48 Hours: Road trip to Chinchilla Melon Festival
The Chinchilla Melon Festival is exactly what it sounds like – a festival dedicated to the gloriously red, juicy and delicious fruit that reminds us of summer: The watermelon.
So why would a town want to hold a melon festival? Why not?! Plus, Chinchilla is famous for its melons, so I can’t think of a better way to celebrate.
If you’re keen to check out this biennial festival, make a weekend of it and take a 48-hour road trip. Here are my tips on where to stop along the drive:
5.30am: Rise and shine
Leaving from Brisbane, it will take you about four hours to reach Chinchilla, so it’s a good idea to get on the road early and grab some breakfast along the way. Not used to such an early rising time? Just think how much you’ll love the drive without traffic.
7am: Breakfast is calling
After a stress-free, one-and-a-half-hour drive, you’ll find yourself at the top of the Great Dividing Range in Toowoomba. No doubt the belly will have started rumbling by now, so pull up and satisfy the hunger pangs at Park House Café in Margaret Street.
Sit outside and enjoy the view across to Queens Park. If you have a sweet tooth, try the waffles with blueberry compote, chocolate sauce and vanilla ice-cream or if you’re more of a savoury person, I highly recommend the Garden Plate breakfast.
8.30am: Jerky Time!
Well known amongst locals, you’ll find Jim’s Jerky on the Warrego Highway in Charlton, just outside Toowoomba. Make a quick pit-stop and grab some snacks for the next leg of the drive. Some favourites include the Peri Peri Jerky and Biltong (made using larger slabs of meat, meaning it stays moist in the middle).
10.30: Welcome to Australia’s Melon Capital
Park the car and make your way to Heeney Street to get the festivities started at the Chinchilla Melon Festival street parade. Afterwards, take a stroll through the market stalls where you can purchase your very own watermelon onesie (score!).
Too shy to wear a onesie in public but still want to be melon-tasticly dressed? There’s also T-shirts, hats and bags on offer to help you theme up for the day.
Rest assured you won’t be the only one playing dress-ups, even the dogs get in on the action. Here are some of my favourites from the day.
12pm: Grab your melons and get ready to run, ski, bungy, spit and pull!
The first of the melon events kicks off at midday with the dash for cash. The aim is to pick a nice sized melon, hold it tightly and be the first to carry it safely back over the finish line.
For those who like to play with their food, register to take part in the Melon Arena games, with Melon Skiing, Melon Bungy, Pip Spitting and the Slip, Dip and Pull (tug-o-war) competition. If you’re planning to show the crowd your skills and take part in the events, make sure you bring a change of clothes otherwise you’ll be in a sticky situation for the rest of the day.
3pm onwards: Eat your melon
Once you’ve finished playing with your food, take a break and indulge in the free watermelon feast under the big tree. I have to admit this is seriously the tastiest melon I’ve ever eaten.
Still wanting more? The melon-eating competition starts at 4pm and is a great opportunity to see how fast you can eat (or should I say inhale) your way through a quarter of a watermelon, no hands allowed.
5.30pm: Concert time
Grab some dinner from one of the food stalls and settle in for the free family concert on the school oval. After all the melon-y excitement is over, head on back to your accommodation and sleep the night away.
8am: Country markets and breakfast
After enjoying a little sleep-in, start your day with a visit to the markets at the Visitor Information Centre. Here you can pick up some locally-made treats for the trip home before making your way to breakfast at the Coffee Club.
With a full belly, it’s time to say farewell to Chinchilla and start the journey home.
11.30am Stretch your legs in history
The township of Jondaryan is one-and-a-half-hours’ drive down the road and is home to the heritage-listed Jondaryan Woolshed. Built in 1859, it’s the oldest and largest woolshed in the world that is still operational.
I welcomed the chance to stretch my legs with a walk around the historic buildings and machinery. You can pre-book a guided tour to see sheep-shearing displays and sample fresh damper.
Finish off with some lunch at the newly-built Woolshed Cafe Restaurant. It’s open Friday to Sunday and tantalises the taste buds with local produce and wines.
Back on the road to Brisbane, you’ll be at home sweet home by 5pm.
Have you been to the Chinchilla Melon Festival? What was your favourite part?
Did you know:
- Chinchilla produces 25% of Australia’s watermelons, rockmelons and honeydew melons.
- The Chinchilla Melon Festival is a biennial event (held every second year) and celebrated its 21st year in 2015.
- Chinchilla has a population of approximately 5,500 people. This swells to between 20,000 to 23,000 during the Melon Festival celebrations.
- The largest watermelon on record was in 2007 weighing 87.5kg and was grown by Bernie and Matt Davies of Chinchilla.
- Five tonnes of melon is consumed on the Saturday during the festival, with another 15 tonnes of melons used for the melon arena games.
- Chinchilla is also a renowned spot for fossicking, with fossickers coming from around the world in search of much sought after “Chinchilla Red” petrified wood.