Season 1, Episode 29

Maleny Botanic Gardens

In this episode Benjamin Starr chats with Frank Ship from Maleny Botanic Gardens and Bird World. Frank a truly passionate gardener, has built his dream garden with the spectacular Glass House Mountains as a back drop and features over 500 birds, exotic plants and cascading waterfalls. You’ll definitely want to add this on your ‘go to’ list of destinations after listening to Frank.

Hosts & Guests

Benjamin Starr

Frank Ship

Read the transcript

Ben:  Okay we’re driving our own adventure and I’d like to introduce you to a guy by the name of Frank Ship, he’s the Sunshine Coast king of the birds.  He admits he might be a little bit compulsive over this sort of stuff but why else would someone amass almost five hundred birds, spend years building gardens and even bring a fishing boat to his Maleny property.  Some might call him a little crazy. But I think he’s today’s modern-day Dr Doolittle.      This is not just an aviary, this is that like Bunnings   warehouse hanger! 

Frank: Ah, yes, it’s probably about the biggest in Australia now. So, these, a lot of these birds have been hand reared by myself.  They all want a piece of me. On the weekends we have to do this every fifteen minutes, there are just so many people coming through.  This is the main attraction, eighty one percent of visitors come here    specially for the …..

Ben:  So, when people are travelling up here you recommend they come up to your neck of the woods.  Explain where we are exactly. 

Frank: Well we are on the Sunshine Coast hinterland and in a place called Maleny, and it’s a magnificent drive to come up the mountain and to come and see us.

Ben: And then you have the wonderful bird aviary,   paradise…  Look at it … Welcome to paradise.  You came up with that name, didn’t you? 

Frank: Actually, one of my workers .. workers did! 

Ben: Oh really! 

Frank: That sounds pretty good to me, yeah there is so much to see and do here.   

Ben: What sort of permits do you have to have to have a bird aviary like this?   

Frank: Its, not so much a permit for the aviary but you certainly need permits. Certainly for birds!

Ben: Right,  right,  right,  right! 

Frank: Depending on what bird it is, if it’s an Australian bird.  Most would need a permit.  Exotics no not a problem at all.  So that was the first aviary I brought, the one at the back.  And it just took off like wild fire.  And l just keep on adding now it’s just and Australian aviary with just Australian birds. The average man down the street doesn’t know the birds that well.  So, this is a bit of an educational thing.

Ben:  And what’s interesting is that you have all these plants surviving inside…  they are all    growing.  Like the birds like water like getting sprayed with water is this .. like the natural environment?  You’ve got the roof that’s all open!   

Frank: We have a sprinkler system, were on a hot day we’ll open up and they’ll have their bath and you’re also watering the plants at the same time.      

Ben: Why did you   end up buying this place?   


I wanted to put this garden together, but it was supposed to be just for myself, just a private garden.     

Ben: This was a garden in your head that you needed to create? 

Frank: Correct, it’s just something that I’ve always wanted to do!      

Ben: So you bought this property and then you decided to start obviously with one garden bed, which was the one that you started with?  


Come through and I’ll show you ….  this is one of the best views around Queensland.   

Ben:  And what, we’re looking out of …. what over the glass house mountains? 

Frank: Yeah!   So, we are sort of in…   this is a like a volcano down in here isn’t it?  Yeah it happened about twenty five million years ago apparently, so this one the most recognizable sights in Australia. 

Ben: What amazes me on this trip and this podcast series that we’ve done.  Everybody we’ve spoken to .. you would think governments fund all this stuff this, is all done out of your own money everybody’s got the same story. 

Frank: One hundred percent privately funded not a cent from anybody. When you look at all this now that you’ve created here was this all in your head? 

Ben: This whole, this whole image that we’ve got in front of us? 

Frank: Basically, yes !  I wasn’t smart enough to put it all down on paper, I tried but it didn’t work out.  So, I’ve done it one by one.  So, you do one section and it would dictate the second section.  

