|Trip Length: 3 days Total Distance: 744 km Road Conditions: All sealed roads|
'Travel west young man' was an adage used in the past that enticed folks into the outback - a world full of adventure and mystery. Today, travel west and your journey will still be filled with adventure but luckily, you don't have to take the rutted bush tracks of the past. Sealed bitumen roads lead to you to new and exciting places where the people are friendly and appreciative you've made the journey into their part of Australia, and the views different each step of the way.
The Warrego Highway, a 744 km fully sealed stretch of Highway leading you from the Sunshine State's capital, Brisbane, through the fertile Lockyer Valley, up and over the Great Dividing Range, across the Darling Downs and onto the outback metropolis of Charleville, is one of these roads.
Along the way, you can see ancient trees from the dinosaur age, endangered mammals, unwind in the soothing waters from the sub artesian basin, delight in tales told over country bars, or just relax and enjoy the brilliant sunsets and starry nights, and this is to name just a few.
You could accomplish the drive in eight hours but that would mean you would miss meeting the locals and seeing the sites and scenes that the tales of the outback are made from and maybe the opportunity to make some tales up yourself.
As with all country roads, you share it with animals and trucks. Past Roma, huge road trains carry bullocks from outlying stations and around dawn, sunset and during the night, kangaroos and cattle frequently decide to cross the highway.
Check out some of the tourist drive trails along the highway - in wildflower season you'll be astounded at the magnificent display supplied free courtesy of mother nature.
The Warrego Highway, one of the oldest highways in Queensland, a highway leading you to a new adventure each day.
|Brisbane to Ipswich||20 mins||34 kms|
|Ipswich to Toowoomba||1 hr||94 kms|
|Toowoomba to Dalby||55 mins||83 kms|
|Dalby to Chinchilla||55 mins||83 kms|
|Chinchilla to Miles||25 mins||45 kms|
|Miles to Roma||1 hr 50 mins||140 kms|
|Roma to Mitchell||50 mins||87 kms|
|Mitchell to Morven||55 mins||89 kms|
|Morven to Charleville||55 mins||89 kms|
Watch the city skyline of Brisbane disappear behind you as you enter the city that almost stole Brisbane's capital status - Ipswich.
Historic Ipswich, Queensland's oldest provincial city, oozes with charm in its sprawling gardens and magnificent private and public buildings. Ipswich was once a thriving river port and the wealth generated by its pioneers is clearly reflected in the grand early 19th century architecture - there is virtually an example on every street.
One such stately building is the restored Old Town Hall, now home to the Ipswich Arts Gallery - an interactive art gallery and social history museum worthy of a visit. There are many heritage buildings to enjoy on the leisurely self-guided walk brochure available from the visitor information centre. For history and rail enthusiasts, the Workshops Rail Museum in the former North Ipswich rail yards will find you amongst a living rail history.
The next stop on your journey along the Warrego sits right on top of the Great Dividing Range; Toowoomba.
After leaving Ipswich, it is not long and you are passing through the Lockyer Valley. The rich volcanic soils in this valley produce premium vegetables giving the area recognition as Queensland's 'Salad Bowl'.
Your travels will take you close to or through the friendly villages of Rosewood, Marburg, Laidley, Forest Hill, Gatton, Grantham, and Helidon. It is the perfect opportunity to stock up on fresh produce - you won't get any better - and there are plenty of antique and craft shops to explore.
Follow the highway as it climbs up the eastern side of the Great Dividing Range. The road is two lanes through to Toowoomba, which makes for an easier journey. You'll be sharing with slow travelling trucks plying their trade up the steep grade so be prepared to travel slowly up the range, they'll appreciate your courtesy as well.
Once at the top, you're in Toowoomba, - Queensland's Garden City. The distinctive seasons and fertile soils have given rise to a city filled with wonderful gardens and parks, over 150 in fact. Many follow themes such as The Scented Garden and Japanese Garden. Springtime in Toowoomba is a spectacular show. The city is blanketed in a kaleidoscope of vibrant colour, with many private gardens open for viewing during The Carnival of Flowers Festival. The sheer spectacle will dazzle and amaze you.
There is plenty to occupy you for a few hours or a couple of days in this distinctive, charming, country capital. Art galleries, antique shops, heritage buildings, the Cobb & Co Museum, or try some of the interesting short drives that radiate from the city. Visit places like Rudds Pub where Steele Rudd found the inspiration for his wonderful Australian classics such as Dad and Dave, and drive through some of the nations richest agricultural areas steeped in history.
