Toowoomba is one of Australia's largest provincial cities, and the nation's second largest inland city after Canberra, the national capital. The major centre on the Darling Downs, Toowoomba is nationally renowned for its annual Flower Festival, held each year in September.
Where is it?: Toowoomba is located 132 km west of Brisbane, and two hours drive from the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast beaches.
Toowoomba's history has been preserved in its buildings. Examples of architecture drawing from the city's wealthy beginnings include Toowoomba City Hall which was Queensland's first purpose-built town hall, the National Trust Royal Bull's Head Inn and many examples in the heritage-listed Russell Street. Immediately to the east of the CBD is the Caledonian Estate, an area of turn-of-the-20th-century housing, ranging from humble workers cottages to large stately homes, in the classic wooden Queenslander style.
Toowoomba is also home to the Empire Theatre, which was originally opened in June 1911, as a silent movie house. In February 1933, fire broke out, almost completely destroying the building. However, the Empire was rebuilt and reopened in November 1933. The architectural styling of the new Empire Theatre was art deco, in keeping with the trend of the 1930s. After years of neglect, the Empire Theatre was extensively renovated in the late 1990s, but retains much of its art deco architecture and decorations, especially the proscenium arch. Able to seat approximately 1,500 people, the Empire Theatre is now the largest regional theatre in Australia.
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One of Toowoomba's most peaceful and beautiful parks is the four and a half hectare Japanese Garden at the University of Southern Queensland. Located on the northern side of the campus, it's Australia's largest and most traditionally designed Japanese stroll garden. Its elements of mountain stream and waterfall, Dry Garden, central lake, Azalea Hill, three kilometres of paths, 230 species of Japanese and Australian native trees and plants, and lawns combine in a seamless and restful harmony.
Japanese gardens emphasise the use of rocks to create three dimensional pictures. All of the large rocks in Ju Raku En were placed by the garden's designer, Professor Kinsaku Nakane of Kyoto, to appear naturally dispersed in a random way. Visitors stroll through the garden or relax on the seat near the Dry Garden; it's not uncommon to see artists quietly painting a scene or children feeding bread to the fish or birds, which include swans, ducks, geese and smaller natives. Japanese maples provide a riot of autumn colour, while in spring masses of lilac blossoms hang from the Wisteria Pergola - the perfect backdrop for a wedding.
Picnic Point is one of the most popular recreation sites in Toowoomba, for both the city's residents and the thousands of visitors who come each year to savour the beauty of the Garden City. Situated on a scenic peak of the Great Dividing Range, Picnic Point presents the perfect combination of excellent facilities and stunning views. The views from the cafe verandah are worth a visit for an ice cream or a coffee alone.
The lookout offers diverse panoramas that encompass the Lockyer Valley to the east and the City of Toowoomba and fertile farming lands to the west. At the entrance to the park, landscaped open areas are a drawcard for families and those who enjoy the chance to simply relax in beautiful surroundings. The magical witch's forest playground is a children's playground with a difference. As well as miniature climbing walls, hammock swings and sand, the play equipment is disguised by rickety windows, turrets and zany cats sculptures all around the structures. A huge flying fox sits near the Witch's cubby houses.
Lake Annand is a pleasant water attraction which has been created along Toowoomba's East Creek. At just two hectares, Lake Annand Park is one of the more compact of the city's recreation spaces. The development of the park has been carried out along carefully planned lines. There is a New Zealand influence in many of the plantings and features. The lake itself showcases a pulsating fountain, reminiscent of the geysers familiar to those who have visited New Zealand. A simulated lava flow has been fashioned in one area of the park, and distinctive plants such as flax add to the theme. Where there's an attractive expanse of water, there will be ducks, and Lake Annand is no exception.
