From huge flower festivals to quirky little rail museums and the city’s nascent arts scene, there’s plenty of things to do in Toowoomba.
Queensland’s largest inland city is home to its fair share of attractions and events, drawing in visitors from near and far whatever the season. Choose your own adventure from this list of the city’s best.
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Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers
The so-called Garden City is awash with a sea of colourful petals come spring, when the annual Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers descends. The longest running floral event of its kind in Australia, this festival takes place every September and welcomes hundreds of thousands of flowers in full bloom, planted across the city’s parks and public spaces, and a similar number of anthophile attendees. But it’s not just the plants that attract out-of-towners: during the festival, you can expect twilight tours, light installations, live music, fairground rides and plenty of foodie events to boot.
This highly rated Toowoomba museum’s primary calling card is the National Carriage Collection, comprising 47 restored horse-drawn vehicles, which played an important role in Queensland’s development. But the Cobb+Co Museum has plenty more to offer beyond: kids will love the interactive displays in the Sciencentre, as well as the Coach Stop play area, where little ones can become shop attendants in the old Museum General Store, dressing up in old fashioned clothes. Adults, meanwhile, can dabble in the super niche heritage trade workshops (think leadlighting, blacksmithing or millinery), which are available for beginners right through to consummate professionals looking to polish their skills.
Even if you don’t venture to Toowoomba for its annual Carnival of Flowers, green thumbs and budding botanists will still find themselves in total floral heaven in Toowoomba: simply stroll around the city’s plethora of public parks to find a bit of zen, or a perfect picnic spot. Two of the city’s standouts are Queens Park and Laurel Park. The former is an impeccably manicured 26-hectare heritage-listed garden that sits smack bang in the centre of town. The latter is home to ‘scented gardens’, a vast arched trellis dripping with wisteria and even croquet greens.
The great outdoors
Toowoomba’s doorstep is littered with bushland, mountains and national parks waiting to be explored. Go for a bushwalk and journey to the summit of Table Top Mountain: a walk that typically takes around two hours one-way, and is steep in parts. Or save your legs and drive up to Picnic Point Lookout and Parkland, which promises panoramic views over the surrounding farmland.
To the northeast of Toowoomba, less than an hour’s drive away, lies Ravensbourne National Park, home to towering red cedars, eucalypts, rainforest and an abundance of birdlife – at least 110 species of birds either visit or live in this park. There’s a handful of short walks to uncover, as well as lookout points and picnicking areas.
And some 49 kilometres north of Toowoomba lies the Crows Nest National Park, which features a eucalypt forest, granite boulders, cascades and a waterhole that’s perfect for a dip. Lucky day trippers may even spy platypus, swamp wallabies, echidnas, bandicoots or lace monitors on their travels through this sprawling park.
DownsSteam Tourist Railway & Museum
Trainspotters rejoice! This volunteer-run attraction in the Toowoomba suburb of Drayton has quite the collection, and is staffed by rail enthusiasts who offer tours of the old carriages it has rehomed. Peruse the historic displays and railway memorabilia, and wander through the Dreamtime Journey Coach, an SX coach that’s been repurposed as a permanent art installation in acknowledgement of the contribution made by Indigenous people to the building of Queensland’s Range Railway. Entry is by donation and there’s a small gift shop on-site too.
Explore the local arts scene
Toowoomba might not have all the arty assets of a major city, but it still punches above its weight when it comes to creative attractions. For one thing, the Southern Queensland city is home to a bit of a burgeoning street art scene. The murals painted along the side of the CUA bank building in 2012 are recognised as Toowoomba’s first, kickstarting the trend city-wide. More than 90 different artworks now pepper the city’s streets, including creations by internationally acclaimed artists Adnate and Fintan Magee, based in Melbourne and Sydney respectively.
Those a bit more traditionally inclined should pay a visit to the Toowoomba Regional Arts Gallery, the oldest of its kind in regional Queensland, and a venue that plays host to three permanent collections, as well as contemporary exhibitions that change each month. Or, spend an evening at the heritage-listed art deco Empire Theatre, the largest regional performing arts complex in Australia, which regularly hosts music and ballet recitals and comedy events. You can also uncover a little more of the building’s architecture and history, by signing up for one of the venue’s backstage tours.