Riddle us this: what region lies west of Toowoomba, east of Roma, north of Goondiwindi, south of Kingaroy and spans over 37,000-square kilometres?
Made up of six major towns – Dalby, Chinchilla, Jandowae, Tara, Miles and Wandoan – the Western Downs is not only vast by land size but also its visitor offering with nature, adventure, heritage, history, art and culture is a plenty.
Before you hit the Warrego west to this pocket of Southern Queensland Country, start planning your itinerary with this guide.
Where is it?
They say all roads lead to Rome, but in the case of the Western Downs, four major highways will lead you into the region: the Warrego Highway, Bunya Highway, Leichhardt Highway and Moonie Highway.
Thanks to four major highways connecting visitors to the region, it’s easily accessible from Queensland’s south-east corner, northern New South Wales and Outback Queensland.
Less than one hour’s drive from Toowoomba and two-and-a-half hours from Brisbane, the Western Downs is the perfect long weekend road trip when you can bank a few extra days annual leave.
What is there to do?
Whether you’re looking for an active escape or want to turn back the pages of history during your road trip – the Western Downs has you covered.
Explore the region on foot – either along the 40 kilometres of walking trails in the Bunya Mountains National Park or on the water at Caliguel Lagoon, Lake Broadwater Conservation Park or Condamine Dam.
Doubling as a twitchers paradise, make sure you pack your binoculars and keep your eyes and ears alert for the calls of over 342 species of birds when exploring the local wetlands, parklands and nature reserves. Psst… be sure to pick up a copy of the Western Downs Birding Book from Visitor Information Centres to discover what birds you can find on your travels.
If you’re an art lover, stop by the local art galleries and cultural centres as well as exploring the outdoor sculptures through the region – you’ll even find famous brushstrokes on display in local pubs and roadhouses.
With a strong military connection, there is plenty of memorabilia housed in the region’s pubs and museums – including the Meandarra ANZAC Memorial Museum.
Make sure you put one of the historical homesteads or museums on your itinerary to learn about the pioneering days – stop by the Miles Historical Museum to see a replica streetscape depicting the 1930s.
Where to stay?
With each town less than two hours’ drive from one another, the region is your oyster when choosing where to overnight.
For a true sleep-under-the-stars experience, secure the peg legs in the ground or BYO your accommodation on wheels and overnight at one of the region’s camping grounds.
Choose from a campsite on the banks of one of the Western Downs’ waterways, in the Bunya National Park or other rural locations.
For more lively accommodation and the shortest commute from your evening meal and sundowner, grab a room at one of the local pubs.
Tell me about the events?
When up to 20,000 people descend on a town for an event, you know you’re in for a good time.
While many events in the Western Downs events calendar are bi-annual, such as the Tara Festival of Culture and Camel Races, the Chinchilla Melon Festival and the Jandowae Timbertown Festival, there’s plenty of events held each year to add to your itinerary.
Settle in at the grounds of Jimbour House for a night of opera or strap in for three days of entertainment as the backyard of this prestigious house turns into a three-day music festival aka Big Skies each autumn.
For something different, let your tastebuds decide for you at the Dalby Delicious and Delightful Festival where international flavours fill the air.
If you prefer something a little more low key, you’ll find horse racing, yabby racing and cultural festivals throughout the year too.
Plan, plan, plan. While the region is well connected from Dalby to Wandoan (east to west) and Jandowae to Tara (north to south), it pays to map out an itinerary to avoid backtracking and adding unnecessary bitumen miles to your trip.
Make sure you stop by the Visitor Information Centres in each town to help with any last-minute plans or head to the local pub and chew the fat with the locals – you’re bound to learn a thing or two that you won’t read in a guidebook.
Don’t forget to check the weather forecast when you are travelling too – the Western Downs experiences warm days during summer and cool nights during winter.