The Roadtrip Series: discover the best in the west with our ultimate Toowoomba tour guide
Toowoomba is like Brisbane’s equally cool older sibling – it may not get as much attention, but that untouched quality is part of what makes it so great. The town famous for its blooming flowers is flourishing in plenty of other ways – from boutique street art festivals to happening new eateries, ‘Woomba is where it’s at. Cast aside any notions that this is a sleepy country town, because this Roadtrip Series is here to blow that theory out of the water. Starting with the Felton Food Festival this weekend, we’ve composed a little list of the best places to eat, play and stay in the garden city.
Splendour in the grass (and the air)
If you’re a sucker for beautiful scenery, Toowoomba is probably going to poach your heart pretty quickly. Local favourite Queens Park is an easy walk from the CBD and boasts an immaculately kept floral garden (very Instagrammable). The University of Southern Queensland campus boasts Australia’s largest and most traditionally designed Japanese stroll garden in Ju Raku En, sprawling across four and a half gorgeous hectares. For unbeatable picnic locations, hit up Laurel Bank Park or the Picnic Point Lookout – both have dreamy vistas and plenty of public amenities. If you’re around town in the autumn months, make time to take a stroll down Campbell Street to glimpse the golden foliage and striking Queenslander houses.
The main attraction
When it comes to activities, Toowoomba is teeming with historical and cultural havens waiting to be explored. The Cobb+Co Museum is an absolute delight, housing the National Carriage Collection and a whole host of vintage vehicles spanning the decades. You can also get hands-on at an intimate artisan workshop, where you can learn about things like millinery, silversmithing and leadlighting just to name a few. Architecture lovers will go nuts over the Empire Theatre, an original art deco venue where you can still catch a show or do backstage tours. It’s hard to miss the amazing street art studded all over the city from First Coat (more about that later), but if you want to make sure you see it all you can download a self-guided tour map.
Bites and brews
We know the produce in Toowoomba is second to none, and the local eateries take full advantage of this. Saturday mornings are made for The Baker’s Duck, an artisan bakery that dishes up amazing breads, pastries and the tastiest java in town. Those with serious hunger pangs will be spoilt for choice at the Walton Stores – nosh on juicy burgers from Hello Harry, tasty Asian fusion at Junk, guilt-free eats and treats at Full of Life Organics and magical frosty creations from Nitrogenie. For high-end dining with a casual atmosphere, you can’t go past the fresh fare at locally owned and chef-operated Zev’s Bistro. If a tipple is what you fancy, look no further than Muller Bros – boasting the status of Toowoomba’s first (and only) open air rooftop bar, the drinks on offer here span from craft beer to cocktails and everything in between.
Keeping it fresh
Anyone who’s even seen a Mentos ad can tell you that fresh goes better in life, and this is an ethos that the people in Toowoomba live by. It would be a crime not to take advantage of the amazing fresh produce that comes out of the region, so here’s our pick of the crops. The Toowoomba Farmers Market and My Local Feast are both overflowing with community spirit and farm-fresh eats, providing the perfect setting for a morning wander. If you’re keen for a taste of real rural life, visit Paddock to Potager – this ethical small-scale farm will teach you all about sustainable practices as well as hosting some awesome foodie events. For a grape escape, head to the Preston Peak Winery just 15 minutes out of town to sample fine wines with serene mountain views.
Mark the calendar
There are a couple of must-do events that Toowoomba is known for that would be well worth planning a trip around – here’s the scoop. Be sure to make time for the Felton Food Festival held on the March 25–26 weekend – get amongst farm-fresh produce, celebrity chefs and loads of live entertainment to keep you busy. The aforementioned First Coat is responsible for the vibrant street art covering the walls of the city – there are more than 30 eye-popping murals to scope out at any given time, but to see the action go down firsthand be sure to visit from May 19–21. Another highlight is the Carnival of Flowers, happening from September 15–24 this year – the line-up is yet to be released, but this mammoth event is always a standout.
Where to rest your bones
Unearthing all of Toowoomba’s hot spots has probably got you all tuckered out, not to mention that there’s more to do than can possibly fit into one day. Max out your trip by planning to stay – we’ve got a couple of suggestions up our sleeve depending on what vibe you’re after. The stunning heritage-listed digs of Vacy Hall are perfect for those who love comfort with a side of quirk, Potter’s Hotel is a boutique haven right in the middle of the action, and the EcoRidge Hideaway B&B provides a tranquil oasis surrounded by nature.
The Roadtrip Series is a collaboration between The Weekend Edition and Southern Queensland Country.