A boardwalk at the lake edge, and a handsome curved bridge, give youngsters (and the young-at-heart) hours of pleasure enjoying the antics of these handsome birds, which paddle towards anyone who might throw them some bread. A bikeway passes through the park and cyclists often pause here on their ride to enjoy the atmosphere. This bikeway follows the route of East Creek right through to Queen's Park, close to the city centre. Well maintained barbecue and playground facilities are another popular feature.
Laurel Bank Park is a beautiful parkland close to Toowoomba's city centre, featuring spectacular manicured gardens, a scented garden, a playground, picnic area and croquet greens. As well as containing a collection of exotic trees, the park is home to the Scented Gardens. This unique 'garden within a garden' was created from ideas presented by the Downs Association of the Blind, and occupies approximately half a hectare of the park's four and a half hectares. Fragrant blooms, herbs and shrubs grow in raised beds. Playground equipment and a gazebo complete the park.
Prior to 1932 the park was owned by Mr Samuel George Stephens. In 1932 Mr Stephens donated the land to the people of Toowoomba, making the Toowoomba City Council official custodian. The gardens were designed by Mr Stephens himself before he handed them over. Mr Stephens was known to many as 'the man of flowers', and it's because of his love of flowers that he asked that the land not be used as a sporting facility, only the Croquet Greens along Herries Street were permitted. The Laurel Bank Hall was built during World War II to be used as a mess hall for the United States naval troops.
The State Rose Garden in Newtown Park has more than 1,500 roses planted, with many more to be planted over coming years. This rosarium is being continually upgraded as a living memorial to the people of this city and the district in general. This has been one of the most successful community projects in Toowoomba, with residents and volunteers contributing donations or in-kind support. The major planting of roses in the garden was selected from the floribunda, hybrid tea, David Austin and climbing varieties. Of special interest are the Titian and Carabella roses, which were bred in Toowoomba and are just two of the Reithmuller Roses.
The historic Newtown Park is bounded by Holberton, Taylor, Tor and Pottinger Streets. Of special interest to historians is the Entrance Pavilion off Holberton Street where the history of the park and its people since 1912, and the history of roses, is displayed on brass plaques. The Friends of the State Rose Garden in Newtown Park has contributed to construction and development of the garden. The Friends volunteer from 50 to 70 hours per week, depending on the season, for maintenance of the roses.
Picturesque Queens Park is just a short walk from Toowoomba's Central Business District. Much loved by locals, the park's diverse facilities make it a great meeting place or a pleasant stop on your journey. The north-eastern section boasts an immaculately tended floral garden. While it's meticulously tended all year round, displays are particularly impressive during spring, especially in September. The south-eastern and north-western corners provide large expanses of grass for sports, with the addition of a special swing for disabled children's enjoyment. There is an off-leash dog area, adjacent to Godsall Street. The southern section of the park features children's play equipment.
Throughout the park are sealed walking tracks and a bicycle track. The park is a focus for many community activities, including the Carnival of Flowers events such as The Gala Dinner, The Flower, Food and Wine Festival and Side-Show Alley in September; and the Languages and Cultures Festival each August. A 26.3 hectare green space, Queens Park was planned and developed by Walter Hill, a government botanist and superintendent of the Brisbane Botanic Gardens. The many trees which were imported from Europe, Asia, and other parts of the world, today stand as grand old trees lining shaded avenues.
Established in 1938, Toowoomba has the oldest public art gallery in regional Queensland. The new gallery opened in 1994 and is owned and maintained by Toowoomba Regional Council. The Gallery is the permanent home to the Lionel Lindsay Art Gallery and Library. Assembled by Toowoomba resident, the late Mr William Bolton MBE, this collection features over 400 significant Australian artworks by such artists as Lionel, Daryl and Ruby Lindsay, Phillips Fox, McCubbin and more. The Library comprises rare books and manuscripts, including letters written by explorer Ludwig Leichhardt. The Fred and Lucy Gould art collection also features, consisting of antique furniture, fine porcelain and glassware, gold and silverware, and other items mostly from Europe, Asia and Australia. The works date from 1700s to 1930s.
