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Visit Maleny in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland

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by Roy Chambers (subscribe)
Lover of all things interesting and new
Published January 17th 2023
Maleny is South East Queensland's Best Country Town
Just a 2 hour drive from downtown Brisbane, Maleny has become the preeminent South East Queensland country town to visit. While rapidly gentrifying, it still manages to maintain a lot of its country charm. Not only is the town an interesting place to visit, but the area is also surrounded by natural attractions, farms and other places of interest.

The lovely town of Maleny makes a great day or weekend trip from Brisbane to the Sunshine Coast Hinterland
The lovely town of Maleny makes a great day or weekend trip from Brisbane to the Sunshine Coast Hinterland


About Maleny

Located in the Blackall Range 30 kms west of the Sunshine Coast, even 20 years ago, this was just a backwater rural town. However, over the last few decades, there has been much urban development as the area has become a popular place to live and an increasingly high end location to vacation. Today it is a modern multicultural town where gentrified and touristy attractions sit comfortably beside country charm and hospitality.

Photo of Maleny in 1922 courtesy of John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland
Photo of Maleny in 1922 courtesy of John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland


It is for this reason, Maleny and its surrounding region is the premium tourist town in the Sunshine Coast's Hinterland, if not, all of South East Queensland. While it makes for a good day trip, it would take days to experience everything in the Maleny area, including the nearby town of Montville.

Getting there & getting around

It is a 2 hour drive from Brisbane and for people without a car, there is a regular bus from Landsborough Station 7 days a week, and another bus from Nambour Station just on weekdays, making this an easy to get to destination for anyone. Both of these buses give you the opportunity to stop at destinations out of town, with the one from Nambour also visiting Mapleton and Montville.

Even better, there are taxis and ride shares (Uber) in the Maleny area, should you want to venture out of town. Remember, you might end up outside of cell phone range though and have trouble getting back, especially if your provider is not Telstra.

On the road to Maleny

What makes a road trip to Maleny so interesting is that there are interesting destinations on the way there. Most notably of course is the Glass House Mountains. Though there are lookout points in the Maleny area where you can view these volcanic peaks, it is worth stopping at the Glass House Mountains Lookout on the way up, and maybe even doing a short hike in the area.

The road to Maleny passes by the Glass House Mountains
The road to Maleny passes by the Glass House Mountains


Google Maps recommends sticking the highway, but I personally would recommend getting off onto the side roads as soon as you can for a bit of country driving. This might be a little slower, but chances are, you are not in a rush and would prefer to enjoy the scenery as you head into the rolling hills of the area. There is one lookout on the way up, but Skipper Musk Teahouse Lookout is on the opposite side of the road, so better to visit it on the way home.

The road to Maleny is a pleasant drive along country roads
The road to Maleny is a pleasant drive along country roads


In town attractions

Other than shopping, wining and dining, there are a number of things for the visitor to do in Maleny. Pretty much all of it is linked on the Maleny Trail . This links the Obi Obi Boardwalk, Platypus Viewing Area and Sculptor on the Edge. You might want to pop into the Maleny Information Centre to get a local area map or buy some local gifts.

Get on the lovely Maleny Trail around Maleny to visit a range of attractions
Get on the lovely Maleny Trail around Maleny to visit a range of attractions


Natural attractions

There are a number of attractions around the area. Definitely the
Mary Cairncross Reserve is worth visiting. The area was once covered in rainforest, but only one pocket survived the logging and clearing. This has been turned into the Mary Cairncross Reserve. There is a pleasant boardwalk and walking trail through the reserve suitable for all ages, and an information centre to learn more about the plants and wildlife there. There is a cafe and a picnic/barbecue area, with views across the road of the Glass House Mountains.

Walk through the Sunshine Coast Hinterland's only remaining pocket of old growth rainforest at Mary Cairncross Reserve at Maleny
Walk through the Sunshine Coast Hinterland's only remaining pocket of old growth rainforest at Mary Cairncross Reserve at Maleny


The small Gardeners Falls provides a great swimming hole that is popular with locals and visitors alike. The size of the swimming area means it never feels overcrowded.

Gardeners Falls is not big but has a great swimming hole
Gardeners Falls is not big but has a great swimming hole


Nearby is the Baroon Pocket Dam. You can visit it from the Maleny or the Montville ends. The Maleny side has barbecues, picnic areas and a short walk. On the other side, you can also walk on the dam wall and it is the start of the walk from there to Kondalilla Falls. But you can also just do a short walk to the lookout and a nearby falls.

The Montville side of the Baroon Pocket Dam
The Montville side of the Baroon Pocket Dam


The main lookout in the area is Gerrards Lookout on the road between Maleny and Montville with views down the mountains to the coast. Well worth the stop and maybe even worth a specific trip for the view.

