Montville is a charming hilltop village in the Blackall Ranges nestled above the Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.
When the stifling heat, humidity and near perfect beaches get too much for you (yeah right!) there is a place you can escape too. Imagine a tropical haven where the temperature drops cool enough to enjoy a hot chocolate or Devonshire tea – even in summer. Montville is that place.
Taking the Steve Irwin Way from the Bruce Highway, you’ll enjoy the views of the ape-like dormant volcanic plug, Mount Tibrogargan and the fields of sweet pineapples flourishing in its shadow. Along the road you may see fruit stands of pineapples, passion fruit and Bowen mangoes with honesty boxes (leave the money in the tin) or stop at the local gas stations along the way for farm fresh produce. Approaching Landsborough, passing its lush green golf course (there may be kangaroos grazing on the fairways), you will see the thick palms serving as a buffer to Australia Zoo, the home of Steve Irwin’s family, Terri, Bindi and Bob who have gone on to international stardom. It’s quite the tourist attraction these days and can be cost prohibitive for the budget traveler. For those who can afford it, the focus is on live croc feeding shows and interactivity – you can even pay extra to feed a red panda.
A long curving road crawls up the side of the Blackall Range from Landsborough, at the foot of the Glasshouse Mountains. As it gets higher, the view is stunning from either side of the road. The emerald green farmland rolls out below like a thick blanket. To the east, the coastal haze almost obscures the beachside high rises of Mooloolaba and Maroochydore. The temperature drops at least five degrees Celsius on the way up as you pass the innuendo-tempting town of Bald Knob at which point, if you want to keep giggling, we recommend stopping for wine tasting at the oversized keg of Maleny Mountains Winery.
The township of Maleny has evolved from a dairy hamlet to a hippy haven to an artsy community. After years of battling to stay free of chain restaurants and supermarkets, they have now grown to a level where a Woolworths supermarket dominates the main street. Thankfully it is offset by small businesses with strong ethics selling whole foods and crafts. Obi Obi Creek beyond the Woolworths is home to a local platypus family. If you’re lucky, you may see them swimming in the shallows, but beware of poisonous snakes (like anywhere in Australia) and do not attempt to touch the platypuses as they have poisonous spines on their cute webbed feet. Even cute animals want to kill you Down Under.
Mary Cairncross Park
Just a kilometer from the center of Maleny, Mary Cairncross Park and Scenic Reserve is the perfect place to stop for a picnic. The park itself has outdoor tables, clean facilities and barbecues, while it is also home to a small nature reserve. A small area of rainforest has been set aside with tranquil tracks where you can be immersed in a world of native birdsong and the scents of natural herbs, ferns and mosses. A visitor’s center has a series of displays educating about the local flora and fauna and the efforts being made to preserve them both.
Across the aptly named Mountain View Road, take in some breathtaking views of the Glasshouse Mountains. Named by English explorer, Captain Cook, who when viewing them from offshore from the Sunshine Coast back in 1770 decided that they reminded him of the glass furnaces back in Yorkshire.
Each mountain, found on the lands of the Gubbi Gubbi and Jinibara tribes has an aboriginal name and although not really tall enough to rate as mountains, the volcanic plugs have earned the right, having been there for some 27 million years. Local adventurers climb the rambling hilltops of Mount Beerwah, Mount Beerburrum and Mount Tibrogargan, whilst the rich volcanic soils around them make for fertile farmlands.
Take the Maleny-Montville road as it sweeps and swerves along Balmoral Ridge, offering amazing views in every direction. Anywhere where the ridge widens enough you’ll find cute farmhouses converted into high end Bed and Breakfasts. In winter, the smell of eucalypt smoke comes from their chimneys as the temperatures drop to around zero.
As home to a thriving dairy industry for a hundred years, Maleny folk know how to make great cheeses. One of the best dairies is a relative new-comer. The Maleny Dairy is a small facility with a big reputation. Their flavored Greek yoghurts are sought after at hip delis and cafes across Queensland and the true standouts are the mango or passion fruit flavors, which will forever remind us of Queensland.
The jewel in the crown of the Blackall Ranges, Montville is a haven for day-trippers, tourists stepping off the beaten track and large groups of motorcyclists, ensuring this township is always well frequented on the weekend. Built around the main street, this quaint hillside community offers plenty for those passing through and it knows how to make the most of its cottage economy. Nearly every turn-of-the-century Queenslander-style bungalow has been converted into a gallery, tearoom, craft shop or boutique. Here are some of the most notable.
Montville Art Gallery
Under the blossoming Poinciana flowers setting the trees around alight, stands one of the finest examples of an original Queenslander – the stumped, elevated bungalows constructed to avoid termite damage and to create a natural ventilation system to cope with the extreme tropical heat before air conditioners were a thing.
Montville Art and Design (the Waterwheel)
An old English waterwheel marks the location of Montrose House and Montville Art and Design. The local arts and crafts are a blend of classic and quirky, traditional and heavily textured paintings, wood cuts and metallurgy. You will also find an ice creamery, a shop that specializes in heraldry and a café.
Perched on the side of the hill overlooking the Sunshine Coast, the French colonial-meets-Queenslander café is airy and light. Classically styled, yet homely, it’s a popular place for writers to take in the fresh air and view. Verandah seats are most sought-after as its so cool and the smell of the lantana wafting through the screens serves as a natural de-stresser. The service is a little slow and the place isn’t renowned for its menu, but it’s hard to go wrong with the Devonshire Tea and fresh cream and jam scones.
Coonemara Cottage Irish and Scottish Shop
The last thing you’d expect to find in a small country town in Australia is Irn Bru or Scottish fudges, but at the old stucco Coonemara Cottage, you’ll find tartan, tweed, sweets and souvenirs from Ireland, England and Scotland. The expat escape offers the kinds of novelties you’d find in a highland village, just these highlands are more hinterland than mountainous and the accents, though equally hard to understand (and just as sweary) are Australian.
So now that you’ve made your family crest, ordered a kilt and taken a selfie in front of the waterwheel that’s not attached to a natural water source, you’re probably thinking it’s time to invest in that grandfather clock you’ve always wanted – or maybe a Black Forest cuckoo clock right? Luckily there’s one of Australia’s best-equipped clock shops in Montville. Weird, yes. Noisy? Only on the hour and then all hell breaks lose.
A play on the term, “fatty boombah” (completely politically incorrect, of course – we’re in regional Australia), Fudgy Boombah’s serves sticky, delicious home made fudge, jellies and chocolates. It also sells an enviable collection of American-style hot sauces and local roasted peanuts and flavored macadamia nuts.
Kondalilla State Park and Falls
One of the area’s more picturesque waterfalls is located just outside Montville in the Kondalilla State Park. The 4km track leads to a small water hole fed by the falls, before winding back around past a more dramatic cascade to the picnic area. The area is frequented by plenty of wildlife including colorful parrots and scrub turkeys.
Baroon Pocket Dam
Hidden to the west of the town is the region’s main water source – the Baroon Pocket Dam. Well equipped with picnic areas, it’s a peaceful place to stop for lunch and to enjoy the fresh air. You may be joined for avian dining companions like rainbow lorikeets, kookaburras and magpies.