The City Collection focuses on twentieth century Australian paintings, drawings, photographs, ceramics, small scale sculpture and jewellery with emphasis on works by regional artists with regional themes. The Gallery has an extensive program. Contemporary exhibitions change monthly, while historical exhibitions change three times a year. The Gallery aims to provide diversity of educational activities to complement the exhibition program. The Gallery Shop offers a variety of interesting gifts and the work of regional and interstate artists.
Nestled into suburban Toowoomba at Rangeville, the habitat covers 7.6 hectares (19 acres), which is quite a small area to establish as a diverse wetland. Environmental diversity is essential if the habitat is to attract a variety of waterbirds. There are deep and shallow lakes, areas of reeds, mud-banks, islands and grassy areas to provide feeding, roosting and nesting conditions required by different birds. To complete this habitat, over 2000 shrubs and trees were planted to attract native birds. All of the plants are Australian species appropriate to the locality. The plantings on the perimeter help screen the habitat from the surrounding roads and houses, creating a peaceful atmosphere within. Waterbird habitats are characteristically places of light and open spaces, so large areas of grassland have been retained. You can see birds such as maned duck and straw-necked ibis which feed mainly on these grasslands.
Toowoomba is home to the Cobb & Co Museum, hailing to the famous mail company's beginnings as a small mail run in the 1800s to transport mail and passengers to Brisbane and beyond. The museum now houses over fifty horse-drawn vehicles, including sturdy drays and farm wagons, that tell the story of European settlement on the Darling Downs, while sulkies and buggies demonstrate transportation imported to Australia during the 1880s. Elaborate Phaetons, Victoria and Landau carriages give a glimpse of the grandeur of times when life's pace was a little slower. The original Cobb and Co coaches, including the last coach which ran from Yuleba to Surat in 1924, are the pride of the collection.
Both the museum's name and its location in Toowoomba rather than Brisbane, derive from the fact that Toowoomba was the first stop of the Cobb & Co coach service that ran in from the southern cities to Queensland from 1866 until 1924. Location: 27 Lindsay Street, Toowoomba, Queensland. Open 9:30am to 4pm daily. Daily guided tours at 10.30am and 2.30pm. Have A Go! session at 11.30am. Phone: +61 (0) 7 4659 4900
The only road building museum in Australia, the Transport and Main Roads Heritage Centre offers an exclusive perspective of the history of road building in Queensland. Located opposite Toowoomba's airport terminal, the museum is open by appointment, Monday to Friday, 10-4pm. Travel the winding road throughout this unique museum. The exhibits offer plenty of information about road planning, construction and maintenance for you to explore. Cartoon characters and interactive children's trail help teach kids about what has gone into making the 'black stuff' and if you love machinery, then you'll get a kick out of the fully maintained vehicles and road building equipment on display.
Showcasing the hard work and pioneering spirit which helped shape Queensland, the museum provides an opportunity to learn how the state's road network has been developed, from the conditions under which road workers laboured, to the modern plant and equipment you see on roads today. Call now and ask for a guided tour through the museum and this distinctive piece of Queensland's history. You'll be surprised at what you discover.
The Milne Bay Military museum was built in 1917 and is housed in a former drill hall. It exhibits memorabilia and equipment associated with the history of the Australian Armed Forces in the Darling Downs and south east Queensland. Located on the corner of Anzac Avenue and O'Quinn St, Toowoomba.
Toowoomba is nationally renowned for its annual Flower Festival, held each year in September. Many of the city's major parks and gardens are especially prepared for the Festival, which also includes a prominent Home Garden Competition, with persons able to visit participating homes and gardens for inspection, and a Parade with flower-themed floats.
Toowoomba hosts 'First Coat Art and Music Festival'. First Coat is a street art festival, held annually in May. As a result of the festival, over 50 pieces of large-scale, public art exist throughout the Toowoomba CBD, which has led to a transformation of previously underutilised lane and alleyways, as well as a reduction in costs associated with graffiti management.
