Steeped in our history
MY favourite things about the country are the ever-rolling hills, paddocks of livestock and the old, rusted sheds you see along the way.
All of the open space makes me feel like I am in a different world - it's refreshing.
After an early rise on a warm Saturday morning, our weekend in the country began with a visit to the Jondaryan Woolshed. Following some traditional damper and billy tea, we were led on a tour of the grounds - through old school classrooms, a traditional home and to the shearing shed.
Many years ago, Jondaryan covered 121,405ha (300,000 acres). Now it covers just 218.5ha (540 acres), with the woolshed on a 4.85ha (12-acre) site.
We were joined by a large group of grey nomads and, like us, they were keen to see what Toowoomba and the Darling Downs had to offer. The Woolshed offers guided tours and accommodation including self-contained units, caravan sites and camping sites. It is also a fabulous venue and we happened to be there on the morning of a country wedding.
The woolshed had been completely transformed with beautiful table settings, and a separate room decorated for the ceremony. Before the bride and groom showed up, our tour guides Geoff and Ken gave an impressive sheep-shearing demonstration.
From there, we made our way to Oakey and stopped at the Museum of Australian Army Flying. This is the perfect place for any aviation enthusiast or history buff, as the hangar is full of aircraft from the original boxkite plane to more modern fighting machines. We were lucky enough to visit the workshop hangar at the army barracks and checked out the first stages of a Spitfire being built from scratch
A full, guided tour of the museum, which includes both hangars, takes about three hours. Because we were pushed for time, we did the tour in about an hour. We made our way back to Toowoomba and checked into the City Golf Club Motel, which was new, modern, very comfortable and had a view of the golf course.
A highlight of the weekend was our dinner at The Olive Branch Lounge Bar and Restaurant. The food is modern Australian with French and Mediterranean influences and is simply to die for. I had the seared salmon fillet with parsnip mash and my friend had the crispy duck. Dessert was a deconstructed cheesecake and a lemon tart.
Our waiter referred to us as his "friends", the ambience was great and the decor was stunning. In fact, we liked it so much we were tempted to skip the production we were seeing at The Empire Theatre to have a few more cocktails. But I'm glad we didn't - the production was Mathinna, which followed the true story of a young Aboriginal girl torn between two cultures.
The Bangarra Dance Theatre performed it beautifully with contemporary dance and music. It was a little difficult to pull ourselves out of bed the next morning but we made our way to the Moorlands Farmstay at Rosalie Plains. The site was once an award-winning Hereford stud and bull-selling complex. Guests can try out many farm activities and I jumped at the chance to hand-feed the alpacas - but I was careful they didn't spit on me!
Owners Victoria and Scott showed us around the homestead - a lovely, old, four-bedroom home ideal for young families. And for the thrill seekers, quad-biking around the 405ha (1000 acre) property is a must.
On our way back to the Sunshine Coast, we stopped at the Spring Bluff Railway Station to have a bite to eat. The station is on the Ipswich to Toowoomba line and is heritage-listed. It is clear why this spot has won awards in the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers because the gardens are beautiful. I didn't think I would have as much fun in the country as I did but would recommend these spots for young families, the older generation or history buffs. It just doesn't quite have enough for Gen Yers.