The CITY OF IP­SWICH, poised on the edge of the SCENIC RIM, is rewrit­ing ITS STORY with cafe cul­ture, CRAFT BEER and coun­try mu­sic.

Australian Traveller - - Weekends -

IP­SWICH, YOU MIGHT THINK, is Queens­land’s coulda-been, al­most-was, maybe-one-day town. It coulda-been the cap­i­tal in 1859, but Bris­bane got the nod. It al­most-was the state’s coun­try mu­sic cap­i­tal in the 1970s, with high­pro­file fes­ti­vals and awards, but the im­pe­tus stalled by the mid-’80s and Gympie grabbed the rep­u­ta­tion. Well, it’s time to re­think Ip­swich. Maybe with your stom­ach. Maybe-one-day is to­day, maybe, with the re­laxed pro­vin­cial city emerg­ing as a cof­fee-foodie get­away from Bris­bane, poised on the edge of the Scenic Rim re­gion and its blos­som­ing agri-tourism scene. Ip­swich is the fastest-grow­ing city in Queens­land, both in peo­ple and – if a stroll down Bris­bane Street is any clue – cafes. The last time Ip­swich was this hap­pen­ing, men with bushranger beards were some­times ac­tu­ally bushrangers. Her­itage-listed Vic­to­rian piles sign­post a pros­per­ous 19th-cen­tury, when wool and coal were car­ried down the Bre­mer River by pad­dle-steamer to port at Bris­bane, then still eco­nomic sec­ond-banana. These days down­town Brissie is 40 min­utes by car, by which time a Nutella cap­puc­cino at ’50s-style Deann’s Cof­fee House will go down a treat, al­though for cy­clists ped­alling into Cactus Espresso Bar be­fore 9am, cof­fee is half price. Fourthchild’s (fourthchild­cafe.com.au) pan­cakes are pop­u­lar, and global cuisines in­clude Heisen­berg Haus (heisen­berg.com.au; Ger­man) and Be­hind Our Picket Fence (South African). Also re­fresh­ing Ip­swich is the re­turn of coun­try mu­sic, back with a twang­ing vengeance. CMC Rocks (Aus­tralia’s largest in­ter­na­tional coun­try mu­sic fes­ti­val; CMC is Fox­tel’s Coun­try Mu­sic Chan­nel) left the Hunter Val­ley in 2015 for Ip­swich’s Wil­low­bank Race­way and has sold out the last two years run­ning. A laid-back lar­rikin­ism pre­vailed as 2017’s ca­pac­ity crowd of 15,000 cheered the Amer­i­can (Lit­tle Big Town, Dixie Chicks) and Aus­tralian (Lee Ker­naghan, Mor­gan Evans) big guns rock­ing out un­der the gum trees. Con­stel­la­tions shone over­head, but stargaz­ers fo­cused on the stage. Other star spot­ters might have seen some acts, such as Evans, pop­ping into Rafter & Rose cafe, an Ip­swich favourite. The food is lo­cal, of­ten or­ganic, and the honey’s in-house – note bee­hive on out­side wall. Sip­ping an Un­cle Joe’s cof­fee, I pon­der start­ing a con­spir­acy the­ory about Rafter & Rose be­ing ab­ducted by UFO from Mel­bourne and beamed down here, hang­ing-plant and flow­er­pot-filled laneway in­tact. A sim­i­lar yarn could be spun about 116 Laneway cafe and bar; set be­tween two her­itage-listed build­ings, the bar is a con­verted ship­ping con­tainer. I reckon I’d get away with it, es­pe­cially af­ter a few cold ones at the Pump yard Bar& Brew­ery (4 hearts brew­ing. com)

