When I think of Toowoomba, a few things come to mind. The lush, hinterland setting home to hundreds of parks and gardens, perfect for outdoor fun and relaxation. The fantastic food scene with plenty of great options showcasing the region’s very best produce and the city’s eclectic, artistic vibe that oozes historic, vintage charm. A short, 90-minute drive from Brisbane, it’s the ideal weekend getaway destination! To help you plan your perfect itinerary here, in no particular order, are some of the best things to do in Toowoomba. Scroll to the end for your free pocket guide!
1. Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers
Held annually, the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers is a 10-day celebration of spring. The region comes alive with new life, carpeted in crisp green foliage and vibrant blooms from perfect poppies to ridiculous ranunculus. The carnival also features a range of fun activities and events including the iconic street parade, live music, loads of great food, hands-on arts and crafts, carnival rides, dog-friendly spots and so much more. It’s well worth timing a visit to Toowoomba to coincide with the carnival so you can enjoy all it has to offer, just be sure to book your accommodation early as things will book out! Find the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers here.
2. Grab a tasty burger from Phat Burgers
If you love burgers head directly to Phat Burgers on Ruthven Street in the heart of Toowoomba! A T-Bar icon, Phat Burgers is run by local legend, Alan, whose welcoming, laid-back nature infuses throughout the restaurant. Get cosy in a booth surrounded by band tee’s, vinyl records, disco lights and great music. Then, tuck into the delicious menu featuring a range of mouth-watering burgers from the classic, premium beef ‘Van Helsing’ to the crumbed chicken, bacon and cheese-laden, ‘Foghorn’ to a selection of vegan and vego friendly options. Alan whips up old-school milkshakes, served in authentic stainless steel cups, that is so thick your straw will encounter serious resistance! He also makes great tomato chutney so be sure to grab a jar to bring home with you. Find Phat Burgers here.
3. Go thrift shopping
As a thrift shopping aficionado, I can quite happily confirm Toowoomba is the perfect location for a bit of thrifting. The city has an artsy, bohemian vibe and I’ve noticed thrift shopping is quite popular which may explain why there are so many great stores to peruse on your visit. You may like to visit Lifeline Vintage Wardrobe (302 Ruthven St), Save The Children Op Shop (492 Ruthven St), Salvation Army Family Store (20 Prescott St), Vinnies Toowoomba Madonna House (689/691 Ruthven St) and ADRA Op Shop (29 Bell St), just to name a few. There are many more so don’t let these few be your only stops! Use Google Maps to search for more and visit as many as you can, I just find my location on the map and search for, ‘Thrift store’!
4. Explore the Toowoomba Farmer’s Markets
For anyone who loves to visit a weekend market, a visit to the Toowomba Farmer’s market is a must-do. Held every Saturday from 7 am to 12 midday under the windmills at the Cobb+Co Museum, a visit here is the perfect way to experience the flavours of the Darling Downs. You’ll find plenty of opportunities to buy direct from farmers and local food artisans with excellent seasonal produce on offer including local meat, hand-made bread, pasta, jams and chutneys, fresh herbs, honey and more. There’s fresh coffee, handmade soaps and beauty products, arts and crafts, leather goods, jewellery and more to peruse as well. Find the Toowoomba Farmer’s Markets here.
5. Grab food and drinks at Fitzy’s
Approach from Margaret Street and you’d be forgiven for thinking Fitzy’s is just your average pub. It’s not until you wander through to the restaurant that you realise it’s so much more. A bright, open space with booth and table seating dotted around the perimeter, the venue is warm and welcoming. With a wide selection of craft beers on tap and plenty of other draught favourites to choose from, as well as wines and cocktails, it’s the ideal spot for a refreshing beverage or two. Open from Tuesday to Sunday for lunch and dinner, the menu boasts crowd favourites including Tasmanian salmon, grilled barramundi, Darling Downs steaks and a truly delicious plant-based salad. Whatever you do, don’t snooze on the dessert menu! Find Fitzy’s here.
6. Check out the Street Art around town
If you love street art, you’re going to love Toowoomba! In 2014 the First Coat Street Art Festival saw vibrant works from an array of talented artists turn the city’s streets into a world-class gallery. Pieces of all shapes, sizes and dazzling colours await at every turn and, to find them, all you need to do is take a stroll or drive through Toowoomba. Personally, I’d recommend grabbing a takeaway coffee, smoothie or refreshing beverage of your choice and spending a few hours meandering through the streets and laneways around the heart of Toowoomba. Find more of Toowoomba’s street art here.
