We dis­cover the beauty and friendly com­mu­nity of Maleny in the Sun­shine Coast’s lush hin­ter­land.

IN THE HIN­TER­LAND TOWN of Maleny, perched high in the rolling green hills be­hind Queens­land’s famed Sun­shine Coast beaches, vil­lage life starts early. On Maple Street, crisp moun­tain air min­gles with the aroma of cof­fee and friendly chat­ter is ex­changed along­side fresh pro­duce di­rect from the farm gate. Maleny has come a long way since its sawmilling days. The for­mer tim­ber town, an hour and a half’s drive north of Bris­bane and around 40 min­utes from Sun­shine Coast Air­port, has a broad main road that ac­com­mo­dated oxen turn­ing wag­ons in the late 1800s. Street names like Cedar, Myr­tle and Bunya redo­lent of its his­tory. How­ever, this lush, laid­back vil­lage in the Black­all Range is now home to a pro­gres­sive, eco-con­scious com­mu­nity that thrives on cre­ativ­ity and col­lab­o­ra­tion. As­cend­ing from the south along scenic Lands­bor­ough Maleny Road, or en­ter­ing from the north via equally pic­turesque Maleny-montville Road, the air be­comes heavy with the scent of rich soil and lan­tana. Hon­esty boxes crop up on the road­side, trad­ing coins for av­o­ca­dos, straw­ber­ries, pineap­ples and macadamias that rel­ish the sub­trop­i­cal cli­mate. Clas­sic Queens­lan­ders with wrap­around ve­ran­dahs stand tall and proud as dairy cows graze hap­pily in the pad­docks be­low. To­day, Maleny com­prises about 3700 res­i­dents liv­ing on un­du­lat­ing dairy farm coun­try. After much of the land had been cleared for tim­ber in the early 1900s, rich soil and abun­dant rain turned the fo­cus to milk. But­ter and cheese co-op­er­a­tives flour­ished and, by the 1950s, the Maleny re­gion sup­ported around 300 dairy farms. Dereg­u­la­tion decades later re­duced this num­ber sig­nif­i­cantly, how­ever the area still sup­ports a col­lec­tive of pas­sion­ate farm­ers, pro­duc­ers and co-op­er­a­tives. In the heart of town, Maple Street Co-op­er­a­tive has been go­ing strong since it was es­tab­lished in 1979, the store a hive of ac­tiv­ity as peo­ple fill tote bags with lo­cal, or­ganic pro­duce. In ei­ther direc­tion you’ll find home­made cakes, ar­ti­san soaps and cafés snip­ping herbs from the gar­den to toss through spring sal­ads. Along with the slow grown and vine-ripened there are wood turn­ers, glass blow­ers, au­thors and artists. The com­mon thread is an un­mis­tak­able bo­hemian spirit that has seen the town be­come a shin­ing ex­am­ple of what a pros­per­ous co-op­er­a­tive com­mu­nity looks like. “Maleny has al­ways been a spe­cial place,” says Kelly Rob­son, owner of Shot­gun Espresso. “Peo­ple here re­ally care about the food they eat and sup­port­ing lo­cal grow­ers.” After two decades work­ing as a barista in the area, Kelly opened her own café in 2014 with her hus­band Adrian An­der­son. “It was some­thing I’d wanted to do for ages — when both the kids had fin­ished school it seemed like a good time,” says Kelly, whose son Jack, 19, and daugh­ter In­dia, 21, helped get things started. Kelly and In­dia now run the café to­gether and love that the cus­tomers care about the prod­uct as much as they do. “We put a lot of ef­fort into sourc­ing our pro­duce,” says Kelly, whose menu uses free-range eggs, grass-fed beef and lo­cal honey. A gar­den out the back sup­plies the kitchen with herbs, salad greens and veg­eta­bles. “This in­dus­try can be quite waste­ful,” says Kelly of the hos­pi­tal­ity busi­ness. “We re­ally try to do ev­ery­thing we can to min­imise our im­pact on the en­vi­ron­ment.” An eco-con­scious ap­proach and strong sense of prove­nance ex­tends be­yond the menu, the café’s in­te­rior is dec­o­rated with a mélange of sec­ond­hand finds and lo­cally made pottery. “I’ve al­ways loved op-shop­ping and col­lect­ing,” says Kelly. “I wanted the space to feel like my home — as though I am hav­ing my clos­est friends over for tea.” Maleny’s restorativ­e qual­i­ties at­tract city dwellers seek­ing re­lax­ation and hol­i­day mak­ers want­ing to es­cape the busy­ness of the beaches. While tarot read­ings and reiki >

might not make ev­ery­one’s itin­er­ary, there are few who wouldn’t be soothed by the lush rain­for­est pock­ets, the gen­tle flow of Obi Obi Creek that winds along Maleny Board­walk and the breath­tak­ing views to the Glass House Moun­tains. The neigh­bour­ing vil­lage of Montville, a scenic 15-minute drive north-east along Bal­moral Ridge, is worth the trip for its spec­tac­u­lar van­tage to the Black­all Range. Shops sell­ing lo­cal art, crafts and choco­late along Main Street are housed in Euro­pean-in­flu­enced dwellings that in­clude Tu­dor cot­tages and Swiss chalets. Keep head­ing north a fur­ther five min­utes to dis­cover Kon­dalilla Falls, sit­u­ated in Kon­dalilla Na­tional Park, where lo­cals love tak­ing a dip on a warm day. The abun­dance of tran­quil spots to throw down a blan­ket is matched by the quan­tity of de­li­cious pic­nic pro­vi­sions, so eat­ing al­fresco is en­cour­aged. A good place to stock up is Maleny Food Co, whose fro­magerie holds more than 250 cheese va­ri­eties. Though it might not last the trip, the award-win­ning gelato is a must-try — if you’re hav­ing trou­ble choos­ing from the 80 or so flavours, crème caramel and cherry ripe are pop­u­lar picks. Ac­com­mo­da­tion ranges from ro­man­tic bed and break­fasts to fam­ily-friendly cab­ins. An idyl­lic op­tion for groups is Spicers Re­treats’ French Cot­tage — cook up the con­tents of your mar­ket bas­ket in the self-con­tained kitchen be­fore tak­ing in the sun­set from the front porch. While many flock to the Sun­shine Coast’s sandy shores, those who ap­pre­ci­ate feel­ing like a lo­cal the mo­ment they ar­rive at a des­ti­na­tion will do well to head to the hin­ter­land. “The com­mu­nity here is just won­der­ful, very wel­com­ing,” says Kelly. “It’s amaz­ing that we’re able to live among these lush, rolling hills and still be so close to the ocean — Maleny is def­i­nitely one of those places you don’t want to leave.” For more in­for­ma­tion about the Maleny re­gion, visit hin­ter­land­

Cows graz­ing in Maleny — dairy coun­try 90 kilo­me­tres north of Bris­bane — with the Glass House Moun­tains seen in the dis­tance.

CLOCK­WISE, FROM LEFT Mon­ica’s Café is pop­u­lar for its fair-trade cof­fee; the Spicers Retreat French Cot­tage on Clovelly Es­tate; man­i­cured gar­dens sur­round the es­tate; the front bench of Mon­ica’s Café over­looks Maple Street. FAC­ING PAGE Po­ets Café is...

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