– or Tap’d (pa­ho­tel.com.au), which serves 72 tap beers and ciders in the his­toric Prince Al­fred Ho­tel. Men­tion the Pump­yard any­where around Ip­swich and the stan­dard re­sponse is: ‘How good is that place!’ Which isn’t a ques­tion. “We keep our beers re­ally ap­proach­able,” ex­plains owner-brewer Wade Cur­tis, cit­ing his top-sell­ing pale ale, but he’s clearly not averse to ad­ven­ture, as his ale ice-cream or ex­per­i­ment in mak­ing ‘Wab­bit Sai­son’ car­rot beer at­test. His gleam­ing fer­menters are also ap­proach­able, lin­ing the bar/restau­rant walls. Open­ing in a cen­tury-old ex-tech col­lege in 2015, the Pump­yard is Ip­swich’s first brew­ery since 1903 and one of many grand old ed­i­fices con­verted to cooler pur­pose. The Incin­er­a­tor The­atre has been a play­house longer than it was the coun­cil incin­er­a­tor, and is Queens­land’s only Wal­ter Bur­ley Griffind­e­signed build­ing (1936). The Old Court­house (1859) is also well into a new stage of life host­ing mu­si­cal the­atre. Stu­dio 188 does rock, jazz, the­atre and com­edy in an ex-Bap­tist church (1877, fol­lowed by a 1938 Art Deco makeover); the old Town Hall (1861) houses Ip­swich Art Gallery. The re­gion just south of Ip­swich is also find­ing new pur­pose. See why it’s called the Scenic Rim via Cap­tain Mike’s Ptero­dactyl He­li­copters (ptero­dactyl­he­li­copters.com.au). From 500 feet in a buzzing metal drag­on­fly you’ll ad­mire a sprawl­ing dish of farm­land, sprin­kled with bush and rimmed by jagged moun­tains in all di­rec­tions. The ge­nial cap­tain does fly­ing wine, food and pub tours all over the Rim, hu­mor­ous ban­ter AUS­TRALIANTRAV­ELLER.COM in­cluded. The phrase ‘drop­ping in for a beer’ hits lit­eral heights with Mike’s spec­tac­u­lar de­scent into Har­risville (28 kilo­me­tres from Ip­swich), more T-junc­tion than town, with the Royal Ho­tel (roy­al­hotel­har­risville.com.au) star­ing down the gun­bar­rel main street at the in­ter­sec­tion. De-chop­per­ing in a nearby va­cant lot, we step onto the Royal’s shady bal­cony, feel­ing very coun­try-rock star. A fancier op­tion is Spicers Hid­den Vale (spicer­sre­treats.com), a lux­ury hilltop resort on a work­ing farm. It’s only 30 min­utes’ drive from Ip­swich, but fly-by-Mike to be greeted with Cham­pagne be­fore am­bling into Homage restau­rant in the main home­stead. The prop­erty was once home to Sid­ney Cot­ton, an MI6 spy in the Sec­ond World War who, as a friend of au­thor Ian Flem­ing, partly in­spired James Bond. Know­ing this adds much dash to dis­em­bark­ing a he­li­copter with a tuxedo-clad waiter on standby – you half ex­pect a note from M on the drinks tray. Homage’s pro­duce is 100 per cent lo­cal (of­ten farmed on-site) and cooked with wood and coal fire, and flair. Ex­ec­u­tive chef Ash Martin says a chef ’s job is to put their “heart and soul on the plate”. His rest­less creativ­ity ex­tends to cheeky ‘Grand­ch­ester truf­fles’, which aren’t truf­fles or kan­ga­roo drop­pings, al­though sub­sti­tut­ing for one and re­sem­bling the other.

Once dairy-dom­i­nated, the Scenic Rim now pushes gourmet food tourism – olives, wine, cof­fee, nuts, jams, dukkah – with Eat Lo­cal Week on ev­ery June. Grove Cot­tage near Boonah of­fers ac­com­mo­da­tion in an el­e­gant Queens­lan­der, over­look­ing a hand-har­vested grove pro­duc­ing qual­ity olive oils (lemon myr­tle for me). Un­der an hour from Ip­swich brings you to tiny Mount Al­ford, where the old (1884) gen­eral store has been re­launched as Scenic Rim Brew­ery (sceni­crim­brew­ery.com.au). A copper beer vat sits be­side the orig­i­nal broad wooden counter and shelves that “have been there since day one”, says owner Mike Web­ster. Three beers are brewed on site, and the vibe is fam­ily-friendly, with home-cook­ing, cof­fee and lolly jars. Mike’s wife Wendy draws on her Dutch her­itage, pre­par­ing snacks in­clud­ing bit­ter­ballen and bratwurst. But the best­seller is her unique ‘Food of the Gods’ with tomato, av­o­cado and Mex­i­can-style chilli sauce trans­form­ing “an ac­tual Chiko Roll hid­den un­der­neath”, she ex­plains en­thu­si­as­ti­cally. Wendy could be sum­ming up what’s hap­pen­ing all over the re­gion; Ip­swich re­tains its essence and her­itage: it still has its in­ner Chiko Roll. But new lay­ers have brought new mean­ing, new life, new tastes and, in­deed, new roles.


CLOCKWISE FROM MAIN: Spicers Hid­den Vale is a lux­ury hilltop resort on a work­ing farm; You could eas­ily mis­take Rafter & Rose cafe for a Mel­bourne trans­plant; Try a craft beer or some ale ice-cream at the Pump­yard Bar & Brew­ery. WEEK­ENDS | Ip­swich

FROM TOP LEFT: Once home to the spy who in­spired James Bond, Spicers Hid­den Vale is the per­fect place to land in style with Ptero­dactyl He­li­copters; Mount Al­ford’s old gen­eral store has been trans­formed into the Scenic Rim Brew­ery.

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CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: En­joy spec­tac­u­lar views from Worendo Cot­tages; Beers on tap at Scenic Rim Brew­ery; Catch live mu­sic at honky tonk bar Johnny Ringo’s; Camp­ing out in style at Aus­tralia’s largest in­ter­na­tional coun­try mu­si­cal fes­ti­val, CMC Rocks.

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