7. Visit the Spring Bluff Train Station
Heritage-listed Spring Bluff Railway Station comes alive in the spring, adorned with vibrant blooms and lush, green grass that transforms it into a romantic piece of history. We timed our visit just right, arriving just in time to see the train come into the station and depart again. Located around 17 minutes drive from the heart of Toowoomba, a visit here is a perfect addition to a day spent exploring Highfields, Hampton and Crows Nest or you can do what we did, making it your final stop as you head out of Toowoomba. Before visiting, we stopped in at Urth Cafe & Co and grabbed one of their breakfast grazing boxes and some delicious coffee. Sitting on the plush, green grass watching busy bees buzz around the poppies while the train rolled past was just perfect! Find Spring Bluff Railway Station here.
8. Have Breakfast at The Finch
For any who loves great coffee, The Finch is a must-visit! Nestled among shopfronts on Ruthven Street, the cafe’s interior offers high ceilings and exposed brick, a spacious and airy destination open for breakfast and lunch daily. A true crowd-pleaser, the menu is stacked with mouth-watering options including thyme and potato hash, 14 hour braised BBQ pulled pork burrito, roasted Goombungee mushrooms and pancakes lavished with Cambooya honey and honeycomb. As mentioned, the coffee is something special, served with a delightful little chocolate freckle on the side. Find The Finch here.
9. Visit Crows Nest
Located 40-minutes drive from the heart of Toowoomba, the historic town of Crows Nest is a great way to spend a few hours in the region. There are a few great antique stores to wander through and a visit to Crows Nest Soft Drinks is a must! Established in 1903, it’s one of the oldest surviving ‘small town’ manufacturers of soft drinks and syrup flavourings. Trust me, one sip and you’ll be glad you went! They truly taste like soft drinks used to taste when I was a kid. Be sure to pop into Bunnyconnellen and Emeraude, a short drive away, and visit the Jimmy Crow statue in Crows Nest Centenary Park to learn more about the region’s First Australians and the Jarowair people. Find Crows Nest here.
10. Get a grazing box from Urth Cafe & Co
A family-run business, you’ll find Urth Cafe & Co on Hume Street serving up delicious breakfast and lunch options! The dine-in menu offers plenty to choose from with loads of options for vegans and gluten-free folk as well as carnivore favourites too. But, as we discovered, Urth also serves up some absolutely epic grazing boxes! Stacked with everything you could need for an amazing breakfast or lunch outdoors in one of Toowoomba’s many parks and gardens, you can grab one to go along with fantastic coffee and smoothies. What’s more, the cake cabinet boasts a range of delectable sweet treats including clean, vegan and gluten-free goodies. Find Urth Cafe & Co here.
11. Explore the Ravensbourne National Park
The stunning Ravensbourne National Park forms an important part of the history of the region’s Aboriginal people. For thousands of years, the Jarowair and Jagera people travelled through the area en route to bunya feasts in the stunning Bunya Mountains. Today, the area still holds a whole lot of magic in the air. Wake before the dawn and head to the Gus Beutel lookout for the gorgeous views over the Scenic Rim and Lockyer Valley or grab a picnic and head there for a bite to eat. Strap on your hiking shoes and head out onto the Cedar Block circuit, a short 500m return journey, or delve deeper with the Rainforest Circuit, 1.7km return, Palm Creek Circuit, 3.6km return, or Buaraba Creek, 6.2km return (Find the Ravensbourne National Park map here). Find Ravensbourne National Park here.
12. Do a trail ride
With so much natural beauty to explore and so much ground to cover, you may want to saddle up and join a trail ride. From horseback, under the watchful eye of an instructor, you’ll be able to delve deeper into the Darling Downs, gleaning local knowledge along the way. There are a few to choose from including Cowboy Up Trail Riding at Crows Nest, Splendacrest Stables just south of Toowoomba and Forsdale Farmstay which also offers weekend trips and camping experiences, the perfect way to truly immerse yourself in Queensland’s spectacular scenery.
13. Visit Ground Up Espresso Bar
Wander down an inconspicuous alleyway along Ruthven Street and you’ll find Ground Up Espresso Bar, surrounded by vibrant street art. A cosy spot serving up fantastic coffee and great bites for breakfast and lunch, Ground Up is a beloved favourite. Tuck into their huevos rancheros, slow-cooked pork belly bao buns, slow-cooked brisket burger and chilli scrambled eggs or sample the souvlaki lamb yiros, balsamic roasted root vegetables or epic fried chicken toasted sandwich served with a side of pretzels. Find Ground Up Espresso Bar here.
