My travel inspo guides share information and insight into different parts of the world. They’re designed to inspire wanderlust and, hopefully, your next adventure. This guide is all about discovering the Darling Downs region in Queensland, Australia.
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The Darling Downs is the heart of South East Queensland‘s farming region. Thanks to its elevated position, rich soil, open spaces and humid sub-tropical climate it is perfect for farming and the area produces around a quarter of Queensland’s agricultural output. Not only this, but the region is responsible for some of the finest wines in the country and it also has the highest concentration of feedlots in Australia. What does all of this mean? It means that the Darling Downs are to Queensland what the Yarra Valley is to Victoria and what the Hunter Valley is to New South Wales. It’s food and wine country.
For Queenslanders, this region is an escape from the warmer coastal climates and a total change of scene. For us, it’s a hinterland escape that makes you feel like you’ve entered the rich, rolling countryside of another state. You’ll find huge open spaces, like the Girraween and Sundown National Parks and breath-taking mountains like the Great Dividing Range and Bunya Mountains. You’ll discover cellar-door tastings, farm-to-table restaurants and cosy little Bed and Breakfast’s offering the perfect spot to rest your head.
The largest city within the Darling Downs is Toowoomba, a 90-minute drive some 130km west of Brisbane. The region spans over 77, 000km and includes quintessential Queensland country towns like Stanthorpe, Chinchilla, Dalby, Warwick, Moonie, Oakey, Roma and Goondiwindi. If you aren’t from Queensland these names may sound like gibberish, but for us, they’re at the heart of our identity.
Toowoomba sits in the middle of these smaller towns, with roads branching off in all directions to lead you on a rural Queensland country adventure. You’ll find Roma and Chinchilla to the north-west of Toowoomba and Stanthorpe and Warrick to the south.
Because it gets so hot in Queensland over the summer months, we all tend to flock toward the coastline. In the height of summer, temperatures can easily reach mid to high 30 degrees. The best times to visit would be during Spring, when the area comes alive with bright flowers in bloom, bursting into a sea of vibrant colours. Toowoomba hosts its annual Carnival of Flowers in September and wildflowers pop up along the side of the road.
Queenslanders tend to visit the region during Autumn, Winter and Spring as an escape from the city. The cooler temperatures make it easier for outdoor activities like hiking in national parks. It’s also a bit of a novelty for us, leaving the city and being able to get all rugged up in front of a fireplace with a bottle of red wine.
So, why should you visit the Darling Downs region? Queensland has a very iconic coastline and it’s easy to go to the places we’ve all seen on Instagram or travel websites before. If you only visit these areas, you’re missing out on reconnecting with Queensland’s country soul. The truth is, you forget just how beautiful the Australian bush is and how dramatic the scenery can be. The region is also the perfect opportunity to get outdoors and do some camping, hiking, horse riding or visiting some pretty impressive bushland and waterfall areas, including the Granite Belt.
The drive out to the region will take you through rolling, lush green hills littered with native trees. You’ll spot farm animals and local wildlife too, like wallabies, koalas and kangaroos. At night, the sky turns a deep, velvet adorned with a million sparkling stars that will take your breath away. It’s only when you’re away from the noise of the city that you can truly appreciate it. The silence and serenity, away from built up/touristy areas.
As soon as I step outside the car in this region, I instantly relax. It’s the no-stress, no-rush pace of life. It’s the appreciation for the land and produce, the simple, kind-hearted nature of the welcoming locals and space. So much space all around you, with no skyscrapers, no high-rise buildings and no traffic. Just peace and quiet.
The easiest way to visit the region from interstate or overseas is to fly into Brisbane or Gold Coast airports. From there you can hire a car and drive yourself out to the area, the road trip is really enjoyable and there are loads of places to stop along the way for coffee, cake, photographs and fresh, local produce.
Here’s a quick look at visiting three key areas of the region:
This mighty little town is responsible for producing a quarter of Australia’s melons! That means it’s a great spot to get stuck into watermelon, rockmelon and honeydew. Be sure to visit for the biannual melon festival, which includes melon bungee, pip spitting, smashing and, of course, melon eating competitions. This quirky and quaint town will capture your heart.
- Visit the Chinchilla Markets, held on the third Sunday of every month. Grab a steak and a pint at the Chinchilla Club Hotel and spend the night in the modern and luxurious Kings Park Accommodation.
At the very heart of the Granite Belt, Stanthorpe is the perfect place to start your Darling Downs adventure. The area is home to a cheese factory, juicery, many fantastic bakeries and, of course, some exceptional wineries. Stanthorpe’s unique micro-climate means fruit grows here in abundance, so make the most of it.
- Visit the Girraween National Park and spend a day exploring the huge boulders that litter the area. Eat some mighty fine sweet treats at The Bramble Patch Cafe and settle down for the night in the absolutely stunning and luxurious glamping tent at Alure Boutique Villas.
Perched on the edge of the Great Dividing Range, some 700m above sea level, Toowoomba overlooks the gorgeous Lockyer Valley. The town comes alive during September, when the Carnival of Flowers bursts into full bloom, erupting in a sea of colour. It’s a quick 90-minute drive from Brisbane to get there and there are plenty of places to eat, sleep and stay.
- Visit the Margaret Street Markets held in the centre of town on the first Sunday of each month. Eat dinner at Seasons on Ruthann and cosy up in your big, comfy bed at the elegant, quaint and simply gorgeous B&B Wanulla.
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