When the weekend rolls around and you’re tired of being in Brisbane, a road trip starts to sound like a really good idea! But, spend enough time living in Brisbane with a driver’s license and you’ll find you’ve ticked most of the tried and true destinations. Gorgeous hinterland spots like Montville and Maleny, weekend escapes to Byron Bay, Coolangatta and the Gold Coast. Northern favourites like Noosa, Caloundra and Maroochydore and even those Gold Coast hinterland escapes like Mt Tambourine have been seen and enjoyed. But, there’s another destination you may not know exists, an exciting micro-region boasting exceptional food, wide open spaces, lovely locals, picture-perfect scenery and a little bit of magic. Here’s everything you need to know about the best hidden day trip spot near Brisbane and why you need to get your buns out there, pronto!
Where is it?
Ravensbourne is a portal to Southern Country Queensland and you’ll find it around 1 hour 45 minutes west of Brisbane or 40 minutes from Toowoomba. Far away from the busy streets of Brisbane and the bustling Gold Coast, the rolling hills of the southern Queensland countryside seem endless. Driving through the beautiful Ravensbourne National Park, the stress of the working week seems to melt away into the trees, carried off by a cool breeze. Bright blue sky dotted with puffs of white clouds, golden sun flickering through the trees, it’s best taken in with the windows down, the crisp country air filling your lungs. For avid adventurers, it’s the perfect weekend getaway destination.
How do I get there?
You could quite easily drive to Toowoomba then head out to Ravensbourne, but the best way to experience it is to head out to Esk and drive through the Ravensbourne National Park. The drive will take you past stunning Lake Wivenhoe then wind you through the Deongwar State Forest, a journey into country Queensland past livestock, rugged scenery, towering trees and rolling countryside.
For the journey home, you can go back the way you came or, if you have the time, head through Toowoomba down to spots like Nobby, Clifton and Allora where fields of dazzling yellow sunflowers stand in full-bloom, soaking in the Queensland sunshine. From here, continue south to Warwick and, if you like, on to Stanthorpe and Ballandean before heading back up to Brisbane. Really, Ravensbourne is your starting point, the gateway to the region and all its natural wonder. From there, Southern Queensland Country and all it offers is your playground!
What is there to do?
There are a wealth of things to do in Ravensbourne and the surrounding Southern Queensland Country region. Here are a few ideas to whet your appetite for food and adventure:
Ravensbourne National Park
Head into the Ravensbourne National Park where you can enjoy a picnic at the Cedar Block day-use area, taking in views of the local area at the Gus Beutel lookout. Get stuck into the walking trails, taking on the Rainforest Circuit, Buaraba Creek Track, discovering Sandstone Overhang or wandering the Palm Creek Circuit. You’ll find yourself exploring beneath towering trees, wandering past trickling streams and spotting local bird and wildlife, unearthing rainforest that originally covered this part of the Great Dividing Range.
Bunnyconnellen Olive Grove & Vineyard
Head out to Bunnyconnellen, nestled in a gorgeous part of Crows Nest. Pull up a cosy picnic spot under a fig tree and soak in the scenery while nibbling on a platter of cheese, nuts, olive oil, fruits, olives, dukkah and fresh bread while sipping on Bunnyconnellen’s own wine. There’s a little boutique shop offering homewares, clothing, jewellery and gorgeous local items. Make friends with the owners and their gorgeous dogs, explore the veggie garden and say hi to the chooks, wander the olive grove and just escape from it all. There’s a great little BnB on-site too if you fancy an overnight stay (do it! It’s gorgeous!)
If you really, truly want to taste exceptional food and experience the best produce the region has to offer, you must visit Emeraude. Owner and chef, Amanda, started one of my all-time favourite restaurants in Bundaberg and has now established Emeraude in Hampton. Rather than creating food that just shows off Amanda’s skills as a chef, she works hard to establish relationships with locals and finds the best fresh produce, award-winning products and sustainably farmed fish and meat in the area. From there, she lets the ingredients do the talking, expertly preparing them so they truly shine. The result is delicious food you can’t help but think about over and over again. Glance over the menu or speak with the fantastic service staff and you’ll know where each ingredient came from, which is what makes each plate of food a map of the region.
Drive into Toowoomba and work your way through the fantastic thrift stores and op-shops of the region, like Lifeline Emporium and Vinnies Toowoomba. Join the queue outside The Baker’s Duck on a Saturday morning and stock up on mouth-watering pastries then head to Queens Park for a picnic under the shade of a gorgeous tree. Take a DIY tour of the town’s vibrant artworks, forming part of the First Coat Art and Music Festival. Explore the Japanese Gardens and wander over the bright red bridges or sit for a while under the shade of a tree. Grab a bite at Little Seed and enjoy ethical, local, sustainable food that just so happens to be vegan and absolutely, freakin’ delicious!
The region bursts to life with bright yellow sunflowers from December through to as late as March, depending on the season. A road trip out to the area is the perfect time to spot these beautiful blooms for yourself, a sprawling sea of yellow as far as the eye can see. The best way to find the sunflowers is to call the Warwick Information Centre on (07) 4661 3122 the day of or before your visit, they’ll be able to tell you where the sunflowers are blooming. Once there, be sure to be respectful of the farmers – leave everything as you found it, do not break a single sunflower to take anything with you, other than photographs.
Once you’ve had your fill of Ravensbourne, Toowoomba and spots like Nobby, head south past Warwick toward Stanthorpe and stop in at Stanthorpe Cheese for a tasting or a delectable cheese platter. Wander into Suttons Juicery for a huge slice of apple pie served with apple cider ice cream and fresh cream and be sure to stock up on a few bottles of their amazing, fresh juice while you’re there. Explore the little town of Stanthorpe or head out to Ballandean for a bite to eat at the gorgeous Ballandean Estate Wines vineyard and Barrel Room restaurant, where the food is spectacular and the wine fantastic!
Where can I stay?
If you decide you want to make an overnight getaway out of the trip, that’s easily done! You can stay at Bunnyconnellen in their gorgeous BnB in all its country Queensland glory. Get cosy in a lakeside cottage at Cloudlake, a tranquil, hidden escape in a truly magical spot or soak in unbeatable views of Mount Glorious, Mount Nebo, Wivenhoe Dam and out toward Brisbane at 17 Mile Cottage.
When you feel like you’ve seen and done all the possible day trips around Brisbane and are craving something new, a trip out to Southern Queensland Country is just the spot! If the region is the lock, Ravensbourne is the key. The drive out is absolutely stunning and will take you to part of the region you most likely haven’t seen or experienced before. Once there, immerse yourself in the local food and wine, make friends with the locals and discover picture-perfect scenery. You’ll come away from it nourished by country hospitality and having unearthed a new part of Queensland.
Phoebe is a travel writer and photographer with a love for storytelling and making people laugh. Matt is a videographer and photographer with a passion for the great outdoors and big adventures. Together we inspire big adventures through our guides, videos, vlogs and photographs. Find out more about us here.