Have you visited Ipswich lately? Being based in Brisbane we regularly jump on the highway and head south until we hit the Gold Coast. It’s like the car’s on autopilot. Recently we’ve become curious about Ipswich, the provincial city that lies in between. It’s high time that we detour off the highway and take a look. This weekend we put our curiosity to rest and set out with camera in hand to see what this rapidly growing town with the big history is all about.
It offered up more than a few surprises and I’d have to say we were impressed by what we found. You may be too.
These are our six top attractions. They make up a full day visit or select a couple and experience Ipswich at your own pace.
Nerima Japanese Gardens
We started our day at the Nerima Japanese Gardens within Queens Park. They were designed in conjunction with Ipswich’s sister city, Nerima, in Western Tokyo and are a fabulous example of a strolling garden. We’ve had the good fortune to experience many great gardens in Japan so we aren’t easily impressed. The overall layout takes full advantage of the space and plantings. The paths weave through and break off here and there into small ‘secret’ garden spots. Keep an eye out for the bamboo grotto overlooking the stream.
While this would be a great place to visit at any time of day we highly recommend an early morning visit. There’s something extra special about the tranquility of having this space almost to yourself.
Entry is free and it’s open from 9 am , closing time varies with the day of the week and season.
Ipswich Nature Centre
The Ipswich Nature Centre is also located in Queens Park just across from the Japanese Gardens so we head there next. It’s much larger than we expected and the cages are mostly open air and modern providing plenty of space for the animals. You’ll see a variety of Australian wildlife including wallabies, birds, reptiles, bilby, dingo and wombats. There’s also a petting zoo of farm animals for the children and a good sized walk through aviary.
Entry to the Ipswich Nature Centre is free but maintaining the facility and the welfare of this many animals isn’t cheap so a gold coin donation is appreciated. The centre is open from 9.30 am until 4 pm.
Once you have finished at the Japanese gardens and the nature centre you may want to have a further look around Queens park. There’s plenty of large tree’s to enjoy a shady picnic under, a cafe and a fantastic children’s playground with pretty much everything they could want including a flying fox and liberty swing.
Our next stop is the Kholo botanic gardens. It’s about a 7 km drive north of the city centre to Pine Mountain to enjoy these well tended gardens. Pop on your walking shoes and head down some of the short trails. We followed the Coal Creek Walk onto Brisbane River Trail around the lotus pond and back down Tree Fern Lane. You can get down to the Brisbane River at the bottom and we spent a while trying to spot platypus and lungfish that are seen here from time to time. No luck for us but summer is the wrong time of year. I’ll definitely add these gardens back onto our list for next spring, platypus are a lot less bashful during the mating season.
The rest of the gardens feature expansive and well manicured lawns with plenty of BBQ and picnic tables. There are a number of huge kauri, hoop pine and bunya trees planted by the early settlers in the area and we did find a recently fallen bunya nut. We didn’t hear it fall but they make quite the thump when they do, hopefully the caretaker can make good use of it, they’re highly nutritious and I’d love to get hold of one to experiment with creating recipes one day.
Lunch at Rafter and Rose
Our next stop is lunch and we head to top of town in central Ipswich. Rafter and Rose caught our eye and I might drive back just for this cafe alone, it was that good. It’s not large but adorably cute with seating indoors, in the adjacent lane-way and a couple of tables street front. I’m always going to be a sucker for somewhere that understands I don’t like to eat in the morning but I LOVE a good all day breakfast menu. This menu is a goodie, I was totally torn on what to order. Get a look at this stunning French toast and the House Brekkie.
White Rock Conservation Park
Now it’s time to walk off what might reasonably be considered the excesses of lunch. Ipswich has a generous selection of nature reserves but White Rock Conservation Park is our favourite so far. There’s a series of walks of different lengths to suit everyone and good facilities. The 6.5 km White Rock Multi User trail is a reasonable length to stretch the legs and spot this unusual rock formation. It’s common to spot wallaby, monitor lizards and a variety of birds along the track but some of the shorter walks closer to the car park have a higher chance.
Orion Lagoon Pools
Before you head home at the end of the day it’s time to take a refreshing dip and cool down. The place to be is the Orion Lagoon at Robelle Domain Parklands in Springfield Lakes. Of course most kids would be just as happy to spend the whole day here. There’s plenty of shelters and grassy banks to position yourselves and a large pool area for all ages. It’s part of a large parkland with walking tracks, plenty of space to run around and a newly added lagoon for the wildlife too. Cross the foot bridge and park to find the zero depth water play area for the smaller children.
Use of the pools and all the parkland facilities are free.