When we first moved to Brisbane, we didn’t know much about Toowoomba. We knew it only as a Queensland hinterland town. But one day I became curious and decided to research it a bit more. Was it worth exploring, I wondered?
As I researched it, one thing kept popping up about Toowoomba and that was the yearly Carnival of Flowers. That alone was very interesting to me. I might not be as crazy about flowers as my mother, but I still love looking at beautiful flower beds, especially if I don’t have to maintain them! So, I kept reading, and decided that we needed a weekend away there, which we of course, planned for around the Carnival of Flowers.
Toowoomba is Queensland’s Garden City, but it turns out there is so much more to Toowoomba than the carnival and its many gardens. Even Simon said many times during our time there, how he loved Toowoomba and how we should visit more often. Needless to say, Simon doesn’t care much about flowers!
So, if you aren’t sure about Toowoomba, read on to find out why you should pay it a visit.
The Carnival of Flowers
If you want to see the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers, you will need to visit in September. Toowoomba’s Carnival of Flowers is the longest-running flower festival in Australia and has been celebrated annually since the 1950s.
During the festival, the city and some of its parks, such as the Botanic Gardens, are displayed in bright colours thanks to the thousands of flowers in bloom. The most scenic parks are the Botanic Gardens in Queens Park and Laurel Bank Park. Competitions are even held for private gardens, which you can visit during opening hours.
The Botanic Gardens’ displays
In the Botanic Gardens alone, 50,000 seeds were planted this year, just in time to bloom in September. It’s spectacular and even if flowers aren’t your thing, you’ll be amazed by the displays.
The Laurel Bank Park’s displays
In Laurel Bank Park this year, 40,000 seeds were planted. A different theme is chosen every year by the gardeners. The theme is kept secret right up until the flowers bloom and reveal it all. This year the theme was butterfly. For a better view of the display, there is a viewing platform. However, a drone would be better as I still couldn’t fit it all in, even with a wide-angle lens.
The Flower Parade
One weekend in mid-September is the busiest time during the carnival. That’s when you’ll find the actual carnival with rides, music, food vans, competition announcements, and the famous city parade.
If you wish to visit during that weekend (as we did), book ahead as it is extremely busy. If you prefer less people but still enjoy the flowers, there are events happening in the city throughout the month of September.
The Japanese Gardens
If you have always dreamt of going to Japan but never got a chance, a visit to the Ju Raku En, Japanese Gardens is a must while in Toowoomba. If you’ve been to Japan already, this park will transport you straight back there.
You could spend an hour walking around, taking photos of the different displays, and the many bridges. There is a lot of wildlife in the gardens including ducks and many ibises. When we visited, the cherry blossoms were in bloom, which certainly was a very welcome bonus!
The gardens are 4.5 hectares in size and are one of the largest Japanese gardens in Australia. The Japanese gardens are located near the University.
Picnic Point Lookout
The Picnic Point Lookout is on the eastern side of Toowoomba. From there, you can enjoy the best views over the Tabletop Mountain, the Lockyer Valley and Darling Downs region. There are many different hikes to tackle from here, a waterfall to see and a café. And of course, during carnival, there are a lot of flower displays in the gardens.
Enjoy the street art
You will find many little laneways around Toowoomba with street art murals. It reminded me a bit of Melbourne, although the street art wasn’t quite as spectacular. There were some nice murals though and it’s worth taking a walk to try and spot them all. You can find an interactive map here of where they all are.
Union Street, Searles Walk, Club Lane, Mark Lane and Bank Lane are where most of the murals are, and those lanes are all within walking distance of each other.
Admire old heritage buildings
Toowoomba is jam packed with heritage buildings and as you walk around town, you can’t help but notice them all. Some are still in perfect condition, such as the old Post Office, the Court House, the Alexandra Building, Soldiers Memorial Hall, the Empire Theatre and City Hall. It’s the perfect place to explore for anyone interested in historic buildings and the history of old towns.
You can take the 2km Russell Street heritage Walk through the city’s landmarks, showcasing fine historic architecture dating back to the 1860s.
Spring Bluff Railway station
If you have a car and can drive out of town, the Spring Bluff Railway station is also a great spot to visit with more fantastic flower displays during the carnival. The station has 150 years of history, running a railway line between Ipswich and Toowoomba. It is free to enter, and it is popular for picnics.
