Photo: Countryside - Photo Courtesy of Tourism Queensland
Just to the North of Brisbane, past Bribie Island and beginning at Caloundra, the Sunshine Coast stretches for some 50kms northward.
Travelling west from Brisbane takes you through the Great Dividing Range to the vast agricultural plains of Darling Downs.
Spread over 72,000 square kilometres on the gentle western slopes of the Great Dividing Range, Darling Downs has developed into one of the most productive farming regions in the whole of Australia. Wheat, grapes, legumes and many other diverse crops cover the fields of rich black volcanic soils.
Originally explored in 1827 by Europeans Allan Cunningham and Charles Fraser, the area began to be settled soon after for sheep grazing. The region played an important role in 19th Australian economic history, being part of Australia “Riding the Sheep’s Back”.
The region is some 900 metres above sea level. Unlike other parts of Queensland, winter here is defined, the seasonal cold weather make it a popular attraction for visitors.
Toowoomba, Queensland’s Garden City, is the commercial centre of the plains. There are stunning gardens, in fact, 240 public parks and gardens, some with sweeping panoramic views.
The Toowoomba Japanese Gardens is a notable example of traditional Japanese design and creativity in harmony with nature. Spring makes the garden city bloom in colour, autumn sees ankle deep gold and ochre coloured leaf falls.
The city, although a modern town with stylish cafés and galleries, has preserved many of their heritage buildings. There are heritage walk tours available, as well as heritage exhibitions, antique stores and museums to visit, including the Cobb & Co Museum. In Spring, they hold the Carnival of Flowers, an event well worth visiting for anyone who loves flowers and colour.
Contact the Toowoomba Visitor Information Centre for more info - Phone: +061 7 4639 3797.
South of Toowoomba, the town of Allora also played an important role in the development of the Darling Downs agricultural district. It has retained its historic feel, the main street is lined with Heritage Buildings and has been termed the ’Best little town on the Downs’.
Originally set up as a colonial outpost in 1859, it grew into a municipality only 10 years later, servicing the many stud farms that had been setup throughout the surrounding area. Interestingly, P.L Travers, author of the Mary Poppins stories, grew up here.
There is a Heritage Walk, complete with signposts detailing the history of the town. Another place to visit is the Glengallan Homestead and Heritage Centre. Fully restored, there are exhibits and displays about the history of the Darling Downs.
Dalby, at the center for the many cotton and grain farms in the area, has grown into a large modern town.
Dalby is near the Bunya Mountains National Park and historic Jimbour House. Jimbour itself is a village, but the house has a stunning garden. Filled with roses, liliums, spider lilies, snapdragons and many more varieties, springtime brings an explosion of colours.
The Lake Broadwater Conservation Park, just to the south west of Dalby, is great for bushwalking and birdwatching.
Try to visit the Pioneer Park Museum with exhibits and displays detailing the events and history of Dalby and surrounds. You can also explore the Heritage Trail. Starting at St Joseph’s Church, it takes you past the many historic buildings still dotting the town.
Granite Belt Wineries: There are a number of boutique wineries in the region, most of them with cellar doors and sales. With a bit of luck, you might be able to coax the owner to divulge some of the deeper knowledge of growing grapes and producing a fabulous Shiraz or Merlot.
Stanthorpe, in the centre of the Granite Belt is more than 3,000 feet above sea level. They love their winter here as do many visitors, there is a celebration - ‘Brass Monkey Season Festival’, held every year.
How to get to the Darling Downs: a 1.5 hour drive west from Brisbane. Take the Ipswich Motorway to Ipswich , from there, you can head further west with the (A2) to Toowoomba or the Cunningham Highway to the Granite Belt Wineries, south of Warwick. There are numerous coach services available from Brisbane as well.
Shows Brisbane and Surrounds including Toowoomba, Warwick, Stanthorpe and other places to visit: South East Queensland Map.
Shows Brisbane and Surrounds Including Ipswich and other towns, national parks and places to go: Greater Brisbane Map, Queensland.
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Photo: Qld Agriculture