The view from Gerrards Lookout at Maleny
The view from Gerrards Lookout at Maleny


Other Attractions
The Maleny Botanic Gardens & Bird World is a ticketed location and combined they are a great place worth visiting, though not cheap. The gardens are lovely with views overlooking the Glass House Mountains, but most people get far more out of Bird World. You can hire a golf cart to drive around the gardens if you don't want to walk, or don't want to have to drag your kids around who refuse to walk( or who agree to walk but complain about it the whole time).

I do like locally made produce, and lovers of Cheese are likely to pop into Maleny Cheese to either stock up or just for a cheese board. Yes, it is a modern cheese factory, so not a rustic or romantic location, but some people really love cheese, and so love to visit here.

Farms

Maleny Dairies is one of the most popular family attractions in the area but can be interesting for anyone who wants to learn more about life on a dairy farm. You can also just pop in to pick up some of their wide range of dairy products, though the farm tours come highly recommended.

Wineries

The region has a long history of winemaking, starting with German immigrants to the area. There are plenty of wineries still around, but like a lot of other wineries in South East Queensland, they buy their grapes from Stanthorpe or even further afield.

The Clouds Vineyard might be in a big barrel which seems a little cheesy, but this place is great for wine, beer and food. Pop in during the day for a tasting or enjoy a full lunch.

Now the Flame Hill Winery is strictly speaking in Montville, but close enough that you can easily visit it from Maleny and not even think of going to downtown Montville. I feel that the wines are a little overrated, but they have a good reputation for fine dining in the restaurant, even if they are a bit expensive. Also, of course, there are the views down the mountain that are free for anyone stopping in.

At Flame Hill Winery in Montville near Maleny
At Flame Hill Winery in Montville near Maleny


Shopping

Maleny is both a great location for typical country products, such as local crafts, products and antiques, as well as a whole more upmarket organics scene. It is not a big town, so it is small enough to walk up and down the main street, but there is enough there for the shopaholic among your friends to get a quick fix.

Personally, I like to look in the shops for some nice local foods and have picked up some glazes and sauces made in that area which are difficult to find in shops in the city. In fact, when passing through the area, one of the reasons to stop is to pick up some of my favourite things.

There is of course a number of antique shops, and these are always nice to browse, and they don't mind, in fact, expect, visitors to do this. The trick to antiquing is to have a spot you need to be filled in your house or garden or a theme for a collection you are going to place on shelves to decorate your home. So you might spend hours going through every antique shop in town to just maybe find that one item that works, then realise after you bought it, that it doesn't fit in your car.

Antique shop in Maleny
Antique shop in Maleny


On Sundays, the Maleny Markets is worth visiting. This is where you can find a lot of the cheaper products, including a number of antiques and vintage curios as well as handmade products. Last time I was there, my friend added another set of dangly earrings to her collection, while I picked up some fruit from the stalls outside the main hall.

Maleny Sunday Markets have stalls both inside the hall & outside
Maleny Sunday Markets have stalls both inside the hall & outside


Dining

Maleny has become somewhat gentrified, with Maleny Hotel offering nice but pricey food aimed at tourists, and the Maleny Food Co. serving good healthy meals using locally sourced ingredients. It is also worth checking for places outside of town for some good dining, such as the cafe at the Mary Cairncross Reserve which is also great for the location and views.

The Maleny Food Co in Maleny
The Maleny Food Co in Maleny


But of course, you can find country style bakeries selling meat pies and sausage rolls, and the Maleny Markets also has a little cafe for country style food. Budget dining doesn't have to just be focused on those country classics, with the Maleny Lane outdoor market having international food from market stalls.

If you want cheap snacks or food in Maleny, visit Maleny Lane
If you want cheap snacks or food in Maleny, visit Maleny Lane


Self-catering is easy as well. You can pop into the local IGA and Woolworths if you need some food. There is also a local butcher shop, and if you are planning to barbecue something, then local meats and sausages from a country butcher is always the best option. As for where to have your picnic or barbecue, my two favourite places in the area at the Baroon Pocket Dam and Mary Cairncross Reserve.

Picnic tables & BBQs on the Maleny side of the Baroon Pocket Dam
Picnic tables & BBQs on the Maleny side of the Baroon Pocket Dam


Staying

In and around town there is a fair amount of reasonably priced accommodation, including charming pubs, nice motels and cabins. This makes Maleny a good escape without breaking the bank. Of course, you can splash out on some very nice retreats and other accommodations in the area. If you are travelling with a group, I would recommend looking for short term rentals (AirBnB and Stayz) for the perfect country house.

Camping and 'vaning are options, with camping and caravans permitted at the showgrounds for a maximum stay of 3 nights, except when major events are on at the showgrounds. Other camping areas are available outside of town, such as Ocean View Tourist Park down towards Landsborough and Lilyponds Holiday Park at Mapleton. The nearest national park campground for car camping is Charlie Moreland.