14. Visit the Cobb+Co Museum
If you haven’t worked it out yet, a huge part of Toowoomba’s charm is its history and things don’t get much more charming than the iconic Cobb+Co Museum. Explore the National Carriage Collection and take a walk through Queensland and Australia’s history and development. There are vehicles of all shapes and sizes including gorgeous carriages used by English Royalty, huge wagons that transported tonnes of goods across the Darling Downs, iconic Cobb+Co coaches straight out of your favourite Western movie, war-time relics and, my personal favourite, an omnibus that serviced parts of our beloved Brisbane before buses became what they are today! If you can, be sure to do a guided tour as you’ll learn even more and be sure to visit the other exhibits, including those celebrating the First Australians, and pop into Cobb’s Coffee Shop for an absolutely delicious lunch. Find Cobb+Co Museum here.
15. Dine at Sweet Talk Coffee
Super cool breakfast spots don’t get much better than Sweet Talk Coffee. Tucked away in a quiet alcove of Longs Quarter in the Toowoomba CBD, this chic spot boasts a light and airy fit-out with indoor and outdoor dining spots. Open 7 days a week for breakfast and lunch, the seasonal menu includes tasty favourites like avocado on sourdough, house-made crumpets and an epic brekky burger as well as shakshuka eggs, spiced cauliflower tacos and shawarma! The coffee is fantastic and the staff are friendly and welcoming too. Find Sweet Talk Coffee here.
16. Catch the sunrise at Picnic Point
No visit to Toowoomba is truly complete without a stop at Picnic Point. A short drive from the heart of the city, the heritage-listed parklands offer visitors sweeping, panoramic views out toward Table Top Mountain and the Lockyer Valley. It’s the ideal spot to catch the sunrise or have a picnic lunch or afternoon tea. Keep your eyes out for the stunning hoop pines and kauri pines adoring the area and take a wander past the man-made waterfall before stopping in at the on-site cafe or restaurant for a drink and a bite to eat. You can choose a cosy spot on the verandah to truly take advantage of those amazing views. Find Picnic Point here.
17. Enjoy a glass of wine at Season’s on Ruthven
Make the most of the gorgeous Toowoomba weather by heading to Seasons on Ruthven for a cold glass (or two) of white wine and a delicious cheese and antipasti platter, best enjoyed in the warm spring air. While we didn’t get to indulge in the entire menu, the lovely staff shared how often a few glasses of wine and some nibbles turns into dinner and it’s easy to see why. With seared King Sea scallops, Moreton Bay bugs, eye fillet steak and 12-hour marinated beef brisket on the menu, there’s no shortage of great options to choose from. Find Seasons on Ruthven here.
18. Hike Table Top Mountain
I’ve made no secret of my dislike of hiking on this blog and today is no different! But, that doesn’t mean there aren’t those among you who would love nothing more than to add a good hike into their Toowoomba itinerary so #18 is just for you. While I haven’t done it personally, Matt has done the scramble up to Table Top Mountain at dawn and was blown away by the views. The walk begins at the base of Camel’s Hump up a series of large steps, a steep ascent of around 150m or so. From there, you’ll need to clamour across some rocks before tackling the final scramble to the top. Matt did the climb with two of our good friends, Krista and Eppo of Life Unhurried, who, quite hilariously, described setting off on the trail together only to look up and see Matt far off in the distance, bounding away like a rabbit. Good luck to you all. Find out more about hiking Table Top Mountain here.
19. Wander the Japanese Garden
For a more relaxing experience, head to the Japnese Garden ‘Ju Raku En,’ opened in 1989 and set over three sprawling hectares. One of Austalia’s largest and most traditionally designed Japanese stroll gardens, the site is a popular spot for weddings and events and makes for a good picnic spot too. According to the USQ website, the garden is a presentation of a Buddhist paradise with the celestial sea lapping the shores of the three islands where the immortals are said to dwell. According to this website, it’s a great spot to take a walk and pause for a while under a shady tree. Find the Japanese Garden here.
20. Check out Urban Grounds Cafe
You’ll find Urban Grounds Cafe set in one of Toowoomba’s iconic Queenslander style homes, with plenty of seating options in the sunroom or out on the deck. Nestled right near Laurel Bank Park, a visit in spring offers a glimpse at the vibrant flowers adorning the area as part of the annual Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers. Open for all-day dining you may like to pop in for breakfast, tucking into Kiplfer hash cake, pancakes or their epic mega breakfast! For lunch and dinner, mushroom gnocchi, lamb rump fillet and boneless Portuguese chicken breast await. Find Urban Grounds Cafe here.