Have a picnic in Queens Park
Queens Park is the biggest park in Toowoomba. Sitting adjacent to the CBD, the park has wide open spaces and tree-lined paths. It’s also home to the Botanic Gardens with their stunning floral beds.
It’s a fantastic place to bring the kids for a picnic or a BBQ. There are many picnic tables as well as free BBQs, two playgrounds, and an off-leash dog park. There is also lots of space to kick a ball around.
Queens Park is also transformed every December with lights for the Christmas Wonderland.
Indulge in cuisine from around the world
One thing we miss about Melbourne are its diverse cuisines from around the world. There are good restaurants on the Sunshine Coast but there isn’t enough variety for us. Toowoomba is home to many immigrants and refugees, which means it is packed with restaurants from every corner of the globe.
Some of the restaurants you shouldn’t miss:
If like me, you love a traditional Turkish meal, Sofra is the place to go. Sofra serves amazing mezzes and mixed grills. Keep space for a baklava and Turkish delight for dessert!
For some Korean food with a Japanese influence and a touch of karaoke, book a table at Kajoku. Kajoku has awesome Korean fried chicken and the best part, its impressive menu of Korean barbecue, prepped for you to cook at your own table.
Located inside a building over a century old, Mullers Bro is all about the Southern Brazil flavours and the churrasco, the tradition of cooking over charcoal and open flame.
This bistro showcases the delicious local produce that Toowoomba has on offer through a pre-selected tasting menu.
Relax in one of Toowoomba’s many bars
Toowoomba might be a country town, but it does have a city vibe with many trendy bars tucked away in its laneways. Wine bars, breweries, cocktail bars and even rooftop bars; Toowoomba has them all.
During our stay, we visited the newest wine bar Cork & Lever, which had a great wine selection. We went up the George Banks Rooftop bar for a sunset drink and ate one of their tasty platters. We tried a few delicious cocktails at the Sante Cocktail Bar and had a night cap at the Uva Wine Bar.
Visit Rosalie House
Located about half an hour from Toowoomba in the beautiful Lilyvale Valley, the small winery and restaurant Rosalie House is the perfect spot to spend a lazy afternoon. The food is delicious, the wines are great (we loved their Chardonnay Viognier) and the views are fantastic.
They have a restaurant inside the beautiful old Queenslander, or you can come for their weekend sunset sessions and enjoy a platter and wine outside as the sun goes down. If it gets cold don’t worry, there are firepits to keep you warm and to roast marshmallows over. There is also live music. Be sure to book ahead as they get busy.
Have breakfast at one of Toowoomba’s many cafés
Toowoomba has lots of very nice little cafés to head to for breakfast, brunch, or lunch. We recommend:
- – The Finch on Ruthven Street
- – Urban Grounds adjacent to Laurel bank Park
- – Café Valetta on Margaret Street across from Queens Park
Visit the Cobb and Co Museum
The Cobb + Co Museum was established in 1987. It showcases Australia’s National Carriage Collection, dating back to the 1960s.
The museum features 47 antique, horse-drawn vehicles, 30 of which date back to the 19th century. The exhibited carriages were collected and restored over 30 years.
Head to the farmers markets
Every Saturday between 7am and 12pm, you can visit the Farmers market of Toowoomba. The market is held beneath the windmills, adjacent to the Cobb and Co museum and Botanic gardens. You’ll find a large selection of seasonal, locally sourced produce, including fruit & vegetables, meat, artisan bread, honey, herbs & spices, eggs, cheese, pet supplies and flowers.
Hike Tabletop Mountain
If you are feeling energetic, why not challenge yourself to the two-kilometre uphill hike up Tabletop Mountain. Bear in mind that it’s steep with very uneven ground, and the path is not clearly marked in certain sections.
We do love a good hike, but we didn’t get a chance to do Tabletop Mountain on this trip. However, since we’ll be returning to Toowoomba, we’ll add that to the list for next time.
How to get to Toowoomba?
Toowoomba is two hours’ drive from Brisbane and two and a half hours from the Gold Coast. From the Sunshine Coast, it is two hours and forty-five minutes.
Driving is the best way to get there because the flexibility of having a car makes for a much easier weekend.
Where to stay in Toowoomba?
Oaks Toowoomba Hotel
If none of those are suitable, use the search box below to find alternative accommodation in Toowoomba