Australian Carnival of FlowersThe city's reputation as 'The Garden City' is highlighted during the Australian Carnival of Flowers festival held in September each year. Deciduous trees from around the world line many of the parks, giving a display of Autumn colour rarely see in Australia, a continent that is almost entirely forested with evergreens.
The event has been growing bigger, brighter and more colourful each year. It is the longest running annual horticultural (floral) event of its kind in Australia, and renowned as a national icon, the premiere celebration in springtime. With the grand floral street parade, celebrations & flower garden competition, horticulture & fascinating floral displays, fabulous gourmet food and wondrous wine, awe-inspiring artistic diversity, interactive workshops and exceptional entertainment (sideshow alley, fireworks and live concerts), the TCOF has something for everyone! Up to 250,000 people were expected to attend throughout the 10 days of the festival.
To the northeast, Ravensbourne National Park is home to towering red cedars and rainforest. Nearby Crows Nest National Park features a eucalypt forest, granite boulders and Crows Nest Falls.
The unique Bunya Mountains National Park protects the largest remaining Bunya Pine rainforests in the world. The mountains are the only outlying section of the Great Dividing Range, rising abruptly from the rich Darling Downs & South Burnett farmland.
Head north from Toowoomba along the Great Dividing Range and explore an area that offers you striking scenery with an intriguing mix of natural and cultural attractions. The towns and hamlets of Highfields, Cabarlah, Hampton, Pechey, Geham, Meringandan and Crows Nest have cafes, nurseries, antique stores and museums.
The Granite Belt, to the south of Toowoomba, is focused around Stanthorpe and is bordered by the picturesque Girraween and Sundown National Parks. The Granite Belt is situated on the inner or eastern spine of the Great Dividing Range at an altitude of more than 800 metres. It is home to Queensland s premier wine region (Granite Belt Wine Country).
The Museum of Australian Army Flying is located at the Army Airfied in Oakey, a short drive west of Toowoomba. A must-see for all aviation enthusiasts, the museum displays every kind of aircraft flown by the Australian Army since World War 2 and includes the latest high-tech military helicopters.
There are other remarkable flying machines on display including a replica Bristol Boxkite that was a training aircraft used in 1914. The museum's memorabilia date back to 1912, when Australian Army Aviation was then known as the Australian Flying Corps (AFC). It includes aircraft, engines, uniforms, history of the Oakey Airfield, photographs and memoirs of Army Aviation servicemen.
Location: Oakey airport, Museum Drive, Oakey. Open Wed to Sun - 10 am to 3 pm
Crows Nest Regional Art Gallery was established in 1996 and supports the strong local artistic community. Staffed by a part-time gallery officer and a dedicated team of friendly volunteers, the gallery provides access to a broad range of high-quality, monthly exhibitions and arts events for visitors and the local community. Artists interested in exhibiting at the gallery may obtain an exhibition application pack by contacting the gallery.
As the gallery is staffed by volunteers, these are the optimum opening hours and at times there may be no volunteers available to provide access. We apologise for any inconvenience and strongly suggest that if a visit is intended, please phone ahead on the day of your visit to confirm access. Location: on the New England Highway in the centre of Crows Nest. Open Tuesday - Saturday: 10.30 am to 3.30 pm; Sunday: 11.30 am to 3.30 pm
Crows Nest Folk Museum and Village boasts its very own historic village. A very significant building is 'Carbethon House' built in the 1880s and moved to Crows Nest in 1978 which marked the beginning of the collection of now 21 buildings that make up the village. Being the birthplace of Ray White, it has the original business building on the grounds and also the beautiful old home of Alan White is on display as well. Location: Thallon Street / New England Highway, Crows Nest. Ph: 4698 1776.
Open: Thursday to Sunday and public holidays - 10am to 3pm. Groups on other days available by appointment. Closed Good Friday, Christmas day and Boxing Day.