21. Relax at Queens Park
Built from 1875 to 1970s, Queens Park is also known as the Toowoomba Botanic Gardens. Set across 25 sprawling hectares, the park is adorned with lush, green grass, shady trees and gorgeous garden beds. With playgrounds for the little ones and an off-leash area for your four-legged companion, it’s a great spot to go for a wander, ride bikes or just get cosy on a picnic blanket and relax under the cool of a large tree. During the Carnival of Flowers, Queens Park boasts exceptional garden displays, rides and activities. Located right across the road from the Cobb+Co Museum it’s the perfect spot to visit before or after a wander through the National Carriage Collection. There are also some great cafes surrounding the park so be sure to pop in for a coffee, cold drink or bite to eat if you fancy. (P.S the below pic is me enjoying Queens Park with the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers Ambassadog, Rambo!) Find Queens Park here.
22. Feast at Kajoku
Located upstairs in one of Toowoomba’s historic buildings, Kajoku combines some of the best things about life; Korean BBQ, delicious Japanese food, ice-cold drinks and karaoke! High ceilings and a very large screen with sumo wrestling matches projected on it set the scene for lunch or dinner at Kajoku. The extensive menu includes Korean delights like BBQ, fried chicken, Bibimbap, soups and stews. The Japanese menu offers dumplings, gyoza, takoyaki and plenty of other small plates ideal for sharing. Find Kajoku here.
23. Stock up on goodies from The Baker’s Duck
Don’t even think about visiting Toowoomba without adding The Baker’s Duck to your itinerary. A favourite among locals, you’ll likely need to join a queue to get your hands on the scrumptious goodies that await inside but, trust me, it’s worth it. Open Wednesday through to Sunday from 7am, it’s worth getting up early to get the goods. On-site, you’ll find a few of the things that make life so good; speciality coffee from Ground Up Espresso, freshly baked artisan sourdough and a truly mouthwatering display of pastries. We’re talking custard tarts, almond croissants, brownies, strawberry cheesecake and fruit danishes, chocolate croissants, bacon quiches and so much more. Don’t worry, nobody will judge you if you go in for one thing and end up walking out with your arms full. Personally, we like to grab coffee and pastries to go then head over to Queens Park for the ultimate breakfast picnic (see image below for serious inspo!). Find The Baker’s Duck here.
24. Eat at Emeraude at Bunnyconnellen
It’s safe to say Emeraude is one of my favourite restaurants of all-time and a must-visit while in the Toowoomba region. Currently located on the gorgeous, sprawling grounds at Bunnyconnellen, in Crows Nest, Emeraude is around 45 minutes drive from the heart of Toowoomba. Chef and owner, Amanda Hinds, takes the region’s very best fresh produce and turns it into a mouth-watering menu that truly celebrates local flavours. I always get excited to dine here and never leave disappointed! Stake out a cosy spot on the deck, beneath huge trees gently swaying overhead and tuck into a delectable lunch then stock up on goods to go at the produce stall and boutique before wandering the gardens. Trust me, you’ll be back again! Find Emeraude here.
25. Explore the Bunya Mountains National Park
It takes around 1 1/2 hours to drive from Toowoomba to the Bunya Mountains. Once you arrive, you can explore Queensland’s second oldest national park and its winding walking trails, offering plenty of opportunities to gaze up at the Bunya Trees towering overhead. Home to an abundance of local wildlife, including over 120 species of birds, you’ll be sure to spot wallabies, Australian king parrots, rosellas and more. There’s plenty to do, including a visit to the Bunya Mountains Markets, held on the last Sunday of every month, and a good few hours spent along the walking trails, pausing at various lookout spots (find the official Bunya Mountains National Park Guide here). Find the Bunya Mountains here.
26. Unwind at Laurel Bank Park
You’ll find Laurel Bank Park on Hill Street in Toowoomba, a truly beautiful spot home to manicured gardens, croquet lawns and barbecue and picnic areas. The park comes alive in spring and during the Carnival of Flowers when the wisterias bloom, dripping with lavender-coloured flowers and surrounded by stunning floral displays. No matter the time of year you visit, this park is always worth a stroll and you’ll find Urban Grounds Cafe right across the street to take care of your caffeine or food fix! Find Laurel Bank Park here.
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