The Great Outdoors
5 charming picnic spots in Ipswich
If you’ve ever driven along the M1 and intentionally looked past any signs for Ipswich, you’re not alone. So have I. Ipswich is just another motorway pitstop, right? Maybe not. Perhaps I had mercilessly dismissed this heritage gem a little too soon. I was heading back to the Gold Coast from Brisbane one day and, not having any plans, thought I’d detour west for a picnic.
After driving past some of the most beautiful Queenslander homes I had ever seen I eventually came across Queens Park. It ended up being an ideal spot to settle under a shady tree, pull out a book and enjoy a couple of hours of afternoon breeze. And that’s exactly what I did.
Post impromptu detour, I conducted a bit of research and discovered Queens Park was just one of many gorgeous parks and gardens hiding away in Ipswich – and all were completely motorway-vibe free. A couple of weeks later I packed a picnic basket, headed off north and, intentionally, took the first turn-off for Ipswich.
My second visit didn’t disappoint. I’m now keen to explore as many parks as Ipswich has to offer and have put together a list of five great spots to relax. So, next time you’re trying to come up with a weekend outing, pack a picnic, throw on some walking shoes and take the detour.
Queens Park and Nerima Gardens
The historical significance, stunning lookout, information centre, animals and gardens make Queens Park an absolutely necessary stop for any visitor to Ipswich. It’s located in the heart of Ipswich city and was the first developed parklands in Queensland, established in 1864.
If you don’t have a book on hand, enjoy a bite to eat at the Queens Park Café, take a stroll alongside water dragons in the exquisite Japanese-designed Nerima Gardens or head up to Lions Lookout for incredible views of the Ipswich CBD and distant mountain ranges.
If you fancy getting on a first name basis with a wombat or bilby, pop on over to the Ipswich Nature Centre and visit native and exotic animals for a gold coin donation. Be sure to support local businesses at the Visitor Information Centre on Queen Victoria Parade. This is the perfect stop for gift-buying with an assortment of Ipswich-made olive oil, honey, candles, coffee, fudge and more.
Looking to throw on your hiking shoes, pack a picnic and surround yourself with natural bushland for a few hours? Hardings Paddock is the perfect escape at just 20 minutes drive from Ipswich city. There are plenty of walking tracks and mountain bike trails if you’re keen to do some exploring or avoid the hustle and bustle a little longer and pitch a tent.
There are eight unpowered sites available at the Hardings Paddock Campground and they’re well spaced out for privacy. Pull out the camp chair, chips and dip and settle in for a night under the stars. Extra picnic treats are only a few minutes away at the Peak Organics at Ivory’s Rock Saturday markets.
To the north of Ipswich CBD lies the Kholo Gardens, a tranquil retreat only 12 minutes from the city centre. There are lush gardens and subtropical rainforests, peaceful lily ponds, waterfalls, grassy areas and the nearby Brisbane River. It’s a great spot to take pleasure in a quiet read or romantic picnic. These gardens are almost too pretty. Almost.
Adventurous folk can choose from five different walking trails, ranging in distance and difficulty or make use of the canoe and kayak access points. There are also barbecues, picnic tables and gazebos for that all important post-activity refuel.
Colleges Crossing Recreation Reserve
This is an excellent park for those looking to make a day of it. Colleges Crossing Recreation Reserve is a popular family picnic spot with a nature-based playground, bike paths and walking tracks, sheltered tables and expansive grassy areas. The crossing is a low-lying bridge over the Brisbane River at Chuwar and the lake is perfect for fishing, kayaking or simply dipping your toes.
Pick up a cold drink and some lunch at the nearby café, which proudly sits at the top of the park and has a great view over the playground and river. Take the footy and utilise the open spaces or simply relax near the water with an ice block in hand. Summer Sundays have never been easier.
Joseph Brady Park
Grab your fishing rod, kayak or canoe and head east for Joseph Brady Park. This is another picturesque open space for all ages to enjoy at the junction of the Brisbane and Bremer rivers. There are picnic facilities, barbecues, shelters, a children’s playground and even a climbing wall. The grassy hills and riverbanks are calling for you to pull up a chair, sip on a cold drink and let the afternoon gently pass you by.