Is this Queensland’s most under-rated city?
“Why do you want to go there for? Can’t wait to hear what you get up to (*sarcastic eye roll*).”
These were the general comments we heard about our Ipswich getaway made from a public totally unaware that the victim-of-bad-press town has come of age. In a huge way.
Start up the car, drive west of Brisbane for 35 minutes and stop ignoring this destination on the rise.
Ipswich – what have you got for us?
Food is a reliable indicator of how a region is progressing, which is why we’re saying “eyes on Ipswich”. Cafes and restaurants hidden in shady laneways are popping up to rival the hipster vibe of Melbourne.
Breakfast at Rafter and Rose is a must. The House brekkie of bacon, jam, avo, rocket and two eggs sounds like the Ipswich of old, but combine those flavours with the homemade bacon jam (bacon, maple syrup and coffee) and your taste buds are screaming, “put it in the Top 5 cafes in Australia list”.
Be sure to grab yourself a Cup of Uncle Joes coffee. The slow roasting of the coffee bean keeps it oily, which makes it easier to digest and gives you a smoother, less bitter flavour. It also gives you a mellow middle caffeine hit, leaving room to drink more than usual.
Fourthchild also does a delicious breakfast veggie stack with pesto, buffalo mozzarella, and haloumi, topped with a poached egg. Check out Nourish for simple, healthy and delicious lunches and cakes.
The breweries mentioned below don’t skimp out on quality food either.
Beer, glorious beer
Ipswich is setting records when it comes to beer. Tap’d at the Prince Alfred Hotel just outside of town has a whopping 72 craft beers on tap, the most in the Southern Hemisphere. Come with a little bit of time up your sleeve as the decision making between local and international IPA’s, lagers, witbiers, and ciders is a little intense.
If you want fancy experimentation, head to 4 hearts Pumpyard Bar and Brewery for beers with full flavour, no chemicals, nothing artificial and no preservatives. Their carrot beer made headlines around the world and their coffee beer was a local favourite.
The brewery is located in the basement of 100-year-old heritage listed building and is the first brewery in Ipswich since 1903. The shiny vats, naked hanging light bulbs, exposed ducts, red brick walls, and crafted timber tables maintain the building’s old industrial flair.
Germans know how to do beer. They also know how to do schnitzel, pork knuckle and wurst in monstrous Munich sizes. The newly opened and extremely popular Heisenberg Haus invites you to “Prost!” German style with a diverse range of Munich beers. The kids will love the menu inside the Grimm’s Fairy Tale book. Once they’ve ordered the biggest kids meal they’ve ever seen, they can sit back and read about Rumpelstiltskin.
Slow-paced, historical city
I have to keep reminding myself that Ipswich is a city. It retains much of its historical charm and requires nothing more than an amble to get from one end of the restored Top of Town District to the other. You’ll pass by the original shop facades and heritage buildings housing cafes, restaurants, boutiques and vintage stores.
Ipswich has the vibe of Newcastle in NSW – an area with an industrial history, and not so pleasant reputation, that during my early twenties started to find its own identity and flourished into a hip place to be without losing itself to big city chaos.
The Bremer River
Brisbane, you can thank the Bremer River for its narrowness, otherwise Ipswich would have been chosen as the state’s capital. You can learn more about this as you stroll beside it along the 1.2km boardwalk from the Bradfield Pedestrian Bridge to the Bob Gamble Park.
The Bremer River is a quiet meandering waterway with high banks covered in thick vegetation that runs through the centre of Ipswich. Because it’s so deep, you won’t even notice you’re in the city; I felt like I was in rural Laos rather than Australia.
Sunset and twilight is a pretty time to go for a walk, and if you like photography you can get some stunning shots of the heritage-listed railway bridge. Imagine the river rising to meet that bridge, which often happens during floods. It will blow your mind considering how far down below it is when the river is running low.
The best playgrounds ever + fun things for the kids
My daughter, Kalyra, has been just about everywhere in Australia and many exciting international destinations like Singapore and the USA. Ask her favourite place to visit and she just might shout out, “Ipswich. They have the best playgrounds ever!”
I’m impressed with the level of care and investment that has gone into making Ipswich an exciting destination (and place to live) for families.
With zero-depth water parks, tipping buckets, spider webs, forts, elevated skywalks, and more flying foxes than the Amazon jungle, your kids will not let you leave once they set eyes on them.
The best ones to visit are the Splash ‘n’ Play Water and Adventure Park in the middle of the new Providence residential area in Ripley Valley, Robelle Domain, Bob Gamble Park, and Queens Park, which also has a free Nature and Wildlife Centre and the pretty Nerima Japanese Gardens.
Next To Robelle is Orion Lagoon, a series of pools and water features catering to kids of all ages (that includes parents) and protected by lifeguards in Springfield.
For a different kind of playground, visit The Workshops Rail Museum. This sort of place would generally put me to sleep, but it’s highly interactive, which meant we were racing from one diesel train simulator to the next.
The Ipswich Art Gallery is just as interactive and a wonderful place to visit for more insights on the historical and artistic depths of the city.
Nature walks and views
Ipswich is slightly rural and close to the Scenic Rim, which means plenty of hiking trails through rocky outcrops, forested ridges and valleys.
For an easy family walk in the heart of the city, and for superb 360-degree views, visit the Denmark Hill Conservation Reserve. There’s a lovely 800m walk in the forest, past dinosaur fossils and picnic areas to the water tower, which you climb for the extraordinary views.
The Redbank Plains have trails ranging from leisurely 200m walk to the more challenging 19km round-trip trail, for both hiking and mountain biking.
Situated within Queens Park is Lions Lookout, a spectacular place to watch the sunset over Ipswich from the band rotunda.
Waking up to a stunning sunrise at the ‘Woodlands of Marburg’ property is a pleasant way to start the day. There’s a lovely big oak tree on top of the hill overlooking the vineyard.
My only regret after visiting Ipswich was that I didn’t buy property there eight years ago when we ignorantly passed it off as a place too rough around the edges!