Escape to the Country: Your Southern Queensland Country guide
If you’re the kind of person who identifies more with the bush than the beach, then this guide to Southern Queensland Country is for you.
And while beaches are great and all, Southern Queensland Country is leading the way as the place to escape to for fresh produce, boutique wineries and stunning national parks.
Pack a notepad and prepare to be inspired – Southern Queensland Country is about to become your holiday muse.
On the scenery front expect everything from vineyards and granite boulders in Stanthorpe in the south to Bunya Pines and peanuts in the north while in the far west, you can get your first taste of the Outback with windmills to irrigators on every horizon.
Oh, did we mention you don’t need to spend all day in the car to get here? You’ll find it less than two hours from Brisbane.
WHEN TO GO?
With each season dishing up an experience to top the last – there’s no bad time to go.
Choose winter for frosty mornings, which, believe it or not, sometimes result in snowfall or summer for tropical heat that deserves to be relieved in fresh water holes along with fields of sunflowers.
Autumn is best for stepping on crunchy orange leaves and seeing Toowoomba’s Queens Park turn into a carpet of leaves or spring for a floral blockbuster show, which even has its own festival to celebrate the season.
WHAT TO DO THERE
First things first. There’s four sub-regions that make up Southern Queensland Country and they each have very different experiences, so you’ll want to plan what to do geographically.
Toowoomba is the darling on the downs, dubbed Australia’s largest regional town. If you’re looking for a weekend away that’s fully laden with experiences, stick close to the SQC capital and start by ticking off these 19 things to do.
Southern Downs & Granite Belt
Do you like wine? Good! You’re in for a treat if you taste your way through these drops with our pick of the 30 vineyards you’ll find on the Granite Belt. Want to try it all? Book yourself a designated driver and make a weekend out of wine country with this 48-hour guide.
If you’re a fan of peanut butter, prepare to go nuts at the epicentre of this delicious nut, Kingaroy. You’ll find it 210km north-west of Brisbane – home to about 10,000 people and Australia’s largest peanut processing plant. Pack your stretchy pants and work your way around the region with this weekend of eating and drinking in the north.
The Western Downs
It’s best known for its agricultural and energy industries, but between all the solar plants and cotton farms, you’ll find it’s all about big smiles and warm country hospitality. Use the green space on Google Maps to guide you like a compass to explore the State Forests and spectacular day-use areas like Callide Dam which prove the old adage that the best day trips are free.
WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK
When you’re visiting the home of paddock-to-plate cuisine, you know the food is going to be good. Plan your trip around these must-visit restaurants and cafes:
For breakfast: Bluebird Kitchen, Warwick
For proof breakfast doesn’t need to be boring, pay a visit to Bluebird Kitchen in Warwick who specialise in American BBQ and smoking. You’ll find local produce on the breakfast menu like Killarney potato hash with BBQ beef brisket, avocado and a poached egg – the kind of meal that will leave you full all the way to lunch time.
For lunch: Urban Paddock, Dalby
The last thing you’d expect to find in Dalby is bao buns, kombucha and nourishing health food bowls, but you’ll find all that and more at Urban Paddock, one turn off the Warrego Highway. Set inside a restored Queenslander their breakfast and lunch menu pumps out to a crowd every day. Don’t spend all your money on the sweets cabinet though – there’s a shop inside that stocks big label fashion brands, locally made accessories, homewares and candles that make the shop smell good enough to eat.
For dinner: Zev’s, Toowoomba
Zev’s proves Queensland’s regional food scene is thriving and has two Australian Good Food Guide Chef’s Hat Awards to show for it. They know deciding between the pork cutlet, baked barra and rib on the bone is hard – that’s why they offer a chef’s tasting menu that takes all the difficult decisions away… especially when you pair it with matching wines.
WHERE TO STAY
If you’re here for the full country experience, it seems counterintuitive to stay anywhere other than a cute cottage. For something memorable, start by checking into one of these 7 quirky accommodation options across the region.
If you prefer your accommodation a little more regal than rustic, make a beeline for Abbey of the Roses for digs a little more Downton Abbey than downtown Warwick. You can play Lord and Lady at this boutique hotel which is packed with old-worldly charm from the four poster beds, stain-glass windows to opulent lounge chairs.
Of course, a farm stay in Southern Queensland Country will have you and the family doing more than just feeding veggie scraps to the chickens. Pack your best country attire and start working your way through this list.
BEST DAY TRIPS TO TAKE
For a Sunday drive that will deliver a week’s worth of Instagram content, time your visit for January – March to get into the swing of sunflower season. The aptly-named Sunflower Route between Toowoomba and Warwick is an avenue of yellow blooms that will lure you to pull over more than just once for a photo.
THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW
Southern Queensland Country is big. If you’re heading from Brisbane, Toowoomba is an easy day trip – but Stanthorpe, Dalby and north like the Bunya Mountains are best enjoyed with an overnight stay. With a weekend on your hands, the entire region is your oyster.
You’ll also want time on your side because the best parts of the region aren’t always the easiest to find. Some of the prettiest drives in the area lay well beyond the tourist track – and if you want to see the colours of the country, we suggest winding your way between the small towns of Jandowae and Chinchilla in the Western Downs, which pack into 50 minutes some of the best single-lane country roads we’ve ever seen.
If you want to see the blooms that draw over 250,000 people each year to the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers but care not for the accommodation surge prices, time your trip a week or two on either side. You’ll get the colours of the carnival without the price tag.