16 things to do in Toowoomba
If it’s been years between visits to the Garden City, you’re in for a before-and-after transformation of reality TV proportions.
Toowoomba has positively ballooned in size, replacing some of its quaint country charm with big city fixtures. Toowoomba’s population now rivals Townsville and Cairns, wearing not just the crown for Queensland’s largest inland city, but Australia’s 15th biggest city.
It’s not just its population that’s booming – its event calendar and food scene are too, with more than 2.5 million visitors scaling 800m above sea-level to explore it each year.
If you find yourself in Southern Queensland Country, stop and smell the roses with this list of things to do in Toowoomba.
1. Throw down a rug
If there was a coffee table book on picture-perfect parks, Picnic Point Lookout would be the centrefold.
Overlooking the Great Dividing Range, there’s no shortage (160 acres) of lush lawn to toss down a picnic rug under the shade of one of its giant hoop pines or kauri trees.
It would be remiss to come and not enjoy a picnic given its moniker, but if you’re on the fly, the cafe will take the pain out of pesky platter preparation.
2. Step back in time
In case you needed reminding, Toowoomba’s been doing the locomotion for a lot longer than Kylie Minogue and Cobb+Co Museum has the wheels to prove it.
Wander through the evolution of the automobile from horse-drawn carriage to the millennials of the vehicle world.
If you’re looking for a break from the standard ‘look but don’t touch’ kind of museum, Cobb+Co Museum will keep you entertained with interactive displays and trade workshops that give the local men’s shed a run for their money with whip plaiting, blacksmithing and silversmithing on the program.
If we still haven’t convinced you, this haven of history also claims to dish up the best scones on the range. It would be rude not to test them, right?
3. Catch a show
For history that oozes out of every wall, floor and bathroom tile, check out the heritage-listed art deco Empire Theatre.
Under its grand proscenium arch, you can catch a program of well-known shows like Swan Lake, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe and Kinky Boots.
Aside from impressive architecture, Australia’s largest regional performance space proves you don’t need to go to a capital city for a theatre fix.
4. Wander through a gallery of local art
The shop local movement hasn’t escaped the Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery, which is packed with a curated collection of over 400 significant Australian artworks by such artists as Lionel, Daryl and Ruby Lindsay, Phillips Fox and McCubbin.
What’s remarkable about this collection is not just its size, but that it’s actually the entire private collection of a former Toowoomba resident, the late Mr William Bolton MBE.
Touring exhibitions keep this gallery program exciting, with exhibits changing monthly, to ensure there’s always something new to see in shiny gold frames.
5. Put your flower knowledge to the test
Meet the babushka doll of the garden world, Laurel Bank Park, which is technically a garden inside a garden.
We suggest following your nose, literally, to the scented garden, created by the Downs Association of the Blind for the visually impaired.
6. Make a weekend out of flowers and feasting
Time your visit for September for the ultimate fiesta of florals, Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers.
Sure, the name gives it away that you’re going to see flowers, but the unexpected surprise is that this event has a food and wine scene that some would argue tops the petal’s performance.
We’re talking a four-course gala dinner in Queens Park, a bevy of local wines including the award-winning Symphony Hill Wines and Golden Grove Estate and cooking (and tasting) demonstrations with celebrity chefs.
If you’re thinking of doing it for a long weekend, we have just the itinerary for you. Be sure to book your accommodation early though because this event attracts 140,000 visitors each year.
7. Visit a park fit for a Queen
New York has Central Park, Paris has Jardin de Luxembourg and Toowoomba has Queens Park, 26.3 hectares of green space, right in the centre of town.
Designed by the same brains behind the Brisbane Botanic Gardens, Walter Hill, Queens Park is best known for its avenues of shady trees which turn a brilliant hue of orange in autumn/winter.
Once you’ve finished tiptoeing through the tulips, there are large grassy areas for picnics and playground equipment to keep the little ones active too.
8. Take a hot lap
Do you have a need for speed? Get as close to being part of Fast & The Furious as volunteering on set, at the Toowoomba Speedway.
