16 things to do in Toowoomba
If it’s been years between visits to the Garden City, you’re in for a significant before-and-after transformation story.
Toowoomba has positively ballooned in size, replacing some of its quaint country charm with big city fixtures. Toowoomba’s population now rivals Townsville and Cairns, wearing not just the crown for Queensland’s largest inland city, but Australia’s 15th biggest city.
It’s not just its population that’s booming – its event calendar and food scene are too, with more than 2.5 million visitors scaling 800m above sea-level to explore it each year.
If you find yourself in Southern Queensland Country, stop and smell the roses with this list of things to do in Toowoomba.
1. Throw down a rug
Toowoomba’s the type of place where you can take the time to do the little things you’ve always said you would when you’re not too busy – starting from Picnic Point.
Delivering grand panoramic views of the Great Dividing Range, this prime picnic spot overlooks Main Range and the Lockyer Valley.
It’s a good time to try the panorama feature on your smartphone’s camera; there’s enough view to capture it end-to-end.
2. Step back in time
Toowoomba’s Cobb+Co Museum takes you back to the times of horse-drawn carriages and steam trains with its wonderful interactive displays and heritage trade workshops in silversmithing, millinery, whip plaiting and blacksmithing.
Home of the National Carriage Collection, peer back through Toowoomba’s history and the Australian transport era – and don’t forget to stop by the cafe for scones, naturally.
3. Catch a show
For history that oozes out of every wall, floor and bathroom tile, check out the heritage-listed Art Deco Empire Theatre.
Under its grand proscenium arch, you can catch a program of world-class shows for every taste, from Mamma Mia! to Cinderella.
Aside from impressive architecture, Australia’s largest regional performance space proves you don’t need to go to a capital city for a theatre fix.
4. Wander through a gallery of local art
Visit the Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery, a private collection by former Toowoomba resident, of over 400 Australian artworks by artists like Lionel, Daryl and Ruby Lindsay, Phillips Fox and McCubbin.
Exhibits change monthly so no two visits will be alike. You’ll find dedicated galleries for those who are fond of specific periods of art such as The Fred and Lucy Gould art collection, packed with antique furniture, fine porcelain and glassware, gold and silverware, and other items from Europe, Asia and Australia dating from the 1700s to the 1930s.
The City Collection houses 20th century Australian paintings, drawings, photographs, ceramics and jewellery, with works by regional artists.
5. Follow your nose
Put your flora knowledge to the test at Laurel Bank Park, one of the jewels of the Carnival of Flowers each September that spans 4.5 hectares. Boasting perfectly manicured gardens and giant carpets of bursting, bright blooms, we suggest not to leave this beauty off your Toowoomba list.
Stop and smell the roses at the scented garden for an olfactory treat: to find it, walk towards the centre – it’s the garden within the garden, created by the Downs Association of the Blind for the visually impaired.
6. Flowers and feasting
Speaking of flowers, make sure to visit during September for the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers when everything really comes alive.
Not only are there floats of florals to be inspired by, the festival doubles as a food and wine event for the duration. There’s a four-course gala dinner in Queens Park, a host of local wines including the award-winning Symphony Hill Wines and Golden Grove Estate, plus celebrity chef demonstrations.
Unsurprisingly this event attracts 140,000 visitors each year, so book your accommodations early – and take a peek at ways to spend the weekend for the carnival.
7. Visit Queen’s Park
Toowoomba’s Queens Park – all 26.3 hectares of its green space – sits right in the centre of town. It was planned and developed by Walter Hill, a government botanist and superintendent behind the Brisbane Botanic Gardens.
Many of the trees imported at the time – from Europe, Asia and other parts of the world – are today grand old trees providing shade and a comfy place to rest beneath. Providing lots of family-friendly spots, there are large grassy areas to spread out with a picnic, and playgrounds to keep the little ones active too. Not a bad way to spend the day.
