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.
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A suggested day trip itinerary for Ipswich
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 been able to experience many great gardens in Japan over the years so we aren’t easily impressed and really enjoyed this one.
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 tranquillity 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. It’s much easier to spot a platypus in spring, they 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 that had left a solid dent. We didn’t hear it fall but they make quite the thump when they do, hopefully, the caretaker can make good use of it, the nuts inside are really nutritious and I’d love to get hold of a fresh one to experiment with creating recipes.
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 Drew’s 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 are a series of walks of different lengths to suit everyone and good facilities.
The 6.5 km White Rock multi-use trail is a reasonable length to stretch the legs and spot this unusual rock formation. It’s common to see a 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 on a hot day it’s time to take a refreshing dip and cool down. Orion Lagoon at Robelle Domain Parklands in Springfield Lakes is super popular for the kid who won’t want to leave.
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 footbridge 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.
More things to do in Ipswich
It’s easy to plan a family day out filled with fun things to do in Ipswich. Here are a few other options you might enjoy in the area.
We headed out here for the first time almost 20 years ago for the Winter Nationals, I was scrolling through looking for photos from that trip and realised we were still using film cameras back then. We were on holiday from New Zealand on the Gold Coast at the same time the Winternationals were on so we drive up for the day – and it was so much fun.
The Winternationals are the biggest drag racing event outside the USA and have been running for over 50 years attracting teams from all over Australia and the world.
There’s a full calendar of motor racing at Queensland Raceway throughout the year so whether you are interested in bikes, drift or supercars there’s something for you and the family.
Check their timetable for future events.