Ben: And how do you decide on what to plant is it something that you like at the time? 

Frank: Absolutely, some of it’s been trial and error some has being on advice of professional people. 

Ben: Yeah, its quite spiritual up here isn’t it! 

Frank: Very much so, very much so. There is an area I’m going to show you, that you’ll see how spiritual it is.   

Ben: So how many how many acres have you got here? 

Frank: Well all up a hundred and ten.  The gardens probably represent about twenty, about twenty acres now and growing!   

Ben:  And how many plants do you think are sitting in here?

Frank: I’d hate to think!  A hundred thousand more! 

Ben: Now if you would put a cost to that before you started this garden would you have done it? 


Probably not, it’s got right out of hand and as I said I was a bit naive thinking I could just open it up for free to the public, but the other thing of course is that  it got out of hand from hobby it just got it just grew and ….. 

Ben: Well some people collect things and hoard things and make their houses like a hoarding thing, there are   TV shows on that.  What you’ve done is you’ve created this amazing …. it’s like a nursery! 


Yeah, I suppose you could describe it a bit like that,  yeah!  

Ben: You’ve got staff, golf carts.  You are gonna take us down and show us what did you put in a pond? 


All these ponds you see, I’ve put in most of them and  they were just little swaps those  It’s all spring feed. 

Ben: And then you bought something to put in one of them.  Just a small little toy!


Just ah, you’re talking about the fishing trawler yeah .. the only one on the hinterland anywhere       in Australia I think! 

Ben: Now in terms of growing plants, what advice do you have for people that say.  “I don’t have a green thumb”, or, you know, have never got their hands dirty. There is something therapeutic about doing stuff with nature isn’t there! 


Absolutely, it’s, it’s very relaxing but extremely rewarding and you shouldn’t fail,  if you touch take expert advice,  go to your local Bunnings or whatever  and see somebody who knows what they’re talking about. Make sure it’s conducive to the soil, suitable to your area, right climate.  You can’t go    too far wrong. 

Ben: So, what do your kids think of all this, It’s a great back yard!  


Yeah, they love it, they love it. I built a tree house for my youngest one over there. We are going to go and have a look at that.  

Ben:  It looks like a house! 


Yeah, it’s got internet there is Wi-Fi, surround sound, TV, it’s got everything you want!  

Ben: Now do you still work in engineering, or you gave that all away? 


No that’s sold out many years ago it had helped that I read with all the hydraulics and the pumps and that and then the design of the of the whole system so ….. 

Ben: Last year I had the opportunity to go to the Palace of Versailles and  they were ahead of their time the French. How they created all those ponds and how they got them to work.  They didn’t have pumps, they used at all on water pressure!

Frank: Yeah it is incredible, absolutely. You are just using gravity alone it is very interesting.  


And I imagine up here you would see the seasons change quite distinctly because we were looking down on what looks like the…  the bottom of a volcano. 

Frank: Yeah, it’s it’s maybe not as distinct as, as it would be in a colder climate. Being a subtropical, certain stuff still stays a lot greener and there is still a lot of colour around. 


And so when people come up this way, tell them how to  get to your property and  what they can do when they get here. 


Well getting here is a very scenic route indeed, we get many comments on that. And we, we are pretty well signed posted now. But when you get here there is something for everybody from very young to   very old and to get around we’ve got golf buggies and there are   just so many   things to do. We’ve been told many times, “We didn’t have, have enough time, I wish I’d know what was here. I would have planned a longer stay”   

Ben: Well, we’ve been chatting with Frank Ship today a man who is very, very passionate about he is wonderful garden up here in Maleny and just looking over this property you have to see it to believe it. So, the best way to do it is to go on an Ingenia  Holiday and Drive Your Own Adventure and you’ll come and meet the man himself Mister…  well doctor Doolittle of the birds and the plants up here in Maleny.           

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