|Trip Length: 5 days Total Distance: 896 km Road Conditions: All sealed roads|
If the idea of travelling in sight of some amazing granite formations, lush green orchards, rugged gorge country, and historic homesteads appeals to you, then try travelling the Country Way.
This drive is a wonderful trek from the cool climate Wallangarra on the state border to tropic and sultry Rockhampton in Central Queensland.
Just an hour's drive along the journey is some of Queensland's best original sandstone buildings and historic homes at Warwick. For the record, Warwick is not the last point along The Country Way at which the holidaying history buff can get a feel for the days when everything moved slower and usually in a horse and cart.
The Darling Downs towns of Allora, Clifton, and Nobby offer much history. For instance, Steele Rudd's tales set this territory into the pages of Australian Literary History.
Further along it is hard not to stop in Toowoomba for the mix of history, great views and shopping. September is the best time to visit this country hub, as the city holds the annual Carnival of Flowers.
Driving North the little villages of Cooyar, Blackbutt and Yarraman display the wares of the timber industry as well as providing access to the Yarraman Forest Drive and Palms National Park.
With the Granite Country and Lockyer Valley views from Toowoomba behind you, the highway now climbs the Blackbutt Range. Here the landscape changes gradually into the fertile rolling country of the South Burnett. From this point North, there is a string of interesting national parks to explore including the majestic Bunya Mountains and Cania Gorge. In fact, there are national parks not far from the Country Way all the way to Rockhampton.
One of Queensland's oldest towns Nanango is on the Country Way. Locals say that gold fossickers often try their hand at finding a fortune by visiting Seven Mile Diggings.
Further along the way, the South Burnett towns of Kingaroy and Murgon have some interesting local wineries. Also, anglers might like to consider stopping at Boondooma Dam located near Proston and Bjelke Peterson Dam located outside of Murgon. Murgon also has the only Dairy Museum in Queensland. Skipping ahead, antique collectors will find a lot of interest in Goomeri.
The tiny location of Ban Ban Springs makes the beginning of the North Burnett. The North Burnett is home to the fruit bowl towns of Gayndah and Mundubbera.
Moving north and out of the hill country at Eidsvold and Monto, the highway travels into beef and dairy country.
In the final section of the Country Way from the Central Queensland Cotton town of Biloela to Beef Capital of Rockhampton, there is plenty to see. For instance, the historic town of Mt Morgan is a gold and silver mining town snuggled into what once was a mountain and is now an awe-inspiring piece of Queensland history.
Then complete the Country Way at Rockhampton. Rockhampton has its own charm and provides a great gateway to the Capricorn Coast or perhaps a break before venturing into the gem fields to the west.
|Wallangarra to Toowoomba||2 hrs 30 mins||182 kms|
|Toowoomba to Kingaroy||2 hrs 08 mins||164 kms|
|Kingaroy to Gayndah||4 hrs||300 kms|
|Gayndah to Biloela||3 hrs||245 kms|
|Biloela to Rockhampton||2 hrs||142 kms|
The Country Way starts in the Queensland border town of Wallangarra, which has the distinction of being Queensland's most southern town. Travelling north from Wallangarra, there is much to see along the way including occasional glimpses of the remarkable granite formations that make the nearby Girraween National Park so worthwhile.
February in the border country is great for wine lovers wanting to experience the many local wineries during vintage, while Spring is best for those looking at enjoying the granite belt wildflowers.
As you drive from the Granite Belt towards the Southern Downs Town of Warwick, the granite country turns into rolling farmland. Warwick's wonderful sandstone buildings will appeal to anyone with an interest in history and architecture. Driving from the Southern Downs to the Darling Downs Capital Toowoomba provides the chance for a worthwhile overnight stop.
Toowoomba has some great lookouts like Picnic Point and Mt Kynock as well as wonderful parks and gardens like the Japanese Garden at the University of Southern Queensland. Toowoomba also has a good array of restaurants, pubs and clubs. If you are travelling in September, remember that Toowoomba is home to the Carnival of Flowers.
Worthwhile daytrips from Toowoomba include treks through the Lockyer Valley or perhaps to the beautiful Spring Bluff Railway station.
As you leave Toowoomba along the New England Highway, look out to the east for magnificent views of the Lockyer Valley. However, there is much more to come than great views. The tree lined drive leads to interesting towns like Carbarlah, Hampton and Crows Nest. For motoring enthusiasts this part of The Country Way provides a good wide highway that is a delight to drive.
Once in the old timber town of Crows Nest, travellers soon discover there are many things to see and do here. For example, there are nurseries, cafes, antique shops, galleries and museums, as well as the nearby Crows Nest National Park and Valley of the Diamonds. Just north of Crows Nest the pine plantations provide a reminder of the industry that for many years provided the timber towns of Crows Nest and Nanango with wealth.
The Country Way then winds through the rugged Cooyar Range and into the tiny town of Cooyar. Take the time to stop and chat to a local here at the Cooyar Hotel or stroll across the suspension bridge by the park. Once on the way again, the road rises over the range and gives views of country that is more open before passing the Yarraman State Forest's tall pine plantations.
Once within the Nanango Shire the Daguilar Highway drives through farmland that is a patchwork green and gold. Along the way are occasional surprises like an ancient aboriginal Bora Ring just north of Nanango. While in the neighbourhood, the Seven Mile Diggings might be a worthwhile diversion. Local legend says that the diggings are still waiting to give up a fortune in gold.
Moving towards Kingaroy along the Bunya Highway is a reminder that the Bunya Mountains to Kingaroy's Southwest are a worthwhile detour. The Bunya Mountains are an unforgettable wilderness experience and only around an hour from Kingaroy.
