10 steps to the perfect family caravan holiday around Toowoomba
Caravan newbies, your chariot awaits. This ultimate Aussie holiday has practically become a rite of passage for families.
Not the caravanning type? Don’t panic. We’re not suggesting a ‘round-Australia’ voyage… at least not yet anyway. Instead, enjoy a first-time family caravan adventure straight out of Brisbane.
Go west with these 10 ways to win at family caravanning around Toowoomba.
1. Pack smart
The best part about traveling in a caravan? No luggage limits. The worst part? Same same. As caravanning novices, we weren’t sure if we were packing too much or too little.
We took books and toys, games and rollerblades. Electronic devices, DVDs, and a hammock. There were five different sauces, five fruits and veg, meat options for every meal, and three different tea varieties. Snacks for the road, bottled water, cheese platter components… even the fairly incredible Australian Winnebago Mossman (the family caravan equivalent of a Land Rover or Lexus) was starting to groan a little as we delightedly filled up its voluminous storage.
Hot tip: Spread the weight evenly across the storage areas to ensure a smooth ride.
2. Learn the hitch up
Caravanning 101 says ‘Get your hitch right, and all will be well’. If you’re new to the caravanning game, ensure you have a professional take you through the hitching and unhitching process, which connects the caravan to your car via towbar.
It’s so convenient to be able to leave your caravan at its site while you take the car to explore the area during the day, but easy to get a little sloppy with re-hitching. Take care.
Hot tip: When driving, if you feel the caravan swaying behind you, gently increase acceleration to get it back under the control of your vehicle.
3. Hit the road to Laidley
From Brisbane, it’s an easy drive out west and little more than an hour’s travel to your next destination, Laidley. The kids will barely have time to ask “are we there yet?”.
However, if a half-way stopover is demanded, there’s a surprising amount of family-friendly detours available off the Warrego Highway, including The Workshops Rail Museum outside Ipswich, Emu Heaven, where owners Steve and Shandelle will happily take you on a farm tour to meet the big birds themselves, or a fabulous lunch at Fairways Golf Club.
Hot tip: Always call ahead to tourism attractions to ensure there’s room to park the caravan – there usually is.
4. Explore your surroundings
You know you’re in Laidley when your modern caravan appears practically space-aged compared to the gorgeous historic houses lining the streets.
Nestled in the heart of the Lockyer Valley, it’s an ‘RV friendly town’ which includes a free camping spot where caravans can rest for up to 48 hours while their owners step back in time at the Pioneer Village and Museum, before sipping tea and nibbling scones at Annie’s Place Coffee Shop in the vintage surrounds of Das Neumann Haus on Patrick Street.
Park your caravan near the centre of town and stop in at local institution Schulte’s Meat Tavern (established 1952 and still going strong) to pick up your snags and steaks!
Drive on to Lake Dyer Caravan and Camping Ground and set up for a country evening camping under the stars (and yet, indoors. Brilliant.)
Lake Dyer is a local favourite spot for swimming, boating and fishing. If the weather has been dry you may be more restricted with your water activities, but the serenity will have you hooked.
Other caravan site options close to Laidley include Fordsdale Farmstay and Camping Ground (you can also visit for a day of magical horse riding here!) and Laidley Caravan Park in the middle of town.
Hot tip: Plan your first caravan holiday out of peak time for even more peace and quiet.
5. Family fun day(s)
This is an essential part of caravanning #wins – time out to simply relax around the caravan site, reading, eating and ‘being’ a caravanning family. Card games, chilled drinks from your caravan fridge (it stays cold 24/7!), cloud watching and afternoon snoozes are what caravanning is all about.
In fact, you can easily make it a family fun day or two, or a week… except there’s so much more to see around here.
Hot tip: Bring a couple of large outdoor picnic blankets or a tarpaulin to place at the front of your caravan site if you’re parking on grass.
6. Meet the meerkats
If your kids are fans of Timon the meerkat from The Lion King then take them to see the real, slightly less musical, but extremely cute version in the meerkat enclosure – Queensland’s only – at Darling Downs Zoo.
An hour from Laidley, and admittedly the scenic route from Laidley to Toowoomba, it’s home to big cats and birds, monkeys and other mayhem-causing creatures, as well as the delightful meerkats themselves.
Hot tip: Don’t forget the camera!
7. Nailing the caravan cook-up
Let’s just take a culinary pause on our adventure and chat about caravan cook-ups.
These days, your modern family caravan will boast gas cooktop, a brilliant fridge, microwave, ‘enough’ bench space and convenient cupboards to store all the essential goodies to keep camping tummies full. Then there’s the iconic outdoor BBQ campfire, which makes everything either taste brilliant or really, really charred (and no in between).
Our favourite quick caravan cook-ups include zip lock bag omelettes, curries, BBQ veggies and microwave sticky date pudding. What about yours?
Hot tip: Plan meals ahead!
8. Next stop: Toowoomba
By now you’ve reached Toowoomba and unhitched once again at your pick of local caravan parks, which include the family favourite BIG4 Garden City, the charmingly named Jolly Swagman, or popular Toowoomba Motor Village on the south side of the city.
Time to lace up your walking shoes and explore. Did you know Toowoomba has a mountain of its own, named TableTop?
Accessible via South Street and TableTop Drive, the 700mt summit takes you to a rock plateau, which was a significant corrobboree location.
It was here the ‘battle of One Tree Hill’ – the name by which the mountain was also known – took place in 1843 between indigenous locals of the Jagera, Yuggera and Uragapul people and Europeans. Take a moment to reflect on this important part of our Queensland history.
Also up high, the Pardalote Walk takes you on a 3.8km loop from the scenic Picnic Point Park, while back in Toowoomba, the First Coat Street Art Trail will make a colourful backdrop to family portraits, and make walking through town a lot more interesting for your kids.
(Psst, for more tips on things to see and do in town, check out this 48-hour guide to Toowoomba).
Hot tip: Use the downloadable app to navigate to the art walls.
9. Eat. Picnic. Explore. Repeat.
There’s plenty of eats and treats to keep kids happy in Toowoomba town. Bahn Mi or burgers? Head to The Finch or Phat Burger and chow on down.
Sushi and chocolate cravings are taken care of at Sushi Asakusa in Margaret Street and kid-haven Ciccolato Chocolateria in Margaret Street (if your sweet tooth isn’t quite sated, head out to The Chocolate Cottage in Highfields for another fix!).
For a picnic to remember, Ju Raku En (literally, enjoy the peace) in the Japanese Garden at the University of Southern Queensland Campus in Regent Street, Darling Heights. With ducks to feed and lawns to lounge on it, it’s a very special and beautiful location, regardless of the season.
For more family fun, check out this list of the best things to do with kids in Southern Queensland Country.
10. Homeward bound
Congratulations! Your first caravanning adventure is complete.