There’s more to Queensland’s Sunshine Coast than suntans, surfboards, and shoreline, although given the wealth of white sand beaches and places to bake in the sun, it’s easy to see why the forested interior can sometimes be overlooked. At the Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve, travelers are reminded how Queensland’s interior has an endemic beauty of its own. These hills that rise behind the Glass House Mountains were once covered in rainforest—parts of which are still visible on the reserve’s 135 acres. Stroll along miles of wooden boardwalk past red cedar and ginger, and listen for the mating call of green catbirds and they flit high in the treetops. While silently strolling the shaded trails, keep an eye out for red-legged padmelon as they scurry and forage through the underbrush. These small wallabies have lost much of their habitat due to surrounding deforestation, although still survive on this small refuge that’s been called an “ecological island.” There are playgrounds and barbecues for family outings as well as an education center, or simply sit at the small café to enjoy a tea in the forest.
The Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve is located one hour from Brisbane, one hour from Noosa, and 30 minutes from the Sunshine Coast. The education center is open from 9am-5pm from September-May, 9am-4pm from June-August, and the rainforest trails are open for hiking during regular daylight hours. While there is no official admission to the reserve, a gold coin donation is graciously accepted.