Toowoomba offers the visitor everything - a wide range of accommodation for all budgets and many fine eateries and restaurants. All stocked up, its then time to continue along the Warrego - the next stop Dalby.
Once out of Toowoomba the paddocks open up and the locals around here call them properties not farms. You are now well and truly in the Darling Downs.
Close to the highway is Jondaryan Woolshed, built in 1859 and now restored. The centre pays homage to the rich wool and pastoral history that founded the area and it's not hard to spend a day walking around here.
Then on to Dalby, the hub of Australia's richest grain and cotton growing area. The Thomas Jack Park should be your first point of call. In the gardens is the Visitor Information Centre where they will be only too happy to fill you with activities for your visit, no matter how long it is for. Highlights of a visit to Dalby can include Jimbour House, Lake Broadwater Conservation Park, or visiting a cotton gin in full production during the picking season from around April to June.
From Dalby it's a drive of 83 km to Chinchilla.
Through the hamlet of Warra, this at first may not look much, but turn down the street and visit the Warra Hotel - a rambling old timber pub. Nearby to Warra visit a coloured cotton farm and insectory where predatory and beneficial insects are bred for use in agriculture.
Back on the Warrego and you pass the little towns of Brigalow and Boonarga before entering Chinchilla. Chinchilla, now well known for it's biannual Melon Festival, is also a favourite destination for petrified wood fossickers. Lapidary enthusiasts just love the specimens from this district called 'Chinchilla Red' due to their unique beauty and intricate patterns. Licenses are required to fossick - they are not expensive and available at the Information Centre where you can also get a map to show you the best places for a day's exploring and fossicking.
Visit the Chinchilla White Gums, a beautifully tall, straight eucalypt - native to this area.
Next stop is only 45 km on - Miles.
Think of Miles and think of wildflowers. When the season is favourable, the Murilla Shire bursts into a spectacular display - you won't see any better in Queensland than in the forests surrounding this pretty town.
A must for visitors to Miles is the Miles Historical Village. More than 20 buildings make up the village. All are carefully restored and refurbished; each building captures the essence of its original use early last century. But wait there's more! Here at the village you can see some interesting displays like the amazing shell collection, considered the largest privately owned collection in Australia, the world-class lapidary display, along with an extensive collection of war uniforms and memorabilia.
Further down the main street is the Dogwood Crossing @ Miles. Dogwood Crossing was the original name given to Miles and here at this modern centre you can watch and listen to the stories told by the locals of droughts and floods in the wonderful water wall, marvel at the steel seven metre high bottle trees, which look magnificent at night or wander the art gallery. Don't be surprised if the stories you hear send a shiver down your spine.
After a full day or two in Miles its time to head due west to Roma, 140 km further down the Warrego.
Leaving pretty Miles you pass through the townships of Drillham and Dulacca, both established with the coming of the railway into the west.
Dulacca rose to notoriety as the first site for the extensive push to eradicate the prickly pear - locals had plenty of motivation from the Government's promised reward of 40,000 hectares of land to whoever could restore their land to its original state. Luckily, for us, they succeeded.
Then through Jackson, Yuleba and Wallumbilla where a stop at the Calico Cottage is a must. You won't miss it - it's under the huge shed. Delectable home baked goodies line the shelves just waiting to tempt you... your tastebuds will be eternally grateful!
Then it's hello Roma - the capital of the Western Downs and the home of the Big Rig. Schedule at least a night in Roma as there is much to see. Biggest of the attractions is the Big Rig. Oil and gas were first discovered in Australia at Roma and a visit to the Big Rig takes you on a journey through the history of exploration and drilling of these valuable commodities. Every Tuesday and Thursday, you can join in the excitement at the Roma Saleyards - the biggest store cattle selling facility in Australia. With special catwalks for visitors to see all the action, there's arguably nowhere else you can have such an experience.
After shaking off the dust, there is still much to do. Visit the Romavilla Winery - the oldest winery in Queensland, Mt Abundance Homestead and do the Hospital Hill Walk.
Remember Roma's sons who didn't come home, now honoured with Bottle trees in the Heroes Avenue. When you are ready to hit the road again, it's on to Mitchell, 89 km straight ahead.
Into bushranger territory, the Warrego now takes you on your journey to Mitchell, through the villages of Muckadilla and Amby. At the turn of the century, the Kenniff brothers ruled the ranges around here. That was until they made history as the last Australian bushrangers trialed for murder right here by the side of the Warrego in the Mitchell courthouse.
