48 hours in Toowoomba
It might be Australia’s second largest inland city, but for most weekend-goers in search of new adventures, a 48-hour jaunt to Toowoomba ain’t the highest priority on the list.
Well, we’re here to tell you it should be, because not only is it easily accessible from our capital city (hit the road west of Brisbane and you’ll be there in under two hours), but this country charmer boasts the perfect mix of leisure and great outdoors with a foodie scene that’s surprisingly out of this world.
Intrigued? Here’s how to make the most out of a weekend in Toowoomba.
PM: More like Fri-yay
Nothing says TGIF like one (or three) drinks to welcome the weekend, and there’s no better place to be on a Friday night than The Office, with live music kicking off from 4pm.
First order of business: cocktails. While their espresso martini is a crowd favourite, these guys are known for mixing it up, creating new and devilishly good flavours each week (hello pomegranate martini and pink lemonade). Our suggestion? Ask what’s the latest and greatest, and drink up.
Next, get yo’ self something from their bar menu to curb your buzz (this is really just an excuse so you can go to town on their nachos and wings) and let the Friday feels do their thing.
8AM: A baker’s dozen of pastries, please
There’s no time for sleeping in this morning because if you do, you could very well miss out on the scrumptious delights of The Bakers Duck, which, if you ask any local, would be a crying shame.
Open for retail only on Saturday mornings from 7:30am to 1pm (or earlier if they sell out), this bakery/patisserie is hitting the brekkie spot with their sought-after sweet and savoury pastries.
You might be a little confused when you end up in a semi-industrial street lined with sheds. But as you will soon find out, it’s not hard to spot their modest signage when you see the lineup of people stretching out to the driveway.
While some of the sweeter stuff changes depending on what fruits are in season, their go-to’s such as almond and chocolate croissants or Moroccan lamb or pork, or cherry pie (pictured above) can always be found, if you get there in time.
But if you’re still crawling out of bed… stick to the CBD and make your way to The Finch.
With a simple menu packing humble favourites like the big breakfast with eggs, bacon, mushrooms and halloumi, sweet corn and zucchini fritters… AND house baked beans, avocado, salsa and a crispy tortilla, it’s not surprising that the cafe had to recently expand their digs to keep up with the increasing demand.
The expansion also saw the addition of a beautiful finch mural on the back wall by First Coat Festival street artist, Noke.
10AM: Op Shop Hop
Toowoomba is a mecca for vintage finds, with op shops, antique and second-hand stores in full flourish.
While you can always rely on good ol’ Vinnies and Salvos for a bargain buy, the Lifeline Emporium on Ruthven St is a must if funky threads are your target, with a vintage wardrobe section down the back with band tees, fur coats and kimonos. Upstairs, enter a book lover’s utopia, with shelf after shelf of literary goodness from biographies and poetry to general fiction and true stories.
Another worthy mention is The Clothesline behind Hannas (down the alley on Mann St). A high-end version of an op shop, you’ll find all items are by popular Australian and international designers, and in near-new condition. We’re talking everything from Tony Bianco boots, blue jean Levi’s and leather Fossil satchels. Just take our money already, would you?
On your way, pop into the artist-run gallery No Comply and Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery to check out their latest exhibitions. Entry is free!
Check out the map below for some local-guided favourites.
Tip: Finish your trawl up at Lancaster’s Antique Centre on Railway St, because lunch is just around the corner.
12PM: Repelish at Little Seed
By now you’re probably well and truly hangry, so head to Little Seed Cafe, where, before you even sit down, the on-point interior styling charms the pants off you (but please, do keep them on).
Housed in a converted garage, the space is adorned with drop lights, fresh blooms, leafy greens and beautiful artworks, including another mural by street artist Noke.
With a menu that changes seasonally, expect quality and freshness in every bite, with most produce sourced locally and dishes made from scratch on site.
Afternoon: Explore some more
She may technically be a city, but Toowoomba is a country girl at heart, meaning there are always opportunities for nature lovers to get their fill of the outdoors.
If you want to take it easy… wander the gardens
They don’t call it the garden city for nothing, with plenty of options in and around the city centre for those who like a good stroll:
- Queens Park – One massive patch of greenery in the CBD with four ovals, woodlands, an off-dog leash area, two playgrounds, and a botanic garden. It’s great if you’re after a long(ish) and leisurely stroll or somewhere to kick a footy around.
- Laurel Bank Park – Small and beautiful, this parkland is perfect if you’ve got little ones in tow, with a children’s playground, picnic areas, and croquet lawns (special shoutout to the Thomas the Tank Engine Garden Train). Renowned for its stunning floral displays and manicured gardens, the park is most well known for its annual display during the Carnival of Flowers, which changes in theme each year.
