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EXPLORING THE

WESTERN

DOWNS


Photo: Bunya Mountains


Exploring the Western Downs

INTRODUCTION Just a short distance from Brisbane City lies a region rich in farm land and history. Western Downs is 83km north-west of Toowoomba 207km north-west of Brisbane, covering more ground than some European countries lay claim to. It’s a landscape cocktail of farmland, agriculture and mining operations, bordered by the Banana Shire and North Burnett in the north, the South Burnett and Toowoomba in the east, Goondiwindi, Balonne and Maranoa in the west. For city-slickers escaping the towers of Brisbane, it’s the first taste of Outback Australia - and for those in the opposite direction, the last. Either way, an authentic country experience is what visitors are served in the Western Downs - and the good news, there’s enough room for seconds. At first glance, the Western Downs looks like it’s walked off the pages of a watercolour painting and into the south-west of Queensland. It’s the original green and gold, with pine and eucalypt forests in its Bunya Mountains north

and cotton, sorghum and wheat in its south. It might be the only star-studded sky visitors will see this year, which is lucky, because camping opportunities come aplenty to sleep under a canvas of stars. Timing a visit with a country festival lets visitors feel like locals for a weekend. Out here, country fun takes a twist with the likes of the Tara Camel Races taking to the tracks each August and biennial Chinchilla Melon Festival. Nothing is done by halves out here, and the reality of mining operations, solar developments and ethanol fuel production means the Western Downs are well-serviced with amenities, you’d have to sacrifice country comforts for a city to find. For adventurers, there are gorges to climb, creeks to swim in and meandering rivers to throw a line in, ticking the boxes for boating, camping and fishing lovers. What are you waiting for? Escape to the Country; Experience the Western Downs.

Photo: Western Downs, Queensland Page 01


9 HIDDEN TREASURES YOU DIDN’T KNOW EXISTED IN THE WESTERN DOWNS

Photo: Monty’s Garage, Glenmorgan

Did you know that just west of the Great Dividing Range you can find endless plains of colourful fields, rolling grass hills, big skies and small towns with big hearts? Get off the grid, off the beaten track, and off on an adventure to discover the Western Downs with this hidden gems guide.


Exploring the Western Downs

GARAGE 01 MONTY’S VINTAGE CAR MUSEUM If old-school cars get your head spinning into overdrive, fasten your seatbelt because you need to visit Monty’s Garage Vintage Car Museum in Glenmorgan. The museum shifts gears and steps back in time with a collection of restored vintage cars. The 1940’s style garage is separated into workin-progress vehicles, fully restored vehicles, spare parts and equipment and auto memorabilia.

BIBLICAL 02 BELL GARDEN For a backyard that rivals a botanic garden, visit Our Lady of Help Christians Catholic Church in Bell and take a look at their Biblical Garden. Free to the public, the Bell Biblical Garden features trees and plants mentioned throughout the Bible, gathered together with art installations and murals depicting various stories from the Bible.

TRACKS MAKE THE 03 WALKING FOREST TRIFECTA What do Cherwondah State Forest, Blinkey State Forest, and Gurulmundi State Forest have in common? Besides their state forest status, these three flora and fauna sanctuaries provide a plethora of walking trails that wind through untamed wilderness, with hectares-upon-hectares of bushland to explore. The three forests are found so close together you can tackle them in a day, before retreating to Guluguba, Miles or Wandoan for the night. Note: Vehicle access is prohibited, so park up and stretch those legs! Page 03


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LAY YOUR EYES ON LILIES AT CHINAMAN’S LAGOON

Make your mates green with envy and visit the lily pad covered Chinaman’s Lagoon on the southern edge of Miles. During the summer and autumn months, three connected lagoons are topped in colourful tropical lilies, a rare sight, because this species is only found in a few locations across Australia. Named after a Chinese market gardener who moved to Miles and became the town rogue, Chinaman’s Lagoon is a peaceful place with picnic areas and walking tracks offering various vantage points to soak up the serenity.

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MAKE A MATE OR TWO IN KOGAN

Nestled in the heart of a town triangle with Tara, Chinchilla and Dalby, Kogan’s got nothing but warm fuzzies on tap.

The free camping site is easy to spot thanks to the giant lagoon, which is a local favourite on weekends thanks to water sports like swimming, fishing, jet skiing, tubing and wakeboarding. For a more tranquil time out, wake up to the birds and the sun slowly rising, reflecting its candycoloured rays through the trees onto the calm waters of the lagoon.

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PARK UP AT POSSUM PARK

Get off the grid with a trip to Possum Park, the accommodation park (read: everything from camping to caravanning to cabins - even train carriages!) on the northern outskirts of Miles. Although only a short drive from town, once you’re off the beaten track of the highway and surrounded by nothing but bushland, you’ll feel worlds away from modern civilisation.

The best spot to feel the love is at the park next door to the Kogan Memorial Hall on High Street. You won’t miss it - you’re met at the front of the park with a big metal sculpture of a man riding a horse, titled ‘the man who steadies his lead’. Take the time to follow the path around the park which outlines the families and milestones of the town from its settlement to today’s population. The path leads you to a gazebo where two young men sit and play cards all-year round. It’ll prove difficult to join in on the game though the two men are made of metal, part of an art sculpture titled ‘bush friendship’.

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CAMPING AT CALIGUEL LAGOON

Set your Instagram feed on fire with shots of the sunrise at Caliguel Lagoon, on the south-western outskirts of Condamine. Page 04

Photo: Chinaman’s Lagoon , Miles


Exploring the Western Downs

That’s made even easier with a stay in one of the 17 wartime bunkers tucked away amongst the property, once storage for ammunition and now quaint underground self-contained units.

It’s not just its history that puts this hotel on the Western Downs pub trail - there’s a truck bursting through its wall and a vintage ute guarding the front.

With wildflower tourist drives, state forest walking tracks (here’s looking at you, Gurulmundi State Forest) and plenty of time to kick back amongst nature, getting back on the grid will be the last thing on your to-do list.

Inside, the walls are adorned from floor to ceiling in classic country paraphernalia (try counting the number of licence plates) with so much character you’ll be sinking a few beers and calling yourself a local in no time.

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OUT AT LAKE BROADWATER 09 CHILL CONSERVATION PARK

HAVE A DRINK OR TWO AT THE BUN PUB

For a classic country pub visit, look no further than The Bun Pub, the local watering hole in Queensland’s longest named town, Kaimkillenbun.

If you’re after one of those ‘I’m not in the city anymore’ moments, set up camp at Lake Broadwater Conservation Park, a half hour drive west from Dalby along the Moonie Highway.

Covered in history inside and out, the pub is the place to learn about the town - from wartime artefacts to memorabilia of an iconic television series (starring Nicole Kidman) that was set here.

Wake up to the crisp fresh air, birds chirping, wallabies grazing at the water’s edge, and the sun sneaking over the horizon and reflecting over the calm lake. Ahh the serenity. The waterfront views from this camping and caravaning spot are just the icing on the cake, with the lake offering fishing, jet skiing, and kayaking, however only at high water levels.

Photo: Bun Pub, Kaimkillenbun

If you’re an avid birdwatcher, you’ve hit the jackpot - the park is sanctuary for over 240 species of birds, complete with a bird-watching track further along the road from the lake. Trust us, the cockatoos and corellas will take care of your morning wake up call.

HAVE YOU DISCOVERED ANY HIDDEN TREASURES IN THE WESTERN DOWNS?

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10 MUST-DO COUNTRY EVENTS ONLY HELD IN THE WESTERN DOWNS From beards and balloons to melons and markets, your weekend is always sorted with a country event in the Western Downs. Mark your calendar, pack your bags, and hit the road to tick off these 10 family-friendly events.

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CHINCHILLA MELON FESTIVAL

Prepare yourself for melon mania. We’re talking about the three days of watermelon-mania that takes over the town of Chinchilla every second February for the biennial Chinchilla Melon Festival (pssst - next one is 2019).

annual Flinton Races. It’s a family friendly event so you can expect rides, fireworks, and even a helicopter lolly drop on the track. Kicking off with a luncheon, the event gets progressively more fun, sipping on bubbles and toasting under the giant 18+ marquee. By night, it’s all about kicking up dust on the dancefloor.

Celebrating the town’s melon farming industry, get fruity at the three day festival with markets, parades, arena events and lots more which all embrace the melon theme.

When: Every Easter Saturday

When: 14-17 February, 2019

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Perfect for: Anyone who loves a good melon Must-do activity: Melon skiing - don your helmet (a hollow melon) and your skis (two open melons), and get ready to slip and slide your way along the melon skiing track.

02 FLINTON RACES Forget about those bunny ears, Easter in the Western Downs is about donning a fascinator and heading straight to the racetrack for the Page 06

Perfect for: Those over 18 looking for a rowdy long weekend Must-do activity: Foot racing - jump on the racetrack and put your own pace to the test, running without any shoes.

BIG SKIES

With flat plains and seemingly endless horizons, it’s no surprise the inaugural celebration of the Western Downs was called Big Skies. Kicking off with fun and fashion at the Dalby Picnic Race Day, the Big Skies Festival migrates activities over to Jimbour Station (home to the historic Jimbour House) for a week of events.


