Visit Toowoomba and you’ll find a city buzzing with art, history and food, nestled in some of the most beautiful surroundings to be seen. As you walk through the streets you get a feeling of both the old and the new working perfectly together. Modern Street art corners onto historic buildings filled with quirky boutiques and cafes.
This city in the Darling Downs is a haven for visitors looking for a gentler pace of life but still with plenty to do. Here’s how to spend 48 hours in Toowoomba that will leave you dreaming of going back.
Catch a view
Start your day off by really getting your bearings of the area from Picnic Point. The breath taking panoramic views from here overlook Main Range and the Lockyer Valley and you’ll realise just how close to nature you are here. If you’re a morning person, a walk up here for sunrise is an absolute must.
After a refreshing start to the day, it’s time to fuel yourself up with a breakfast in the city centre. Make your way to The Finch on Ruthven Street and sample some of their delicious options made from fresh ingredients. With tables outside and the large fully opening windows inside, it’s a great place to stop and soak in the city atmosphere.
Delve into the street art
Around nearly every corner and down every lane in Toowoomba you will see a vibrant piece of street art. Thanks to the First Coat Art Festival, colourful murals have been created all over the city by artists from all over the world. It’s easy to wander from street to street seeking out the next burst of colour but to make things even easier be sure to download the First Coat App on your phone. This handy tool not only shows the location of the murals but also information about the artists and their work.
I recommend dividing the city into half and taking a well-deserved coffee break down the narrow and quirky Ruthven Street café, Ground Up. Even here you will be able to take in a piece of street art while you relax before searching for more.
Learn about the railways
Take a short 20 minute drive to the DownSteam Railway Museum just outside the city. This museum is home to some gleaming carriages and steam trains that have been lovingly rescued and restored by the passionate volunteers who work there. These guys really love these engines and the history that connects them to the Toowoomba region and the rest of Australia. Don’t be shy to ask them lots of questions and to take a tour when they almost definitely offer you one.
A particularly special and unique carriage is housed here called the Dreamtime Journey Coach. This carriage has been hand painted by an Indigenous inmate from the nearby correctional facility and was a commissioned to acknowledge the work of the indigenous people towards the railways. As soon as you step into there, you will be mesmerised!
Make your way back to the heart of Toowoomba city and head over to the Grand Central Shopping centre for a bit of retail therapy. Here you will find all of the major high street stores, a cinema and loads of eateries. Grab a quick bite to eat at the food court or head outside the front of Grand Central for some of the bigger restaurants such as Betty’s Burgers and Vapiano.
Learn about Cobb & Co.
As you drive into Toowoomba, chances are you will have seen signs for the Cobb & Co Tourist drive and you may be wondering what that is. Spend some time in the afternoon at the Cobb & Co Museum learning about the history of the horse-drawn coaches that the Toowoomba company made, how many were bravely saved by locals during a huge fire and also to find out where the famous Australian Lamington came from! Try and catch one of their tours at 10:30 am or 2:30 pm to hear some fascinating facts from a knowledgeable guide.
Soak in the sunset
Toowoomba is known as the Garden City so there’s no better way to top off your afternoon than with a stroll through one. The Queens Park and Botanic Gardens are right across the road from the Cobb & Co Museum and are stunning. Whether you’re visiting in summer with bursts of colourful flowers as far as the eye can see, or in the cooler months when the park takes on a more evergreen tone, it’s the perfect place to relax.
If you’re a lover of laneways and the industrial feel, then Walton Stores is the place for you. From the front on Ruthven Street you could easily miss the area, but head down the side laneway and you’ll discover a buzzing outdoor-meets-indoor area full of restaurants and bars. Grab a stein from the Bavarian Bier Garten and tuck in to some delectable Asian street food style dishes at Junk.
If you love the theatre, then be sure to see a show at the iconic art deco Empire Theatre. Shows are held year round and there’s such a huge variety that there’s bound to be something for you.
If you’re more into live music and delicious cocktails then don’t worry, there’s plenty of that in Toowoomba, too. Just over the road from Walton Stores, duck in to The Office who hosts live musicians on the weekends and a great selection of cocktails. To finish your night it’s time to check out one of Toowoomba’s hidden bars. Just behind The Office you will find an unmarked wooden door. Don’t be shy to open it and head in to the cosiness of the Chelsea Bar. This spot may be tiny but the mixologist puts on a great show making exquisite cocktails. The perfect way to end your first day in Toowoomba.
One of the most striking buildings in Toowoomba is the railway station, so what better place to grab some breakfast than opposite it on Railway Street. Ortem offers some really tasty breakfasts at their quirky but cosy café and it’s the perfect time to take a stroll to get a closer look at the railway station.
Travel back in time
Jump in the car and make your way through the leafy roads to the Pioneer Village in Highfields. This village has been created through a love of history and wanting to preserve Australian history. With over 60 restored and authentic buildings throughout ranging from shops to barbers, and museums housing steam engines and cars, it’s the perfect place for young families and history enthusiasts.
Travel to the other side of the world
There’s no doubt that Toowoomba is full of surprises and it doesn’t change when you’re outside of the city. After visiting the Pioneer Village, take another short drive to the Cuckoo Clock shop. This store has been running for over 25 years and stepping inside will transport you straight to Germany. exquisite clocks line the walls and the owner is incredibly passionate. It’s something you won’t find anywhere else!
Similarly, just along the road from here you will find the Danish Flower Art complex; an absolute dream for those who love handicrafts. Take a look around their glistening shop full of beads and bead kits to get creative. Head outside to take a look at their Gourds they also decorate and sell, again, something that you won’t find elsewhere.
Indulge your sweet tooth
Before you make your way back to the city, it’s time for a pit stop and a sweet treat. Pull in at Village Green and take a seat in the garden by the Chocolate Cottage. Pick some of their 60 different handmade chocolates and lollies and enjoy them on the grass with a stunning view overlooking the mountains.
As Toowoomba is known as the Garden City, why not get a picnic together and head to one of its many beautifully crafted green spaces. The Laurel Bank Park is close to Grand Central so head to the supermarket there to collect some treats to then enjoy in the gardens.
If you’re looking to enjoy some more of the local restaurants instead, lunch at Muller Bros is an absolute must. This Brazilian BBQ restaurant has an all-you-can-eat lunch menu where there is no risk of leaving hungry. They also have a great rooftop bar showcasing views of Toowoomba as well as another menu featuring some tasty eats.
Tame Table Top Mountain
You will have seen Table Top from Picnic Point, your very first stop in Toowoomba, and now it’s time to get up close and personal with it. Take the hike that starts from Table Top Drive and make your way to the top. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time in daylight to do the return hike and wear good shoes. The hike is tough with steep rocky climbs and loose terrain but the panoramic views from the top are breath taking, endless and an explosion of colour.
You will have worked up an appetite from the climb so it’s time to take one last chance to sample some more food before you leave Toowoomba. Sofra creates mouth-watering Turkish cuisine in a beautifully decorated restaurant on Margaret Street. The dishes are bursting with flavour and colour and you’ll find it difficult to choose which mezze dish to try. I highly recommend their falafel and the biber dolma. It’s gorgeous food and a memorable way to finish your weekend exploring Toowoomba.
Laura is a travel writer currently based in Australia, find more about her trip to the Darling Downs and beyond here: http://www.escapesetc.com/17-things-do-in-toowoomba/