Boasting fifty-five hectares of some of Australia's best sub-tropical rainforest, Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve is one of the Sunshine Coast's must-do destinations. This gem of remnant rainforest in the heart of Jinibara Country is a living, breathing menagerie of plants and animal life, an oasis of tranquillity and serenity.
With more than two kilometres of different walking tracks, boardwalks and viewing platforms, Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve is an absolute delight for the whole family to visit.
The Rainforest Loop is accessed via the Discovery Centre at the Scenic Reserve. The Forest Walk starts with a common section, allowing walkers to do a short there-and-back walk or for the more adventurous, to add on a larger outer loop, which will take walkers the 1.7kms.
Entry to the Rainforest Walk is via the Discovery Centre
Halfway along the loop, walkers will discover a path, leading off from the main walk, which creates two smaller loops - the Pademelon Loop (dark green on the map) and the Piccabeen Loop (brown on the map) - both smaller loops measure about 1.3km each.
Walkers on the Rainforest Walk will be immersed in a world apart, a world all on its own … an ecological island, growing in a prime environment with high rainfall statistics.
Stop and take a moment to listen! What always delights me on entering this rainforest, is the sensation of being enveloped in nature's chorus of birdsong. There are at least one hundred and forty-one different species of birds that call Mary Cairncross home, all of them playing essential roles in the delicate ecosystem, whether its eating insects, spreading plant seeds, turning the soil or raising their young. Listen for the whipbird's unmistakable cracking of a whip or to the eerie sounds of a cat meowing in the distance, courtesy of the green catbird. Riflebirds, bowerbirds, Wompoo fruit doves and not forgetting the ever-present bush turkeys, all contribute to the sounds of nature at this Scenic Reserve jewel.
Sit quietly on a bench along the Rainforest Walk and take advantage of Mother Nature's treasures around you. Discover little birds on the forest floor and along the pathways, darting this way and that, totally oblivious to the intrusion of humans. Take your time to browse the interesting signage all along the walkways, giving interesting details on the majestic trees in this region, some having even reached the enviable ripe old age of one thousand years! In the Discovery Centre, I loved seeing this quote 'get quiet with our trees, get high with our birds'. Perfectly apt!
The cool dense forest offers a sanctuary to a variety of unusual wildlife, including endangered amphibians and lizards. See if you can spot a cute pademelon or two, well-camouflaged in the undergrowth.
To the side of the Mary Cairncross picnic grounds, walkers will find the short, easy Birdwing Butterfly Path. There is no need to go through the Discovery Centre to access this walk. Along this path is the birdwing butterfly vine, an important food source for developing caterpillars and attracting the Richmond Birdwing butterfly, which is one of Australia's largest and rarest butterflies, with a wingspan of up to 16cm in females.
The walk starts near the toilets and leads behind the children's playground and to the bottom end of the field with information panels, describing the lifecycle of this fascinating butterfly. The Birdwing Butterfly Path leads to a viewing deck in the forest. This walk is ideal for walkers, prams and wheelchairs.
Interpretive Boardwalk | 0.2km | Suitable for prams and wheelchairs
The main attraction of Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve is naturally the spectacular rainforest and the views of the Glass House Mountains, which are deftly explored via the discovery experience at the recently re-opened Rainforest Discovery Centre.
Be at one with the treetops on the Interpretive Boardwalk
The Discovery Centre is the main access point into the rainforest and the rainforest walks, providing visitors with a vivid natural history and educational experience of the park's environment. Visitors are encouraged to go through the Discovery Centre to a rising boardwalk that gently meanders through the magnificent trees of the forest, before heading back to level 2 of the Discovery Centre and out again onto a viewing platform for the Glasshouse Mountains.
On the day of our visit, a public holiday, visitor numbers to the viewing platform were restricted, due to COVID.
Walks, wildlife, picnic grounds, BBQ's on-site, drinking water, toilets, a children's playground, the inviting Mountain View Cafe and a souvenir kiosk, plus spectacular views of the Glass House Mountains - the quintessential mix for an awesome family day out, to a very special place, Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve.
'Listen deeply, watch attentively and tread lightly'
All images courtesy of author unless otherwise indicated