Photo: Flinton Races

Experience the starry night skies with a camp oven dinner, cinema under the stars, and a guided tour of the galaxy. Switch the sparkling stars for the big blue with a Day on the Plain - the festival’s line-up of rock ‘n’ roll artists test the acoustics of Jimbour’s outdoor amphitheatre. When: 27 April - 5 May, 2019 Perfect for: Music lovers and landscape chasers Must-do activity: Listen to live music in a natural amphitheater.

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BUNYA MOUNTAINS COMMUNITY MARKETS

Markets and mountains, a pairing that compliments the coffee and homemade cookies you can pick up while exploring the monthly Bunya Mountains Community Markets. Wander through 30+ stalls filled with homemade gifts, food, and homewares - in a setting that looks like its stepped out of a movie with rolling green hills, wallabies grazing and crimson rosellas swooping in to say hello.

From home made jams and sauces to native smoked Australian garlic (the kind you have to spend big bucks to buy at a deli closer to home) - this market is a treasure trove of items that add brag factor to your kitchen pantry. When: The last Sunday of every month from 9am-2pm Perfect for: Families holidaying in the Bunya Mountains area Must-do activity: Bushwalking - set within the national park, you can make the most out of your day at the markets with a bush walk through the forest.

BACK TO 05 MILES THE BUSH FESTIVAL If the bush beckons, time your visit to the countryside with the biennial Back to the Bush Festival in Miles. Don your akubra and join the locals in the celebration of all things country, with three days of jam-packed activities that you’ll only find west of the Great Dividing Range. If you’re up for action - test your strength in the tractor pull or take part in a bush obstacle course in the Tough Bugger Challenge (or Little Bugger Challenge for the kids). Page 07


If you’re looking for the relaxed version of the country - sit back and enjoy the bush poetry, street parade, vintage car collections and art exhibitions. When: 6-9 September, 2018 Perfect for: Anyone and everyone who loves the bush Must-do activity: If you’ve got a beard, you’ve got a competition - get grooming for the Beard Appreciation Event.

FESTIVAL OF CULTURE 06 TARA AND CAMEL RACES Culture, cuisine, and camels is the winning trifecta at the Tara Festival of Culture and Camel Races. Set up camp for this three day event, which transforms the Tara Showgrounds into a festival with rides, international cuisine market stalls and live entertainment. At the track, race-goers dress to the nines for two days under the marquees at the Camel Races. Each day presents a six-race program, so grab a seat with a view and watch as camels and their jockeys race to the finish line for the coveted Tara Camel Cup. When: 2-4 August, 2019 Perfect for: Those who like to travel the world through their taste buds Must-do activity: See why Tara is camel crazy with a day at the races as the ships of the desert take to the track.

TIMBERTOWN 07 JANDOWAE FESTIVAL Blowing out the candles on a decade of splintering fun, the biennial Jandowae Timbertown Festival dedicates two days of activities to the local timber milling industry. You can expect wood-themed markets and exhibitions, live music and entertainment, and plenty of sawdust flying amongst the action with chainsaw racing, wood sculpting, barrel racing and wood chipping competitions.

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Photo: Chinchilla


Exploring the Western Downs

When: Dates TBC, 2020 Perfect for: Families Must-do activity: Stretch that stomach with the Outback Sausage King Competition.

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DALBY DELICIOUS AND DELIGHTFUL FESTIVAL

Move over masterchef, the mini-kitchens at the Dalby Delicious and DeLIGHTFUL festival treat the senses with a day of foodie fun. A themed lantern parade lights up the town, leading to a colourful culinary festival complete with markets and live entertainment.

displays and competitions. Every April pavilions overflow with flowers, cakes, arts and crafts (even lego!) exhibitions, while a rodeo, demolition derby, fireworks, live bands, fashion, talent, and reptile shows pack more entertainment than your Netflix mustwatch list. When: Dates TBC, 2019 Perfect for: The whole family Must-do activity: Call yourself a farmer? Take on the farmer’s challenge and put your skills to the test.

The multicultural food festival encourages kids to get involved with cooking demonstrations and workshops where mini chefs can cook and create. When: Dates TBC, 2019 Perfect for: The whole family Must-do activity: This isn’t an ordinary lantern parade depending on the theme, lay your eyes on giant lights shaped like animals, people, objects and food.

YABBIE 09 MOONIE RACES If you thought the Moonie Yabbie Races were a strictly crustaceans event, think again. Aside from the eight legged racing program, there’s a two-legged one and you can watch children and adult Fashions on the Field competitions, which are accompanied by raffle draws, free rides, and a helicopter lolly drop.

Video: Flinton Races https://youtu.be/AqW7pIuvl6E

HAVE YOU TICKED ANY OF THESE FUN EVENTS OFF YOUR LIST?

When: 2 March, 2019 Perfect for: Fashionistas and families Must-do activity: Get your nippers on a winner with eight races offering up the chance to take home a cup.

DALBY 10 THE SHOW If you’re after a classic country show, look no further than The Dalby Show, an annual affair that takes over the town with markets, rides, Page 09


Photo: Dalby

72 HOUR GUIDE: A LONG WEEKEND IN THE WESTERN DOWNS


If ever you needed proof that green time is more important than screen time, a holiday west of centre will be all the convincing you need. West of Brisbane you’ll find the Western Downs, a region so patriotic in its colours it could be the pin-up for Tourism Australia with its agriculture greens and sunset golds. You’ll know you’ve arrived in the Western Downs when the Garden City makes way for cotton and cattle country and you find a destination that’s raw, rural and really hospitable. Discover Queensland’s own west with this 72 hour guide to the Western Downs:


Photo: Urban Paddock, Dalby

DAY 01:

DALBY 9AM: SET OFF FROM THE CITY Proving everything the coast can do, inland Queensland can do better, point your bonnet 209km west of Brisbane to #experiencewesterndowns. While the current drive will take you just shy of three hours, the journey will soon be made much faster, with the Toowoomba Bypass (aka second range crossing), cutting your Western Downs commute down like a hot knife through butter.

12NOON: ARRIVE IN DALBY You won’t need to refuel your car just yet - but you will need to personally fuel up. Page 12

Lunch at Urban Paddock Cafe in Dalby is nothing short of delicious - with a homewares and clothing store out the front and coffee shop out the back. Pouring piping hot Di Bella coffee from its coffee machine, there’s no surprise why tables come at a premium during peak times at this cafe on Cunningham Street.

2PM: DISCOVER HIDDEN TREASURES If you’re sick of fossicking through the sameold, not-quite-vintage knick-knacks in your local antiques centre - step outside your postcode to find trinkets that pre-date your grandparents.


Exploring the Western Downs

The Dalby Antiques Store is a veritable Pandora’s box of treasures - packing everything from antiques to Australiana, with quirky items hiding behind every corner. Not quite sure what you’re looking for? Owner Ross Thornton will put on his Antiques Roadshow hat and help you find it - he can lay his hands on anything in store with incredible recall.

If you have time for a bushwalk, you’ll see remnants of the vegetation types that early Australian explorers would have found in the Western Downs before the land was cleared for the grazing that makes this area so profitable today.

OVERNIGHT: DALBY

3PM: CHECK-IN SOMEWHERE LOCAL If your recipe for holiday success looks like eating, sleeping and drinking without leaving a city block, book into The Australian Motel on Dalby’s main street. Each of the 21 rooms has been fitted out with the essential creature comforts - think large TV, bar bridge and igloo-inspired air-conditioning. The balconies are so large you could host a house party (if the hotel rules allowed), so you don’t have to move far for sundowners. Simply pick up drink supplies from the bottle shop downstairs and cheese from Woolworths, a 33m walk away and you’ll have yourself a DIY aperitivo hour.

SUNSET: CHEW WITH A VIEW AT LAKE BROADWATER CONSERVATION PARK

Photo: Lake Broadwater, Dalby

WHERE TO STAY: DALBY Country Pathfinder Motor Inn Dalby Fairway Motor Inn Dalby Homestead Accommodation

You might be 300km from the nearest ocean, but Dalby delivers water-view sunsets all the same.

Dalby Hotel Motel

Take a short 30 minute drive out of town to Lake Broadwater Conservation Park, for a sunset over the only freshwater lake in the Western Downs.

Dalby Midtown Motor Inn

You can watch the sun slip behind the horizon of this shallow lake which makes for perfect reflective photographs with the silhouettes of cypress pines, eucalypts and open woodlands dancing across it.

Gallery Motor Inn

Bring your binoculars because more than 240 species of birds have been recorded in this park.

Bellview Hotel

Dalby Manor Motor Inn Dalby Parkview Motel Drovers Motor Inn Hayden House Kobbers Motor Inn Motel Myall Windsor Hotel Motel


Photo: Chinchilla watermelons

DAY 02:

CHINCHILLA 9AM: DRIVE BETWEEN TWO CENTRES This morning, hit the road for 80km driving between Dalby and Chinchilla. You won’t just be swapping towns, but also scenery as cotton fields turn to melon fields, watermelons that is. It might be a self-appointed title - but it seems to have stuck - Chinchilla is the melon capital of the world, with six growers producing Australia’s largest supply of watermelons twice a year. To celebrate its cult status, every two years the town hosts a melon festival which sees the small town of 5000 people swell to 20,000 people to celebrate all things green skinned, pink fleshed and black-pipped.

