48 hours in Queensland’s Little Italy (AKA Ingham)
New York has Little Italy. Melbourne has Carlton. And Queensland has Ingham, a slice of Italia, with more than half its population identifying as Italian or Italian-descent.
Luring visitors as much for pasta, cannelloni and strong espresso as it does for epic waterfalls and birdlife, Ingham is a must stop for those chasing La Dolce Vita on a road trip between Cairns and Townsville.
Say “Buongiorno!” to Ingham with this 48-hour guide.
5pm: All roads lead to Queensland’s Rome, Ingham
Take the Bruce Highway 112km north from Townsville to find the Italian capital amongst the sugar cane.
The town of Ingham owes much of its multicultural flair to this sugar cane, which drew Italian immigrants to the shores with the promise of work at one of the largest sugar mills in Australia. The rest, as they say in Ingham is “istoria”.
A stop at Frosty Mango will break up the drive for local ice-cream made on real fruit. There’s well over twenty different flavours to choose from – but we think the original is best. Choose mango.
7pm: Primi, Secondi, Dolce for dinner
Make like a local and choose the best Italian in town, Enrico’s.
You’ll find it in the Tyto Information and Wetlands Centre, overlooking the large lily pond with wall-to-wall glass that brings views of the landscaped gardens in.
On the menu, you’ll find entrees like beetroot poached ricotta dumplings or duck arancini, followed by mains like prosciutto wrapped osso bucco or house-made potato gnocchi.
It doesn’t leave many places to hide if you don’t like Italian food, but you didn’t come to Ingham for ribs and rumps, did you?
Overnight: In the Tropixx
If you didn’t feel tropical already, you soon will with a stay in Tropixx Motel. This motel and restaurant dishes up a North Queensland welcome from every aspect of the establishment.
Complete with all the Ingham essentials – free WiFi, a pool and colder than cold airconditioning, Tropixx gives you very little reason to get out there and discover the tropics. For those who like to travel with their best-friend, there’s even a pet-friendly room.
8am: Start your day with a deli
Bringing a taste of Italy to the Ingham Main Street is JK’s Deli.
If you’ve been before, it’s time for a revisit. JK’s has been renovated so it’s got two distinct components – a deli where you can stock up on supplies to DIY, and a cafe on the other, where you can order from a cabinet and menu.
The smell is the first thing you’ll notice – a tantalising combination of salami, olives and freshly-ground espresso.
Not only will you find the best coffee in town served here, there’s a glass cabinet filled with every type of happiness – think vanilla-bean cannelloni, choc-hazelnut savoiardi and sponge cake worth driving for.
Crowd favourites fuse Italian and Australian cuisines – like a crumbed steak wrap, bolognese burger and gourmet meat pies. Either way, bring your appetite and leave the Atkins diet at home.
10am: Enjoy a history tour with mosaics
All the visual learners out there can rejoice – the Mercer Lane Mosaic tells the history of this town over 50m of handcrafted mosaic just outside JK’s Deli.
It’s one of Australia’s largest mosaic murals and the art form itself is another nod to the town’s Mediterranean roots. Where else would you find 2000 people who would volunteer to mosaic a wall?
Starting from Lannercost Street and moving backwards, you can follow the stories of the cane cutter’s history and their influence on the Ingham you see today.
Rest of the Day: Chase Wallaman and Jourama Falls
If you thought this itinerary was just about stuffing your face, prepare to eat your words. It’s time to chase waterfalls. Wallaman and Jourama Falls to be exact.
It’s been topping influencer’s bucket lists with its voluminous water spray that plunges 268 metres in a clear single-drop, shining a rainbow through the mist most days.
The best way to discover it all is the Djyinda Walk to the bottom of the falls, which will set you back at least two hours if you want to do it at anything less than a marathon pace.
Not to be outdone, further south, as if driving back to Townsville you’ll find Jourama Falls, which are just as worthy for photographers and keen hikers.
Is it one fall? Is it many falls? Are they rapids? Who really knows until you get to see Jourama Falls for yourself. The size and shape is completely dictated by the rainfall of the season.
Pack your swimmers regardless, the rock pools are perfect swimming holes amongst a backdrop of World Heritage-listed Wet Tropics landscape.
Dinner: The Pub with No Beer
Don’t let the name fool you, we can confirm the beers are cold and pumping on tap inside the legendary Lees Hotel.
The sign on the outside “The pub with no beer” is a nod to Slim Dusty’s song The Pub with No Beer, penned about this very establishment.
It all started in the summer of 1943, when a convoy of USA soldiers left Townsville for Ingham in the morning expecting to be there by lunch time, but met a few wet season hurdles along the way.
Fast forward 14 hours to 2am at Lees Hotel, where the soldiers proceeded to drink the pub dry, a story which was translated into a poem by Ingham poet Dan Sheahan and was later immortalised in lyrics by Slim Dusty.
Today, you can be guaranteed the pub is indeed well stocked and the onsite bistro has your dinner needs covered. You’ll find all the pub classics, like fish and chips, and a blackboard of specials that won’t break the bank.
9am: See the real Twitter at Tyto Wetlands
Calling all bird fanatics or people who just like botanic gardens, Tyto Information and Wetlands Centre is calling.
There’s over 110 hectares of rehabilitated wetland area to explore, with over 240 species of birds to spot. Not convinced? You can tick off 27.4% of all Australian birds species in this one spot – #efficiencies!
The wetlands walk is connected with boardwalks and elevated platforms that provide optimal viewing of the wildlife.
You can explore under your own steam, or with an expert guide. Be sure to stop in at the visitor information centre to collect maps, bird lists and local tips so you can put an end to the question, “what bird is that?”
Time your visit:
If you really want to see the town turn it on, time your visit for the annual Italian Festival, which is held each August and celebrates Italian wine, cuisine, music and culture.
Tie your Ingham trip into these other Queensland must-dos:
- Discovering Hinchinbrook Island
- This itinerary in neighbouring towns Mission Beach and Tully
- Driving Brisbane to Cairns or Cairns to Brisbane