This Way Out: Writer April Orcutt profiles Queensland, Australia’s Maleny Botanic Gardens
Today seems like another good day to take a mental vacation, so why not head back to Australia? EscapeHatch travel correspondent and Lowell Thomas Award winner April Orcutt heads Down Under with this report.
Camera in hand – and often pressed to eye – I walked paths through beautiful Maleny Botanic Gardens, 20 miles from the Sunshine Coast of Australia’s Queensland state. With my macro lens ready to go I searched for yellow hibiscus, pink azaleas, scarlet begonias, white gardenias, purple orchids, blue forget-me-nots, vermillion canna, red vinca, multicolored petunias and rose-colored roses.
Nearly four miles of trails wind through 14 landscaped acres on a hillside that’s divided into smaller gardens with ponds, waterfalls, ferns, bamboo, succulents, cacti, grasses, tree ferns, cycads, magnolias, weeping willows and at least five kinds of native Australian trees. The privately owned and funded garden is a labor of love by creator and owner Frank Shipp, who plans to expand the gardens even more and who enjoys seeing how much visitors appreciate them.
A little more than a year ago, the gardens opened a nearly 11,000-square-foot walk-in aviary with colorful parrots, scarlet macaws, rainbow lorikeets, finches, cockatoos and dozens of other birds – many of which, I discovered, love to land on heads, arms and shoulders. It’s a little unnerving, but it also means that they don’t seem to mind posing for photos.
Another photo bonus to the gardens is that as you gaze east, toward the coast, you see the strange Glasshouse Mountains. These steep gray peaks, which are old volcanic cores, rise abruptly above the agricultural plain and add a mysterious backdrop to the colorful Maleny Botanic Gardens.
Maleny Botanic Gardens, 233 Maleny-Stanley River Rd., Maleny Queensland 4552, Australia; tel: +61 7 5408 4110; malenybotanicgardens.com.au. Photos: April Orcutt