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It’s estimated that more than 800 melons are eaten, another 1100 smashed over the course of the weekend - using up roughly 20-25 tonnes of local melons, which otherwise would be destined for landfill. Fun fact: the largest watermelon on record at the Chinchilla Melon Fest tipped the scales at 87.5kg!

10AM: PIT STOP AT THE VISITOR INFORMATION CENTRE If your welcome to Chinchilla is anything to go by - this little town of 6,000 people is nothing short of hospitable. Its Visitor Information Centre doesn’t just


Exploring the Western Downs

dish out things to see and do, but, gift ideas handmade by local artisans.

sunset by watching it fade across the water at the Chinchilla Weir.

Inside the Visitor Information Centre you’ll find displays of the famous Chinchilla Red petrified wood, which you can try your hand at fossicking for later in this itinerary.

You’ll find this popular sunset and camping spot 9km south-west of Chinchilla.

12PM: DISCOVER ANOTHER WORLD OF HISTORY AT THE CHINCHILLA MUSEUM The Chinchilla Historical Museum gives a firm nod to the region’s natural resources and the industries it supports with displays covering everything from cypress pine milling to melon farming and a prickly pear plague in between. It’s not just the displays inside that are full of history - the museum is set inside historic buildings which include Chinchilla’s first homestead (est. 1880) and Goombi Hall.

All the essentials are here for sundowners - picnic tables, toilets and BBQs so you can stay and play a while. Of course, if you do decide to kick on - pitch a tent, offer a gold coin donation and spend a night or two (max.) here. Alternatively, make sunset a bit more hands on and test out Chinchilla’s fishing-game, tossing a line in at Charley’s Creek, a tributary of the Condamine River. Locals say the fish bite best in the early mornings and late afternoons - we’ll let you decide.

OVERNIGHT: CHINCHILLA

2PM: GO OUT ON A LAUREL You don’t just have to scroll through books of inspirational quotes to see what happens when work and passion collide. A quick chat to Shara and Greg Spencer who own The Laurels of Chinchilla reveals they live and breathe the saying “if you love your job, you’ll never work a day in your life”. Their accommodation is a labour of love and everything about this property is one of a kind - from the wooden wall art on the walls to the bathtubs on the open verandahs, which beg for a cheese board and a glass of wine. This is the only waterfront accommodation in town, which gives guests unparalleled access to private kayaking, fishing on the river and the daily sunset show.

SUNSET: WATER, WINE AND A WEIR With a bit of good planning you can double your

Photo: Chinchilla petrified wood Photo: Watermelons - Chinchill Page 15


Miles Historical Village

DAY 03:

MILES EARLY MORNING: FOSSICK FOR PETRIFIED WOOD In addition to being famous for watermelons, Chinchilla is known for petrified wood, Chinchilla Red. It’s well sought after by lapidary enthusiasts for its quality and colours - a polished petrified wood that’s so colourful it’s found nowhere else in the world. There are two marked sites for fossicking and permits must be obtained from the Visitor Information Centre. It’s got to be one of the cheapest thrills - you can buy an annual fossicking pass for $51.30 (+GST).

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9AM: HIT THE ROAD It’s a short 35 minute drive connecting Chinchilla and Miles, two of the main town players on the Warrego Way, which stretches all the way to Birdsville in the far west. Keep your eyes peeled out the windows for rolling hills and windmills during this car trip.

11AM: VIEW THE ART COLLECTION Architects have left their mark over Dogwood Crossing, the artfully designed regional gallery in the centre of Miles. The first sign of what’s to come is on the outside, where you’ll find a seven-metre tall


Exploring the Western Downs

stylised steel bottle tree.

CHECK IN: ROYAL MOTEL MILES

Inside, you’ll find six to eight local and touring exhibitions each year, with the curators focussing on local artists from the region.

Accommodation has never looked as modern as the Royal Motel Miles, sitting pretty on the (almost) corner of two heavy-hitting highways, the Leichhardt and Warrego.

2PM: STEP BACK IN TIME

With modern conveniences at your fingertips and a well appointed room with private balcony, there’s very little reason to stray from the comforts and confines of your accommodation … although its proximity to Chinaman’s Lagoon will certainly draw you out for sunset.

The year might as well be 1910 at Miles Historical Village. There are 34 buildings which give a nod to a bygone era, with exhibitions that put you in the set of a different time, rather than just reading about it through static information boards. Looking at the village map, you’ll find a coach house, blacksmith, general store, post office, bakery, union hotel, barbers, chemist, café, bank, hospital and a butcher shop. One thing is for certain - you’ll leave feeling glad you’re visiting present day Miles, especially if you have cause to see the dentist.

OVERNIGHT: MILES

WHAT’S ON THIS WEEKEND? IS IT TIME YOU EXPERIENCED THE WESTERN DOWNS?

WHERE TO STAY: MILES Royal Motel Miles Windsor Hotel Motel Photo: Landscape of Miles

Swagsman Motor Inn Golden West Motor Inn Starline Motor Inn Miles Outback Motel Western Downs Motor Inn Queensland Hotel


Photo: Holiday Homes, Bunya Mountains

TAKE A HOLIDAY LIKE YOU USED TO: A FAMILY ROAD TRIP THROUGH THE WESTERN DOWNS School holidays are back … again. Don’t press the panic button just yet. The Western Downs ticks plenty of the ‘escape to the country’ boxes with none of the crowds, long distances or associated costs of getting there. Adventure? Check. Green time? Check. Very little ability to access screen time? Check. Educational? Check check! Load the troops into the car and make tracks with this five day school holiday itinerary through the Western Downs. Page 18


Exploring the Western Downs

DAY 01

SWAP BRISBANE FOR THE BUNYAS

First things first - there’s little to no phone reception up here (cue the applause from mums and dads around Australia). If you’re travelling with kids to the Bunya Mountains, you might want to break the news to your digital natives once you’re on the road (and their resistance becomes futile). From Brisbane, take the Bunya Mountains Scenic Drive, which takes almost three hours from the city following the little brown signs with a pine tree on them.

and stop though. Take the family’s sneakers out of the gym to explore the walking tracks of the Bunya Mountains National Park. There’s a walk to suit all ages and fitness levels - from toddlersized 500m circuits up to teenager-ready 10km round trips. The Bunya Mountains are a living natural history museum - by age alone, this mountain ridge dates back 30 million years. Like a kaleidoscope of natural environments during your walk you can expect to see a mix of dry and wet rainforests, grasslands, open forests and woodlands that cover the mountains.

Unless you’re the kind of family who camps or caravans, you’ll want to book one of the 100+ holiday homes via the Bunya Mountains Accommodation Centre.

The aptly named Bunya Bunya Track is our pick. This 500m, 10 minute long walk that takes off from the Dandabah camping area is like a hype-reel of what makes this 30 million year old landscape so famous.

Their holiday houses come in all shapes and sizes to suit expanding modern families (read: grandma, grandpa, nanny’s can come too) with full kitchens, multiple bathrooms and fireplaces for curling up in the cooler months.

If you’re travelling from February to March be extra careful because Bunya nuts are known to fall from trees. At eight kilograms per nut … they might, well, hurt your nut.

Whether it’s the fact there’s no phone reception or the traditional owners of the land once used this part of the country as a meeting place there’s something about the Bunyas that will leave you more connected to one another than before you arrived here.

A NATURAL DAY 02 EXPLORE HISTORY MUSEUM If you thought your family were foul tempered when hungry - just wait til’ you hear the colourful king parrots and crimson rosellas calling for their breakfast. These feathered friends are motivated by wild birdseed - and with a bit of persuading, they’ll make your balcony bird feeder their cafe of choice if you want to get up close and personal. That’s not where the animal encounters start

Photo: Bunya Bunya Track

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A RECORD DAY 03 SEE BREAKING FENCE

A LIVING DAY 04 DISCOVER CLASSROOM

If you thought cute country towns were just reserved for the movies - prepare to be proven wrong in Jandowae, 50km north of Dalby.

With a population as big (or small!) as most primary schools (341) - it’s easy for your little ones to understand the size and scale of Meandarra, a town 170km south-west of Jandowae.

This town wears early grazing history on its sleeve with the Dingo Barrier Fence, the longest fence in the world, starting at the northern end of town.

What this town might lack in population, it makes up for with cattle, sheep and history which is served up by the bag full.

It’s hard to miss - the fence is 5600 kilometres long and stretches all the way from the Western Downs to the Great Australian Bight, crossing three States and a desert.

A visit to the The Meandarra ANZAC Memorial Museum brings the bravery of the ANZACs to life, through a display of military memorabilia, carefully preserved by a team of volunteers.

Built in 1880, this fence protects livestock from dingos and though it isn’t without its challenges (and challengers), it’s still used and maintained today as a dingo prevention for graziers.

The most surprising attraction of course is the Canberra Bomber which you’ll find suspended from the ceiling of the museum.

In fact, before the completion of the fence one station alone lost over 11,000 sheep in one year due to wild dog attacks. For a fence that’s 138 years old it’s looking pretty good with many of the original wooden posts, strainers, star pickets and netting still intact.

If the kids lose interest before you finish all the interpretive signage, you’ll be happy to know there’s a kids corner too, which will make your Meandarra adventure all the more child-friendly.

