Not only is the ‘Garden City’ Queensland’s largest and oldest inland city, it is also the birthplace of two national icons: the archetypal Aussie cake, the lamington, and Oscar-winner Geoffrey Rush. Squatting on the edge of the Great Dividing Range, 700m above sea level, Toowoomba is a sprawling country hub with wide tree-lined streets and stately homes.
Dappling the western flanks of the Great Dividing Range about 210km southwest of Brisbane, the Granite Belt subverts the southeast Queensland cliches of sun, surf and palms. Here, rolling hillsides are lined with cool-climate vineyards, olive grows and orchards growing apples, pears, plums and peaches.
Stanthorpe & Ballandean
Queensland’s coolest town (literally), Stanthorpe is one of the state's lesser-known tourist drawcards. With a distinct four-season climate, the town is a winter retreat where normally sweltering Queenslanders can cosy up with a bottle of vino rosso from one of the numerous local wineries.
North Stradbroke Island
An easy 30-minute ferry chug from the Brisbane suburb of Cleveland, this unpretentious holiday isle is like Noosa and Byron Bay rolled into one. There’s a string of glorious powdery white beaches, great surf and some quality places to stay and eat (catering to Brisbane's naughty-weekend-away set).
If you’re not going further north in Queensland than Brisbane but want a fix of tropical bliss, sail over to Moreton Island. Its prelapsarian beaches, dunes, bushland and lagoons are protected, with 95% of the isle comprising the Moreton Island National Park & Recreation Area.
Highfields & Crows Nest
North of Toowoomba the New England Hwy travels the ridges of the Great Dividing Range. The route passes through the nondescript Toowoomba satellite town of Highfields on its way north to the cute if uneventful town of Crows Nest. The latter town – circulating around a village green about 50km north of Toowoomba – plays host to the World Worm Races every October.