Unsure where is the regional city of Toowoomba? It’s a 1h30m drive from Brisbane to Toowoomba, or just over a 2hr drive from Gold Coast. We drove from our home in Sunshine Coast and the 2h40m drive ended up taking us 4hrs because we visited on the most popular day of the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers. We did miss a turn in the tunnels in Brisbane (god damn those tunnels in Brisbane!) and the traffic was really bad, because I think everyone in Brisbane was visiting that day!
But, if you’re not visiting on the busiest day of the year, then the distance to Toowoomba is acceptable for either a day trip of weekend getaway.
Why visit Toowoomba?
Toowoomba is a charming city located in the Darling Downs region of Queensland. Known for its beautiful parks, stunning gardens such as Laurel Bank Park and Queens Park, and rich cultural heritage, Toowoomba is a popular weekend destination.
To be honest, I wasn’t really expecting much from Toowoomba, but it really surprised me. It’s not called the ‘garden city’ for nothing. Home to plenty of stunning parks, it actually kind of reminded me of England.
And just because there are some decent parks here, it’s not a place just for the retired to come and see the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers. Home to hipster bars, fantastic street art and a lively town centre, Toowoomba is a great place for everyone to come and visit. Plus, most of Toowoomba is dog friendly which is amazing! You can take dogs to pretty much all of the parks mentioned in this Toowoomba travel guide.
Best Things To Do In Toowoomba
Best gardens in Toowoomba
If you love spending time outdoors, Toowoomba is the city to visit, full of stunning parklands. Here’s the parks you need to check out.
1. Queens Park
Queens Park is huge and much bigger than Hyde Park in Sydney! While this park is the central point for the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers, there’s reason why that is. With expansive lawns, bring a picnic and enjoy sitting amonst the beautiful tall trees here. There’s even an off leash dog park located within Queens Park, complete with dog bowls for tired up pups.
We really loved the Toowoomba Botanic Gardens in Queens Park, especially at the carnival – they are absolutely stunning! Located next to the gardens is the famous Cobb and Co Museum which I’ll talk more about further into this article.
2. Picnic Point Parklands & Lookout
One of the most popular outdoor destinations in Toowoomba is Picnic Point Parklands and Lookout. This scenic lookout offers stunning panoramic views of the Great Dividing Range, Main Range, and Lockyer Valley. Pack a picnic basket and enjoy a relaxing lunch while taking in the breathtaking scenery at Picnic Point Lookout, or opt for the cafe next to the lookout instead.
If you’re feeling more adventurous, take a hike along one of the many trails that wind through the park. The Escarpment Trail is a particularly popular choice, offering challenging terrain and even more stunning views. You can even take your dog on the Picnic Point Circuit which is a 2 hour walk!
3. Japanese Gardens
Another must-visit outdoor destination in east Toowoomba is the Japanese Gardens. This tranquil oasis features a traditional Japanese garden design, complete with a koi pond, pagoda, and tea house.
Take a stroll through the garden and admire the carefully curated collection of plants, including cherry blossoms, azaleas, and maples. If you’re lucky, you might even spot some of the resident wildlife, such as turtles, ducks, and water dragons.
There are plenty of traditional red bridges in this garden to take amazing Instagram photos here as well.
4. Laurel Bank Park
We loved Laurel Bank Park which is a gorgeous park just outside of the Toowoomba centre. Complete with vibrant flowers and a sensory scented garden for the visually impaired, it’s got a beautiful calming energy where you could come here and zone out with a good book.
Check out the Toowoomba Croquet Club located at Laurel Bank Park and you might be able to score yourself a good Devonshire Tea here. We also noticed another cafe opposite the park which we would definitely check out next time we’re in visiting the garden city.
5. Boyce Gardens
Boyce Gardens were named after the couple, Leslie and Margaret Boyce who built it at their home. I love gardens like this which were built out of love from a family, just like you’ll see in Sydney at Wendy’s Secret Garden and Lex and Ruby’s Garden. Expect to see a beautiful rainforest, pine forest, avocado orchard and flower beds all within this garden.
6. Spring Bluff Train Station Gardens
Spring Bluff Railway Station is a heritage listed site, built in 1901 as a stop off for trains between the steep climb from Brisbane to Toowoomba. Located in North Toowoomba, Spring Bluff Train Station is now a non-working station, complete with a tea room and gardens to enjoy the beautiful flowers here year round. You can’t bring your dogs here but it’s a stunning station, worth visiting.
7. Visit the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers
Celebrating the start of Spring, Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers is the longest running floral event in Queensland, dating back to 1950. As Queensland’s largest inland city, the streets come alive during the month long event held in September annually.
The Empire Theatre is an incredible historical theatre located in the heart of Toowoomba. It was built in 1911 and has been a major cultural hub for the city ever since, while also being one of the largest theatres in Australia with 1500 seats. The building almost reminded us of being in LA with beautiful palm trees either side of the art-deco theatre.
