There’s a reason Toowoomba in the Darling Downs west of Brisbane is known colloquially as the ‘Garden City’.
Australia’s second largest inland city sits atop the Great Dividing Range — 700 metres above sea level. The cooler temperatures at this height provide the opportunity to grow plants and trees normally associated with milder climates — and the city makes the most of it. Manicured parks and gardens brim with colour, and well-preserved heritage architecture gives the city a very English feel.
Here are seven things for garden lovers to do in Toowoomba.
1. Queens Park and Botanic Gardens
The 25-hectare Queens Park and Botanic Gardens, located adjacent to the CBD, is the city’s premier green space and a delightful spot to while away an afternoon at any time of the year. Spring and summer bring a riotous fusion of floral colours contained in geometrically-shaped garden beds, while in autumn magnificent deciduous trees morph from green to gold with dramatic flourish. Evergreens maintain the park’s appeal through winter, including one endangered Wollemi Pine — one of the oldest and rarest trees on the planet.
2. Japanese Garden
Gardening is a highly prized art in Japan. Apprentice Zen gardeners, for example, can spend up to eight years observing their elders before even picking up a garden trowel, and the gardens themselves can take centuries to mature. Ju Raku En — Toowoomba’s renowned Japanese Garden — was only established back in 1983, so by its namesake‘s standards it has some way to go before it’s considered complete. Even so, this tranquil retreat is one of the city’s horticultural highlights. A joint venture between the Toowoomba Regional Council and the University of Southern Queensland, the Japanese Garden is open daily. Admission is free.
3. Queensland State Rose Garden
Located in Newton Park west of the CBD, the Queensland State Rose Garden is home to around 2,000 rose bushes. If you are lucky enough to be visiting the city in October or November, you can expect to see the garden at its blooming best. Roses are arranged in themed beds — including the Heritage Rose Garden, which showcases pre-1900 species and celebrates the rose-growing prowess of French Empress Josephine. The garden also trials new breeds and offers gardening classes. Contact the Friends of the Queensland State Rose Garden for details of what’s on during your visit.
4. Laurel Bank Park
Just a short walk from the city centre, Laurel Bank Park is a 4.5-hectare hidden floral gem that smells as good as it looks. The park incorporates a garden of richly scented flowers and herbs, designed and established back in the 1980s in consultation with the Downs Association for the Blind. Topiaries, rolling lawns and recreational facilities make the space popular with families. It’s definitely worth seeking out. Just follow your nose.
5. Picnic Point Parklands
While less manicured than its city counterparts, Toowoomba’s Picnic Point Parklands are a must-visit, principally for the stunning views. Enjoy sweeping vistas across the Main Range National Park and idyllic Lockyer Valley. In the evening the lights of Brisbane shimmer in the distance. One of the best ways to enjoy the park (as the name would suggest) is to bring a picnic. There are BBQ facilities, plenty of green lawn space, walking trails, a waterfall lagoon and kids’ play areas.
6. Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers
Soon to turn 70, the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers – one of the biggest flower festivals in the country — celebrates the arrival of spring in the Garden City with gusto. 180,000 plantings bring the city’s parks and gardens to life for the event, which incorporates a food and wine festival and a spectacular parade of flower-clad floats and whimsical street performers. Check the website for a full list of events. The festival takes place in the second half of September.
7. Toowoomba Exhibition Gardens
In addition to revelling in the city’s public parks and gardens, the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers also provides an opportunity to take a sneak peek inside the labours of love of the city’s premier private gardeners. The carnival incorporates a garden competition with all entries open to the public. In addition, four exquisite private ‘exhibition gardens’ are open to the public as a charity fundraiser.
Need a place to stay?
Comfort Inn Grammar View is an easy stroll to everything Toowoomba has to offer, including magnificent Queens Park. The hotel offers modern accommodation across 32 guest rooms, including family, one bedroom and deluxe suites. In-house Vista Restaurant does Modern Australian cuisine with an emphasis on the freshest local produce.
Located on the southern side of Toowoomba, Comfort Inn Glenfield is set in landscaped gardens, and is in close proximity to the USQ campus and its Japanese garden. There are 51 well-appointed rooms, and free Wi-Fi is provided. Chrysdals restaurant is open six nights a week.
Econo Lodge Toowoomba Motel is conveniently situated on the approach into the city from Brisbane, and is just three minutes’ drive from the Visitor Information Centre. It has everything you’ll need for a comfortable and cost effective stay.
About the writer
Adam Ford is editor of The Big Bus tour and travel guide and a travel TV presenter, writer, blogger and photographer. He has previously had the opportunity to travel the world himself as host of the TV series Tour the World on Network Ten.
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