Photo: Meandarra Anzac Memorial

Take a photo at the fence - or better yet - the two metre tall dingo sculpture created by Scottish artist, Andy Scott, outside Jandowae Cultural Centre.

DAY 05

HEAR THE BELLS

You know you’re in cattle country when you visit a town famous for a bell used to locate herds of cattle when they’ve strayed into the bush. Photo: Dingo Barrier Fence

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Learn more about the Condamine Bullfrog Bell by following the interpretive signage in the main street of town.


Exploring the Western Downs

More than just a town famous for a bell, Condamine has other keen interests - fishing and rugby are only but two, which sometimes combine when the Condamine Cods are playing.

Take the Dalby-Kogan Road returning back to Dalby through scrub-lined highway where it’s not uncommon to see an echidna or two grazing by the side of the road.

If you’ve been carting your rod and reel for nearly 500km on this itinerary, wet a line in Condamine.

Get your lunch fix at Urban Paddock Cafe, whose fenced, grassy yards keep the little ones entertained while big people enjoy lunch with the likes of BBQ pork bao buns on the menu.

The Condamine River needs no introduction to keen fishermen - it extends to the Border Ranges near Killarney covering a catchment of nearly 2.75 million hectares.

Trust us, this cafe will leave a great taste of the Western Downs in your mouth.

This town loves its fishing so much it even built a fish ladder - a means to help native fish ‘step’ their way over the weir wall when the river’s flow is low. Don’t worry if you’re not a fisherman, you can still eye-off a sizeable catch at the local freshwater fish farm.

Photo: Condamine River

Video: Bunya Mountains Rangers https://youtu.be/W099sqtN2vg

HAVE YOU DONE A FAMILY ROAD TRIP TO THE WESTERN DOWNS? HOME VIA THE DAY 06 RETURN SOUTHERN-WEST TRAIL With the family’s circadian rhythms humming as nicely as the cicada rhythms you’ll hear at sunset out here, take the family back to home base with one last stop into Dalby. Take the 135-km drive from Condamine to Dalby via Kogan, a town which your kids might be interested to find has nothing to do with Australia’s largest technology store, despite bearing the same spelling.

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48 HOURS IN THE BUNYA MOUNTAINS It’s no surprise the Bunya Mountains can draw a crowd. This is a destination that’s been in the business of bringing communities together for 40 million years. Seriously, until the 1870s you would have found crowds of 3000 people flocking to the Bunyas for a celebration of feasting, law making and trading (aka the Boyne Festival). Although Indigenous communities don’t gather en-mass like before, the Bunyas are still significant for families and communities coming together - albeit mainly for visitors who come here for fresh air, blue skies and the famous Bunya Pines that have been growing here for more than 600 years. Head west for the weekend and feel the ancient magic of these mountains - like everyone else who’s come before you, you’ll leave feeling more connected than before.

Photo: Bunya Mountains Page 22


Exploring the Western Downs

FRIDAY

5.30PM: CATCH SUNSET FROM FISHER’S LOOKOUT

12PM: ESCAPE THE CITY FOR THE COUNTRY

For one of the best sunset shows on the Western Downs, toss down a picnic blanket at Fisher’s Lookout.

Every good road trip needs a name - and the Bunya Mountains Scenic Drive reveals a serious clue in its moniker. You’ll find this scenic route by following the brown bunya pine signs which start from Toowoomba, if you’re driving from Brisbane to the Bunyas via the Western Downs. You can thank your lucky stars you’re doing this 280km trip by car. Back in 1870 when the last recorded Murri gathering took place, communities from the Maranoa River and Clarence River (NSW) travelled over 350km by foot. When you see the thick forest, steep inclines and shear drops – you’ll get new appreciation for their journey to the top.

3PM: CHECK INTO YOUR HOME-AWAY-FROM-HOME Tucked behind the gates of the Bunya Mountains Accommodation Centre you’ll find 104 holiday homes, which are privately let. Their houses come in all shapes and sizes (although you can expect plenty of A-frame architecture) from studio cabins right through to accommodation that sleeps up to 22 people. Inside most you’ll find multiple bathrooms, kitchens to self-cater and the all important fireplace for those chilly Bunya nights where temperatures frequently drop below zero. Thanks to the hundreds of red-necked wallabies who graze these slopes, the rolling hills of the Bunya Mountains are kept manicured like a bowling green - with accuracy that will make you want to hire a mob of wallabies to handle your landscaping at home.

A sundial bearing coordinates to the nearest towns will be all the tour guiding you need up here. From this elevation you’ll be able to see all the way down to Dalby’s grazing flats some 65km away. There’s a number of non-national park walking trails that start from Fisher’s Lookout - but you’ll want to save these up for the daylight hours if you want to tackle the trails through Russel Park because they’re not for the faint hearted. Tip - Take it slow on the road back to your holiday house as the nocturnal animals start their shift and find themselves unwittingly on the road.

7PM: BECOME THE MASTERCHEF OF THE MOUNTAIN Channel George Calombaris in your selfcontained kitchen tonight. You’ll find most houses have a five burner stove, full oven (if not dual) and all the kitchen modcons to whip up more than just a bowl of pasta on the stove top. If you’ve forgotten to pack the oil, there’s no need to press panic and drive 65 clicks back to Dalby - there’s an onsite general store that has all your essentials covered. Alternatively, if your plan is to not to lift a finger, Lyric Restaurant dishes up dinner from 6pm, seven days a week. Tuck into the likes of, a premium rib fillet, signature Guinness pie, or a traditional chicken parmi, each best washed down with something delicious from the restaurant’s comprehensive wine list.

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SATURDAY 8AM: BREAKFAST AT THE BUNYAS Make breakfast the most important meal of the day at The Bunyas, the onsite café at the Bunya Mountains Village. Dishing up all the breakfast regulars you’ll find the likes of eggs benedict, big breakfast and pancakes with berries on the menu, along with a Bunya bowl, the Bunya’s answer to an acai bowl packed full of all the superfood greats like goji berries, coconut and chia seeds. It’s hard to tell what’s the most popular aspect of this breakfast joint – the barista made coffee or the large pot belly stove, which warms the soul as much as the Di Bella beans served here. The local wildlife know this spot delivers the breakfast goods too, and you’ll find the crimson rosellas out the front of the café between 9.15-10.15am.

9AM: GO FROM MARKET TO MARKET

11AM: TAKE A HIKE

If you can, time your visit for the last Sunday of the month to shop local with a visit to the Bunya Mountains markets.

Whether you like a bush walk of half marathon proportions or something much, much smaller, there’s a track with your hiking boots’ name written all over it.

You’ll find more than just arts and crafts on offer – it’s a cook’s paradise with homemade chutneys, jams and preserves all fashioned out of local produce. Walk away with the likes of sugarless BBQ sauce, a loaf of banana bread that will leave you with change from $10 and enough local honey to warrant the nickname Pooh Bear. In the fresh produce department there’s all the usual vegetable suspects – but the selection of Australian garlic is so comprehensive it would keep any self-respecting vampire far away.

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The national park trails cover the mixed Bunya vegetation which changes from dense, lush rainforest to bald hills, giving your senses a true kaleidoscope of landscapes to discover. For avid waterfall chasers, pin your maps to McGrory Falls, which is found a little further than Festoon Falls, guaranteeing two falls on this short, but surprisingly challenging walk. While you’re walking, keep your eyes peeled for the 210 recorded species of bird found in this national park.


Exploring the Western Downs

7PM: HAVE A NIP AT SHACKLETON’S By night you could play spotlight with a torch to meet the nocturnal animals that live up here, or you could pay a visit to Australia’s highest whiskey bar - it’s really up to you. With over 113 whiskeys on the menu and an alternating whiskey of the week, there’s no shortage of choice when it comes to price and country of origin for your nip. Not sure which part of the globe to take your taste buds? Just ask the well-trained bartenders for a recommendation depending on your palate’s preferences. All that’s left to do is nestle into one of the chesterfields by the roaring open fire and swish, sniff and quaff the night away.

SUNDAY Photo: Bunya Mountains

8AM: BREAKFAST AT POPPY’S For breakfast so close to the forest it could only be rivalled by a treehouse, choose Poppy’s on the Hill for your morning jolt. On the menu you’ll find all the usual breakfast finds, but their true specialities, a bunya nut sundae and bunya nut ice-cream, will only appeal to those with a sweet tooth. After all, it’s never too early for a sweet treat when you’re on holidays. Right?

HAVE YOU BEEN TO THE BUNYA MOUNTAINS?

WHAT DID YOU DO? Video: Food in Western Downs https://youtu.be/jfbCKYMkET8 Page 25


GO FISH: WHERE TO CAST OFF IN THE WESTERN DOWNS With creeks, rivers and tributaries running through the countryside like veins through the human body, few region’s can lay claim to inland fishing as good as the Western Downs. There’s good reason for it - some parts of the region receive over 600mm of rainfall each year, which is enough to keep stocks of golden, silver and spangled perch, eel-tailed catfish, crayfish, murray cod, barramundi and saratoga in abundance. The Western Downs is also home to the who’s who of waterways with The Murray Darling Basin, Maranoa, Balonne River Catchment and Dawson Valley systems supplying their famous H20 to these Western Downs waterways. What are you waiting for? Pack your rod and reel and see if the fish are biting at these hotspots:

Photo: Condamine

Photo: Chinchilla

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Exploring the Western Downs

01. MOONIE RIVER, FLINTON Moonie’s first fishermen were the most unlikely of people, squatters, from NSW settlements who followed its streams in the search of pastoral lands. Whether they found pastoral lands or not, we’re not sure, but they did find fishing action with golden perch (yellowbelly), jewfish, eel-tailed catfish, tarp, silver perch and yabbies. There’s good reason for so much fishing action - this river never runs dry. In fact, the Moonie River is the main water source for irrigation of approximately 6,200 hectares of agricultural land within south-west Queensland. Tip: You can fish off the top or the bottom of the river all year round so you’ll need to pack your floats and sinkers.