The theatre hosts a wide range of performances, including plays, musicals, concerts, and comedy shows. It’s also home to the Toowoomba Choral Society and the Toowoomba Philharmonic Society, which both put on regular performances throughout the year. Interested to learn more? Book an Empire Theatre tour to learn more about the history behind this iconic theatre.
9. Hike To Table Top Mountain
The Toowoomba Range offers a range of hiking trails that cater to all skill levels. We were keen to hike to Table Top Mountain but we ran out of time during our visit. While the moderately challenging hike is only 2km, it’s supposed to take 1h30m to complete with some steep sections to navigate.
The views across the Lockyer Valley, Great Dividing Range and Main Range would be worth it for the incredible scenery and views.
10. Go on a spooky ghost tour
Toowoomba is known for its haunted buildings and ghost stories. Take a ghost tour in the Royal Bull’s Head Inn and explore the city’s spooky side! Apparently there has been several ghost sightings inside this pub, including two farmers, a woman and sounds of a baby crying. If you’re brave enough, find out more about the ghost tours at the Royal Bull’s Head Inn.
11. Learn about the history on a historical buildings walking tour
Dive into Toowoomba’s history and check out eight historical self-guided walking tours. Explore the history behind the beautiful former court house built in 1878, the art deco building of the stunning Empire Theatre and the longest operating cinema in Queensland – The Strand Theatre.
It’s also worth checking out the Caledonian Estate walk to see the workers cottages from the 1900s. Find out more information about the Toowoomba historical walks to decide which one you want to do.
12. Watch a fun local wrestling match
As soon as we sat down in The Finch cafe, we were greeted by a really friendly waiter who told us about a local wrestling match happening that night. Unfortunately, accommodation was booked out so we couldn’t stay the night, otherwise we would have totally gone to the match.
Hosted by Atomic Pro Wrestling, the waiter told us they practice more of the entertaining side of wrestling and was very excited for the event that night.
13. Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery
The Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery is located in the heart of Toowoomba and is home to a wide range of art exhibitions and events. The gallery has a permanent collection of over 2000 works, ranging from traditional paintings to contemporary installations and also hosts permanent and temporary exhibitions by local and national artists, as well as workshops and events for people of all ages.
Expect to find the permanent collections at the Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery by the Lionel Lindsay Gallery as well as the Lucy Gould art collection as well.
14. Toowoomba Farmers Market
If you’re looking for fresh, locally sourced produce, head to the Toowoomba Farmers Market. Held every Saturday from 7 am to 12 pm, the market offers a wide range of fruits, vegetables, meats, and baked goods. You’ll also find artisanal products like honey, cheese, and preserves.
It is a great place to meet local farmers and producers and learn more about the food you’re buying, while supporting the local community. The markets were on while we visited and we loved meeting the locals here!
15. The Emporium vintage op-shop
If you love vintage clothes or thrift shops in general, head to The Emporium, a Lifeline op-shop. Here you’ll find a vintage wardrobe and a book shop on site to spend a few hours looking through all of the clothes here.
16. Explore the street art in Toowoomba
I love a city or town that has a lot of amazing street art to brighten up the place. Toowoomba is no different, offering up some amazing streets filled with street art to discover. Head down Cobbler’s Lane which is a historic laneway, featuring beautiful street art and boutique shops.
Check out the street art map to decide how you want to do a self-guided tour, but make sure you check out the mural between Ruthven and Union Street by Fintan Magee or an elephant caught by a tree house. It’s huge and you could spend hours looking at it.
Also check out the famous work by Adnate, a Victorian based artist whom I’m sure you’ll recognise as his work is all over Australia. Located at 49 Neil Street, opposite the Empire Theatre, you’ll love this piece of work.
17. Go for a swim at the Milne Bay Aquatic and Fitness Centre
The Milne Bay Aquatic and Fitness Centre is a great place to cool off if you’re visiting Toowoomba on a hot day. It features a range of pools and water slides, perfect entertainment for kids!
Museums to visit in Toowoomba
18. Cobb+Co Museum
The Cobb+Co Museum is a fascinating museum that celebrates the history of transport in Australia. The museum is housed in the original Toowoomba Foundry, which was built in 1876.
The museum’s collection includes over 50 pristine horse-drawn vehicles, including carriages, coaches, and wagons, as well as vintage cars, motorcycles, and bicycles. As one of the best things to do in Toowoomba, put this museum on your list to visit, even if you only have time to visit one.
19. Royal Bull’s Head Inn
As mentioned earlier on in this guide, The Royal Bull’s Head Inn is a heritage-listed former inn that was built in 1859. It is one of the oldest surviving buildings in Toowoomba and is now a museum that showcases the life and times of the early settlers of the region, plus a ghost tour too!
The museum features period furniture, clothing, and artifacts, as well as displays on the history of the inn and the surrounding area.
20. Take a tour of the DownsSteam Tourist Railway and Museum
One of the most unique things to do in Toowoomba is to visit the The DownsSteam Tourist Railway and Museum. It offers a unique look at the region’s railway history and is completely run by volunteers. It features a collection of vintage trains and railway memorabilia in pristine condition and is absolutely fascinating to see, even if trains aren’t your thing!
