just watched them swimming, it didn’t even occur to me to lift the camera that was hanging off my shoulder, it was too special to even miss a moment of my first wild platypus.

While they look adorably cute and cuddly they pack a venomous punch from a spur behind their back foot. They are also strongly protected by Australian law so keep your distance and don’t disturb areas where they live. Their muddly riverbanks and murky rivers don’t make great swimming holes anyway so watch for them at a distance. If you are lucky enough to spot one it really is quite magical, like seeing a cartoon character come to life.

Our first wild spotting of a wild platypus was here in Maleny at a spot on the Obi Obi Creek where they are regularly seen. It’s a wide corner section on the creek that is particularly still and full of fallen trees and leaves. The viewing platform is well up on the bank above the river so when you see those concentric circles coming together and the platypus swimming along the surface there is no mistaking it for a turtle or anything else, his bill, tail and splayed legs are unmistakable.

We were lucky enough to see two in about a 20 minute period here in July. Their breeding period between May and October is your best chance to spot them as they are more active and putting on a bit more of a show during that time.

Follow the Obi Obi Boardwalk towards Landsborough, away from the showgrounds for around a kilometre to find the viewing platform.

6. Maleny Dairy Tour

This one is a family favourite and if you are visiting it’s a great way to have a genuine rural Australia experience. For those who find it closer to home, it’s a top way to support our farmers who produce these quality products locally.

To take the 90-minute tour of the working farm and factory you’ll need to prebook, it includes meeting the cows and tastings of their products which include milk, yoghurts, custard and cream.

Guests are able to purchase products from the milk bar to consume on-site or pack in the esky to take home. You can bring a picnic to enjoy on the premises or even use the onsite BBQs.

7. Gardners Falls

Gardener Falls is a fantastic freshwater swimming hole so I expect it to be packed in summer with people wanting a dip to cool off. What surprised me was the difficulty of getting a car park in late afternoon in mid-winter. Many people like us had headed out to sit in nature on the rock ledge, listen to nature and watch the water flowing over the cascades upstream and down the falls. Several had packed picnics, rugs and cushions to make an afternoon of it.

Swimming hole at Gardners Falls

It’s a very short walk along to the falls from the car park area but it is a bit of a climb down into this main pool. The cascade pools that the path follows along are easier to access and good for younger families to splash around in but they aren’t big enough to swim.

8. Baroon Pocket Dam (Lake Baroon)

The spillway and many of the walks and rock hopping spots like the Obi Obi Gorge walk and Narrows Lookout are on the Montville side of the Dam, it not a long drive but there is so much to see in that area too that I’ll cover it in a separate article but update it onto a shared map so you can view the relativity of the various spots as you plan your day.

Lake Baroon from the Montville side looking back at Maleny

Lake Baroon can be accessed from the Maleny side at the end of Baroon Pocket Road the continues on off the end of North Maleny Road. There’s car parking areas, large grassy spaced, covered picnic areas, toilet facilities, BBQs and seating. There’s also a dedicated swimming area that will keep children away from kayaks, wind surfers and other non powered boats that share the lake. There is a boatramp accessed from this recreation area to launch from.

9. Maleny Cheeses

You’ll find the Maleny Cheese Factory shop open from 10 am until 3 pm daily. Well worth a stop to load up the esky before you drive home. Their yoghurts and cheeses are made using milk from 4 local Maleny farms so a stop here is a treat for you and it’s a great way to help the local producers.

They also stock gourmet pantry staples and other local favourites like award-winning Peachester ham from nearby Beerwah. If that name sounds familiar you may well have driven through it, it’s the home of Australia Zoo.

Maleny Cheeses have a cafe on site serving cheese platters and Devonshire teas but we haven’t been passing through at the right time to try those yet.

You’ll find them at 1 Clifford St, Maleny QLD 4552.

10. Bruhaha Brewery

If you enjoy trying out local craft beers this one could be worth a stop pairing some unusual beers in their distinctive cans with an equally good menu showcasing the local Sunshine Coast produce and producers.

It’s a bright and modern setting to spend the afternoon and not surprisingly it’s very popular so make sure you book ahead if you want a table.

You’ll find them at 6/39 Coral St, Maleny QLD 4552.

11. The Sunday Market

Maleny is a village and the weekly Sunday Market isn’t large but if you are in the area between 8 am and 2 pm you might find it worth stopping by the RSL in Bunya Street to have a browse through the stalls.

You’ll find plants at a good price, fresh produce, quirky arts and crafts, coffee and some home-baked goodies that will make a great picnic at one of the other spots above during the course of the day.

Where to stay in Maleny

You won’t find the big hotel chains in this rural hinterland setting but there are some great options and to wake up to the peaceful sounds of nature is so rejuvenating. You’ll find a range of places to stay around Maleny from houses to B&B, motels, smaller hotels and luxury retreats.

The Highwood Park B&B Guest Lodge, this is one for those that want a bit of seclusion, you’ll drive around a kilometre on a gravel road but be rewarded with the most incredible views of the Sunshine Coast and Morton Bay from the 32-acre property. For those that want to experience Australia’s nature and wildlife and the opportunity for a stunning sunrise or sunset, this could be for you. It’s a boutique property and rates include breakfast to set you up for your day exploring.

Highwood Park Guest Lodge rates and availablity

View from Maleny botanic garden out to the Glasshouse Mountains

A bit of a splurge but Spicers Clovelly Estate is a hinterland retreat offers 5 star luxuary, French provincial styling, exceptional service and an idyllic hideaway set in mature landscaped gardens with a backdrop of the Hinterland. It’s conveniently located to the Montville village and an easy drive to all the Maleny and othe hinterland attractions. There’s also a restaurant on site and

Spicers Clovelly Estate rates and availability

Altitude on Montville is a hotel property with options for families and groups, they offer 2 and 3 bedroom layouts and some rooms also contain a kitchenette. It’s conveniently located on the edge of Montville village so there are cafe and restaurant options local in addition to those available onsite. The property is consistently well-rated for cleanliness, comfort and location.

Altitude on Montville rates and availability

Other spots to visit on the Sunshine Coast

  • Hike, picnic or take a drive through the dramatic Glasshouse Mountains
  • Visit the Eumundi Market, stop off at the nearby botanic gardens and continue out to Noosa to enjoy the fabulous National Park walks, river, surfing or a relaxed lunch on Hastings Street
  • Caloundra is a popular destination at the southern end of the coast for a day at the beach or why not explore a variety of the great beaches following the Caloundra Coastal Walkway.
  • Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world, it’s a world heritage region, absolutely stunning and is easily accessed from the Sunshine Coast. Bribie Island is also in the top 5 largest sand islands in the world and is even easier to access across a causeway just below the Sunshine Coast.

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Friday 4th of February 2022

You missed the Maleny Chocolate Factory where you can watch the chocolates being made fresh everyday. Plus they give you free tastings!

Toni Broome

Friday 4th of February 2022

I don't know how I've missed that one over the years Dorothy, have added it onto the list now to stop by when we are up there later this month. Thanks for the addition!

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