These two day-trips from Brisbane can be managed within the day, but there are so many potential add-ons that you might like to factor in an overnight stay and see a bit more of the region.
1. Mapleton via the Glasshouse mountains
Over the years we’ve visited this beautiful part of the world many times and even though many others have discovered it as well, the Sunshine Coast retains a special charm that makes it different from the area south of Brisbane. The Australia Zoo is on the way to Mapleton – off the Bruce Highway about an hour north of Brisbane on the Bruce Highway, turn left at the exit to Tourist Drive at Beerburrum and drive along Steve Irwin Way towards Landsborough.
If you’d prefer to get a bit closer to the amazing Glasshouse Mountains (or climb them – some can be climbed), turn off to the left in Beerburrum and cross the railway line. Turn right on to the Beerburrum – Woodford Rd. Follow it when it curves right to become the old Gympie road round the plantations and get a good look at the old lava plugs up close. You’ll pass little places with a view where you can stop for a coffee and there is a great lookout along the road with information about all the mountains.
Where you meet the Beerwah – Peachester Road, you can choose a number of routes – left and up Bald Knob road, left and the long way round to Maleny, or back to the main road past the zoo and up towards Maleny from Landsborough. All are worth your while. Take a look at the view along the Mountain View scenic drive or drop into the Winery at the junction, stop for a break in Maleny and pick up some of their famous honey.
But the road you need is the Maleny – Montville Road which will give you magnificent views out to the Sunshine Coast or inland over Lake Baroon and the Baroon Pocket Dam. Drive in for a closer look from Montville. There are lots of good restaurants and souvenirs to be had in Montville and in a number of other small stops all along this road. When you reach Mapleton, you can visit the Mapleton Falls – drive along Obi Obi Rd and turn on to Mapleton Falls Rd. One of the best views in the area is from the verandah of the Mapleton Pub (properly known these days as the Mapleton Tavern) and they do a pretty decent counter lunch as well.
If you have a made in Australia thermometer, it most probably came from Mapleton, from the family run company Technitherm just round the back of the Lilyponds. Check them out – you will surely find some type of thermometer you just have to have!
From Mapleton the road down the range drops away quite steeply for the first few kilometres and then flattens out as you approach Nambour, centre of the local sugar industry and home to The Moreton Central Sugar Mill from 1893 to 2003. The Nambour Museum has managed to save many of the artefacts from the Mill and tells the story of the industry and the cane trains that used to chug through town.
From Nambour you can head back along the Nambour Connection Road towards Brisbane, not forgetting to stop at the Big Pineapple where they have a small animal zoo, a pineapple train ride and ice cream sundaes to die for. The Big Pineapple is on the left, just before you reach the Bruce Highway entry.
North from Nambour along the Bruce Highway are some great places to visit, but if you like ginger, why not visit the Ginger Factory in Yandina? Originally sited in nearby Buderim where it was known as the Buderim Ginger Factory, it’s easily accessible when you turn left off the Highway at Yandina and follow the signs to the nearby factory. Apart from the ginger products on show and for sale, you can also see koalas sleeping just near the showroom. On the way out, crossing over the highway will take you to Coolum, one of the many lovely seaside towns along the Sunshine Coast a long time family favourite. Have a dip, some fish & chips and a shower in the public showers on the beach before you leave.
2. Toowoomba and nearby attractions
Toowoomba is a beautiful city sitting right on the edge of the Great Dividing Range, overlooking the Lockyer Valley in the East and gently sloping away towards the Darling Downs in the west. The weather, which is warm in summer and can be chilly in winter is perfect for the growing of beautiful colourful gardens similar to those found in Melbourne. This feature is celebrated annually in the Toowoomba Carnival Of Flowers which in 2015 will run from Friday 18th to Sunday 27th September.
Toowoomba is an easy drive west from Brisbane along the Warrego Highway via Gatton & the Lockyer Valley, through one of the most productive fruit and vegetable growing areas in Australia. Stop at some of the fruit and vege barns on the way for your pick of really fresh produce. When you reach the top of the range keep left and follow the road round watching for the signs to Picnic Point, from where you will have the chance to sit and eat your fruit purchases while you admire the views out over the valley. At the top of the range as well, if you turn to the right, is the famous Weis Restaurant which sadly closed after 46 years in March 2015. However, you can still get another family product – the Weis bar, an iced fresh fruit and yoghurt bar from supermarkets and ice cream cabinets around Australia.
The city itself is worth spending time to look around – the old Empire Theatre, parks and other buildings in Ruthven St and Margaret St, as well as the many churches all set in beautiful gardens along tree-lined streets.
Oakey, a small town to the north west of Toowoomba is home to the Australian Army Flying Museum, which houses some of the old Army Aviation memorabilia including a hundred year old Bristol Boxkite aircraft and an interesting collection of artefacts of the Pacific theatre of WW2, brought home by Australian forces.
The New Acland Coal Mine has sadly decided to remove the remnants of the old underground coal mine which were part of the Acland Mining Museum, but some of the other mining memorabilia has been preserved and is on display at the mine’s Community Information Centre in Oakey.
A little further along the Warrego Highway is the small (very small) town of Jondaryan, home to the Jondaryan Woolshed. Look for the signs pointing to the west from the highway. They have accommodation, or you could just day visit the museum and grounds to see the way a sheep farm was run in ‘the old days’. The Annual Jackie Howe Festival of the Golden Shears is held at the Woolshed at the end of August / early September.
Return to Brisbane with a detour along the New England Highway to the north of the city. Turn off to the right into Murphys Creek Road, about 10km along the Highway from the city. This will take you to the small settlements of up by Spring Bluff & Murphys Creek. Spring Bluff is well known for its beautiful railway station, open year round. During the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers, you can catch the train down to the station, two trips a day between 20 and 26th September in 2015. From Spring Bluff, follow the road round through Muphys Creek to rejoin the Warrego Highway at Helidon.
A brief look at some other possibilities
This is but a small selection of the many possible short road trips available out of Brisbane. Both the areas described are well provided for accommodation-wise with something to suit all budgets and types of travellers. The roads are good, but make sure you keep to the advised speed limits, speed checks are common and even if you are driving a rental car you are not exempt from paying a hefty fine if you are caught. Likewise, be careful to designate a driver who will not blow over the limit if you are stopped for a random breath test – these fines are also very hefty.
You could just as easily continue on past Toowoomba out to Dalby and round via the Bunya Mountains to the Sunshine Coast if you have 3 or 4 days to spare. Or perhaps a drive down to Warwick to explore stonefruit and apple country. Nearby Stanthorpe is reputedly to coldest place in Queensland in Winter. From Mapleton you could head further north via Nambour to Eumundi and Noosa, both well known for their great weekend markets and the tropical fruits grown in the area. Or visit Maroochydore and other nearby Sunshine Coast beaches.
If you’d like a few shorter trips, these are three of the best we enjoy.
Have a great holiday!