Supported proudly by the many artists of the region, the Rosalie Gallery holds a series of exhibitions throughout the year. Located at 89 Mocatta Street, Goombungee, the gallery is also equipped with a studio and kitchen that is available for hire. Open Wednesday to Sunday 10.30 am to 3.30 pm
The Pittsworth Art Gallery houses a range of paintings and pottery produced by talented local artists. The Gallery is located at 50 Short Street, Pittsworth. Open daily between 10 am and 1 pm. Contact Ph: 4693 2510
The Pioneer Historical Village provides a lasting reminder of the early development of Pittsworth and surrounding rural district through the use of original buildings, equipment and artefacts. There are many displays including buildings set up in the era, apparel, lace work, early settlers, settlements and machinery. The museum is also home to a display of memorabilia boasting the feats of Arthur Postle, known as the "Crimson Flash", Australia and the world's one time fastest athlete. The site was established by the Pittsworth and District Historical Society in conjunction with council. Catering is available for groups. Location: Pioneer Way, Pittsworth
The Gummingurru stone arrangement is one of Australia's most important historical Aboriginal sites and estimated to be around 4000 years old. This site is an Aboriginal Bora, or ceremonial, site and was used as a men s initiation site. It was also a site where different tribal groups met on their way to the Bunya Nut Festival. The site can be booked for school and tour groups as well as community events. Location: 1 Old Homebush Road, Meringandan. About 25 km north-west of Toowoomba.
Highfields Pioneer Village is a privately owned, non-profit facility run by volunteers. Attractions feature antique agricultural machinery and equipment in working order, a blacksmith shop and boot repair shop. More than 200 volunteers operate the village. A number of events are held throughout the year, including the annual Easter Vintage Festival.
The village is available for guided tours for coach groups; educational school tours with working displays; weddings and christenings in the heritage chapel; wedding photography; billy tea and damper for groups - Bookings are essential. Location: 73 Wirraglen Road, Highfields
The city sits on the crest of the Great Dividing Range, around 700 metres above sea level. A few streets are on the eastern side of the edge of the range, but the majority of the city is west of the divide. Toowoomba occupies the edge of the range and the low ridges behind it. Two valleys run north from the southern boundary, each arising from springs either side of Middle Ridge near Spring Street at an altitude of around 680 m. These waterways, East Creek and West Creek flow together just north of the CBD to form Gowrie Creek.
TransportThere are suburban bus services throughout the city. A limited service runs Saturday, however there are no Sunday services. There are bus services to Brisbane and other centres via commercial intercity coach services. Toowoomba is not included in TransLink the Southeast Queensland integrated public transport system. Toowoomba has a twice a week rail service from Brisbane to Charleville, Queensland and return on QR's Westlander.
Peace celebrations on Ruthven Street, Toowoomba, ca. 1919. Photo: State Library Qld
HistoryToowoomba's colonial history traces back to 1816 when English botanist and explorer Allan Cunningham arrived in Australia from Brazil and in June 1827 discovered 16,000 km2 of rich farming and grazing land bordered on the east by the Great Dividing Range and situated 100 miles (160 km) west of the settlement of Moreton Bay. 13 years later when George and Patrick Leslie established Toolburra Station 56 miles south-west of Toowoomba the first settlers arrived on the Downs and established a township of bark-slab shops called The Springs which was soon renamed Drayton.
Towards the end of the 1840s Drayton had grown to the point where it had its own newspaper, general store, trading post and the Royal Bull's Head Inn which was built by William Horton and still stands today. Horton is regarded as the real founder of Toowoomba, although he was not the first man to live there. Drovers and wagon masters spread the news of the new settlement at Toowoomba. By 1858 Toowoomba was growing fast. The first town council election took place on 4 January 1861 and William Henry Groom won. In 1892 the Under Secretary of Public Land proclaimed Toowoomba and the surrounding areas as a township and in 1904 Toowoomba was declared a city.