Day Drive Up The Toowoomba Range, Queensland. Australia
“Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.”
Up early Saturday morning we headed to the gateway of Queensland’s west, Toowoomba which is a casual two-hour drive from Brisbane and perches on a crest of the Great Dividing Range, 700 metres above sea level. Once a quiet farming community with some well-heeled residents and numerous private schools, the region is now embracing the arts, food and multiculturalism.
A friendly, small-town vibe prevails in the Garden City, with its distinct seasons and heritage buildings.
Australia’s biggest regional inland city is getting a bit hip in its old age. A food-and-arts scene has sprung up to complement the aroma of flowers and the sense of history that permeate Toowoomba’s fresh mountain air.
We headed up the top of the Great Dividing Range and stopped first at Picnic Point. You’ll be mad not to check out the views. It was a great start to the day by taking the short drive up to Picnic Point and feasted our eyes on the Lockyer Valley and Table Top Mountain.
The Picnic Point Cafe and Restaurant offers superb breakfasts (try the wholemeal buttermilk pancakes with bacon and maple syrup or grilled chipolatas with scrambled eggs and herb-crusted tomato) in a stylish space with big windows that make the most of the vantage point. You may be lucky enough to be there on a clear day, like today but a Toowoomba fog can be just as dramatic as last time we were here.
We also recommend The Finch. The café recently doubled in size by expanding into the space next door and is now a light-filled place of exposed brick walls and a high pressed-metal ceiling
Toowoomba isn’t called the Garden City for nothing. You should make time to explore at least a couple of the 150-plus public parks and gardens. Our next stop was a Monument to poet George Essex Evans (1863 -1909). George was husband of Kim’s 3rdGreat Aunt – Blanche Eglinton. Evans was born in London in 1863, emigrated to Australia in 1881 working initially as a farmer and later as a teacher, journalist and Toowoomba`s Registrar of Births Deaths and Marriages. He contributed articles to numerous journals and newspapers, particularly The Queenslander, for which he wrote as `Christophus`. Two of his books of verse were published, in 1891 and 1897. In 1901 he won the Commonwealth Poetry award for his ” Ode for Commonwealth Day.” The memorial was located Dudley Street, Webb Park, Toowoomba. Dudley being Kim’s 2nd Great Grandfather.
We then decided to head to the heritage-listed Drayton and Toowoomba Cemetery to check the graves of George, Blanche and Sister Amy Eglinton. The cemetery is large, containing over 45,000 burials.
We then headed to one of Toowoomba’s most peaceful and beautiful parks – the four and a half hectare Japanese Garden at the University of Southern Queensland. Located on the northern side of the campus, it’s Australia’s largest and most traditionally designed Japanese stroll garden, and you can take your pup around on a lead.
Its elements of mountain stream and waterfall, Dry Garden, central lake, Azalea Hill, three kilometres of paths, 230 species of Japanese and Australian native trees and plants, and lawns combine in a seamless and restful harmony.
Japanese gardens emphasise the use of rocks to create three dimensional pictures. All of the large rocks in Ju Raku En were placed by the garden’s designer, Professor Kinsaku Nakane of Kyoto, to appear naturally dispersed in a random way.
You can stroll through the garden or relax on the seat near the Dry Garden; it’s not uncommon to see artists quietly painting a scene or children feeding bread to the fish or birds, which include swans, ducks, geese and smaller natives. Japanese maples provide a riot of autumn colour, while in spring masses of lilac blossoms hang from the Wisteria Pergola – the perfect backdrop for a wedding. Being there nice and early we had the place almost all to ourselves. Only when leaving we noticed more people just coming in.
We headed back to the CBD which is home to one of Australia’s largest outdoor galleries? Yep, you heard right! Toowoomba is now the proud holder of this title and home to over 55 street art murals.
Thanks to the First Coat Festival, Toowoomba’s streets and laneways are awash with an ever-evolving exhibition of colour, giving residents and visitors a whole new reason to get outside and explore.
The festival started in and has added new murals in 2015, 2016 and 2017. Grab your camera and take a little walk to check out these 36 new works of art from the 2015 First Coast Festival.
While checking out the murals, Kim popped in and out of shops.
In the last decade or so Toowoomba has done a 360. It’s embraced the fact it’s beautiful, a viable tourist hotspot, and homes some of the richest people in Queensland who don’t mind putting a bit of coin back into the town. Toowoomba is known for its gardens and flowers, so be sure to check out all the parks in the area; Laurel Bank, Queens Park and Picnic Point are the top three. Ground Up Espresso is king of the café scene, showing off an insane eggs Benedict and Toby’s Estate coffee. The Spotted Cow is the top pick for a craft beer or Saturday night gig.