21. Visit the Highfields Pioneer Village
I love a living museum, because I find it so fascinating to see how people lived. The Highfields Pioneer Village showcases the history of the Darling Downs region and features a collection of historic buildings, vintage cars, and more. This is one of the best things to do in Toowoomba with kids to teach them all about the history of the area.
Places to visit nearby
Planning on staying in Toowoomba for a couple of days? Here’s some of the best places to visit nearby.
22. Take a trip to the Darling Downs Zoo
A 40 minute drive from Toowoomba will bring you to The Darling Downs Zoo. This is a small, family-owned zoo that features a variety of animals, including lions, tigers, and monkeys, perfect for a day trip from the city.
23. Go hiking in Bunya Mountains National Park
The Bunya Mountains are a beautiful mountain range located 1h30m from Toowoomba. They offer stunning views, walking trails, and picnic spots and is the second oldest national park in Queensland (after Mount Tamborine in Gold Coast Hinterland).
There are plenty of walks to consider, with the Barker Creek Circuit being one of the top hikes to do in Bunya Mountains. It’s a three hour hike, covering 10km. If you’re looking for something shorter to do, do the Bunya Pine Scenic Circuit which is a one hour short loop to multiple waterfalls covering a distance of 4.2km.
24. Go for a swim in Crows Nest National Park
Crows Nest National Park is a 40 minute drive north of Toowoomba and is home to fantastic walking tracks and swimming holes to swim in. The Koonin Lookout Trail is a 3.9km walk and takes about one hour to complete. There are cascades to visit along the way, so you should bring your swimmers with you.
The other well known walking track is the Crows Nest Falls Pools Loop which is just a 2.6km walk, taking on average around 45 minutes to complete. Bring your swimmers for this walk!
25. Visit Ravensbourne National Park
Ravensbourne National Park is a 1hour drive north of Toowoomba and is home to the Rainforest and Palm Creek Circuit. The 4km, 1h30m return walk takes you through some of the remaining rainforest in the area.
26. The Falls Drive Scenic Rim
Fancy doing a scenic drive on the way home to Gold Coast or Brisbane? I recommend doing The Falls Drive in regional Queensland which takes you to four amazing waterfalls including: Queen Mary Falls, Browns Falls, Daggs Falls and Teviot Falls. Check out my guide for 7 Places To Stop On The Falls Drive as the drive itself is stunning!
If you have more time, check out the Kalbar Sunflower Farm, Scenic Rim Farm Shop and the amazing Kooroomba Vineyards & Lavender Farm.
Where to Eat in Toowoomba
Toowoomba is a food lover’s paradise, with a wide variety of dining options that cater to all tastes and budgets. From casual cafes to fine dining restaurants, there is something for everyone. Here’s some of the restaurants and cafes you need to put on your list.
27. Zev’s Bistro
Located on Margaret Street, Zev’s Bistro is a must-visit for foodies. This restaurant offers a degustation-only menu, which means that you get to sample a variety of dishes, each with its unique flavour and presentation.
The menu changes every six weeks, so there is always something new to try. They also offer a selection of matched wines to complement each dish, making it the perfect place for a special occasion.
28. The Finch
The Finch is a popular restaurant located on Ruthven Street. This restaurant is known for its creative dishes that use locally-sourced produce which is where we ate at during our visit. The menu changes regularly, so there is always something new to try. The restaurant also offers a range of vegetarian and gluten-free options, making it a great choice for those with dietary restrictions.
29. Fitzy’s Toowoomba
If you’re looking for a more casual dining experience, Fitzy’s Toowoomba is a great choice. This restaurant offers a range of pub-style dishes, including burgers, steaks, and salads. The restaurant also has a great selection of beers on tap, making it the perfect place for a relaxed night out with friends.
30. Kajoku Korean & Japanese Cuisine
If you’re in the mood for Asian cuisine, Kajoku Korean & Japanese Cuisine is a great choice. This restaurant offers a range of Korean and Japanese dishes, including sushi, sashimi, and Korean BBQ. The restaurant also has a great selection of vegetarian and gluten-free options, making it a great choice for those with dietary restrictions.
Where to stay in Toowoomba
Toowoomba has several hotels that offer comfortable and convenient accommodation. The city centre has a number of hotels, including the Burke and Wills Hotel and the Park Motor Inn, both of which are located within walking distance of shops, restaurants, and attractions.
If you prefer a more intimate and homely atmosphere, Toowoomba has several bed and breakfasts that offer comfortable and cosy accommodation. The Glenellen Bed and Breakfast is a popular choice, located in a quiet neighbourhood close to the city centre. The Ravensbourne Escape is another great option, offering stunning views of the surrounding countryside.
For those travelling on a budget or looking for a more outdoorsy experience, Toowoomba has several caravan parks that offer affordable and convenient accommodation. Check out the Big4 Toowoomba Garden City Holiday Park.