- Lake Annand Park – Bring some bread if you plan on making a trip to this local beauty because eager little duckies will be waiting for you at the man-made lake set among the lush green lawns here.
- Picnic Point Parklands – Sitting high on the crest of the Great Diving Range, the 160-acre parklands and lookout point is one of the most visited spots in Toowoomba, with epic panoramic views over Main Range and Lockyer Valley.
- Japanese Gardens – This is one of my favourite places in Toowoomba, and each time I set foot here I immediately feel a calm wash over me as I explore the rushing water streams and mini-forests of this traditionally designed Japanese stroll garden. Head there just before sunset – the songbirds and soft lights of the afternoon add an almost magical touch to the experience.
If you like a challenge…. Tabletop Mountain
Views don’t get much better than those from Tabletop Mountain. The famous natural formation set in the Toowoomba Range is a popular walk/scramble/rock climb for locals and visitors alike, but be warned, a moderate level of fitness and guts is needed.
As you go higher and higher, the smaller rocks start turning into boulders for the remainder of the hump, but rest assured the track has been really well laid out, making it super easy to manoeuvre yourself.
The plateau of the mountain is nothing short of amazing, with 360-views of the range and open plains as far as the eye can see. Grassy headland covers the mountaintop, but you’ll find a clear-cut circuit that’ll take you on a round-trip of the flat surface.
Tip: Take your time on the way back down, because the loose gravel can be a bit tricky.
7PM: Dinner and a show
Before your weekend rendezvous begins, have a squiz at what’s coming up at the Empire Theatre. Art-deco glam meets world-class performances at this heritage-listed beauty, which also holds the title of Australia’s largest regional performing arts complex. If you time it right, you might be able to catch a Parisian cabaret or comedy night during your visit.
For dinner, we’re lookin’ at you Muller Bros, the Brazilian BBQ and rooftop bar down Bell St lane (best to make a reservation beforehand as they get pretty busy).
If you haven’t slipped into a food coma by the time you’re done, head upstairs for a drink under the fairy lights of the open-air rooftop bar.
9AM: Laneway brekky dates
Ground Up Espresso Bar certainly puts the bright in ‘bright and early’, tucked down the colourful laneway of Searles Walk.
The cosy cafe is a gushing favourite by locals and justly so, serving up quality coffee and simple, delicious eats. But it ain’t just the edible goodness that makes this place so great, it’s the whole atmosphere from the friendly staff and funky decor right down to the hilarious cup-size and dish names (Notorious P.I.G or Hakuna Frittata, anyone?).
10am: To the museum
She may be slight in size, but the Cobb & Co. Museum packs a punch when it comes to Toowoomba history, housing the National Carriage Collection of horse-drawn vehicles and a range of permanent and temporary exhibitions giving you an insight into the cultural and natural past of the region.
Take part in one of two daily guided tours at 10:30am or 2:30pm. It’s a great way to get the full gist of each exhibition, and you’ll learn some awesome facts along the way, like why a car’s glove compartment is named so.
(Spoiler alert: Back in the old days, gloves were more than just a fashion statement, they were necessary for the harsh conditions of driving a coach long distances. So it made sense to create a special compartment built specifically to store your gloves in. Behold, the glove box of the car!)
12PM: Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off on a (mini) road trip we go
When the sun’s a shinin’ (or the temps a risin’), pack a picnic and hit the road to Crows Nest National Park, 50-minutes north of Toowoomba.
This natural treasure trove beholds freshwater swimming holes and easy hikes through the park’s eucalypt forest and stringy-bark trees (and if you take the longest track to Koonin Lookout, you’ll get a bird’s-eye view of the gorge, known as the Valley of Diamonds, stretching out to the distant rolling hills around Ravensbourne).
Psst! Keep an eye out for the cute-as-a-button rock wallabies playing hide and seek as you explore.
7PM: Stay classy, Toowoomba
So, your time in T-Bar is coming to an end [insert sad face here], but a night of fine-dining at Zev’s Bistro is guaranteed to have you leaving on a high note.
Your best bet is to ask their advice on what entrees work best for each main for the ultimate flavour combinations. But if you can’t decide on what to order, go all out and eat the whole menu. Literally. The degustation-style offering (which can be shared comfortably between two people) releases you of the decision-making fuss, giving you a sample of every a la carte option from start to finish.
Finish off with a glass of house champagne and that’s Toowoomba done and dusted in style.
Did we miss anything? What else would you do on a weekend in Toowoomba?
This post was originally published in 2016 and was updated on the 19 of March 2018.