Things To Do


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As a saltwater fanatic, leaving pristine beaches behind and heading into the interior of Queensland often makes me twitchy – but it’s always a sensation I end up questioning. After all, South East Queensland has some amazing hinterland, beautiful waterfalls, and incredible hikes, all within striking distance of the coast. But what happens if you venture that little bit further?

Surely, the enormity of Outback Queensland takes over, and you find yourself amongst cattle with little to no phone reception?

This can be true, but at the same time, it’s far from the whole picture. Taking the road less travelled, my good friend – maestro photographer and videographer Rian Cope – and I decided to uncover what’s west, beyond the horizon.

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Goondiwindi Art Trail

Quaint but Not Outdated

Pulling into Linville after cycling the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail from nearby Moore, we’re met with two points of interest: the old railway station and hotel. Both look like they could have been painted yesterday and look inviting.

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Linville, Somerset Region

We spend time checking out the historical information panels at the station before a well-deserved drink across the road. After being served our ice-cold beers with a beaming smile, we head outside and enjoy the tranquillity of the garden. It’s so good we decide, that one drink should become two.

We drop our things at the Rail Trail Refuge and submerge ourselves in their stainless steel plunge pool – pure bliss after a day of driving and cycling.

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Rail Trail Refuge, Linville, Somerset Region

We return to the hotel for dinner but decide to go on foot. On the way back, without street lamps and with minimal light pollution, we have an unhindered view of the night sky: I’ve never seen the Southern Cross so clearly.

The following morning we hike the Koondaii lookout in the Bunya Mountains and drop by Dandabah village, which sits in the heart of this elevated national park (that lunges upwards out of nowhere). It’s as if a French alpine hamlet had been stolen and dropped among the Bunya Pines, and only a few people are in on the secret.

We drift by charming chalet-style homes with wraparound porches and manicured lawns before stopping at the Bunya Mountains Tavern for lunch.

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Bunya Mountains Tavern, Western Downs

Feeling like a reward, we decide on a departure tipple at the attached Shackleton’s Whisky Bar — apparently the highest of its kind in the country. Well, you don’t expect to find over 100 different whiskies at 1000 metres above sea level every day in Australia.

An Art and Food Scene Way Out West

Tucking into our breakfast burritos after a night camping in Crows Nest National Park, I can’t help but notice the individual chats going on between the barista and each local who swings in for a coffee at the Nest Cafe. It’s easy to sit slumped on your phone or pace about when you’re waiting for your name to be called, but here it seems that sharing life events and recent happenings while your milk is being frothed is quite the status quo. It’s endearing, and frankly, I can’t help but feel a tad jealous.

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Crows Nest National Park, Toowoomba Region

Finishing our long afternoon drive into Goonawinna/Goondiwindi, the pair of us are more than keen to take a look around. Lucky for us, there’s not only a chance to stretch our legs but also an opportunity to indulge our eyes with some street art.

Bowen Lane is a kaleidoscope of colour and thought-provoking murals, and we follow them to some attention-grabbing metal sculptures by the town’s boat ramp. The best part? They’re made entirely from repurposed scrap metal featuring engine parts, springs, and levers — you name it, they’ve used it.

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Bowen Lane, Goondiwindi

We see On the Macintyre River, a large water tank mural created by local and visiting Indigenous artists, depicting the river and its native birds on the way to the Queensland Hotel, its colourful painted scene glowing in an amber sunset. I take a chance and order the pork san choy bow for dinner. The meal lands with the crispiest lettuce cups and tasty umami-packed pork mince and I couldn’t be happier. Who says every pub meal has to come with chips?

Early next morning, we start our day at The Larder between perfectly-poured coffee, cheery g’days, and not a single person in a hurry. Outside, locals come and go as long shadows fill the street and a few cars drift by.

‘This must be rush hour’, I say with a smile.

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Goondiwindi Art Trail

Cooling Off

Killarney couldn’t look any more picture-perfect on this bluebird January afternoon. Lawnmowers hum in the distance and there’s not a single cloud in the sky. Cute miniature Queenslander homes line the neat streets as we make our way out towards Queen Mary Falls, a grade 3 circuit with a lookout and plunging 40-metre drop. It’s a hot day – with the mercury pushing into the thirties – and there’s a noticeable, welcoming shift in the temperature as we drive up into the valley.

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Queen Mary Falls, Southern Downs & Granite Belt

Back in town, we pass by art galleries and even a beeswax chandlery (a candle shop) on the way to lunch at the Killarney Hotel. Shaded by trees, the outside deck allows us to take in the town’s tranquillity and process the walk we’ve just had. It was so stunning and secluded – why we didn’t see anyone else there is an absolute mystery. I plucked up the courage again to try something outside of the country pub playbook and order the calamari caesar salad.

‘That looks pretty good, mate – I’m a bit jealous’, says Rian as he eyes up his burger and chips. My salad is vibrantly fresh, with plump pieces of crispy calamari scattered throughout the creamy dressing. Call me a dreamer, or say it’s blind luck, but I have a feeling the levels of gastronomic effort in Country Queensland hotels are on the rise. That’s my take – and long may it continue.

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Killarney Hotel, Southern Downs & Granite Belt

Friendliness All Round

Have you ever tried feeding an ostrich? Neither had I until visiting Long Neck Farm in Goomburra Valley. The cafe and gift store provides a welcome afternoon break from behind the wheel. Feeding these boisterous animals and their much calmer alpaca counterparts is a hilarious undertaking. And, naturally, one bucket of feed is never enough!

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Long Neck Farm, Goomburra, Southern Downs & Granite Belt

After spending the night just outside Main Range National Park, at the gorgeously remote Gordon Country Cabins, we hit the road towards Gnarrallah/Allora, looking for fuel, groceries, and a morning hit of caffeine. We’re keen to see some history and check out the Laidley Pioneer Village, a quirky open-air museum depicting early life in the region. A simpler time – sans Starbucks and Wi-Fi.

Speaking of simpler times, drop into the heritage-listed Lockyer Hotel in Forest Hill for lunch or a brew in the verdant garden out back. With such a nice day on our hands, we went and checked out Lake Clarendon to digest our pub feed by the water. Turns out there’s a free campground here too, and we were definitely considering spending the night. Alas, it’s time to get back to the real world.

Our first stop on the way home is the local petrol station, where the attendant asks where we’re from and then proceeds to give us a discount on fuel – talk about nice. Next, at the local IGA, I’m pushed to the front of the queue by locals who can see I only have a handful of items. Two acts of kindness in the space of five minutes. The cherry on top is when we find coffee and the barista asks where we’re headed before telling us our navigation will take us on a road with roadworks and we’d be much better off taking a locally-known backroad.

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Gordon Country, Southern Downs & Granite Belt

Heading back towards Meanjin/Brisbane, I can’t quite believe the three interactions I’ve had in the last half an hour.

‘They’re quite the friendly bunch out this way’, I say to Rian.

Just then, a ute flies past us, and all we see is a broad smile and the classic Country one-finger wave.

Rian nods his head slowly, ‘They sure are.

Author: Alex Mitcheson

Photographer: Rian Cope

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Acknowledgement of Country

Southern Queensland Country Tourism acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the lands and waterways that run through these regions. We pay our respects to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders past, present and emerging.