There’s a regular monthly line-up of events while their major event, The Ultimate Pink Night, turns the whole race meet pink while raising money for breast cancer.
Follow the smell of petrol-burning and sound of revving engines to find the speedway, which covers every genre of racing from sprintcars, V8s to Formula 500s.
9. Discover history on foot
Architecture buffs take note – the Russell Street Historical Walk will take you back to the bricks and mortar of the 1860s.
You’re in for a 2.5km long dose of quaint cottages and Queenslanders along with other architecture worth a mention.
Keep your eyes peeled for the oldest known existing public urinal in Queensland, constructed in 1919, which even held up through the 2013 floods.
10. The ultimate wine-down
We challenge you to find a more dynamic duo than vino and views – we’ll wait at Preston Peak Wines.
Take yourself through a tasting that proves wine tastes better when its grown in cold conditions and altitude (860m), overlooking the Lockyer Valley.
From serisier to shiraz, you’ll find a selection of reds and whites with a distinctly European flavour.
11. Discover Australia’s first inventions
There’s so much more to learn than just sheep-shearing history at The Woolshed at Jondaryan.
On a self-guided tour (lead via their app), turn the clock back to 1840 where not just pioneering spirit, but entrepreneurial spirit was in abundance.
What makes this iron-clad building significant isn’t just the fact it’s the oldest and largest operating woolshed in the world, but that it’s home to a raft of Australian firsts. The Woolshed at Jondaryan is where Australia’s first shearers’ strike was held, and where wire and net fences were first constructed in the 1860s.
Considering the woolshed has more than 150 years of history to its tin and timber, it’s worth staying the night at their onsite cabins/camping ground to break it into two chapters – modern and colonial history.
12. Discover Toowoomba’s street art
If you thought graffiti laneways were just reserved for the streets of Melbourne, Toowoomba proves once again it’s full of surprises.
Take a tour under your own pedal power along Toowoomba’s Street Art Trail to see graffiti artworks which stretch storeys into the sky thanks to the First Coat Festival, which started adorning Toowoomba’s walls with colourful graffiti art in 2014.
Since then, the art has been growing and now there are over 50 murals, making the city block around Neil Street as much of an art gallery as it is a CBD. You can also let your fingers do the walking over here.
13. See the mane attraction
You won’t just find native flora and fauna Toowoomba – at the Darling Downs Zoo you’ll find exotic species from Asia, Africa, South America.
It’s worth dipping your hand into your pocket for the Big Cat encounter to go behind the scenes and feed the zoo’s lions (including white lions) and tiger.
If you’d prefer something a little more cuddly, feed mealworms to the meerkats during the Meerkat Encounter. Leave with memories and something for the pool room – a photo of a meerkat standing on your head.
14. Make like Happy Gilmore
If you think Tiger Woods has got nothing on your golf swing, head to the City Golf Club and give him the bird(ie).
With your choice of 9 or 18 holes and no membership required, there’s nothing standing between you and tee off.
Not in the mood for the full 18 holes? There’s a driving range for those who just want to hit stuff. And for the family, a mini-golf course that will have you putting through spinning windmills, cricket stumps and deceptively hilly conditions.
15. Trek Table Top Mountain
If you prefer to get your fitness fix outside the walls of a gym, Table Top Mountain proves mother nature is still the ultimate cross-trainer.
Hikers preparing to climb Mount Kilimanjaro or tackle the Kokoda Trail have been beating a track to the peak as part of their training program for years, but now the Cross Fit crowd have cottoned on too.
Better not skip leg day at the gym before attempting this hike – it’s all uphill but the views are worth it.
16. Get salty
If you’re the kind of person who clings to their salt lamp in times of stress, you’re about to get seriously zen at the Toowoomba Salt Cave.
This spa has a sodium difference, dispersing a dry salt in high concentrations throughout its specially-built salt cave.
Aside from salt therapy sessions, you’ll find reiki, tai chi qigong classes and hypno-mediation on the spa menu.