Queensland’s countryside has a character of its own, a mosaic of wonderful scenery, friendly locals and fascinating history. Think of big blue skies with low-hanging cotton candy clouds and convivial encounters in country pubs with interesting locals. From historic towns packed with antique shops to wineries, an escape to the country is just what the doctor ordered. Here are four things to do in the Queensland countryside.
1-Gold rush fever
Are quirky tales about ghostly characters your cup of tea? Relive the heyday of the gold rush at Charters Tower, 137km inland from Townsville.
The Queensland Heritage Trails Network project team has done a wonderful job of presenting the town’s history in an interactive and engaging way.
Technology is used to bring the gold rush into the 21st century with plasma TVs, laser holograms, films and audio presentations.
Gold rush fever begins in the Visitor Information Centre where a friendly hologram ghost kicks off the Ghosts of Gold Heritage Trail with fascinating tales.
The trail leads you on a walk through the beautifully preserved buildings in the heart of town. There’s a ghost film at Towers Hill Lookout and Venus Battery gold milling site is worth a visit. But if you fancy tea in fine China cups and scones with your ghost stories then pop in to Henry’s Café and Restaurant in Mosman Street.
Where to stay? Aussie Outback Oasis, Charters Towers is a value-for-money holiday park in historic Charters Towers. It’s part of the Big 4 Holiday Park family and offers a range of accommodation choices for the budget conscious, from grassed powered and unpowered sites for caravans or camping to modern cabins and villas.
Cabins have kitchens equipped with all the implements necessary to prepare your own meals. There are microwaves, fridges, freezers, toasters, TVs and DVD players; Austar pay TV channels and wifi are free; tea and coffee are complimentary; and all linen is included in price.
The holiday park’s salt water pool is landscaped with a rocky waterfall and set in shaded leafy gardens. In the winter months, entertainers sing and read bush poetry around the campfire or over a pancake morning tea.
Best for: History lovers, families, and groups of friends travelling together
2-Wine and peanuts
South Burnett is a Queensland wine-growing region with quality boutique wineries that are producing award-winning wines.
Wines have exotic fruity bouquets of passionfruit, mango, paw paw and lime to suit the tropical climate.
The region’s terroir is best suited to the semillon, chardonnay, shiraz and verdelho grape varieties; the latter is the region’s signature wine.
As a wine region, South Burnett has an ambience that is poles apart from wine areas in the southern states. Cellar doors and restaurants are housed in traditional timber Queenslander-style houses with wide verandas. And most of the wineries are run by small and friendly family businesses.
Visit the icon of Queensland’s peanut capital, the Kingaroy Peanut Van. Peanuts from the region are sold in scrumptious flavours such as hickory smoked and butterscotch caramel varieties.
Where to stay? Bethany Cottages, Kingaroy are nestled in scrubland on Bethany Farm. Snuggle up by the fire in a cosy cottage and watch the wallabies hop by.
With panoramic views of the Bunya Mountains, cottages come in one- and two-bedroom varieties and offer peaceful country views.
Cottages have fully equipped kitchens, entertainment systems and reverse-cycle air conditioning and heating. Most have timber verandas where you can sit back in a comfy chair and gaze at the view.
Take the 90-minute tour of the working cattle farm, which has been the home of the Bjelke-Petersen family for over 80 years.
It includes a visit to the family home where there’s a display of memorabilia, for those interested in the life of former Queensland Premier Sir Joh, and home-made pumpkin scones for those that aren’t. Farm tours run at 2pm on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Best for: Wine lovers, families. Download a map of the South Burnett wine region.
3-Bush poetry and campfires
There’s so much to do in the heart of the Outback. Bush poetry, camp fire dinners, river cruises and sheep stations are some of the things on offer in Longreach. Take a scenic helicopter flight or gaze at the stars.
The Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame gives you a real sense of life in the Outback from the five themed galleries displaying the history of Australia’s greatest explorers, stock workers, pastoralist, and aborigines.
Don’t miss the Outback Stockman’s Show (May to October) when horse breaker, drover, bush poet and bullocky Lachie Cossor dazzles the crowd with his skills.
Down the road, the Qantas Founders Museum is the only place in the world where you can tour two fully-equipped passenger jet aircraft.
The 747,707 and Wing Walk Tour allows you to walk on the wing of the 747,707, climb down into the computer and cargo bays and sit in the pilot seat.
Where to stay? Jumbuck Motel, Longreach is not the ritziest accommodation around. But if you want your fill of Outback fun, pack your Akubra and head to Longreach. Built by local graziers, the Jumbuck Motel was the only place to stay in Longreach for many years.
It’s where ideas were conceived and historical decisions made. Hugh Sawrey and R. M. Williams plotted and planned the Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame in the motel’s Stockman’s Bar.
The motel has everything you’d expect from country digs. 36 ground level units have reverse-cycle air-conditioning, queen-sized beds and Austar services.
There are interconnecting rooms and family rooms, a salt water pool (seasonal) and kids playground. The Jolly Jumbuck Restaurants serves decent steaks along with barramundi, kangaroo and emu.
Best for: Adventurous travellers.
4-Flowers and antiques
Do you like the sound of a weekend in a grand home with romantic old-world charm? Pack your bags and head for Toowoomba.
The Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers is worth putting in the diary and there’s plenty for history lovers all year round. From Royal Doulton to 19th-century brass beds, Toowoomba is an antique treasure hunter’s delight.
Pick up an Antiques Trail brochure from the visitor information centre in James Street. Catch a show at the Art Deco Empire Theatre, which opened in 1911 as a silent movie house.
The Lionel Lindsay Art Gallery and Library in Ruthven Street has rare books, manuscripts, maps and an art collection with over 400 works by members of the Lindsay family and other significant Australian painters such as Frederick McCubbin, Arthur Streeton and Tom Roberts.
Where to stay? Vacy Hall, Toowoomba is a 1880s mansion has 12 heritage-style rooms with private bathrooms and some have their own fireplaces.
Think bay windows with upholstered seats, open fireplaces, polished floorboards and leather grandfather chairs.
The Ann Taylor Emperor Suite is a picture of brass and lace with its king-size antique brass four-poster bed, ensuite bathroom with antique cast-iron claw foot bathtub and armchairs in front of an open fireplace.
Built as a wedding gift for the daughter of a wealthy pastoralist in the 19th century, Vacy Hall is heritage listed by the National Trust of Australia and The Queensland Heritage Council.
Best for: Couples, history lovers.