02. COLUMBOOLA COUNTRY, MILES Columboola Country has been on the food pyramid of the Western Downs for more than 40,000 years. In fact, its fish stocks and crayfish are the stuff of Aboriginal folklore. Test Columboola’s abundance for yourself by throwing in a line at the rock hole, a naturally deep waterhole teeming with native fish and crustaceans. Unlike the other spots on this list, Columboola is privately

owned, so you’ll need to check into a camping/caravan or accommodation site if you want to truly test this Western Downs fishing action.

One thing’s for certain, unlike the people back in the 19th century, you won’t be hallucinating when reeling in your catch.

Either way, there’ll be no need for expensive groceries for this trip out west. Seafood will be on the menu each night, with the chance to reel in yellowbelly, jewfish, cod and perch.

Tip: Don’t leave pooch at home, this rest area and fishing ground is 100% pet friendly.

Cut down the food miles by camping. Your haul can be cooked just 30 metres away at the onsite campsite. Tip: Like fishing but also need something to entertain the rest of the family? Aside from onsite camping and caravan accommodation there’s showers, picnic facilities, swimming sites, bird-watching and horse riding to keep everyone entertained. Oh, and you can even bring your dog to stay and play a while.

03. DRILLHAM CREEK, DRILLHAM Cast off at Drillham Creek, a tributary once known as ‘delirium’ creek because a typhoid fever broke out here during 1878.

04. GIL WEIR, MILES Drop a line in the primary water source for the town of Miles, Gil Weir. Although this weir was built after World War Two to provide a water source for the town’s needs, today it’s so much more than that with stocks of golden perch and murray cod in abundance. Fish not biting? No worries. Take a seat at the shady picnic facilities and wait until dusk when the fish will fall for you hook, line and sinker. Tip - If you decide to stay the night for round two at the weir, be sure to bring your own drinking water and firewood to light the BBQs - an essential since grilled fish is on the menu.

Don’t worry, today this water way is as healthy as ever, with a fish population of yellowbelly and jewfish found within its inland shores.

05. CHINCHILLA WEIR, CHINCHILLA

For fishing fanatics, take note, Drillham Creek flows into Dogwood Creek if you want to make this fishing experience progressive.

Although this weir was built after World War Two to provide a water source for the town’s needs, today it’s so much more than that with stocks of

Drop a line in the primary water source for the town of Miles, Gil Weir.

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golden perch and murray cod in abundance. Fish not biting? No worries. Take a seat at the shady picnic facilities and wait until dusk when the fish will fall for you hook, line and sinker. Tip - If you decide to stay the night for round two at the weir, be sure to bring your own drinking water and firewood to light the BBQs - an essential since grilled fish is on the menu.

06. CALIGUEL LAGOON, CONDAMINE Caliguel Lagoon might be named after an early pastoral run in the Western Downs region, but it’s not agriculture that it’s known for today; rather, its fishing. Drop your line in this lagoon for the chance to hook yellowbelly among other native species. More than just one for fishermen, if you like boats and camping too, water skiing, boating, swimming and bird watching will fill your days. The campsite on the banks of the lagoon has all your camping essentials - showers, toilets, picnic tables and woodfired BBQs - so you can sleep, eat, fish repeat. Tip - Stop by Caliguel Lagoon during summer and autumn when the purple water lilies put on a show like Monet’s garden.

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07. TARA LAGOON, TARA Fisherman have been gathering at Tara Lagoon (part of Undulla Creek) since pioneers pulled up stumps here in the 1900s. The chances are always in your favour to reel in a yellowbelly or jewfish because the Tara Fish Restocking Association cook the odds for fishermen every year with their native fish restocking program. The distance between your tent and the shoreline is what appeals to most, with 2km connecting a day fishing with an evening by the campfire. If you’re having no luck with the fish, don’t pack up the car and head home just yet - take a walk through the Settlers Park and Walk of Remembrance Garden, which take off from here. Tip - After a long day by the waters edge, walk two blocks into town and grab yourself a sundowner at the Commercial Hotel.

ARE YOU READY TO CAST OFF FOR A FISHING ADVENTURE?


Exploring the Western Downs

WHERE TO SINK A COLD BEVERAGE IN THE WESTERN DOWNS Forget fine dining and vineyard valleys - there’s no place more iconic to sip a cold beer than a classic country pub. Yep, we’re talking about the historical watering holes across the Western Downs that pack more character than the latest show you’ve been bingewatching on Netflix. They’re sprinkled across the Western Downs, and you can bet your bottom dollar they’re one of the most popular places in town, especially if you time your visit for Friday or Saturday night. Whether you’re looking to quench your thirst after a long day of exploring, down a few cold drinks with the locals, or simply kick back and enjoy the view, check out this epic pub crawl through the Western Downs.

Photo: Kaimkillenbun

Photo: Jandowae

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THE QUEENSLAND HOTEL A: 29 MURILLA STREET, MILES

The only thing more golden than a schooner of XXXX is the beer garden at The Queensland Hotel in Miles. It’s one of three pubs in town, but seriously hard to miss. The Queensland Hotel shines bright in the main street with the entire length of the hotel covered in twinkle lights. Make a beeline to the back of the pub to find the beer garden which brings city vibes to the country. Twinkle lights adorn the walls, dangling into the lush garden beds which complement the dark wood of the tables, chairs, and barrel counter tops - giving the bar ambience with a capital A. Both food and beverages can be ordered from the bar, enjoy a classic counter menu with the likes of steak, fish, and schnitzels.

DULACCA HOTEL A: 3 BELL STREET, DULACCA

Affectionately known as the ‘Waterhole on the Hill’, the Dulacca Hotel has stood the test of time (est. 1908) and still serves the best beer in town. Although its moniker might be more of an exaggeration than a reality, you’ll find Dulacca Hotel on more of a slight incline rather than a hill in the centre of town. Page 30

Take a seat in a comfy leather stool and listen to the stories of the bartenders - this is what country hospitality is all about.

expect to be asked ‘where are you from’ closely followed by ‘where are you going’ - it’s just the locals way of being friendly.

CLUB HOTEL

COMMERCIAL HOTEL

A: 131 HEENEY STREET, CHINCHILLA

A: 35 DAY STREET, TARA

According to Club Hotel Chinchilla, there’s no strangers, just friends you haven’t met. Are you ready to test their theory?

You know you’re in for a good time (and maybe a long time) when a pub is plastered with camel cartoons to supplement its paintwork.

The restored hotel sits grandly on the corner of the main drag, Heeney Street, with polished wooden steps and railings framing the light yellow timber pailings of this two-storey Queenslander.

A pub visit in the camel capital is quite the outdoor affair, with the main bar outside, undercover, and filled with all the games.

Be sure to visit this local favourite on a Friday or Saturday night, when live music and events take over the pub and the joint is pumping.

CONDAMINE BELL HOTEL A: 1 WAMBO STREET, CONDAMINE

For a quiet drink in countryside charmer, Condamine, take to a stool in the Condamine Bell Hotel. Resembling a log cabin (with actual log cabins attached), a one-story pub is a rare sighting in the Western Downs. This small hotel focuses on offering quality bar-time where locals and visitors can enjoy a drink or two together. If you’re not from around here,

Pop on a tune at the jukebox, play a round of pool, darts, or ping pong while the rest of your mates kick back at a nearby table and watch you take a win or two. Inside you’ll find the Tar-Vegas Gaming Lounge as well as the bar, which is covered with camel cartoons and pictures that will have you keen for the iconic Tara Camel Races all year round.

THE BUN PUB A: 72 MOFFAT STREET, KAIMKILLENBUN

Add a bit of history to your afternoon refreshment with a visit to The Bun Pub, Kaimkillenbun. It won’t be long before you’re deep in conversation with Bud, the pub owner of six years, who loves nothing more


Exploring the Western Downs

than sharing a beer with his customers and playing darts with his dog Barley. Bud is more than willing to take visitors on a tour of the pub, which has its fingers in all kinds of historical pies. The town was the setting of a television mini-series starring Nicole Kidman in the early 1980’s, which you can read about in the pub’s dedicated history room. If you’re a wartime buff, take a look at the Hidden Signatures display, which contains the signatures of 18 diggers from World War One, found on the inside of a linen cupboard in the pub. Once you’ve finished your tour, reward yourself with a cool drink at the bar where you can take in classic country paraphernalia from street signs, posters, and hanging quotes.

EXCHANGE HOTEL A: 41 HIGH STREET, JANDOWAE

The folks at Exchange Hotel in Jandowae mean business with a bar not only at the front but also the back of the pub. With enough seating to host the entire town at once (all 1,000 of them), this pub isn’t running out of room any time soon.

close proximity to round two and three) inside at the bar. If you’re chasing those ‘I’m not in Jandowae anymore’ moments, head to the beer garden that has its own tiki bar. Mai Tai, anyone?

