|Golden West Circuit|
This circular drive from Brisbane takes in a great variety of scenery - the agricultural Darling Downs district, the Sunshine Coast hinterland and lofty Blackall Range and, finally, the unique Glasshouse Mountains.
Head west from Brisbane to the former convict settlement of Ipswich, Queensland’s oldest provincial city, then take the Cunningham Highway to Cunninghams Gap and Main Range National Park, where the escarpments and rainforest are great bushwalking territory. From here it’s just a short hop to Warwick in the fertile Darling Downs region.
The attractions of Warwick include a heritage walk and some good fishing and boating at Leslie Dam. From Warwick you can head south to the wineries around Stanthorpe, and then to Goondiwindi (see feature below) on the New South Wales border.
To the north of Warwick there are fertile farmlands and the large settlement (population over 83,000) of Toowoomba, rightly labelled as Queensland’s ‘Garden City’. With its historic buildings, trees, parks and many cultural attractions, this is indeed a gracious city, and a colourful Carnival of Flowers festival is held here each September. Nearby Dalby is another important rural town, at the heart of a major grain, sheep and cattle area. Here you can visit the stately home of Jimbour House, a winery and the interesting Pioneer Park Museum.
As you head north, visit the delightful Bunya Mountains National Park, famous for its Bunya pines and colourful birds, before reaching Kingaroy, ‘Home of the Peanut’ (and former state premier Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen), and the venue for an annual (March/April) peanut festival. Located on the Bruce Highway, the administrative centre of Gympie is an old 1860s goldrush town that features a large mining museum and a fossicking area where you can search for gold.
The highway then leads directly back to Brisbane, but a detour into the lush Sunshine Coast hinterland is highly recommended. From charming Eumundi, famed for its beer and colourful Saturday markets, and Nambour, ‘Home of the Pineapple’, head up into the Blackall Range to the small mountain settlements of Mapleton, Montville and Maleny - the home of dozens of arts and crafts shops, galleries, potteries and cafes. This famed artistic and cultural region also hosts an excellent folk festival each summer.
There are more craft outlets at nearby Landsborough, then another very scenic drive takes you past the Glasshouse Mountains - thirteen volcanic plugs that rise dramatically from the surrounding plains. If you’re feeling energetic, there are some great walks in the national park that protects these unusual geological formations. From here, continue to the major dairying centre of Caboolture before returning to Brisbane on the Bruce Highway.
Best known as the home of Gunsynd, the legendary ‘Goondiwindi Grey’ racehorse, this attractive agricultural town features a botanic garden, the old Customs House and several historic buildings. It’s also the gateway to New South Wales and the interesting town of Moree.
Where to Stay
Time Required: At least 2-3 days are recommended.