The sky’s the limit

Ip­swich is re­born as a gourmet get­away

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Destination Australia - LEE MYLNE

FIRE lights the sky in the pre-dawn of a Queens­land day. Soon we are float­ing gen­tly up­wards, borne by a hot-air bal­loon above the her­itage city of Ip­swich.

Be­yond the bal­loon gon­dola, the land­scape wakes to the sun. The Great Di­vid­ing Range, in shades of grey and blue and green, shrouded in mist, rises in front of us and be­low us the nar­row rib­bon of the Bre­mer River cuts its way through the city. Sun­light catches on the brick and stone build­ings of Queens­land’s old­est pro­vin­cial city, dot­ted with parks and gar­dens.

Be­fore long we are fly­ing over farm­land and vine­yards, drink­ing in the land­scape from 550m while Float­ing Images chief pi­lot Graeme Day tends the burn­ers and the wind takes us where it will.

On a two-day visit to Ip­swich, I find my­self in the air al­most more of­ten than on the ground, as I sam­ple some of the ac­tiv­i­ties that make the re­gion an easy choice for a Bris­bane get­away. Only 30 min­utes’ drive from the Queens­land cap­i­tal, Ip­swich is un­der­go­ing a re­nais­sance that is see­ing many of its her­itage build­ings put to mod­ern use, with the un­du­lat­ing coun­try­side of southeast Queens­land’s Scenic Rim just min­utes out of town.

In the city cen­tre, the mod­ern Metro Ho­tel In­ter­na­tional is the pick-up and drop-off point for bal­loon­ing and he­li­copter tours. Bal­loon rides fin­ish with a cham­pagne break­fast at the ho­tel’s Plat­form 9 restau­rant.

At Ironbark Ridge vine­yard, a mob of kan­ga­roos, more than a dozen strong, stands stock still be­side the drive­way, alert but im­mo­bile as they watch us pass. We’ve ar­rived in rock-star style … by limou­sine trans­fer from Bris­bane and then by he­li­copter, land­ing in a mown cir­cle of grass on the edge of the vine­yard.

“We also oc­ca­sion­ally get a cou­ple of koalas wan­der­ing through,” says wine­maker Barry Hof­fensetz, who planted the first vines on his prop­erty in 1983.

Ironbark Ridge is the old­est of about a dozen bou­tique winer­ies on the regular drop-in list of Cap­tain Mike Jarvis’ Ptero­dactyl He­li­copters tours. Soon we’re head­ing to the cel­lar door, a his­toric miner’s cottage that served as Hof­fensetz’s surgery in Ip­swich be­fore he re­tired as a GP.

Tast­ings are wait­ing. Ironbark Ridge has 3.4ha un­der vine with mainly chardon­nay, shi­raz and grenache grapes, but smaller plant­ings of bou­tique va­ri­eties such as marsanne, rou­sanne, viog­nier, dolcetto, verdelho and nebi­oli. All the vines are hand-planted and the grapes are hand-picked.

It has not al­ways been easy. “We had 10 to 12 years of drought, then an abun­dance of rain at the wrong time in the past four years,” says Hof­fensetz.

But he and his wife, Jan, and oth­ers in the re­gion, have per­se­vered and the heli-tours have helped. Ptero­dactyl He­li­copters is one of sev­eral busi­nesses boost­ing Ips- wich’s tourism in­dus­try be­yond its well-known her­itage at­trac­tions.

At the sec­ond of two vine­yards on our combo-tour from Ptero­dactyl’s wine and pub tours, Nor­manby Wines owner Mick Hall extends a grape-stained hand in wel­come to his “best backyard in the world”.

Hall came to Australia five decades ago, from Eng­land, and now de­clares the nearby vil­lage of Har­risville “the hub of the uni­verse”. He and his wife Jenny have lived there since 1972 and planted their first vines in 1999. They have seven va­ri­eties of grape on 3ha of their 66ha prop­erty. I’m in­trigued by wine names I’ve never heard be­fore: ve­raz (a blend of verdelho and shi­raz) and du­rif. Hall says Nor­manby Wines is one of the few Queens­land vine­yards to pro­duce du­rif, a rich dark red wine.

A few min­utes’ flight away — and about 30km from Ip­swich by road — is the his­toric Royal Ho­tel Har­risville, where we tuck into schnitzel for lunch and down a cou­ple of cold beers. Pub­li­cans Steve and Monika Pa­trick bought the pub three years ago, and will soon open their first ac­com­mo­da­tion, in a re­stored rail­way car­riage, to com­ple­ment the free camp­ing they of­fer to trav­ellers.

In stark con­trast to the Royal’s el­e­gant Queens­lan­der-style ve­ran­dahs, our next pub stop is the Sun­downer Sa­loon at Haigslea, on the busy War­rego High­way. With a front gar­den of tall cac­tus, sa­loon doors and Clint East­wood gaz­ing down from the restau­rant wall, it’s coun­try and west­ern ter­ri­tory.

We fin­ish our tour in town at Ip­swich’s new bou­tique brew­ery, the Pump­yard Bar. On the ground floor in the her­itage-listed for­mer Ip­swich Tech­ni­cal Col­lege, where black­smiths and plumbers once learned their trades, the place is all industrial-chic, with a long wooden bar and shiny stain­less steel brew­ing tanks lining the walls.

Award-win­ning brewer Wade Curtis and co-owner James Long are hope­ful their 4 Hearts Brew­ing ven­ture will at­tract not only lo­cals but Bris­bane-ites look­ing for new places to drink and dine.

With 10 taps, the brew­house is of­fer­ing its own seven beers (with names such as Coalmin­ers Stout to re­flect the city’s her­itage), “guest” bou­tique beers and ciders, and or­ganic soft drinks. The beer-fo­cused menu in­cludes a sig­na­ture beef cheek dish and even beer ice-cream.

Pump­yard is the first ten­ant in the re­de­vel­op­ment of the sprawl­ing old Tech­ni­cal Col­lege, to be known as 88 Lime­stone, in Ip­swich’s Top of Town dis­trict. This takes in El­len­bor­ough, Bris­bane and Lime­stone streets, all bustling with ren­o­va­tion and re­de­vel­op­ment projects. Cafes and restau­rants are spring­ing up and there are vin­tage fash­ion stores, the Daily Planet comic shop and CJ Vol­ger & Son’s model and hobby store. None of it is far from the Ip­swich Art Gallery, which lays claim to be­ing the na­tion’s most vis­ited re­gional art gallery, and Jamie Oliver’s first Aus­tralian Min­istry of Food kitchen.

But it’s the Latin phrase em­bla­zoned on the frieze on the front of the Lime­stone 88 build­ing that catches my eye. Aus­pi­cium Me­lioris Aevi, it reads. The trans­la­tion, I’m told, is roughly, “the prom­ise of a bet­ter age”. Some­how, it seems ap­pro­pri­ate.

Lee Mylne was a guest of the Metro Ho­tel Ip­swich In­ter­na­tional, Float­ing Images and Ptero­dactyl He­li­copters.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.