WHERE’S YOUR FAVOURITE SPOTS TO SINK A BEER IN THE WESTERN DOWNS?

SHACKLETON’S WHISKEY BAR A: 1 BUNYA AVENUE, BUNYA MOUNTAINS

Switch your amber ale for a beverage of darker proportions at Shackleton’s, the bar inside Lyric Restaurant atop the Bunya Mountains. Perched approximately 1,000m above sea level, Shackleton’s takes the title as Australia’s highest whiskey bar, serving over 113 different types of peaty goodness from all corners of the world … at least, until proven otherwise. Be sure to ask the bartender the story behind the bar’s name - it’s an edge-of-seat tale that involves the man who discovered Antarctica, his whiskey bottles, and the expedition to discover lost whiskey ingredients. Conveniently the story takes a couple of nips to get through … something we’re sure you’ll be happy to oblige with.

Relax out the front as you watch the hustle and bustle of the town or take advantage of the air-conditioning (and the Page 31


PITCH PERFECT: WHERE TO CAMP IN THE WESTERN DOWNS If your regular campsite has you sleeping in conditions that resemble an offshore call centre rather than an agoraphobes worst nightmare, it’s time to start a different pitch-list. Enter the Western Downs, a region with a population proportionate to its land size - expanding 38,039 km² (with a population of 36,000) guaranteeing plenty of neighbour-free camping. With waterfront campsites, forest-surrounded campgrounds and free showgrounds for when the first two become too crowded for your liking, the Western Downs delivers more camping space than you can poke a tent peg at. Sound like bliss? Stake your claim at one of these Western Downs campsites:

Photo: Chinaman’s Lagoon

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Exploring the Western Downs

01. FOR SOMEWHERE LUSH - BUNYA MOUNTAINS Camping doesn’t get more scenic than the Bunya Mountains, a national park defined by its towering Bunya Pines, which make this 11,700ha of National Park so famous. The journey to find it is as much as part of the adventure, as you wind your way along the Great Bunya Drive 65km north of Dalby, which opens out to cleared grassy areas where you’ll find three camping areas - Burtons Well, Dandabah and Westcott. These may just be Queensland National Parks most convenient campgrounds, with not just the amenities of the Bunya Mountains Village on your doorstep (think general store, restaurant and cafe) - but hot showers, flushing toilets and picnic tables too. There’s no defined sites in this neck of the woods, but you can expect your neighbours to be a mob of red-necked wallabies, along with 120 different species of bird who won’t ever forget your wake-up call. By day, it’s all about the hiking - Mount Kianagrow’s summit hike (2.3km) takes off from where Westcott campsite begins, promising vistas over the plateau of the Western Downs. By night, if you’re not cosied up around the campfire, we’ll probably find you at Australia’s

highest whiskey bar just 100m walk away, Shackelton’s.

03. FOR A SERVE OF HISTORY WITH YOUR CAMPSITE - POSSUM PARK

02. FOR WATER VIEWS - LAKE BROADWATER CONSERVATION PARK

Don’t let the name fool you - the name Possum Park ironically has very little to do with the native marsupial, apart from the fact there were plenty of them when the now owners, David and Julie Hinds, bought the land.

If you like water views with your campsite, pitch like a pro at Lake Broadwater Conservation Park. You’ll find it 30km outside of Dalby, nestled on the banks of Lake Broadwater, the only naturally-occurring freshwater lake on the Darling Downs. Facilities take the form of toilets, cold showers, a kids playground and picnic facilities - so on a scale of camping to glamping Lake Broadwater sits somewhere in the middle. BYOW - that’s bring your own wood - because fires are allowed in the designated fireplaces (except when fire bans or prohibitions apply). You’ll want to light a fire there’s no (or very limited) phone reception in this neck of the woods - so evenings will be best spent around the bush TV (read: roaring fire), roasting marshmallows. Your neighbours might be a bit noisy - flocks of sulphurcrested cockatoos and corellas are likely to be your only cohabitants at this spiccy site.

In fact, this caravan and camp site is as much a living breathing World War Two museum as it is a campground - promising a history lesson with every overnight stay. You’ll find this caravan park, just outside the town of Miles - standing in what would have once been the explosive store on the Brisbane Line, a line of defence extending from Brisbane to Charleville throughout World War Two. Proving they do things differently in the bush, the owners have transformed some of the former-bunkers into motel-style accommodation, with interior design touches that give a nod to the town’s past. Unless you decide to ditch the caravan or tent for a sticky beak, it’s probably only the antenna sticking out of the ground that will give their very existence away at all. With your neighbours safely tucked underground - you’ll have the other 360 acres of bushland across the park to stake your camping claim.

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Forget lugging the kitchen sink to this park - you’ll find a camp kitchen, wood-fired stove, fireplace and all the usual kitchen appliances so you can go all masterchef with none of the pesky set up.

04. TO WAKE UP WITH THE BIRDS - WATERLOO PLAINS You won’t need an alarm clock at this camping site best known for birdlife. Waterloo Plains, 70km north of Miles in Wandoan, is teeming with all things feathered. Set up your tent amongst 11-hectares of parkland hugging the man-made, water lily-clad lake. Keep your bird watching book handy - twitchers have been known to spot up to 30 species of birds in 30 minutes at this park - a record you’ll want to try and beat. Beyond birds, there’s plenty of reasons to get out of your camp chair and into Wandoan’s wild. There’s a self-guided heritage trail through the park, complete with walkways and bridges, so you don’t need to wade through any wetlands to get around. Onsite facilities include picnic tables, toilets and bins - making this a comfy campsite at least for one or two night stays… or until you need a shower which you won’t find here.

05. FOR THE LOVE OF FISHING - TARA LAGOON Calling all boating, camping and fishing lovers - Tara Lagoon beckons with the promise of yellowbelly, jewfish and yabbies to inspire your camping cook ups. From underneath your awning you’ll find yourself reciting Darryl Kerrigan, “how’s the serenity”. These three simple words sums up the view over the lagoon, eucalyptus forests and native flora absolutely perfectly. Camping never looked as affordable as what you’ll find here - fees start from $3/ night for unpowered sites and $10/night for powered sites, which are payable to the Council caretakers who pop by each day. You won’t be confined to your tent - if you’re not fishing, we’ll find you walking because the lagoon is surrounded by a Memorial Park and there’s a 4km circuit walk to discover it all. In town you’ll find a supermarket and fuel - so you have all the essentials at your fingertips in case the fish are biting and you decide to stay an extra night or two.

06. FOR SUNSET CHASERS - CALIGUEL LAGOON If camping goes hand in hand with fishing for you, set your

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sights on the campsites at Caliguel Lagoon, seven clicks south of Condamine. Everything about this camping destination centres on the water - it promises a good spot for kayaking, swimming and fishing. If you time your visit for late summer or autumn, the lake turns into a sea of purple as water lilies burst into full-bloom. It’s got all the makings for a site that you come for a bit but stay a while thanks to a toilet block (one that’s disabled and baby friendly we might add) along with an outdoor shower, barbeques and picnic facilities. For most people, its real selling point is the boat ramp where you can launch your boat into the deep blue. Oh, that and the fact you can camp free.

WHERE’S YOUR FAVOURITE PLACE TO CAMP IN THE WESTERN DOWNS?


Exploring the Western Downs

THE WESTERN DOWNS ACCOMMODATION GUIDE: THE BEST PLACES TO STAY DURING YOUR TRIP TO THE WILD WEST Whether you’re embarking on a long road trip out west, or escaping for just a weekend, choosing where to plonk down for the night is just as important as where you spend your days. From camping and caravanning to holiday homes and romantic retreats, we’ve scoured the Western Downs for the best places to stay west of the Great Dividing Range. Pack your nightgown and slippers, and hit the snooze button with this Western Downs accommodation guide.

Photo: Lake Broadwater, Dalby Video: The Laurels https://youtu.be/FkRBd0C6vcw

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FOR THE BEST HOLIDAY HOME - BUNYA MOUNTAINS A: BUNYA MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK

With over 100 holiday homes to choose from, the Bunya Mountains National Park is rife with rentals waiting for both cosied up couples and large families to check out of the city and into a 30 million year old landscape. Nestled amongst the mountain ranges, the Bunya Mountains Accommodation Centre is your go-to-guide for selecting your slice of paradise. On their holiday house menu you’ll find everything from cosy one bedroom cottages to spacious lodges that accommodate up to 22 people. Deep within the national park, these holiday homes have ten walking trails from their doorstep, and are only a short distance from The Bunyas Village, where delicious delights await hungry hikers. If you’re not handy with a tent peg, these homes will get you into the thick of the national park action without sacrificing your daily comforts (read: hot showers and flushing toilets).

then you’ll hit the jackpot checking into the recently renovated Australian Hotel on Cunningham Street. With more verandah space than you’ll know what to do with, you’ll have aerial views over the comings and goings of the main street. Inside, you’ll find a modern layout, bathroom big enough for two people to brush their teeth at the same time (not like the normal pocket-sized hotel bathroom) and doors and windows that actually open so you can get a whiff of the fresh Dalby air all night long.

