3 scenic country tourist drives from Warwick
At a loose end at what to do this weekend and want to go for a drive? Or just keen to get out into the countryside and enjoy some fresh air and serenity?
The three routes intersect, and while they loop out of Warwick, you can join them at any point, or map out your own combination of the routes to suit your interests.
Sunflower Route (Tourist Route 11)
26km drive (50km round trip from Warwick)
Named for the sunflower crops that proliferate the landscape during the summer, the Sunflower Route is a pretty drive from Warwick out through some of the most fertile farming land in the Darling Downs.
Corn, sorghum, oats, wheat and barley thrive here throughout the year. But summer is the time to visit if you want to see sunflowers – they’re usually in bloom from early January through to mid-March, depending on seasonal rainfall.
Tip: The location of the sunflower crops varies from year to year so get your best farm detective’s hat on and call ahead or drop in at the Warwick Visitor Information Centre for updates on where they’re flowering before your visit.
The Sunflower Route takes you through the historic township of Allora, whose name derives from an Aboriginal word, meaning waterhole or swamp.
A likely better-known fact is that Allora was the childhood home of Mary Poppins’ author P.L. Travers. Tours of her home – the former Australian Joint Stock Bank, now known as Mary Poppins house – are available here (by appointment only).
Stop off at Rudd’s Pub in Nobby, or grab provisions and picnic at one of the many local parks dotted around the townships.
Looking for a bite on the run? Local producers Fulcher’s have pie shops in Clifton and Nobby, but be quick, the pies run out the door by lunchtime.
Drop in for a coffee and tour of the historic Glengallan Homestead and Heritage Centre. On the first Sunday of each season (March, June, September & December) the homestead hosts the seasonal markets selling local produce and handcrafted goods.
Spend some time at the Darling Downs Zoo – home of the only white lions in Queensland and a myriad of other animals from across Australia, South East Asia, Africa and South America.
Settlers Route (Tourist Route 1)
41km drive via Yangan to Killarney (72km round trip from Warwick)
The well-signed Settlers Route travels through farmland and historical villages at the base of Main Range crossing the old Warwick – Killarney railway line, which serviced the local towns along the route from 1884 until being decommissioned in 1964.
You can’t help but pull in at the gorgeous little township of Yangan. Located at the head of the Swanfels Valley, Yangan has lovely examples of 1800s timber architecture, including the School of Arts (1918) and the Masonic Hall built in 1898, which was Yangan’s original School of Arts.
Stop for coffee and cake at the Yangan Cash and Carry, or if it’s time for lunch – try out the ‘Best Chicken Burger on the Downs’ – according to their blackboard, or call in for a counter meal at the Yangan Hotel.
As you head out of Yangan, be sure to follow the ‘Alternative Drive Settlers Route’ signage rather than your GPS – it adds on a few extra kilometres, but takes you out through the stunning farmland of the Swanfels Valley and past farm gate stalls loaded with locally-grown seasonal produce.
Photographers will be easily distracted by the panoramic views offered by industrious farms and the fertile patchwork of fields growing corn, sorghum and lucerne overlooked by the craggy cliffs of Main Range.
The gorgeous township of Killarney nestled in the foothills of the range has scenic mountain vistas and some of Southern Queensland’s spectacular and accessible waterfalls. Named by Irish settlers who were reminded of their Killarney Lakes home, Killarney is primarily a farming community, and a popular destination for day trips and weekend getaways.
Grab a bite to eat at Veronica’s on Willow, the Killarney Hotel, or grab provisions at the local supermarket and picnic at one of the three waterfalls along the Falls Drive.
Extend your drive a little further (22km round trip) and go in search of waterfalls on the Falls Drive visiting Browns Falls, Daggs Falls and Queen Mary Falls.
Four Wheel drive enthusiasts can take the road down the Cambanoora Gorge, crossing over the Condamine River 14 times. Access is for high clearance 4WD vehicles only, but Cambanoora Co run tours into the gorge and other areas around Killarney.
It seems a shame to rush everything through in a day so breathe in that fresh mountain air, put your feet up and stay overnight. Killarney View Cabins and Caravan Park overlooks Killarney town and surrounding mountains, or for a B&B experience try the Spring Creek Mountain Café and Cottages out along Spring Creek road, past Queen Mary Falls.
Cedar Route (Tourist Route 14)
44km drive (66km round trip from Warwick)
The Cedar Route intersects with the Sunflower Route and Settlers Route traversing the country back roads between Goomburra, Freestone and Warwick.
Glengallan Homestead is a great starting point if you’re coming out of Brisbane or Toowoomba for the day – grab a coffee and squeeze in a tour of the historical homestead.
Ask about the story behind the Ghost Gate and keep an eye out for the owl as you continue along the Cedar Route towards Goomburra.
Named for the timber that originally thrived in the area, the Cedar Route takes you through the Eucalypt forests of the Goomburra Valley and is the access point for the Goomburra Section of the World-Heritage listed Main Range National Park.
There are a number of walks in this section of Main Range National Park, ranging from photo-worthy stops like Sylvester’s Lookout (940m) through to the 12km Winder Track, with views back out over the Fassifern Valley. Goomburra also has a number of private and national parks campgrounds, making it easy to settle in for a day or two and really explore the area.
Continue along the Cedar Route towards Freestone and look back over the valley as you cross the Cunningham Highway to see the beautiful country patchwork of fields, with Mt Dumaresq in the background.
When you come to the Warwick – Yangan Road, the choice is yours – turning left you join the Settlers Route and head towards the picturesque township of Killarney – or a right turn takes you into Warwick.
If you’re heading back to Brisbane, a day out in the country isn’t complete without a stop off at the legendary Bakers of Aratula for an afternoon treat – my pick is the vanilla slice.