Mountainous, eclectic, serene, picturesque, beautiful, cosy – there are many words to describe the Sunshine Coast Hinterland. And, they all ring true. You can sense the beauty, the vibe, the feeling, as you begin the ascent up Landsborough Maleny Road, weaving among stretches of bushland and forest.

Do you pause and take a moment to drink in those stellar views across the rolling green hills and beyond to the glistening ocean?

I have always loved this drive. The wooded entrance to the hinterland provides the first glimpse of what awaits, and is such a contrast to any of the region’s many coastal drives.

I was about to spend a beautiful 24 hours with my family in this slice of Sunshine Coast heaven exploring two little townships – Maleny and Montville.

And here is the thing about this area. While those words I used before do describe the hinterland, it truly is so much more than that. It’s simply one of those places you can visit again and again, always discovering something new – a cafe that has popped up, a new laneway or funky shop. It’s also the kind of place you can visit rain or shine.

On our recent visit, misty rain floated down from fluffy clouds. It was so pretty and felt so magical, that we didn’t even mind a bit.

We left our home and made our way up the hill early hoping to catch a tour at Maleny Dairies only to find it  closed for renovations. Luckily for us, the beautiful cows were grazing in the field so we wandered by the fence before heading into town, excited to see what changes will await us when they reopen.

Coffee was calling my name, so the next stop was Frank Food & Wine in Maple Street, Maleny’s main thoroughfare. And this space – which dishes up espresso and brunch by day, hand-selected wines, cocktails, and bistro food by night – has become quite the go-to space in Maleny. A feat considering it is one of the newer foodie spots in comparison with some of the institutions that have been around for years. We grabbed a coffee and some babycinos for the kids then went for a play (in the misty rain) at the park right next door.

When the kids had burnt off a little energy, we explored the rest of Maple Street and all the wide-ranging stores it has to offer. We stopped to see the incredible landscape photography work of Ben Messina, and then I picked up a cute new dress from Indian textiles shop, Sapling Textiles.

We continued on, exploring the Maleny Laneway (for more coffee), and buying some candy at Sweets on Maple before browsing the exquisite collection at Rosetta Books. Our last stop was to Spill Wine to pick up a bottle for later. This trendy joint is new in town but has already amassed quite the fan base with a selection of drops from independent wine makers, and a seasonal snack menu with ingredients sourced locally.

Bellies full, rain still sprinkling, we jumped back in the car and drove about five minutes out of town to Gardners Falls. Tucked in next to luxury retreat Spicers Tamarind, down a dirt road and past a field of chickens and cows is where you will find the stunning freshwater oasis on the banks of the Obi Obi Creek.

We parked the car and wandered a few hundred metres downstream past shallow rock pools and bubbling waters, taking our shoes off to play in the icy water before reaching the waterfall and larger swimming hole at the end of the track.

This place is the perfect swimming spot for families because the walk is easy, short and flat. The grassy banks are backed by native forest and there are smaller, shallow water holes and spots to paddle without diving in the deeper end. We could have stayed for hours bird watching and playing about. But after a good splash it was time to head off for a quick bite to eat at Maleny Cheese.

It goes without saying we were here to taste test the cheeses and we had the most pleasant surprise when the ‘small’ cheese board came out full of delicious morsels, and it was big enough to feed us all! My personal favourites came from the Maleny Club Cheddar range, in particular the smokey and wasabi flavours. Hubby loved the creamy brie and herb and garlic feta, which paired well with the relish and fresh breads on the board.

The kids loved watching the workers package up yoghurt in the working dairy factory while we sat and snacked, before making the drive out of Maleny and into Montville.

Montville holds a special place in my heart. It is where hubby and I were married 11 years ago, and I always love visiting the beautiful little town.

We parked the car and started at the top of the road, slowly making our way down the hill, exploring the funky gift stores and art shops Montville is known for. The kids (and the adults to be honest) loved a cute and completely eclectic store called Crystal Multiverse where you are greeted with bubbles, and can pose for a pic with a giant dinosaur and koala. The store is filled with crystals, Harry Potter-themed gifts and unique and quirky spiritual items. It is quite typical of Montville with its beauty and old-world charm combined.

Even simply wandering the main street is an experience here, so that’s what we did – exploring the nooks and crannies, and stopping to smell every beautiful blooming rose. We even had a chance to sip one of the best coffees I have had in a long time at Little May Espresso.

It was the perfect aperitif as I was about to indulge in some delicious sweets at the bustling land of Belgian chocolate, Chocolate Country. Here you will find cabinets filled with chocolate truffles, chocolate bars, homemade honeycomb, and luxury gifts — all handcrafted by the shop’s dedicated chocolatiers. Yum.

Right next door to Chocolate Country is my favourite store on the street, the Clock Shop, with all its ticking cuckoo clocks and incredibly detailed and authentic German beer steins. The kids were fascinated by the cuckoo sounds as each clock took its turn to chime.

By this stage, the sun was out so we jumped back in the car and drove for about 10 minutes until we reached Lake Baroon. Here, the kids dug for mini shells in the clay and skimmed rocks in the dam as we took in the beauty of this area and soaked up a little sunshine.

It was a great final stop for the day before checking into Kondalilla Eco Retreat and settling in by the fireplace for the cool hinterland evening.

Other Maleny & Montville musts

Time and weather didn’t allow us to do all the activities we wanted to, but don’t miss these stops on your own trip up the mountain.

Kondalilla Falls in Montville – There are several short walking tracks at Kondalilla National Park including the Kondalilla Falls circuit that leads you to the base of the magnificent 90-metre waterfall and swimming hole where you can take a dip.

Maleny Botanic Gardens and Bird World – Meander through some of the most exquisite gardens in Queensland featuring a panorama of waterfalls, ponds and colourful plantings, idyllic rainforest surroundings and views of the spectacular Glass House Mountains. Be sure to visit the aviary for a fascinating presentation on the colourful native and exotic birds who are likely to land on your shoulder.

Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve in Maleny – Fifty-five acres of subtropical rainforest overlooking the Glass House Mountains. A remnant of the rainforests that once covered the Blackall Range, the reserve is a living museum of diverse plant and animal life.

Brouhaha Brewery in Maleny – A no-fuss brewery where high quality craft beer meets fresh, local produce.