INTO THE HILLS
A SHORT DRIVE FROM THE SUNSHINE COAST LIES THE VILLAGE OF MALENY, WHERE RELAXATION MEETS COMMUNITY SPIRIT.
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 hinterlandtourism.com.au
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...