If you’ve been following my time in Australia, you’ll know I’m a bit of a Brisbane fangirl and one of the reasons I love it so much is it’s proximity to some amazing places. I recently spent the weekend just a couple of hours away in the city of Toowoomba thanks to Visit Darling Downs and to be honest, I absolutely loved it. In fact, I think I’m now a Toowoomba fangirl as well. There are so many things to do in Toowoomba and it’s a city with a complete amalgamation of old meeting new.
If you love street art, historic architecture and the great outdoors, a weekend in here is perfect for you. Really, there’s far more than you can fit into a couple of days but here’s a guide to visiting this city and some of the best things to do in Toowoomba.
Watch my video from my weekend in Toowoomba here!
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Where is Toowoomba?
Located just 2 hours west of Brisbane, Toowoomba sits in the beautiful Darling Downs. As you drive in from Brisbane you will see signs for the Cobb & Co tourist drive if you have time but if not you will find yourself driving through the Lockyer Valley and climbing higher up the mountains before reaching Toowoomba.
Where to stay
A weekend away in Toowoomba is all about escaping busy city life and replacing it with a bit of calm and tranquillity. Vacy Hall is an AMAZING guesthouse in a perfect spot close to the city centre but it’s so quiet here you will feel a million miles away. It’s a beautiful traditional building for Toowoomba and you will feel like you’re stepping back in time. Check out my review of this dreamy place here.
What to pack
If you’re heading here in summer then light summer clothes are perfect, but in autumn and winter, things get a bit cooler up here. Be sure to pack a jumper or two, boots and a coat to keep nice and warm. When I visited in Autumn, it was about 5 degrees cooler here than in Brisbane!
Things to do in Toowoomba
This is the perfect spot to head to for amazing views of the nature surrounding Toowoomba. Take a leisurely walk here and enjoy the sweeping views over Main Range and Lockyer Valley. If you don’t mind early mornings, I would recommend going here for sunrise. It’s pretty special seeing the sun come up over Table Top mountain and Picnic Point also has its own gorgeous gardens, a waterfall and a restaurant looking out over the views. It’s the perfect say to start a day.
Toowoomba Carnival of flowers
Each year Toowoomba holds the 10 day Carnival of Flowers that celebrates everything that the city has to offer. Toowoomba has over 150 parks and gardens giving it the apt nickname of the ‘Garden City’. This 10 day cultural festival allows you to experience not only some amazing floral displays in the many gardens and in their parade but also some of the delicious local produce, wine and entertainment too. To find out more and get tickets, check out the website here.
If like me, you’re a big fan of street art then you’re really going to love Toowoomba. Over the last few years, they have held the First Coat Art Festival which has allowed street art and huge murals to be created all over the city by artists from all over the world. Whilst some pieces are easy to find just as you stroll along the main streets, some are a little more hidden down the laneways so it’s a great way to explore this dimension of Toowoomba as well. Be sure to download the First Coat app on your phone to see where all the pieces are located and to learn about the artists. Exploring the street art is one the top things to do in Toowoomba so be sure to set aside a good few hours during your trip for this.
The Food Scene
There is no end of cute, quirky, delicious cafes and restaurants to try in Toowoomba. No matter what you fancy for breakfast, lunch, dinner or anything in between, there is something for you. There’s a real emphasis on using local produce and creating dishes from fresh ingredients. From vegan-friendly to Brazilian BBQ, you will find it here and you’ll be spoilt for choice.
Cobb + Co Museum
This museum is part of the Queensland Museum and houses the Cobb & Co horse-drawn Coaches. Many of these coaches were almost destroyed in a fire in 1981 but locals bravely went into the museum at the time to rescue them. As Cobb & Co were a local business to Toowoomba, it’s an interesting museum to check out.
DownsSteam Railway Museum
Historically, the railway has played a huge part in life within the whole of the Darling Downs region so a visit to DownsSteam is a must. This museum is run entirely by volunteers who have lovingly restored the carriages and steam engines there with the aim of running them as a regular tourist excursion. These volunteers are passionate about these engines so be sure to take a tour with one of them.
