Maleny is a small historic town in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland, 90km north of Brisbane on the Blackhall Range, 450m above sea level. As a top tourist hinterland destination in Southeast Queensland, there are plenty of things to do in Maleny and surrounds.
Maleny is a town that has retained a local flavour, with lovely cafes, markets and forest walks. Maleny has a reputation of being full of hippies or greenies and there are numerous eco-businesses and cooperatives, as well as local artists, crafts and musicians.
Exploring Maleny and surrounds is one of the things to do on the Sunshine Coast most people will love. Actually, most visitors to Maleny would not think of it as a place to see wildlife. Neither did we and we live here!
- 11 Things to do in Maleny
- 1- Dine with water dragons at Maple 3 Cafe
- 2- Follow the wooden animal sculpture trail
- 3- Explore Gardners Falls
- 4- Look for wildlife at Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve
- 5- Glass House Mountains view
- 6- Visit Maleny Botanic Gardens & Bird World
- 7- Hike around Obi Obi Creek
- 8- Hug a tree on the Fig Tree Walk
- 9- Snorkel or swim in Little Yabba Creek
- 10- Bellbird Creek Cafe
- Maleny accommodation
11 Things to do in Maleny
1- Dine with water dragons at Maple 3 Cafe
Having lunch in one of our favourite small outdoor cafes in Maleny is one of the delightful things to do in Maleny and my idea of heaven on a weekend.
My salmon skin was crisp and about to be washed down with a pear and rocket salad when we looked down.
We had un-invited friends about to join us.
Totally brazen, three Eastern water dragons cruised between the legs of our chairs, one bobbing his head expressing his dominance.
Having lunch with the critters is just one of the delightful things to do in Maleny and Maple 3 Café is known for its water dragons.
King George, unfortunately, died in recent times but his family live on in the environs of the café, entertaining patrons with their close-quarter activities.
2- Follow the wooden animal sculpture trail
The town has a rather curious sprinkling of small wooden animal sculptures set up as a discovery trail for visitors.
We had lots of fun walking around the main and back streets trying to see how many we could find.
3- Explore Gardners Falls
Most people have heard of Kondalilla Falls, which is also nearby, but Gardners Falls is also popular with local families as a cool watering hole on a hot summer’s day.
Even local brush turkeys patrol the falls joining in on the fun.
Leave your car at the parking area of Obi Obi Creek follow the trail to Gardners Falls and you will soon discover one of the Sunshine Coast Hinterland’s hidden gems.
4- Look for wildlife at Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve
Prepared for the worse on a wet and windy hot summer weekend in January, one of our daily expeditions took us to the beautiful rainforest of Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve.
During a sleepy time of the day, we expected virtually no wild or birdlife.
So we were pleasantly surprised when we came across numerous rainforest or pademelon wallabies feeding on nuts and fruits.
A large family of red or brown flying foxes (fruit bats) had made their temporary home high up in the Piccabeen palms near the Piccabeen Palm Grove near Walkers Creek.
5- Glass House Mountains view
We stopped off for a bite to eat at the park’s café to enjoy one of the best views of the Glass House Mountains.
At the café entrance, we spotted a flat-backed dragon.
In fact, not just one but two.
The knowledgeable volunteer ladies back at the park’s reception eagerly told us they were residents and were often seen there. Wow!
6- Visit Maleny Botanic Gardens & Bird World
The next day we set off to the Maleny Botanic Gardens & Bird World.
We had never visited the gardens before and were pleasantly surprised at how beautiful they were.
The landscaping was some of the best we have ever seen and the view to the Glass House Mountains is breathtaking.
And we even saw a harmless green tree snake as we walked around.
What a bonus!
An old goat in the little hobby farm next to the aviary was quite a character.
The goat stood on a bench peering into the aviary as if to say “Hey there, someone let me in, ok?”
When we started to queue to go in, the goat was at the front of the line, head butting the keeper to let him in.
In the aviary, we were told to watch out for was the birds.
The instruction that sticks in my mind is “Don’t forget before you step, look in front and behind you so you don’t stand on any birds.”
The birds were everywhere!
