At the northernmost end of the Blackall Range lies the village of Mapleton high on the Sunshine Coast hinterland. Mapleton is in a unique location just fifteen minutes from the major township of Nambour with all its shopping, commercial, educational and medical facilities. Yet when you visit Mapleton you would have no idea that this picturesque and quiet location is so close to all these major services. The beautiful beaches and facilities of Maroochydore are just 25 km away.
Mapleton with a population of some 1500 people sits high above Nambour and the coast at an elevation of 374m above sea level (about 1200 feet to the ancient ones!) Like the rest of the Sunshine Coast hinterland it was the harvesting of the valuable Red Cedar and Beech stands that opened the area to exploration and settlement. Farmers followed in the knowledge that the rich red soil that dominates the hinterland would provide the potential for profitable farming.
Early settlers grew fruit, vegetables and cereal crops. In 1894 the road to Nambour opened and the village was renamed Mapleton at a meeting of residents. Previously it was known as Luton Vale after one of the farm properties in the area.
Mapleton was a very successful fruit growing area.
At the turn of the century there were farms like Seaview Orchard with over a thousand fruit trees. Citrus, Bananas and dairying flourished. The impressive Seaview House that still stands today was built by the very well respected William Smith who pioneered fruit growing in the area. There was considerable pressure on the Maroochy Shire Council to improve the transport services to Mapleton. It was great farming country but a real challenge to get product to the markets.
In 1903 the Council extended the mill train line to Dulong and later from there up to Mapleton. In 1904 they purchased their first Shay steam locomotive. This was a highly successful American design made specifically for the tight turns that needed to be negotiated in many remote mining sites. These powerful steam locomotives were driven by three vertical pistons direct to a crankshaft. From there they connected to the front and rear bogies much like the prop shaft of a car. The front and rear bogies could rotate and thus were able to navigate bends in the track some nine times tighter than a conventional steam train. A second Shay was purchased and fittingly named “Mapleton”.
This was a major breakthrough for Mapleton as product could now be efficiently delivered to market. The station was not far from today’s hotel which was originally called the Ocean View Hotel and opened in 1900.
A by-product of the introduction of reliable transport to Mapleton was the birth of the tourist trade. The train made it possible for people from Brisbane and the coast to escape the summer heat and enjoy the views, parks, walks and waterfalls that this area still so richly offers. By the 1920’s there were several flourishing guesthouses. The train trip was slow and took some 2 hours to cover the 18km journey. It is said that many of the younger passengers would jump off the train on its slow ascent and climb the hills picking flowers only to hop back on the train as it traversed the hillside higher up. The Shay’s ran until 1944 at which time road transport became more economical and the line closed. You can still see a Shay locomotive that has been restored on display at the Nambour Museum.
Seaview House was purchased by the Catholic Church in 1923 with the intention of making it into a Catholic Agriculture College. It was renamed St. Isidore’s Farm College but the college never eventuated. It was sold as a private residence in 1951. Doubtless, it provided a wonderful retreat to many a prelate during its long ecclesiastical ownership! One suspects that no one was particularly keen to see it urgently change from a retreat to an educational facility.
Today Mapleton retains its attraction to both visitors and residents.
It has brilliant views over the coast. It is a peaceful and rich environment with great access to all major facilities yet still remains somehow remote.
The primary school opened in 1899 and continues to provide a fine start in life to some 200 children today. The school is also home to the Mapleton Observatory. The visitor can find a BP service station, well stocked IGA supermarket and the famous Mapleton Pub. There is a cluster of small stores across from the pub with doctors and chemist facilities. Behind the shops, the Mapleton Lilly ponds are a delightful park for young and old to enjoy.
The Mapleton Falls National Park just a short distance from the village.
This wonderful circuit of 1.3 km has a brilliant viewing platform adjacent to where Pencil Creek drops 120m to the valley below. The views across the Mary Valley are spectacular and the park is well known for the Peregrine Falcon and Wompoo Fruit Dove. The walk itself takes about 45 minutes and is a “must do” for any visitor to the area.
Mapleton is special.
It has a rich and proud community history of farming and fruit growing. It provides a wonderful environment of walks, waterfalls and the tranquillity of a country village. Yet the major services, hospital, private and public schools plus excellent shopping facilities are just fifteen minutes away.