DownsSteam also houses a unique and incredibly striking carriage that is decorated ceiling to floor in aboriginal artwork. This carriage is named the Dreamtime Journey Coach and was hand painted by an aboriginal inmate at the nearby correctional facility, taking 19 weeks to complete. DownsSteam commissioned this project to recognise the aboriginal people’s contribution to the building of the railways. You can’t take photos in here but it’s absolutely mesmerising to walk through it.
The parks and gardens
As Toowoomba has over 150 parks and gardens dotted throughout, it’s easy to see where it gets its nickname of the ‘Garden City’ from. After taking a morning walk to Picnic Point, taking a sunset walk through one of the many parks is a great way to end a day. Head to Queens Park or Laurel Bank Park for some stunning floral displays in the summer and evergreen trees in winter or take a walk over the bright red bridges in the Japanese Gardens. Each is unique, beautifully crafted and an oasis in this vibrant city.
Along with the nickname of the Garden City and the carnival of flowers held annually, each summer you can see beautiful fields of sunflowers bursting with colour in nearby Nobby and Allora. I was gutted to have missed this by a couple of weeks but it looks so beautiful and well worth the trip if you can.
What’s not to love about exploring laneways and finding something you weren’t expecting? Toowoomba has certainly taken a leaf out of Melbourne’s book and has started to use these spaces to create some great areas. Much of Toowoomba’s street art is found down these laneways but also cosy cafes, restaurants and quirky bars.
The vibrancy of Toowoomba definitely carries on well into the night with so many places to hit up for a great night out. Muller Bros takes claim to the city’s very first rooftop bar with a big selection of beers, wine and cocktails, The Office is great if you love to have live music as a background to your night and the Chelsea Bar is a super cosy speak-easy style bar hidden behind an unmarked door.
Walking around the city you will see some beautiful old architecture offering you a glimpse into the history of the area. Take a look at the beautiful railway station, the Empire Theatre, and just generally look up and around you as you meander along. The city is full of the old right next to the new but it really works here and I love seeing the contrast everywhere.
This brand new area is a great example of old meeting new. Around the back of historic Ruthven Street, an urban outdoor area has sprung up and it’s great! You’ll walk down a laneway lit by hanging fairy lights and enter buzzy area with loads of options for a great eat and drink before a night out. I would highly recommend Junk for a delicious Asian dish and the Bavarian Beirhaus for a huge stein of German beer.
See a show at Empire theatre
The Empire Theatre is possibly the most iconic building in Toowoomba and has been there since 1911. Its beautiful art deco facade makes it unique and it’s certainly stood the test of time. All throughout the year shows and events are run here so if you love the theatre, why not book yourself some tickets and enjoy the evening here.
Highfields Pioneer Village
Just a short drive from the CBD you enter into the leafy green road that leads to Highfields. The Pioneer Village over here is a sort of open-air museum whereby you can experience Australian life from the past. From the Heritage Chapel to the old style shops and the fire brigade museum, it’s a fascinating place to explore and great for kids.
Hidden things in Highfields
Whilst you’re in Highfields, stop off into both the Cuckoo Clock shop and Danish Flower Art Complex to transport yourself to the other side of the world. Transport yourself to Germany in the cuckoo shop with walls full of the intricate wooden clocks and trinkets. Every few minutes you will hear a unique chime coming from them and a variety of performances from them. Just along the road from here, you’ll find the Danish Flower Art Complex where you will find painted gourds, crafts, shops and a cafe with a garden.
For me, nothing beats strolling through a market in the mornings, and fortunately, Toowoomba has some great ones going on. The Margaret Street Markets are held on the 1st Sunday of the month and showcase some local and overseas handicrafts, plants, art and food right in the centre of the CBD. As well as this, the Farmers’ Market is held every Saturday at Walton Stores and is a real celebration of the local farmers, growers and artisans and a chance to know exactly where your food has come from. Sounds delicious, right?
Table Top Mountain
You will have been able to see Table Top Mountain from Picnic Point, but nothing beats the views from the top of it. Climbing Table Top Mountain was certainly a challenge for a sloth like me, with much of being steep and rocky, but it was so worth it. Toowoomba is surrounded by nature so spending some time exploring it is a must and the views are breathtaking.