Nearby

The nearby town of Montville is usually included together with Maleny as a single destination and is only a 15 minute drive from Maleny. On weekdays, there is a bus from Maleny to Montville. Montville is more upmarket than Maleny, with a number of nice restaurants, galleries and shops to visit. There are also a number of wineries in the area as well. If you are spending more than one day in Maleny, it is worth visiting, but on a single day trip, there is already enough to do in Maleny that you won't necessarily have time for Montville as well.

Another closeby attraction is Australia Zoo. This world famous zoo, founded and still run by the Irwin family, is worth a day trip on its own, so you probably don't have time for a visit if you are planning a day at Maleny. But if you are visiting the area, basing yourself at Maleny and doing a trip to Australia zoo could be a good plan.

The Glass House Mountains is a great location to visit. You can pop in for a quick look at the lookout, or stop for coffee and cake at the Lookout Cafe. You can also spend the whole day hiking in the area, with easy walks through to long ones, as well as a scrambles up the taller peaks.

Hiking or climbing up one peak in the Glass House Mountains gives you view of the other peaks
Hiking or climbing up one peak in the Glass House Mountains gives you view of the other peaks


Along with Gardners Falls, Kondalilla Falls is a popular place for a swim. This falls has the swimming hole above the falls and a walk to the base of the falls, which makes it a little more interesting overall than Gardners Falls, though the swimming hole at the latter place is better.

Swimming at the rock pool above Kondalilla Falls near Maleny
Swimming at the rock pool above Kondalilla Falls near Maleny


Another town to visit in the area is Mapleton. The town is a nice place with a pub and cafes with views down the mountains to the coast. In the area is Mapleton Falls as well some good hiking in the Mapleton Falls National Park centred around the Gheerulla Valley.

Events

Maleny is the epicentre of lots of events, with a little something for everyone. Below are the key events that might prompt you to put Maleny on your itinerary. I have tried to list them in the rough chronological order they will occur through the year, though some will move around, and others might be cancelled.

For Aboriginal People of the area, the Bunya Pines were an important part of the culture. When the bunya nuts were ready, clans from across the regions would gather to celebrate and feast on the nutrient and calorie rich bunya nuts. Most of the bunya pines were cut down, but you can still share in the tradition of feasting on bunya nuts and other indigenous foods in Maleny in January or February when they host a dinner and music.

Bunya pines contain lots of tasty pine nuts
Bunya pines contain lots of tasty pine nuts


Not only is there a Maleny Music Festival in winter, but there is also The Maleny Music Festival Warm Up in February. This mini music festival normally starts on Friday afternoon with a bush dance and goes on through Saturday evening.

Running in March, the Maleny Film Festival is one of the few times people in are area are able to see a range of films in the theatre without having to head into Brisbane. Not sure it has that much to appeal to people not living in a regional area. But if you are staying in the area during the film festival, it gives you something interesting to do at night.

In April and May, things get more arts and crafts, with the Maleny Quota Quilt Show, Maleny Arts and Crafts Group and Maleny Wood Expo. The region is home to many artists and this is a good time to see what they have been producing.

For people in the city, the annual show is when the country comes to the big smoke, but don't forget the joys of a genuine country show in the countryside. The Maleny Show is held in June and is the premier regional show in the area. That is, not too big, and not too small, but just right.

The Maleny Music Winter Solstice Festival is a great regional music festival and goes from Friday through to Sunday in June. Rug up a bit and join the crowd for THE party in the hinterland.

Yarn bombing is common now across South East Queensland, if not Australia. Maleny has gotten into the act with Knitfest in July, where the streets get filled with knitted woollen creations. But there is more to it than that. There are also workshops, exhibitions, competitions and market stalls.

If you love yourself a classic muscle car then Muscle on the Mountain is for you.

Come spring, it is time for Gardening on the Edge Spring Fair. With open gardens and a garden market, green thumbs are going to want to visit Maleny in October.

As Christmas approaches there is the Maleny Handmade and Artisan Markets Christmas Fair from November and the Maleny Street Christmas Carnival to get you into the mood for the festive season.

But wait,there is more. I didn't include every event and didn't include some of the other events that are on in the region. Just know that there is often something on in and around Maleny.

Overall

You wouldn't even have to actually visit the town of Maleny to enjoy a trip to the Maleny area. Not only is the town charming with both gentrified and more traditional country places to eat and shop, but the area also has several great natural attractions as well as farms, food production factories and other places to visit.

Plus, it is not uncommon for people to visit Maleny on the way to or from other places. So it is a place to put on your list of destinations or to remember when you are passing through the area.
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Why? Maleny is South East Queensland's Best Country Town
Where: Maleny in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland
Your Comment
Great article Roy. Very comprehensive.
by Irenke Forsyth (score: 3|2669) 8 days ago
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