Travelling around Australia? Spend 5 days on the Country Way
Life becomes all the more interesting when you venture off the beaten track. So if you’re travelling around Australia why not skip the coast highway and take the back roads up to Rockhampton – AKA Australia’s Country Way?
Instead, this windows-down, classics-blaring-from-the-stereo drive is all about wildflowers, sandstone cliffs, verdant farmland and historic towns with tales to tell.
For a true taste of country life, this itinerary offers a party at the back – just like John Farnham in the ‘80s – in Queensland.
Day 1: Wallangarra to Toowoomba (186km / 2hr 15m)
The Queensland section of the Country Way officially starts at Wallangarra on the NSW border so while you’re in the neighbourhood, detour east to see the wildflowers and rock monoliths of Girraween National Park.
Don’t pass through Stanthorpe – the epicentre of Granite Belt wine country – without a coffee and slice of apple pie at Sutton’s Farm (you need fuel just as much as your car does). You can also stock up with fresh veggies at roadside stalls along the way.
In Warwick, step back to the turn of the 20th century inside Glengallan Historic Homestead or pull up a stool and have a beer in Rudd’s Pub. Author Steel Rudd who lived near Nobby, spent many an hour here penning “On Our Selection”, which later led to the Dad and Dave radio series.
You might find it hard to tear away, but if you’re passing through here in the summertime, there’s a natural phenomenon you won’t want to miss. As you continue from Warwick to Allora, keep watch for a sea of yellow on the horizon, with fields of sunflowers in bloom.
While quick bites usually make up the usual road trip menu, there’s always room for a little indulgence. Treat yourself to lunch at Spicers Peak Lodge overlooking the Scenic Rim before continuing on to Toowoomba.
There are plenty of quirky places to stay in Southern Queensland Country if the idea of spending a night with your own private observatory or inside an old rail carriage appeals. Otherwise, bed down for the night in the historic Vacy Hall or if you’re towing the van, the Big 4 Toowoomba Garden City Park has slab, drive-thru and ensuite sites ready and waiting.
Have a little more time up your sleeve? Extend your stay in Toowoomba and tap into a local’s expertise.
Day 2: Toowoomba to Kingaroy (164km / 2hr 10m)
You’re in the home of the annual Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers so start the day with a little garden-snooping before you switch the focus to plants of a larger kind.
This is your chance to drive through some of the state’s most spectacular national parks, from the Valley of Diamonds gorge in Crows Nest to the palm groves of Ravensbourne and the ancient rainforest and waterfalls of the Bunya Mountains.
When the green makes way for the rich red soil of Kingaroy, and you spot the Heritage-listed silos, you’ll know you’re in peanut country. It would be remiss to stay here for the night and not sample at least a few of the different flavours and wash them down with a local red.
You can find a bed at a motel in town but for something a little more special, take your pick from an old dairy, worker’s cottage or circa-1912 church perched upon rolling fields of green at Hillview Cottages.
Day 3: Kingaroy to Gayndah (142km / 1hr 40m)
After you’ve snapped a piccie with the Big Orange in Gayndah and sampled their fresh orange juice (available in the season between April and October), lay out a picnic by the Burnett River in nearby Mundubbera.
This region supplies 70% of Australia’s mandarins as well as limes, mangoes, garlic, pecans, asparagus and dragonfruit – turning down any given road is likely to deliver a roadside stall overflowing with picnic supplies.
Tonight, pull up stumps at the Mundubbera Three Rivers Tourist Park or back in town at the Riverside Gayndah motel for a dose of ’60s architecture and avocado milkshakes.
Day 4: Gayndah to Biloela (236km / 2hr 40m)
Lace up the hiking boots and choose from one of eight bushwalks which reveal monolithic overhangs, dry gullies, and wedge-tailed eagles circling above – from the steady one-hour Dragon and Bloodwood Cave track to the 22km-return to Castle Mountain.
Then, it’s time to get your fishing fix! This is prime inland-fishing territory and you don’t even need a boat. Pull out beautiful barra and red claw from Lake Callide, or if fishing isn’t really your thing, hire a kayak and paddle to your heart’s content.
If you can’t bear to tear away from the water, camp right beside it at the pet-friendly Lake Callide Retreat. Prefer to stay in town? Discovery Parks Biloela offers cabins and camping sites with all the conveniences.
Day 5: Biloela to Rockhampton (144km / 1hr 45m)
When travelling around Australia, it’s not often you come face-to-face with a larger-than-life artwork wrapped around a water tower. But this is your chance to get to know Biloela at the ‘Spirit of the Land’ mural.
The colourful display reveals the story of the town, from Indigenous beginnings, through to pioneer settlement in 1928.
Make time this morning to ogle the vintage machinery and heritage buildings in Queensland Heritage Park. You can also have a pioneering life reality-check by visiting Greycliffe Homestead, which was built in the 1870s. If you want to peek inside, contact the Visitor Information Centre on (07) 4992 2405 or (07) 4992 2400.
If there’s one thing this region has in spades, it’s mountains and national parks you’ve never heard of. Start by visiting the musical Mount Scoria, before discovering Isla Gorge and Expedition National Park. If you’re travelling around Australia by 4×4, this is also the northern access point for Kroombit Tops National Park.
Then, it’s time to bid farewell to the forests and say hello to iron-rich red-dirt, cotton and cattle country. At Mount Morgan, visit an open cut gold or silver mine before driving the last leg of the Country Way to Rockhampton.