Day Tripping In Ipswich
Queensland's oldest provincial city, Ipswich was once known for its mines, gracious ornate Queenslanders and grand colonial buildings and boasted a cathedral, leading fashion designers such as Helena Kaye and even a 49 room castle (Blackstone castle). After the closure of its mines in the latter 20th century it suffered a major economic downturn and high unemployment yet today it is on the verge of another renaissance. With its well-preserved heritage buildings and gracious parks, a new wave of groovy cafes and boutiques, laneway cafes and bar, an award-winning museum, art gallery, Walter Burley Griffin-designed theatre and a free mini wildlife zoo it has more than enough attractions to make it high on the must-visit list.
Here are some highlights that no trip to Ipswich should be without, but first, stop en route at Thirty-Seven Cafe in Bundamba for SE Qld's heartiest breakfast platter if you dare, or try one of the delicious healthier and fresh options to keep any foodie happy.
Then make a stop at the Ipswich Vistor Information Centre and pick up a CBD Then and Now Heritage Walk map. The Ipswich Heritage Trail sets off from the centre of Ipswich at the landmark Old Town Hall and Post Office and in a half hour circuit takes in the many fine historic buildings in the CBD.
Top of Town
The funky little go-to precinct of cafes, boutiques, hotels and wine bar known as Top of Town occupies two blocks of Ipswich's oldest and best maintained heritage buildings just on the west side of the city centre along Brisbane St. The name Top of Town was coined after World War II and some of the area's landmark buildings reflect its prominence: one of Queensland's earliest newspapers The Queensland Times occupied the building on the corner of Ellenborough St and Brisbane St and the gorgeous old Flour Mill was the birthplace of the retro radio station 4IP that every hip teenager of the 1960s and 70s had their transistor radio permanently tuned to.
Eating & Drinking:
Within Top of Town are a bevy of character filled cafes, coffee nooks and a laneway bar. Stop here for coffee or brunch before heading off to explore, with the option to come back for lunch.
For coffee the best bets are Urban Pantry, a Byron bay style coffee bar and gourmet pantry that peddles delicious sweet treats and their own blend of beans Mudlark from a Byron bay roastery. Otherwise head around the corner to Ellenborough St where a charming Euro style laneway contains the seating for Rafter and Rose, a top notch cafe that also serves up delicious baked goodies, breakfast and lunch or Ellen & Rod Also worth a look is the 19th century bakery steakhouse called Bakehouse Steakhouse.
For an old-fashioned taste of 1950's Ipswich, The Retro Diner is a vision of retro Nanna's kitchen, from the formica tables and vinyl chairs to the vintage window displays and the home-made food; otherwise across the road is funky Fourthchild, a café come bistro in a rustic artsy space.
There are also 3 foodie destinations that both do an excellent lunch - Arcadia Greek restaurant in an old corner store, The Cottage in one of Ipswich's oldest homes and Dovetails in the old tech college dating from the 192O's. Stick around for dessert at Ipswich's best ice-cream parlour, Ungermann Brothers.
And no trip to Ipswich is complete without a trip to its very own Pumpyard brewery in heritage-listed basement lodgings out back of the old tech college..
For some great eclectic shopping stick to the Top of the Town precinct – standouts here are The Vintage Advantage, a quirky trove of fashion, homewares and collectables. And a couple of doors up is the charming R & R Behind Red Doors, an historic workshop turned into a retro oasis.
For a quirky blast from the past take a look at CJ Vogler & Son across the road, which is a virtual museum of models, cars and collectibles and, established in 1877, is also the city's oldest shop.
This bushland reserve just to the south and up the hill from the town centre sits atop a network of abandoned mine tunnels. One of its walking paths encircles an old disused quarry and another leads to a crude Triassic discovery hut with replica dinosaur prints. The main attraction however, are the water towers which can be climbed for the city's most stunning views – a 360 degree vista that takes in countryside, mountain ranges and the entire city.
The namesake of Queen Victoria and historical green heart of Ipswich was established in 1864 and as such still has some of the unique features of parks of this era such as the grandeur and terraced layout, the latter featuring the distinctive limestone walls peculiar to Ipswich. Take a wander through and find dotted throughout are Victorian and Federation era rotundas, a caretakers cottage and glass houses. As well as a sensational children's playground it incorporates an enchanting Japanese garden – Nerima Gardens and in the heart of the park the Queens Park Café makes a great child-friendly casual dining option
This delightful rambling mini wildlife zoo (also at Queens Park) is free to visit and consists of a well maintained labyrinth of wheelchair and pram accessible pathways and boardwalks that pass close by enclosures of an extensive range of native Australian animals, reptiles and birds as well as a little barn of baby farm animals.
Housed in Ipswich's 150 year old town hall, the Ipswich Art Gallery is one of Queensland's best regional galleries, showing a constant flow of touring expos as well as its own private collection. It also has an excellent children's room with well curated themed hands-on activities.
Whether a rail fan or not, child or adult, this fabulous state of the art museum set in the historical still operational railway workshops is well worth a visit. Well-preserved engines and carriages capture the romance of the vintage era of rail travel for general public and royalty and the interactive displays, films, simulated train driving and themed children's playground are but some of the attractions so set aside at least a couple of hours to really appreciate this one.
Lastly, if staying late around late in the day, try some street food and drinks in the historic laneway cafe bar 116 Laneway and dinner next door at its Mehfil Indian restaurant.