7 km south of Mitchell, a steel monument marks the site of their last bold but futile stand.Mitchell is where many say the outback begins. On the banks of the Maronoa River, Mitchell is titled 'The Sunrise of the Outback', and we've not travelled 600 km from the Warrego's start!
One of the most worthwhile attractions in Mitchell is the Great Artesian Spa, the largest open-air spa in Australia. Let the high mineral content of the water from the Great Artesian Basin relax and revitalise your body - many travel here specifically for its therapeutic benefits. After a journey of nearly 1 km underground, the water is still warm enough to plunge into, even in the middle of winter. The water in the spas is renewed daily and a hoist enables access for all. In a clean and pleasant setting, the complex is also home to the Visitor Information Centre and the Healthy Byte Cafe.
If you're after more bang for you're buck in the accommodation stakes, then the Major Mitchell Caravan Park is for you. With the first two nights free for caravans and campers and within walking distance to all the towns' facilities, you can't go past it. One of the park's best features, renowned around caravaners and campers, is the campfire area - many a story on what to see and where to stop is swapped around the flickering flame.
On the other hand, for something different, travel 52 km north and camp at 'Claravale' where fifth generation members of the Campbell family are dedicated to the environment allocating 13,000 hectares of their station for the preservation of fauna and flora. You will be amazed at the spectacular sandstone formations containing fossilised evidence of the past inland sea bed.
When its time to bid farewell to Mitchell and continue on your way, Morven is the next stop 89 km due west.
Mungallala is the only town you pass through on your trip west from Mitchell to Morven.
Just before Mungallala is an area protected so you can walk amongst the rare Ooline (Cadelia Pentastylis), a remnant pocket of rain forest trees dating back 1.6 million years. There's a picnic table and toilet available for your morning cuppa.
Mungallala, population around 130, originated as a railway town. Stop at the pub by the side of the road and you're likely to meet a local for a yarn about the weather and things of great importance for the folks around here. Fuel, food, and accommodation are available at Mungallala.
Morven, 'small in size, big in character' as the locals say, is 44 km from Mungallala. Established as a camping site for bullock teams and originally called Sadlier's Waterhole, the collection of immaculate miniature buildings creatively whittled by the late Bob Johnson representing early Morven and district is most worthy of inspection at the Morven Historical Museum. There is a large fenced and well-featured playground, rest area with picnic tables and public toilet block situated nearby. Most facilities are available in Morven.
If time permits visit Tregole National Park, 10 km south of Morven, a 7,500 hectare park where the Brigalow meets the Mulga. The park features stands of Ooline trees, but unfortunately is restricted to day use only.
Once you say goodbye to Morven it's the last leg on the mighty Warrego Highway and only another 89 km to Charleville.
Roll on Charleville -and the end of the Warrego Highway. You'll notice as the kilometres slide by, the change from rolling grazing country to Mulga scrub edging the road as you drive further west to Charleville. Tinted orange from the red dust, it forms a valuable food source in times of drought and provides a perfect refuge for the birds and animals of the western plains.
Schedule a couple days in Charleville and enjoy the diverse attractions. For an appreciation of life in the outback, drop in to the Charleville School of Distance Education and the visitor centre of the Royal Flying Doctor Service.
Get up close and personal with some of Australia's rare and endangered species. At the National Park and Wildlife offices, you can see the captive breeding programme for the yellow-footed rock wallabies and the bilbies, or during April to October go to a 'meet the bilby' session where the nocturnal bilbies show off to captive audiences.
Hear the sound of the didgeridoo and watch Aboriginal artists at work at the C.D.E.P. (Commonwealth Development Employment Project) centre; visit the grand old Hotel Corones - the biggest outback pub in Australia - with its resident ghost and at night take in the star studded outback night sky at the Cosmos Centre.
There's plenty of accommodation choices and fabulous bakeries and butchers in Charleville. Alternatively, catch your own feed of fish. Fishing the Ward River is big in Charleville, and with the local club restocking the waters, you can almost be assured of a catch. At the fishing club's block the members have built a bar in the shape of a yellow belly - putting a humorous slant on the saying 'drink like a fish' - and hold a fishing competition each year over the May long weekend.
Charleville, on the banks of the Warrego River is at the end of our trip along the Warrego Highway. When its time to bid farewell, you can continue either north or south along the Matilda Highway or venture further west along the Opal Byway. Whichever direction you choose to travel, the Warrego Highway is undoubtedly a highway filled with many things to discover, friendly people, historical sites and adventure.
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