The Burnett Highway between Kingaroy and Gayndah offers much to see. Driving into Kingaroy from the south, one of the first things you notice are its towering peanut silos. Kingaroy is also home to several quality wineries producing wines that include Shiraz and Chardonnay. Twitchers should also enjoy the nearby Mount Wooroolin Nature Reserve as it is home to a range of birds including Regent Bower Bird and the Black Breasted Quail.
For those that follow the festivals, the Kingaroy Food and Wine Festival in March is worth marking on the calendar each year as it offers the best chance to mix and mingle with the locals. Wooroolin, just north of Kingaroy, is an interesting small town with a restaurant, take-away, and gift shop, making a short stop worthwhile. A fully restored church offers a delightful morning or afternoon tea. Beyond Wooroolin, the highway works its way past timber plantations and then up a rise to provide great views of the surrounding Wondai Shire.
Around half an hour north of Kingaroy, and halfway to Murgon, Wondai is a beautiful small town worth a short visit as it has an array of antique shops, galleries, and a timber industry museum. The pioneering diorama in the visitor information centre is quite spectacular. Take note of some of the architecture of the older buildings in Wondai like the Commercial Bank building and the Sloan Family Hotel.
Sometimes taking a detour off the highway can prove valuable. From Tingoora, follow the signs to Proston and discover Lake Boondooma Camping and Recreational Area but do not forget the fishing rod as the dam is popular for its freshwater fishing. This sealed detour takes travellers over Boisen's Hill and so offers the best view of the district. The country changes again, from Wondai north to the beef town of Murgon as trees line the highway here.
From Murgon try a side trip to the Boat Mountain Lookout, the view is unforgettable over plantations, although caution is required as it is a twisting single-lane mountain road. However, it puts the countryside into perspective showing off its many colours. The Country Way between Murgon and Gayndah turns from the Bunya to the Burnett Highway. Here the road sits in a basin surrounded by hills. Moreover, fossickers can access the Hivesville Gem Fields from a turnoff along this stretch of highway. Just before Gayndah, those interested in Aboriginal heritage will be interested in the sign-posted Aboriginal dreaming legend of the rainbow serpent at Ban Ban Springs.
From Gayndah to Biloela the Country Way changes and the change establishes the type of scenery typical of Central Queensland. However, it is not a change that happens readily. Gradually the highway winds through the towns of Mundubbera, Eidsvold and Monto. Each turn offers an almost imperceptive change until the almost open countryside near Monto.
Mundubbera is the citrus capital of Queensland. For those in the know, April to September when the orchids are in full production is the best time to visit but book ahead as hoards of backpackers fill the town and most of the available accommodation. For bushwalkers, the Auburn River National Park nearby at the intersection of the Auburn, Boyne and Burnett Rivers, has an impressive river channel of huge boulders and water worn rock formations. Before leaving Gayndah explore the Archer's lookout just outside of town that provides a great view of town. Also, the superb historical museum is a must see.
Another worthwhile detour off the highway is the Mt Debatable Road to the McConnell Lookout. The Mt Debatable Road is single-lane bitumen/gravel and demands care, especially in wet weather. The lookout turnoff takes a steep climb up to McConnell Lookout that is difficult to navigate but despite its difficulty, the views from the top give definition to the word breathtaking. From here, you can see across the valley towards the Bunya Mountains, Good Night Scrub, in fact, the whole sweep of the valley of the Auburn River.
Almost mid-distance between Gayndah and Biloela is the small town of Eidsvold. As you drive into Eidsvold, the road winds down into the town across a little creek and parkland called Harkness Creek Park. This is a delightful park for a picnic or rest stop as it has bar-b-cues and a children's play area. For an alternative route to Monto, consider taking the very scenic route from north of Eidsvold to Mount Perry then loop back to Monto. This route introduces the small town of Mt Perry and provides access to Boolboonda Tunnel. This 192-metre railway tunnel is now disused but dates back to the mid-1880 and is unlined and unsupported, but drilled straight through solid rock.
Once through Monto, the highway scenery flattens out as it enters the Central Queensland Cotton country around Biloela. Biloela is the gateway to the nearby Kroombit National Park with spectacular views and palm fringed waterfalls. The flat highway scenery is typical of country associated with the Central Queensland Coal fields from Biloela to near Mackay in the north.
The home run on The Country Way hits the edge of the dusty red soil country of the coal-rich Bowen Basin; it saves its memorable encore until it passes through the historic town of Mt Morgan, just a half hour or so southwest of Rockhampton.
This drive could not be more worthwhile because it is home to a treasure trove of history and tales true and tall. Take time to visit the Mount Morgan Museum as it displays a wonderful collection that reflects the life of this mining town. It is easy to spend a day visiting the highlights of Mt Morgan including Anzac Park, and the Heritage Mt Morgan Steam Railway Complex.
A short run on the Bruce Highway provides the final leg of the Country Way and Rockhampton is the final stop. Train buff's that have not visited Central Queensland before should keep a lookout for the enormous coal trains that run along the tracks by the highway carting coal from the Central Queensland Coal fields to Gladstone.
Among the highlights of Rockhampton are the botanic gardens, a heritage trail through the central business district, and the nearby Capricorn Coast and Capricorn Caves. Driving into Rockhampton via the Country Way it is impossible to miss the famous bull statues that are dotted at various points around the city and mark the fact that Rockhampton is the Queensland beef-cattle capital.
From Rockhampton there are many possible adventures, west to the Blackdown Tablelands or the gem fields or perhaps north to Yeppoon and the Capricorn Coast.
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