FOR THE BEST FREE CAMPING - CALIGUEL LAGOON A: CONDAMINE-MEANDARRA ROAD, CONDAMINE

The saying ‘the best things in life are free’ must surely have been written about Caliguel Lagoon, where you can veer off the highway southbound from Condamine to Meandarra for a night amongst the stars. Here you get a two for one deal - free entry to the campgrounds as well as daily light shows.

A: 38 CUNNINGHAM STREET, DALBY

The reflective lagoon puts on three shows a day: sunrise, sunset and late at night with star trails at your tent’s doorstep.

If close proximity to a pint, a parmy, and the pokies makes you feel like a winner,

In between dusk and dawn, the boat ramp gets you out onto the water for fishing,

FOR THE BEST PUB HOTEL - THE AUSTRALIAN HOTEL

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water-skiing, kayaking, and swimming. This campsite comes with the creature comforts of a toilet block and outdoor shower (camping luxury at its finest), along with barbeque and picnic areas to kick back at and enjoy the view of the lagoon.

FOR THE BEST RURAL ESCAPE - POSSUM PARK A: 36865 LEICHHARDT HWY, MILES

If you’re after a country hideaway (literally), then Possum Park is the place to seek. Sitting approximately 20km north of Miles, this accommodation park is surrounded by state forest (Gurulmundi State Forest), with a dirt road veering off the Leichhardt Highway, the only giveaway to its existence. You’re not strapped for accommodation choice either with 360 hectares of privately owned grounds with camping and caravan sites, cabins, and even a train carriage available to create a getaway tale. The best part? Once a wartime ammunition storage spot, old bunkers scattered across the property have been transformed into self-contained holiday units so you can literally escape the world, underground.


Exploring the Western Downs

FOR THE BEST ROMANTIC RETREAT - THE LAURELS OF CHINCHILLA A: 15 WARREGO HWY, CHINCHILLA

If you thought luxury was lost west of the Great Dividing Range, you’ll find it at The Laurels of Chinchilla. Perched on the banks of Charley’s Creek in the melon capital, it’s the only waterfront accommodation in town. Check into one of 12 boutiquestyle bungalows and garden cottages, which feature escape-to-the-country vibes with custom made furniture, woodwork and rustic farm finds on the property. Dial up the romance with a stay in the Chookery room, where a private deck and outdoor bath looking over the creek begs for a wine and cheese board to be delivered to your door (seriously though, you just have to ask the owners for room service).

FOR THE BEST MODERN HOTEL - WESTERN DOWNS MOTOR INN A: 119 MURILLA STREET, MILES

If you’re a city slicker through and through, feel at home with the sleek amenities at the Western Downs Motor Inn. Sitting smack bang in the middle of Miles, each of the 25 rooms in this 4.5 star hotel offer modern fittings and fixtures, with both queen and

twin share rooms available. They’ve got families and groups covered too, with two bedroom suites and selfcontained units providing much needed space and convenience. There’s even a luxurious pool and onsite restaurant to top off this city-in-the-country hot spot.

and caravanning site for as little as $6.35 per person per night.

WHERE HAVE YOU STAYED IN THE WESTERN DOWNS?

FOR THE BEST WATERFRONT VIEW - LAKE BROADWATER CONSERVATION PARK A: 15 WARREGO HWY, CHINCHILLA

Switch the crowds of the coast for the quiet countryside with a waterfront view you won’t come across back home. Pitch your tent or drop your caravan legs at Lake Broadwater Conservation Park, a half hour drive west of Dalby. Here you’ll discover its namesake, Lake Broadwater, in all its 350 hectare glory. From stars to sunrises and blue skies in between, this waterhole is as charming as the wallabies that wander along its edge every morning. They’re not the only animals that call this conservation park home, with over 240 species of birdlife found on these council grounds taking care of your personal alarm clock service. Your waterfront view isn’t going to cost you either, you can wake up in this camping

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WHAT’S GROWING: THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT THE CROPS IN THE WESTERN DOWNS From the skyscrapers of Brisbane to the stark plains of the outback, there’s a whole lotta crop country in the Western Downs in between. We’re talking agriculture that resembles art work, with precise separation between plant-rows, textures that rival expensive fabric and bright colours that look like they’ve stepped off a pantone colour wheel and into the Western Downs. If you’ve got a set of wheels, you’ve got yourself a front row seat to the grow show. From sorghum to sunflowers and wheat to watermelons, here’s your ultimate guide to what’s growing in the Western Downs.


Exploring the Western Downs

SORGHUM If you’ve been across Queensland, you’ve probably spotted sorghum - this corn-like crop grows in most parts of the state. There’s plenty growing in the Western Downs with its warmer temperatures, because this crop needs 4-5 months of temperatures above 15 degrees to spring up. You’ll know you’re staring at sorghum because it beacons with its bright orange head like a hazard light. Produced exclusively for animal consumption, the majority of this colourful crop provides food for beef, dairy, pig and poultry, with a small percentage used in domestic pet food. Best time to see sorghum: Planting occurs between September and January, and the ready-to-harvest crop will grace your windows from December through to May. Best spot to see sorghum: Take the road less travelled between Jandowae and Chinchilla, where narrow bitumen takes you through fields-upon-fields of the orange crop.

COTTON Photo: Cotton fields, Dalby

Did you know that Australia (equal with Egypt) produces the highest quality cotton in the world? What’s more, almost 40 percent of the national crop is produced in the Sunshine State, and Dalby’s black soil produces tonnes of the white fluffy stuff. From small plants, big industries grow and from just one 227kg bale of cotton, manufacturers can produce 680,000 cotton balls, or 1,200 t-shirts. You’ll see the Western Downs’ white gold growing everywhere, best identified by its snowflake-like appearance, growing on plants which stand up to a metre tall. Its growing cycle starts with pink and cream Page 39


flowers, which once pollinated are replaced with a white cotton ball.

protein level marked for human consumption, and anything below that as feed for livestock.

Best time to see cotton: With a long process from sowing to harvesting (180-200 days), cotton is sown in spring, grown over the summer months, and harvested into bales over autumn. To see cotton fields in full bloom, be sure to visit at the end of summer or early autumn.

Best time to see wheat: Wheat is sown between May and July, and harvested as soon as they’re ripe, with early spring your best bet to spot them.

Best spot to see cotton: Perhaps a better question is where won’t you see cotton in the Western Downs? Dalby is the poster child for cotton growing with two cotton gins (cotton processing plants) in town.

WATERMELONS Producing 25% of Australia’s watermelons (in both seed and seedless varieties), it’s no surprise the Western Downs (Chinchilla specifically) is proud of their juicy crop. Watermelons need long periods of warm average temperatures, without the sun being too harsh to burn the melons. With perfect climate conditions in the Western Downs, the summer crop is harvested 3-4 months after planting. Best time to see watermelons: Time your visit with the biennial Melon Festival which takes over the town every second February for three days of melon mania. Best spot to see them: Head straight to Chinchilla, the melon capital of Australia.

WHEAT This one’s a tricky one to spot - the long thin stems and furry ends are easy to confuse with fields of tall grass. The one giveaway for wheat is the small gaps between rows, proving that it’s a structured farm, not just an overgrown field. This grain is grown in the Western Downs because of the dry climate (this plant requires a 12.5% moisture rate) and rich soil potential. Wheat is used for both human and animal consumption, with wheat above a 13 percent Page 40

Best spot to see wheat: Keep your eyes peeled, you can spot these grassy grains all over the Western Downs.

BARLEY The jack of all trades in the world of crops, barley, is used for livestock (starch to gain weight), brewing (converted to sugars for fermentation) and malting industries. Growing faster than wheat, barley takes over fields with most farms planting more than 800,000 seeds, to reduce the risk of weeds growing in its place. The grain looks almost identical to wheat, so you’ll need to play a game of spot the difference to decipher between the two. Best time to see barley: Barley is a winter crop and irrigated largely based on the water stored in the soil during the summer months. Although it’s a winter crop, harvest can start as early as October because of the warmth (early when compared to more southern farming areas). Best spot to see barley: Don’t mistake this grain for grass. You can spot barley across the Western Downs.

SUNFLOWERS Flourishing in the warmer months, when you say summer, the thought of sunflowers aren’t far behind. When passing by a sunflower field, you can’t miss the lush green plants covered by a sea of the bright yellow flowers - it’s almost impossible to pass up a pit stop for a snap or two. The summer crop suits the mild temperatures of the Western Downs.


Exploring the Western Downs

Best time to see sunflowers: Sown in spring due to the early warmth, you can spot them standing tall and in full bloom in the later months of January, February, and March. Best spot to see sunflowers: Even if you blink you won’t miss these floral displays, look out your window and spot them across the Western Downs.

CHICKPEAS Often rotated on fields with wheat and barley, chickpeas grow inside pods on a shrub-like plant. One of the original superfoods, chickpeas offer double the level of protein than wheat and triple the level of protein found in rice.

Best spot to see mung beans: Get your detective hat and magnifying glass out, you’re on a mission to spot these across the Western Downs.

Note: All facts and figures sourced from the Queensland Government Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and Cotton Australia.

WHICH CROPS HAVE YOU SPOTTED IN THE WESTERN DOWNS?

