High in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland is the town of Maleny, known for its scenic treasures, farms and waterfalls. In this list, you’ll find the absolute best things to do in Maleny.
For many city dwellers, we are surrounded by concrete buildings and skyscrapers. Our smartphones are always nearby, and we lead our lives by watching our wristwatches and ticking off to-do lists. To counterbalance these lives, we sometimes long for a place to escape, a place of solitude and calm, where the scenery is rolling green hills, fresh air, and star-lit skies.
In this guide I’m narrowing down what to do in Maleny, so you don’t miss out on experiencing the best of this charming town. Continue reading for the full list!
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A spectacular Maleny lookout and one of the most Insta-famous places on the Sunshine Coast is located in Maleny. If you haven’t heard of it, you may be surprised to know that it a native sour cherry tree that stands by itself in a grassy paddock on the outskirts of town. The sweeping views overlooking the Glass House Mountains is one of the significant drawcards and why One Tree Hill is one of the most favoured destinations for wedding photography in this area.
Important Note: One Tree Hill Maleny is on private property, and you can not enter without permission. You can admire and take pictures from the side of the road, but if you would like a closer look, the owner requests a $50 fee to enter the premises, which is donated to local charities.
If you’d like a peek at what all the hype is about you will need to know how to get there, which can be a little tricky. The paddock is located on the left-hand side (travelling towards Maleny Botanic Gardens and Bird World) between 308 & 349 Mountain View Road, Maleny Sunshine Coast.
One Tree Hill
The Maleny Botanic Gardens have a history which started with an 8-year old boy from South Africa who bought his first plant and went on to purchase a cattle property in 2005 that he envisaged would be botanical gardens.
As we fast forward in time, visitors can now explore over 16 acres of beautifully sculptured gardens, flower displays, waterfalls, and lakes. Surrounded by rainforest and perfectly located high on the escarpment the gardens offer breathtaking views of the Glass House Mountains and countryside.
One of the best Maleny attractions there is over 6 kilometres of walking tracks, and many fun structures that will amuse the kids from a giant purple chair, fairy house and treehouse boasting the best views in the garden.
“A little magic can take you a long way” – Roald Dahl
A recent addition to the gardens is the adjoining Maleny Bird World, where you can take a tour through several large bird aviaries that are home to over 700 native and exotic birds from all around the world.
The guide will point out the different types of birds and share more information on them as you wander the 1400 mt square aviaries.
The tour is approximately 50 minutes and gives you a fabulous encounter to the bird world, and if you’re lucky, you will be able to get up close and personal to the giant Macaw birds or Eclectus parrots.
Tip: Avoid the queues and buy Your Tickets In Advance Here For This Popular Attraction. These tickets offer entry into the gardens and include a one-hour aviary tour.
Maleny Botanic Gardens
One of the best things to do with kids on the Sunshine Coast is taking a Maleny dairy tour at the award-winning Maleny Dairies, a family-owned and locally-operated working dairy farm. For kids who don’t have the chance of experiencing farm life or if you are a mad dairy lover than this is a place not to be missed.
Four times a day over six days a week, there is a working farm tour of the property. Listen to a short film about the history of the farm, and how it has evolved over the times and is now one of the most well-known dairy farms supplying their products from the Sunshine Coast to just over the New South Wales border in Tweed Heads.
After the video, your friendly guide will show you around the working farm, describing the milking process and how the milk is bottled for the consumers.
The kids will love watching the hand milking demonstration with the friendly dairy cow, and the hands-on activities of feeding the chickens in the nearby chicken coop, and the much-anticipated baby calf feeding.
There is never a dull moment on the 90-minute tour, and it concludes with one of the best parts – taste testing. There are sample pots of all delicious custards, yoghurts and flavoured kinds of milk. Don’t forget your cooler bag as you’ll no doubt want to buy some for home.
Before leaving you are welcome to stay for a coffee or snack at the Milkbar or if you have brought your picnic hamper, set up outside on the grassy lawns, make use of the BBQs on-site and let the kids enjoy the grandeur of life on the farm.
The Mary Cairncross reserve protects more than 20 threatened species of plants and animals within its 55 hectares. There are over 2 kilometres of walking tracks and boardwalks at the reserve. The picturesque rainforest loop will take you around the perimeter of the reserve and is an easy hour stroll through a subtropical environment of towering trees and dense shrubs.
Take note of the map in the Rainforest Discovery Centre as it points out the unique varieties of flora and some animal life you may come across along the way. One of the impressive plant specimens in the reserve is the climbing plant known as the Wonga Vine, which is a statement piece as it acts as an arch over the boardwalk. The Wonga Vine produces white, pink and mauve bell-shaped flowers. What makes this vine special is the sheer size as most gardeners could not imagine one of these vines climbing from tree to tree and growing to such a size.
Speaking of size; the reserve is also home to the red cedars, known as red gold to the early European settlers. This impressive tree is like the king of the rainforest as it soars high into the rainforest canopy, and is one of the largest red cedars ever recorded at 20 feet or 6.14 metres in girth.
Adjoining the Mary Cairncross reserve is a popular lawn area with picnic facilities, toilets and playground for the children. Take a stroll along the butterfly walk that starts from the car park and then finish off the day with a picnic and play in the park.
It’s not hard to work up an appetite, which is a good thing as just in front of the Discovery Centre is the Mountain View Café open for breakfast and lunch. A popular place to dine as the comfortable interior, tasty dishes and alfresco dining overlooking the spectacular Glass House Mountains is hard to resist.
Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve
There are many other gems around the area where you can enjoy the beautiful outdoors, including the Maleny waterfalls. Take a short walk to Gardners Falls and easily accessible waterfall and swimming area. Stop along the way and enjoy a splash in the freshwater rock pools off Obi Obi Creek.
Following part of the creek is the Maleny Trail, starting from the showgrounds walk sections of the trail stopping at the numerous viewing platforms or walk the full 6.7-kilometre pathway that is lined with more than 18,000 trees and plants, allowing you to reconnect with nature in peaceful surroundings. Along the track are BBQ areas, picnic tables, seating, and public toilets. Don’t forget your camera as there are many areas to catch a glimpse of the local platypus.
Tip: The best time to see platypus is at dusk or early in the morning after sunrise.
The Glass House Mountains are unmistakable, and as you travel around Maleny, they can be witnessed by many view-points. Formed 25-27 million years ago underground by molten rock geologists suggest that the land surface was 300-400 metres above the present level and over millions of years it has eroded to expose these amazing natural formations.
Mount Ngungun is the sixth tallest of the Glass House Mountains and is a popular hike on the Sunshine Coast. The two hour (return), 2.8-kilometre walking track offers spectacular views from the summit (253 metres above sea level). Even though the track is Grade 4, I have read many reviews that said children (some as young as three years old) accomplished the climb.
A day trip to Maleny will allow you time to see one or two of the places mentioned above, but it will no doubt leave you wanting to see more. To experience everything Maleny has to offer, I would suggest at least three nights, which is why I have included (below) places to stay in Maleny.
Maleny Holiday Home
Maleny has several highly recommended accommodation options, including guest houses, cabins, apartments, cottages and farm stays.
You may also find the below recommendations helpful.
Cloud Hill – 8 kilometres from Maleny this holiday home sleeps up to four guests in two double bedrooms.
Featured Guest Review: “Beautiful, quiet and peaceful. Great location and facilities, short drive to the village & all top attractions in Maleny. Lovely house, very neat and clean, beautifully decorated! Plenty of space for our little family loved spending our mornings on the porch. Well stocked kitchen and a Veg/GF option for breakfast. Very happy with our stay, felt like a home away from home, but with a better view!” – Anne
Maleny Springs Farm – Featuring mountain views this guest house is set on 100 acres and is the ideal retreat for some country fresh air. The spacious home offers three double bedrooms, two bathrooms and a fully equipped kitchen.
Featured Guest Review: “This is an amazing home that is has everything you need or want when away with your family. It has toys, a fire pit, horses, cows, tv in almost every room, the most amazing spa with breathtaking views and so much more! We have stayed twice there and would hope to make it a regular stay for our family. The host is so friendly and helpful, it hung to fault again! ” – Eirini
Spicers Tamarind Retreat And Spa– Set on 18 acres of lush rainforest, located 5 minutes from Maleny. Guests have access to a swimming pool with a heated spa, a restaurant and a day spa to enjoy during their stay.
Featured Guest Review: “Exceeded any expectation I had. Would highly recommended. Beautiful resort, amazing staff, flawless.” – Sarah
Maleny Terrace Cottages.– One of the top-rated accommodation venues in Maleny this motel is 6 km from Maleny Botanic Gardens and Bird World. All units have a balcony for guests to enjoy the beautiful garden views.
Featured Guest Review: “Thoroughly enjoyed our weekend here. Service & cleanliness was superb. I have no hesitancy in recommending this property. Fantastic.” – Sandra
A full day in the outdoors can work up an appetite, which is a good thing as many restaurants in Maleny cater to every taste and budget.
Monica’s Café | One of the long-standing and highly rated cafes in Maleny the seasonal menu caters to every appetite and dietary requirement. Serving up quick bites for breakfast and lunch with organic produce, it is not uncommon to see this café overflowing with patrons.
Shotgun Espresso | The quirky Shortgun Espresso Café has a passion for producing healthy, ethically sourced food and coffee. What that means is you will be eating free-range meats and home-grown seasonal vegetables and herbs. Sit out back in the garden courtyard and taste food that has been cooked from the heart.
Maleny Food Co | Visit Maleny Food and Co to sample some award-winning dairy products. Taste the critically acclaimed signature gelato and sorbet, enjoy deli-style dining or stock up on your favourite cheeses. With more than 250 cheeses to choose from you are bound to find some new and old favourites.
Bistro Bunya | If you are searching for a hearty meal without the fuss, then the local Maleny pub may be the best option. Bistro Bunya has an extensive menu to cater for all appetites, (including one for the kids) in a relaxed and friendly environment.
Tip: There is an extensive amount of Maleny restaurants to choose from, and I recommend looking at TripAdvisor reviews while you are in the planning stages so that you can book in advance or have a couple of dining options in mind while you are visiting.
One of the best things about the Sunshine Coast is you are not far from a new adventure or a day trip.
If the weather turns sour, or if your searching for a change of pace, there are many more family activities on the Sunshine Coast to enjoy.
Find a local treasure, tasty treats and hand-made homewares at the iconic and well-known Eumundi Markets, open Wednesdays and Saturdays. Fun rides, educational tours, and the world’s best ginger products are located at The Ginger Factory. Only a 30-minute drive from Maleny is Strawberry Fields, where you can fill your baskets full of fresh juicy strawberries (seasonal).
Live on the “wild side” at Australia Zoo, where you’ll see over 1,200 animals and wildlife shows on the expansive grounds. For yet another animal experience, but of a different kind, Sea Life Sunshine Coast takes you on an adventure under the sea.
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If you have any questions about Maleny, feel free to ask them in the comments below.