8. Do some laps
Satisfy your need for speed at the Toowoomba Speedway. Housing every genre of cars from sprintcars to racy V8s to Formula 500s, there’s a car to suit every enthusiast.
There’s a calendar of events to choose from, but you could always time your visit with their major event The Ultimate Pink Night – raising money for breast cancer.
9. Walk back in time
Who doesn’t love a well-preserved Queenslander, with their sweeping verandahs, gelato colours and ornate features?
Get an architecture fix wandering down the Russell Street Historical Walk, all the way back to the 1860s. There’s 2.5km of Queenslanders as well as other architectural styles, so you might just get the home renovation inspiration you need.
10. Sip with a view
It’s always a treat to have a view while you’re sipping on a nice red, or a ‘wine with altitude’ in Preston Peak Wines’ case. Situated high on the Great Dividing Range and overlooking the Lockyer Valley, Preston has an elevation of 860m, making it the perfect spot to soak in the views. Their collection of quality cool-climate wines spans shiraz and serisier, which are distinctly richer in flavour due to the cooler climate.
The nearby carefully restored Preston Village Chapel is perfect for a Queensland country wedding. Stop in while you’re there – you never know, you might just be back there again on your wedding day.
11. Go back to Colonial times
The Woolshed at Jondaryan is the place to stay overnight and explore, given there’s 160 years of history all in the one spot. The oldest and largest woolshed in the world still in operation, this is where Australia’s first shearers’ strike was held, and where wire and net fences were first constructed in the 1860s.
Situated about 40km west of Toowoomba, the woolshed has caravan, camping and cabin accommodation. With equipped, pet-friendly camping grounds and cafes operating all week long, you’ll never go hungry. Go on a self-guided tour through the shearing shed historical buildings to start from 1840 and work your way backwards.
12. Discover Toowoomba’s street art
Stop by the giant outdoor art gallery reaching storeys into the sky that is Toowoomba’s street art scene. Venture along the Street Art Trail to view graffiti by a range of artists, and keep up with their latest work by following them on Instagram.
Neil Street is where the action is, with over 50 murals to stare up at, you can easily spend an afternoon weaving in and out of buildings.
13. Visit the zoo
The Darling Downs Zoo is home to exotic species from Australia, Asia, Africa and South America – including the cute and cuddly capybara.
Being the home of the only pride of African lions in Queensland means they have a special responsibility to keep these majestic big cats well and happy. The zoo specialises in captive breeding for many critically endangered and vulnerable species from around the world. The zoo is also home to the only white lions permanently taking up residence in Queensland, and the largest herd of zebras and giant tortoises in the state.
14. Have a go at golf
Golfing is better on holidays. Take on the lush green lawns of the City Gold Club, with a choice of 9 or 18 holes – and no membership required.
For the little ones, there’s mini golf and a driving range so the whole family with have something to hit at with sticks.
15. Hike Table Top Mountain
Get back outside to mother nature and get another panorama fix at Table Top Mountain.
Used as a training track for hikers prepping for Mount Kilimanjaro and the Kokoda Trail for years, there’s a well-worn trail you can stick to if you’re unsure about carving a new path.
The hike is all uphill, but the summit will make you feel like a champion; and those views, your reward. Don’t forget to pack the camera to capture a view you won’t see the likes of again for a while.
16. De-stress in a salt cave
If you own a Himalayan salt lamp, you’ll love the Toowoomba Salt Cave.
The pink-tinged specially-built salt cave disperses dry salt throughout the room in high concentrations, which can help with the management of asthma, cold and flu, respiratory allergies, cystic fibrosis, eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis and acne. Visitors also report relief from chronic stress and fatigue, more tranquil sleep and improved general wellbeing.
At the very least, relaxing in a tranquil, peach-hued room is the perfect opportunity to enjoy a holistic wellness experience that, as well as salt therapy, can include relaxation massage, Reiki and Bowen therapy as well as hypno-meditation and Tai Chi Qigong classes.