If you like to drive the open road and enjoy magnificent scenery, prize-winning wineries, rugged national parks and charming country towns along the way, then head for the Darling Downs. Famous as South Queensland’s Garden City, Toowoomba has some stunning country drives within easy reach of its city centre, and you’ll find a host of adventures to discover en route.
Bunya Country Drive (3/4 day trip)
Start at Jondaryan, home to the famous Jondaryan Woolshed, and drive the rolling black-soil plains to Dalby to browse the Pioneer Park Museum. From here, it’s on to Jimbour to try the prize-winning wines at the Jimbour House cellar door and café, and to Jandowae, the start of the Dingo Barrier Fence. From Bell, in the foothills of the renowned Bunya Mountains, the drive takes you through the rugged national park and back down to your starting point through Maclagan, with opportunities for more winetasting and dining at the Rimfire Winery and the Rangemore Estate Cellar Door.
Open Plains Country Drive (3/4 day trip)
From Toowoomba, this drive runs southwest on the Gore Highway to Pittsworth, with stop-offs along the way at the Westbrook Junction Tavern and the Governor’s Choice Winery. Visit Pittsworth’s Pioneer Historical Village, or grab a bite to eat at the restored Tattersalls Club Hotel. Then it’s on to Millmerran to photograph the bold historical murals, and north-west to Cecil Plains, before returning to Toowoomba through Mt Tyson, home to White Mischief Confectionery.
Farmers Country Drive (3/4 day trip)
Start at Oakey with a visit to the Museum of Australian Army Flying and drive north to Maclagan. Close by you can visit the Rimfire Winery and the Rangemore Estate Cellar Door, or drive east to walk through the Muntapa Tunnel. On to Cooyar and there’s a circuit walk at the Palms National Park, not far north of town. The return trip through Haden, Goombungee and Kingsthorpe allows wine buffs to do more tasting at Gowrie Mountain Estate and Wedgetail Ridge Estate.
High Country Drive (1/2 day trip)
Drive north from Toowoomba, along the edge of the Range above historic Spring Bluff Railway Station, and you’re at Highfields, first in a string of charming villages along the escarpment. Don’t miss the Pioneer Village here and specialty stores, including Danish Flower Art. Further on, the villages of Cabarlah and Hampton are equally as charming – stop off for a coffee at Cabarlah’s Mexican inspired café, Colours of San Cris. A circuit drive then links Ravensbourne and Crows Nest, giving access to the national parks, Lake Cressbrook and Lake Perseverance.
Steele Rudd Country Drive (1/2 day trip)
Just 5 minutes south from Toowoomba is Preston Peak Wines, in a magnificent rangetop setting. Drive on to Hodgson Vale and Cambooya, with its strikingly restored Bull & Barley Inn, and on through Greenmount to Nobby, where Rudd’s Pub and the Sister Kenny Memorial are must-sees. The route does a circuit through Clifton and back north through East Greenmount (Australian author ‘Steele Rudd’ spent much of his childhood on a farm near here).
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