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