Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve

mary cairncross scenic reserve

The rolling green hills of Maleny in the Sunshine Coast hinterland are well known, but prior to European settlement, the whole area was covered in thick sub-tropical rainforest.

A 55-hectare remnant of this beautiful rainforest remains at the Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve in Maleny, approximately 100 kilometres from Brisbane, making it the perfect day trip destination for Brisbane families.

The Visitor Centre

mary cairncross, environment centre, view outside

Opened in 2017 this multi-million dollar centre is innovative with an airy and inviting feel. Designed to make the most of the surrounding environment and stunning views, it provides it’s visitors with an unforgettable experience. Once inside there is so much to see and explore. The Dust until Dawn Room plays the sights and sounds of night forest creatures. Another smaller theatrette plays photographs and sounds taken from the rainforest outside.

rainforest room mary cairncross scenic reserve

The visitor centre has interactive walls with information about the flora and fauna you may find on the trail. Press buttons, open cupboards and drawers, sit, listen, and generally let your children explore, discover and learn. Technology also plays a part, there are magnifying glasses, microscopes, iPad’s and touch screens throughout. While there are permanent features of the centre, every few months the theme of the displays changes. Previous themes have ranged from birds, nocturnal animals and reptiles.

marycairncross sunshine coast, natural museum, exhibit

During school holidays the centre plays host to kids’ workshops, and throughout the year they host art exhibitions, educational workshops and other events. Check out the Sunshine Coast website for up to date information about what workshops and events are on

A gold coin donation for entry to the Rainforest Discovery Centre is appreciated.

Ancient Rainforest Walk

rainforest walk sunshine coast, mary cairncross scenic reserve

Image thanks to Tourism and Events Queensland

Step into the rainforest at Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve, and you could well imagine that you are stepping back in time. Starting at the discovery centre is the Forest Boardwalk, just 150 meters it leads up towards the upper level of the centre.

There are many species of animals, birds and reptiles for your Brisbane Kids to spot, including cute pademelons, spiny crayfish, unique frogs, brush turkeys and pretty butterflies. The main trail is 1.7km long and starts at the rear of the discovery centre. It takes about an hour to complete the track though time will pass quickly as you stroll beneath the humongous trees.

There are also a number of seats along the way to rest if needed, or just to stop and marvel at the majestic trees. Remember to stick to the track to help preserve the natural beauty, as well as to avoid stinging plants that are found in the region.

The Playground and Picnics

sunshine coast picnic shelter, mary cairncross scenic reserve

Image thanks to Tourism and Events Queensland/Larissa Dening

You can also pack a picnic and make use of the lawn area. There are numerous sheltered tables and chairs, with BBQs, all of which sits adjacent to the playground.  

Once you have arrived at Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve, the first thing you will notice is the clean and crisp mountain air and the stunning views over the Glasshouse Mountains. At the bottom of the hill is a playground. Made from timber, it is designed to blend in with its surrounds. In keeping with the nature theme is a climbing wall of carved leaves, low enough for smaller children to access, a climbing net, a toddler and normal swing, see-saws, spinning cup and a tunnel slide. Trip trap on the play bridge across the rocky creek bed, or simply go adventuring following the creek bed then scramble across the bigger rocks. 

The Café – food with a view

Breakfast, lunch, coffee and cake are all served at the café that boasts stunning views over the Glasshouse Mountains. There are high chairs and plenty of kid-friendly items on the menu, including milkshakes and toasted sandwiches. During busy periods, it may be a good idea to order and pay for your food before going on the rainforest walk. That way there will be no waiting around for hungry little people that have worked up an appetite thanks to all the fresh air and exercise.


The Rainforest Discovery Centre has been designed with accessibility in mind. Wide hallways, lifts and ramps make getting about with wheelchairs and prams easier. On the ground floor is a generously sized wheelchair accessible bathroom which doubles as a baby change room. 

In dry weather the trails are suitable for wheelchairs and prams, they are wide and the surface is a combination of timber boardwalk and compacted gravel. The path is flat with a barely noticeable incline although after if wet would become muddy. 

The lawn area is connected by concrete paths which lead to the Rainforest Discovery Centre and carpark, however, it does not connect to the playground. There is a large carpark onsite with overflow options on the side of the road. 

Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve Fact Sheet

  • Flushing toilets
  • Excellent playground suitable for primary school-aged children and younger
  • Café open Tuesday to Sunday, 8.30am – 4.30pm
  • BBQs and picnic tables
  • Large field perfect for picnicking, cricket, football, Frisbee
  • A visitor centre and two-kilometre rainforest walk

Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve is located at 148 Mountain View Road at Maleny. The Rainforest Discovery Centre and trails are open daily from 9 am until 4:30 pm, on ANZAC Day 12:30 – 4:30pm and closed on Christmas Day and Good Friday. Visit the Mary Cairncross Visitor Website

Once you’ve got your healthy dose of fresh mountain air, there are so many options to continue onto. Check out Pioneer Park at Landsborough or head to the Caloundra foreshore, it’s only 20 minutes away. 

How to get here

Head down the M1 towards the Sunshine Coast and take the Steve Irwin Exit heading along Landsborough-Maleny Rd. Take a left at Mountain View Rd.


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