Not a big chickpea eater? Dahl is one of the most popular foods derived from the legumes, and India is the biggest buyer of the crop. In fact, only one percent of chickpea production is distributed locally, with the rest exported overseas. Best time to see chickpeas: Requiring an average daily temperature of 15-35 degrees, you can spot this crop in the warmer months. Best spot to see chickpeas: Check out chickpeas growing around Brigalow, Dulacca, Miles, and Dalby - the chickpea centres of the Western Downs.

MUNG BEANS If crops had a disguise competition, the mung bean would take the win. These sneaky green crops are marketed as a vegetable, but are actually a grain. In Australia, mung beans are the green-seed variety, branching out from pods formed at the top of leafy plants. Like chickpeas, this is one crop that earns passport stamps - with over 95% of the country’s mung bean production exported overseas. Best time to see mung beans: With a relatively short season (90-110 days), you’ll have more chance of spotting these beans in the summer months. Page 41


Photo: David and Julie Hinds, Possum Park


Exploring the Western Downs

POSSUM PARK MAGIC David Hinds Concealed in the peaceful bushland north of Miles, surrounded by acres of native flora, a caravan park turns a little piece of Queensland’s history into an accommodation hideout that’ll take you back in time.

the west. But from there, the plan for the Hinds evolved entirely.

Two 250 pound lookalike bombs guard the entrance sign to what was once a top-secret ammunition dump during World War II. The sign has official Main Roads approval.

“We bought the land as an addition to the farm, but we ended up selling the farm in 1986 and built a house in one of the bunkers.

“We didn’t intend to start up a caravan park,” explains David.

Labelled Possum Park, these explosive symbols welcome guests to what is now a relaxing getaway for visitors wishing to escape the hustle of city life and cold southern winters.

“The building was quite successful, so we did up a few extra bunkers to offer a place for friends to stay when they came to visit. The tourism accommodation developed from there over the next 30 years.”

When David and Julie Hinds purchased the property in 1985, which sits 350km west of Brisbane just off the Leichhardt Highway, they never expected for it to become such a popular accommodation offering.

Over the five years following the restoration of the bunkers, which are laid out over a threekilometre ring road and separated by about 100 metres, the demand for a dedicated section for caravans and motorhomes grew.

Originally known as 3CR RAAF Kowguran from 1942 to 1945, the old reserve was a topsecret base used as the largest bomb and ammunition store on the Brisbane Line, a line of defence extending from Brisbane to Charleville throughout World War II.

Today, Possum Park is a multi-offering, themed accommodation park. The underground bunkers have been converted into self-contained accommodation with kitchens, ensuites and lounges, plus carports and outdoor BBQs.

During these years, Kowguran held up to two and half thousand tons of explosive ammunition, protected in the underground bunkers scattered over a three-kilometre radius. The site held the ammunition until the conclusion of the Korean War in 1953 after which it was disbanded in 1956. Drawn to its 20 concrete bunkers and now bomb-less 360 acres of bushland, some 30 years later, the duo thought Possum Park would make interesting land to extend their farm to

Further up the hill is the caravan park, which also features administration-huts-turned-selfcontained-cottages. These are mostly doublesleepers with one single cabin also available. Powered and unpowered sites are available for caravans and tents, with full facilities including bathrooms, laundry, undercover kitchen and dining area. The distinctive sleeping arrangements don’t end there. The Hinds have renovated carriages from an old troop train, which was used to carry Page 43


Photo: Possum Park, Miles

the ammunition and soldiers to Kowguran, and refitted them into units, a library and a TV room. Even larger families are catered for in the ‘Family Igloo’. The former Nissen hut sleeps up to eight people (nine including a baby) and is complete with family room and open living area. Julie says the aim of the park is to welcome people with old-fashioned hospitality and as such, each accommodation offering plays homage to the past of the park, decked out with era-replicated interiors and walls laced with photos from WWII years.

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“We’ve used the history of the RAAF base for our development and basically used the infrastructure it left behind.” But David and Julie’s pride and joy is a 1950s to ’60s VH-TVL, Vickers Viscount 756C airliner that they are currently restoring. Believed to be one of the first real airliners flown following WWII, has been restored with TAA colours and text along the side of the plane. A WWII aircraft hangar overtop to protect it from the elements doubles as casing for the iconic attraction. “It looks like we’ve put a frame around a picture,” David says.


Exploring the Western Downs

“It makes the aeroplane look so much better.” With humble beginnings of creating a place for family and friends, David and Julie have kept their initial intentions in mind, expanding the offering for people travelling through Miles.

“When we came here there were quite a lot of possums. There still are. We also provide home to sugar gliders that live in the trees. They inspired the name,” David says. Sounds like as good a reason to us.

There’s a souvenir shop and a museum showcasing wartime memorabilia. A bush chapel is located on the property for those who wish to practice their service in the surrounds of some of Mother Nature’s finest work. So, with a history so deep in allied terrain, why is the park’s name labelled after a marsupial? Page 45


Photo: Paramagh Watermelons, Chinchilla


Exploring the Western Downs

Video: Paramagh Watermelons https://youtu.be/-Bmv97fZIXo

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Photo: Karl Graham, Jimbour House

Photo: Jimbour House

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Exploring the Western Downs

GENERATIONAL GRANDEUR Karl Graham, Jimbour Station If trees could talk, the gardens surrounding the heritage-listed Jimbour House would have a secret or two to tell. The 11,200 acres of Jimbour Station has a history dating back to 1842 when it was claimed by a Scotsman called Todd Scougall and started its life as a sheep and cattle station. It was eventually purchased by Thomas Bell in 1844, and since then, the property has been overseen by the old Moreton Bay fig trees, bottle trees, Douglas firs and Jacarandas that have been the property’s longest running residents. During its heyday, the station covered more than 310,000 acres, stretching from the Bunya Mountains to the Condamine River. The French-designed property was built in 1877, 10 years after the original house burnt down, with almost all of the materials locally sourced except the slate for the roof, which was imported from Wales. The house remained with the Bell family until 1912, and in 1923, it was acquired by Wilfred Russell. It’s remained in this bloodline ever since. At the time of Wilfred’s purchase, Jimbour House was falling apart, and after two years of extensive restorations and repairs, the house was reopened in 1925 with a fundraising event for the Dalby Hospital. It was the beginning of the family’s reputation and involvement in the community. The restorations to the property would continue over three generations, and is now maintained under the ownership of brothers, Alec and David Russell. Alec still lives in the homestead.

Today, Jimbour Station’s 11,200 acres, 2000 cattle, and extensive gardens are run by a team of people who are managed by local resident, Karl Graham. Karl has been involved with the station since his family moved to Jimbour in 1971 from Tara. His father, Don, managed the property for 20 years, before handing over the reins to Karl who hopes to do the same with his son Jake when he retires. From managing the livestock to overseeing the workings of the house, which has a staff of three gardeners and two house managers, life on the land is as magnificent as it is busy. “We live here, so we really take what we have here for granted,” explains Karl. “But in my opinion, there’s nothing quite like it. It really is spectacular here.” While the remarkable Jimbour House, one of Australia’s most gracious historical homes, is a private residence and not open to the public, the main attraction is the 2.5-acre gardens surrounding the homestead. Originally planted in 1924, the original garden design has been maintained, dazzled by a rose garden, manicured lawns decorated with palms and shrubs and vibrant garden beds that add a splash of their hues. Upon entering the gardens, which are open every day, visitors are welcomed by a fourstorey water tower where they can make a donation in the honesty box, pick up a brochure and explore the self-guided ‘Living History Walk’. This walk explores the fascinating history of the pastoral lands and the many people who have previously lived there. Page 49


The long driveway is lined with blossoming Jacarandas, passing through decorated iron gates. At the end of the driveway, the magnificently gracious Jimbour House stands proud. To the south of the home, gravel paths weave between rose gardens and manicured lawns, centred by a lily pond, fountain and ferns. The scent of Carolina jasmine mingles with Oleanders, hibiscus and other combinations of tropical and temperate plants. A pool, tennis court, and amphitheatre also adjourn the grounds, although not available to regular visitors. “Historically, it’s marvellous,” Karl boasts. “You don’t have to fabricate history here, it just exists. It’s seeped into the walls. That, combined with the beautiful gardens, make this place something special.” Despite changes to the access of the property, once a mecca for community events like the public use of the swimming pool, Jimbour Station now plays host to a variety of events. From weddings to opera in the amphitheatre, to music festivals and concerts, Jimbour Station is more than just a pretty place to walk. But for Karl, who lives on the property in his own house, the best part of the experience, aside from being taken back to yesteryear, is just enjoying the view. “For me, personally, I’m sitting here on my veranda right now like I do most afternoons, and I’m watching the sunset. The colours of the station changes throughout the season and it’s only enhanced by what I see every night when the sun goes down. You’ve really got to pinch yourself, it’s pretty spectacular and I wouldn’t change it for the world.” he says.

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Photo: Jimbour House

Exploring the Western Downs

Video: Jimbour House https://youtu.be/9Lw8wAO9dDk

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Profile for Western Downs Queensland

Exploring the Western Downs  

Just a short distance from Brisbane City lies a region rich in farm land and history. Western Downs is 83km north-west of Toowoomba 207km no...

Exploring the Western Downs  

Just a short distance from Brisbane City lies a region rich in farm land and history. Western Downs is 83km north-west of Toowoomba 207km no...

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