History of the reserve

The name Mary Cairncross is a tribute to the memory of Mary Thynne, whose maiden name was Cairncross.

In October 1941, 100 acres was transferred through a Deed of Trust to the then Landsborough Shire Council by Mary's three daughters Elizabeth, Mabel and Mary Thynne.  The sisters would never have imagined what an incredible conservation legacy that they had provided.  Without their foresight, this remarkable natural heritage site may not be enjoyed by generations today.

Born in 1848, Mary Cairncross was a passionate environmentalist from an early age.  She was involved in campaigns to prevent the felling of forests on St Helena Island in Moreton Bay.  Later a prison was built on the island and sadly the forests were cleared.  She married Irish-born Andrew Joseph Thynne on 3 June 1869 in Brisbane.  Andrew Thynne purchased the Maleny land where the reserve is situated in 1902.  This reserve is part of an original land holding of 790 acres taken up by Isaac Burgess on 12 November 12 1878.  Isaac Burgess was the first selector in Maleny on Portion 98. 

Ben Bennett was the driving force in forming the Rotary Club of Maleny and the branch was officially chartered on 22 May 1959 with 20 chartered members. In October 1959 the Club, in consultation with Landsborough Shire Council and Elizabeth Thynne, embarked on their first project: to create and maintain the 100 acre rainforest reserve on Mountain View Road.  Members of the Rotary Club and their families volunteered over consecutive weekends.  Many thousands of hours were invested, transforming the iconic reserve we see today.  The Rotarians cut tracks, dug holes, built bridges, removed rubbish, made signs and created walkways.

The Landsborough Shire Council assisted with funding for construction including a motor grid at the entrance to the park.  The Rotary members also built the early park shelter shed with water tank, picnic tables and also made a fireplace to boil the ‘billy’. 

The Maleny Rotary Club worked tirelessly for more than 20 years. Some of the dedicated volunteers included Jack Wilcox, Norm Tesch, Keith Riordan, Clarrie Skerman, Bert Brooker, Joe Spooner the local policeman, Arthur Finter, Ken Edser, Bruce Aberdeen, Wal Burnett later Sir Walter Burnett, Alex Myers, Joe Spooner, Vic and Jim Waddell, Brian Turner, Arthur Tesch, Bill Hankinson and a young Ivan Hankinson, Ivan Bonney, Jack Hill, Rob Norris, Trevor Appleby, Lloyd Bell, Ken Boden, Reg Cox, Nev Anning, Bob Doyle and the then known matriarch of Maleny Rotary Peg Burnett and her husband Rixon Burnett – to name a few. 

During those early days, Rixon Burnett and Maleny doctor Tony Parer meticulously researched plant encyclopaedias as they attempted to identify species.  They sought the help of a research botanist at the Brisbane Botanic Museum and Herbarium.  Rixon Burnett was one of the strongest stalwarts committed to the development of the reserve which he did for over 27 years. In recognition of his contribution, a Rixon Burnett Walk was named after him within the park. 

On 12 December 1960, the Governor of Queensland Sir Henry Abel Smith officially opened Mary Cairncross Reserve.  A guard of honour of Maleny Girl Guides, Cubs and Scouts, Boys Brigade and Girls Life Brigade and Junior Red Cross attended on the special day.  Sir Henry Abel Smith took the time to speak to every little guard of honour on that day and those on the special platform included the surviving donor of the land, Miss Elizabeth “Bessie” Thynne. 

In the early hours of New Year’s Day 1963, a severe cyclone tore through the land causing major damage to the reserve.  Many trees fell in the park and sadly had to be removed.  Once again Maleny Rotary organised extensive working bees to clean up the reserve. 

On 22 August 1964 cairn was erected as a memorial to Mary Cairncross.  Sir Henry Abel Smith came back to Maleny for the occasion.

On 11 December 1966, Elizabeth “Bessie” Thynne donated a further five acres to the Landsborough Shire Council.

In 1997, Caloundra City Council (formerly Landsborough Shire Council) built the first education centre with a grant from the Federal Government.  It was around this time that the Rotary Club of Maleny were able to lessen their involvement in the park. 

The now Sunshine Coast Council acknowledges the extraordinary legacy created by the Thynne family and the contributions of the Maleny Rotary Club. 



Protecting our forest

You will encounter plenty of wildlife in the reserve. Don't get too close and do not feed them.  We thank you for helping to protect our native fauna by leaving them alone.


Learn more about the species that call this forest home View more

Traditional owners
Jinibara cultural heritage

This is Jinibara country. In 2012 Traditional Owners had their rights formally asserted by the Native Title Tribunal across the Maleny area, as well as parts of the adjacent Glass House Mountains, Somerset, Moreton Bay and Brisbane Council areas.

Learn more