If you don’t like birds then this is not the place for you.
Some of the birds will treat you like an old long lost buddy returning from the war and stick to you like concrete.
Watch out for your earrings, jewellery or handbag – they love them all.
One pair of rosellas took a personal liking to my black and lime-green iPhone case, which now has holes pecked out around the edges.
7- Hike around Obi Obi Creek
Later that day we discovered the Obi Obi Creek Boardwalk, near the library.
Alongside Woolworths end of the creek, the boardwalk has been extended and is now a long walking path along the creek.
Along the path are large eye-catching sandstone sculptures made by local artists.
Following the path around as far as it would go, in the deep grass right next to the path, we found a Mary River turtle.
The turtle seemed to take it all in its stride whilst being handled for photos and was rather obliging actually.
After the turtle photo shoot, we placed it gently back closer to the water’s edge.
As we crossed a tiny sandy bottomed inlet, we saw two more turtles in the water.
Last but not least, let’s not forget the elusive Obi Obi Creek Platypus.
They are shy, mainly nocturnal animals.
According to the locals, there are spots around the Creek where they have been spotted. But they eluded us no matter how hard we looked.
It gives us a good reason to go back to explore as we now have a mission to see an Obi Obi Creek Platypus.
8- Hug a tree on the Fig Tree Walk
Between Kenilworth and Conondale on the Kenilworth/Maleny Road is another hidden gem in the hinterland of Southeast Queensland.
The area is not only a nature lover’s delight but it has a history of gold prospecting (still practised today by a few local old-timers).
Here, you’ll also find a relatively unknown Sunshine Coast walk that will surprise you, the Fig Tree Walk.
It’s a nature trail that explores a small pocket of rainforest adjacent to Little Yabba Creek about 4km from Kenilworth.
There is ample parking on either side of the creek where overnight camping is free (for one night only).
Completed in 1994, Fig Tree Walk is well signposted as you head back across the bridge, with the entrance boardwalk on the right-hand side of the road.
A 1.1km round trip, it is a wheelchair-friendly trail for all ages with excellent interpretive signs around the boardwalk and moss-ridden paths.
If you are quiet you may hear the call of the wompoo dove or green catbird, or see brush turkeys and small birds foraging amongst leaf litter.
A small seasonal creek passes through the forest, changing the scenery to she-oaks, silky oaks or flooded gum trees with stunning smooth white trunks.
There are a few huge and very impressive Moreton Bay Fig trees towering over the forest canopy.
But watch out for the Giant Stinging Tree with leaves that have fine stinging hairs which can inflict pain lasting weeks after.
9- Snorkel or swim in Little Yabba Creek
Little Yabba Creek is part of the Mary River and home to the endangered Mary River Lungfish and Mary River Turtle.
The creek is a popular swimming hole on a hot humid summer day.
Intent on searching for the endangered river species, Tony set out in full scuba gear whilst I walked the walk, so to speak!
Unfortunately, technology frustrated him with both GoPro batteries failing only a short distance from his starting point.
But that didn’t stop him capturing a few glimpses of a rare Murray Cod, a small school of large mullet, tiny fish and an endangered Mary River Turtle.
10- Bellbird Creek Cafe
After all that exercise, we just had to stop off at the Bellbird Creek Café for a welcome afternoon carb hit.
A quirky café on the road back into Kenilworth, it is very popular with locals and out of town bikers.
And don’t think that you need to check your squeaky suspension when you pull over (like we did!).
The sound is, in fact, the distinctive sweet call of the bellbirds.
The food is wholesome, the coffee is organically grown and the café décor, well…you gotta see it to believe it.
The car parking sign is a classic and I just love the comment on the motorbike area: “The last car that parked here is still missing”.
And as for the rainwater tank-come-pizza oven, now THAT’s an innovation worth marketing!
Spicers Tamarind was our destination for our romantic weekend getaway.
A quiet resort set in a hillside just outside Maleny near Gardner’s Falls, its unusual garden sculptures greeted us and set a wildlife trend for the weekend.
There were numerous water dragons adorning and sharing the property, one right next to our Pavilion.
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