TRAVEL

Less than an hour’s drive is a trea­sure trove, and it’s called Toowoomba.

QT Magazine - - WELCOME - BY TRACEY HORDERN

HIS­TOR­I­CALLY the grand old city of Toowoomba ser­viced the wealthy and the plen­ti­ful bounty of the Dar­ling Downs. Home of the iconic Cobb & Co, this sur­pris­ingly el­e­gant and his­toric in­land city is rich in his­tory, cul­ture and ar­chi­tec­ture, mak­ing it a great get­away des­ti­na­tion.An easy hour and a half in­land from Bris­bane, the dra­matic set­ting of Toowoomba is im­me­di­ately ap­par­ent, as your ears will ring in the steep climb head­ing up the moun­tain to the dra­mat­i­cally beau­ti­ful plateau that Toowoomba re­sides on.

Toowoomba dif­fers from the most of the state of Queens­land. To start with, the plateau is be­tween 600 and 1,000 me­tres above sea level and has four dis­tinct sea­sons. This of course de­ter­mines the fo­liage, so it’s no sur­prise Toowoomba is fa­mously re­garded as Queens­land’s ‘gar­den city’, with ev­ery­thing from roses to Japanese gar­dens bloom­ing in full glory.

As a re­peat vis­i­tor to Aus­tralia’s largest in­land city and a lover of his­tor­i­cal ar­chi­tec­ture, I know the best place to stay in Toowoomba and that’s the sub­lime Vacy Hall. Owned and op­er­ated by host ex­traor­di­naire, Gra­ham Hig­gins, Vacy Hall was once one of Toowoomba’s grand­est pri­vate homes.

Built in the 1899 as a wed­ding present for the daugh­ter of a wealthy squat­ter, the charm­ing man­sion is rep­re­sen­ta­tive of an el­e­gant at­mos­phere of com­fort­able liv­ing over a cen­tury ago. Set in beau­ti­ful gar­dens, the large, well-ap­pointed rooms are re­splen­dent in ar­chi­tec­tural de­tails and fur­nish­ings, char­ac­terised by pressed metal ceil­ings, bay win­dows, four-poster beds and or­nate work­ing fire­places.

In the cooler months, I rec­om­mend you re­serve a room with a fire­place. The sound and light of a real fire crack­ling is one of the most de­li­cious ways to drift off to sleep on a cold night and it’s

the per­fect ac­com­pa­ni­ment to a ro­man­tic get­away. And in the morn­ing, I sug­gest en­joy­ing your gourmet break­fast on the sunny ve­ran­das; it’s the best way to start your day, be­fore head­ing off to ex­plore the city.

If you ap­pre­ci­ate iconic Aus­tralian his­tory, the Cobb & Co mu­seum is a great start. The Em­pire Theatre is also a must-see his­toric build­ing in Toowoomba. In lov­ingly re­stored con­di­tion, The Em­pire Theatre is cur­rently lead­ing a full and busy life, ap­pre­ci­ated by both vis­i­tors and lo­cals.

For the to­tal in­dul­gence, no get­away is com­plete with­out a spa ex­pe­ri­ence. Ex­pe­ri­enc­ing three hours of the Sig­na­ture Spa Jour­ney at Com­plete Tran­quil­ity Day Spa in Toowoomba can­not be rec­om­mended enough. The sig­na­ture treat­ment cov­ers it all; in­clud­ing a full body ex­fo­li­a­tion, full body wrap and mas­sage and anti-ag­ing fa­cial, foot treat­ment, hair treat­ment and head mas­sage. Three hours of bliss and the re­sult is glow­ing skin, hair and a to­tally re­laxed body.

Toowoomba is also home to some fan­tas­tic restau­rants. While my part­ner and I en­joy great food, we’re not tech­ni­cally food­ies. But we both knew enough to find two of the best restau­rants in the city with a lit­tle in­side help from our Vacy Hall host. Gips, lo­cated across the road from our ac­com­mo­da­tion is, sim­ply di­vine. Another fa­mously grand home in Toowoomba, Gips is now home to the city’s most es­teemed restau­rant.

The set­ting and menu set expectations high, but the sig­na­ture dish even sur­passed those expectations. I would se­ri­ously travel to Toowoomba again just to ex­pe­ri­ence their sig­na­ture dish again; the More­ton Bay Bug Ravi­oli. A house made ravi­oli, with fresh tiger prawns, More­ton Bay bug tail, green as­para­gus and bre­saola chips, served with a spicy ver­mouth cream sauce.

The other fan­tas­tic food find in Toowoomba is Sofra’s Turk­ish Cui­sine. An au­then­tic Turk­ish restau­rant, not nor­mally found out­side of Tur­key, Sofra’s is also stun­ning. The restau­rant was do­ing a roar­ing trade and lit­tle won­der, this is a re­ally great find and it’s great to be in with the lo­cal’s se­cret. We shared the Seafood Platter and it was plen­ti­ful and ex­cep­tion­ally de­li­cious.

Af­ter vis­it­ing Toowoomba for a sec­ond time, I can highly rec­om­mend this of­ten over­looked des­ti­na­tion. It’s also the per­fect get­away for those of us in North­ern NSW and Queens­land. Toowoomba is - as I tell any­one who will lis­ten - sur­pris­ingly el­e­gant. With gorgeous his­toric ac­com­mo­da­tion, se­ri­ously great food, big city spa ex­pe­ri­ences and fa­mously beau­ti­ful gar­dens, com­mit to a visit, you will not be dis­ap­pointed!

Jour­nal­ist was a guest of Vacy Hall

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