Location: Toowoomba, Queensland Australia

Toowoomba on Queensland’s Darling Downs is a haven for drive enthusiasts, romantics and foodies. A stay in the region’s stately Bed & Breakfast guest houses provides the perfect escape from the bustle of city life, and a chance to unwind and indulge in life’s little pleasures.

Enough is enough. I just have to escape. Without a firm plan I tell the office I won’t be in until Friday and head for the hills – well the Range anyway. I’m on a mission of discovery to Toowoomba on Queensland’s Darling Downs.

Just over an hour from Brisbane’s bumper to bumper traffic, I reach the top of the Great Dividing Range and cruise down camphor laurel-lined streets into downtown Toowoomba. The bustle is minimal, exactly what I am after, but I do spy coffee houses, book stores, antique galleries and restaurants.

Booking into Vacy Hall, a stately guesthouse recommended to me as one of the best in town, I feel a sense of the old world that Toowoomba would have been in the 1800s.

My room is so comfortable I might never leave – a fireplace, antique furniture and rugs and a heavenly bed are at my disposal. Wide verandahs beckon and I spend a couple of hours devouring a landscape gardening volume plucked from Vacy’s bookshelves. I couldn’t have picked a better topic given Toowoomba’s enviable tag of Queensland’s Garden City.

A short stroll from Vacy to the Botanical Gardens and Queens Park proves it to be a well deserved moniker. Perfectly manicured lawns and vibrant garden beds combine with crisp fresh air and faultless blue sky to create a serenity seldom found in the city. Toowoomba’s Carnival of Flowers each September celebrates the fertile region in a burst of colour.

And the examples of Queenslander architecture would make you cry. Mary and Campbell Streets were two shining lights found in my travels – no doubt there are others.

I had heard of a country pub well worth a visit so set off on a 20 minute drive south to a town called Nobby. In Nobby rests Rudd’s Pub, named after the famous author Steele Rudd, who penned the classic Dad ‘n Dave yarns there early this century. I was not disappointed. What I found was a memorabilia crammed little pub serving the biggest lunch imaginable to a congregation of wide-eyed patrons whose attention was focused on one man – Brian Hodgkinson – a storyteller reciting with much gusto a comical yarn from On Our Selection.

This experience was a gem not to be missed. It was one of the funniest and most refreshing times I’d had in ages – and exactly what I needed.

After two days sampling the fine restaurants, galleries and shopping of Toowoomba City, I move out of town and visit the Farmers’ Arms Hotel, a quaint little pub offering delicious country fare, a fine selection of wine and an open fire in the winter.

Other attractions to explore are the Rimfire Winery and Jondaryan Woolshed. Rimfire is a modern boutique winery offering tours, tastings and cellar door sales. It’s a real find and will change your perception of Queensland wines.

The Jondaryan Woolshed is a short drive from Rimfire, and is keeping the history of the bush alive. Demonstrations of sheering, blacksmithing, and working horses are rare these days and well appreciated by onlookers. Damper and billy tea add to the rural atmosphere and make me long for a country cousin to visit when city life becomes too much.

My time on the Downs draws to a close and it’s been the most relaxing few days I can remember. I have eaten some of the best meals of my life, met some interesting characters, and taken time out to truly unwind. I am sad to leave but reality calls.

I’ll be back.

– By Jane Hodges

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