Born and bred in regional Queensland, Brian Maher takes certain things about his 44-hectare property, Maluka Park, for granted. “People turn up from the city and they say, ‘You can see the stars, they’re so beautiful.’ We’re like, the stars are out every night,” he says. Likewise, he can’t believe people bother to walk up the hill just to sit down and watch the sunset. “It’s something we see every day, so it’s no different for us. But people from the city love it.”
The property is near the Imbil State Forest in Queensland, where Maher has lived all his life. In December last year, he and his wife Jeanna listed Maluka Park on Hipcamp: an online platform that connects people to unique outdoor experiences. It launched in America back in 2013 and has since expanded to the UK, Canada and Australia. You can jump on and book a campsite, cabin, treehouse, glamping spot or space for your caravan in locations all around Australia – from a spot by the creek in the Byron Bay Hinterland to a blueberry farm in Tasmania’s Huon Valley. It’s a way for private landowners to easily make some extra cash off their unused land, and for travellers to book previously unavailable accommodation.
Maher says it was his daughter-in-law who encouraged them to get involved. “We’ve had a lot of friends turn up and camp along the creek because it’s so nice,” says Maher. “So we had been looking to put some cabins or something on the property for many years now, but it’s an expensive job. When this Hipcamp thing turned up, it sounded perfect.” He collected a few shots of the property he had taken throughout the seasons and created a listing. Since then, he's had over 70 bookings and the property has racked up rave reviews. “It’s been a good experience,” he says. “Everyone’s real nice, they all behave themselves and it’s a good bit of extra income for us.”
The Maher’s kids and grandkids have grown up fishing, swimming, kayaking and snorkelling in the beautiful Yabba Creek, which runs through Maluka Park for about 500 metres and is surrounded by lush green grass. That’s where they’ve set up 10 campsites – far enough apart you won’t run into anyone, but families are also welcome to camp closer together. They’ve been so popular Maher is taking it up a notch and building a barbeque area with a roof. Elsewhere on the property, there’s a deer farm, a rainforest (about a kilometre of dense trees and a walking track), a small waterfall and a beautiful entrance lined with trees that change with seasons. This year’s floods have wreaked a bit of havoc on the grass, but Maher is already working hard to rebuild and hopes to have it up and running in a few weeks.
Reading through his five-star reviews on Hipcamp, Maher is amazed at how much people love his property. Before we go, he throws in a mention of the fireflies. They swarm in the thousands in the bush, and his guests couldn’t work out what the pinpricks of light were - one suggested they were people shining torches through the trees. “It’s something we see every day,” he says.
Sitting in my inner-city Sydney apartment, I've already apologised twice for the noise of the A380s flying overhead. I tell him I can understand the appeal. “Yeah,” Maher concedes. "There’s different stuff out here."
This article was produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Hipcamp. Find yourself outside – book with Hipcamp.com.