There have never been more reasons to visit the adventure playground on Brisbane’s doorstep. From world class mountain biking and hiking trails to adrenaline-charged thrills, markets and boutique shopping. There is also fine dining and a lively coffee scene.
Hit the markets…
Ipswich has a variety of colourful markets to take in. It’s a chance to wander outdoors with the family, grab a bite, maybe kick back to some cool sounds, stock up on fresh produce and browse stalls of clothing, jewellery, plants and homewares. The Sunrise Discovery Markets are on every Sunday while the Springfield Markets and Handmade Expo are on monthly. Here’s our full list of regular markets around the region.
Take to the skies
A gentle hot air balloon float across the land at sunrise or a helicopter joy flight can turn an ordinary day into one that is completely unforgettable. And Ipswich, just a few minutes from Brisbane, offers both.
You can cast off into the sky from a park in Ipswich city as the day’s first rays creep across the land. These sunrise flights with Floating Images Hot Air Balloon Flights are a popular experience in the region. You can even book a package that includes breakfast at one of the city’s busy eateries.
Pterodactyl Helicopters will have you arriving in style for lunch at a country retreat or winery. Alternatively you can book a joy flight over the region or Heli-MTB (helicopter mountain biking) at Hidden Vale Adventure Park – these pilots love to tailor the ultimate day out!
Sample local brews in an old watering hole
In the heart of Ipswich’s entertainment hub is the Pumpyard Bar and Brewery – home of 4 Hearts Brewing. Set in spectacular heritage buildings that began life at the beginning of the 20th century as the Ipswich Technical College. But there’s a link here to times even earlier – the Pumpyard takes its name from the site’s earlier purpose. Originally the site was the base of water supply to the growing city of Ipswich. Today the brewery pulls big crowds for lunch and dinner, and you’ll often find live music in the laneways outside on weekends.
Explore planes, trains and automobiles
The romance of steam rail lives on in the Ipswich region – the birthplace of rail in Queensland. There are myriad ways to soak it up as well as experiences for aviation fans and thrill seekers of the motor-sporting kind.
Immerse yourself in the history of rail at The Workshops Rail Museum. Including vast displays, restored engines, touring exhibitions and special events – including steam train services.
Queensland Pioneer Steam Railway also runs regular services in the region – including special runs that incorporate markets, food trucks or themed events.
Historic Grandchester Railway Station is a beautifully restored National Trust property. It offers a glimpse into the construction and operation of Queensland’s first rail line, which ran from Ipswich to Grandchester. Open to the public on the first Sunday of each month when dedicated volunteers conduct tours for visitors. Similarly, the Grandchester Model Steam Railway operates on the same day which is always a hit with the littlies.
For aviation lovers there’s the RAAF Amberley Aviation Heritage Centre, open on the third Sunday of every month. Community and school groups can visit on Tuesdays and Thursdays by prior appointment.
If it’s motorsport that gets your heart racing then Ipswich is the place to be. With both Queensland Raceway (circuit track) and Willowbank Raceway (drag racing) offering packed programs of local and national events throughout the year. You can even get close to the action yourself with hot laps in a race-ready V8 at Queensland Raceway. Alternatively, book a spot at the start-line of the drag strip. Interesting fact: the annual Winternationals at Willowbank Raceway are the biggest drag racing event outside the USA.
Sip coffee in a laneway
Popular cafe Rafter and Rose with its beautiful botanical theme and eye-popping cakes cabinet has won a firm following. There are many other laneway cafes to check out. At Dancing Bean Coffee Roastery, in a converted warehouse off Brisbane Street in the Top of Town, you can sip coffee made from beans that were roasted on site.
Go hiking or mountain biking
World-class mountain biking and hiking trails abound across the Ipswich region. There’s literally something for every level of walker and rider. From those after a relaxed outing to thrill seekers chasing the ultimate challenge.
Hidden Vale Adventure Park offers access for $10 per person (kids free with a paying adult) to 130km of multi-use trails winding through a 12,000-acre property of bushland. The park also hosts extreme sport events throughout the year.
White Rock – Spring Mountain Conservation Estate covers 2500ha of bushland just 20 minutes from the Ipswich CBD. It is a popular destination for birdwatching, nature photography, mountain biking and hiking. Trails extend from a 200m walk through to a full 19km round trip trail.
Flinders-Goolman Conservation Estate boasts Flinders Peak – undeniably the highest hiking destination in the greater Brisbane region – among its many highlights. You can camp nearby too, at Hardings Paddock.
The Brisbane Valley Rail Trail is a recreational cycling trail following the old line from Wulkuraka, near Ipswich, to Yarraman, west of Kilcoy. Alternately you can hit the trails at Castle Hill Blackstone Reserve with 15 International Mountain Biking Association rated trails.
Spot a quoll… or a wombat
Ipswich Nature Centre in historic Queens Park offers a magical opportunity to get up close and personal with Australian native wildlife. For 80 years, locals and visitors have been able to see animals on this site. You’ll see spotted tail quolls, rock and swamp wallabys, dingos, a wombat and more. There is also a walk-through open-air aviary.
While you’re in the park you may as well stop off at the Queens Park Cafe for a bite, milkshake or a cuppa!
Go hunting for antiques
The Black Museum in the country town of Marburg, about 30 minutes along the Warrego Highway from Ipswich, brings together an impressive curated display of curios and art painstakingly sourced by owner Athol Birnie. It is such an interesting place to explore and knowing that everything is for sale in this ‘museum’ only adds to the anticipation of what you might find here. Just a few steps down the road you will find Scotland Yard Antiques run by Athol’s father Les Birnie, full of traditional antiques and rustic wares.
Shop for antiques, kitsch collectibles and retro fashion in the restored heritage building containing Ipswich Antique Centre. The centre houses a vast ever-changing collection from a diverse group of dealers who all specialise in in different areas so there’s always something new to see. Meanwhile across on Brisbane Street in the Top of Town precinct you’ll find The Vintage Advantage tucked into an old shop that was women’s fashion boutique back in the 1950s. This shop is crammed with retro fashion and costume jewellery, art, furniture and homewares, all creating a nostalgia trip for anyone who visits.
Try wild flavours at UBs Milk Bar
UBs Milk Bar is located in the historic Top of Town precinct along Brisbane St. You can taste incredible flavours such as lavender and honeycomb, Dutch spice or coffee and cardamom. They’ve also added burgers, fries and shakes to their menu along with sweet and savoury waffles.
Take a road trip to a country town
You never know what you might find in Ipswich’s history-rich country towns. Landmarks such as historic churches (that’s the huge timber St Brigids Church at Rosewood, pictured) and classic country pubs can be found in towns such as Rosewood and Marburg. RV travellers can even stay a while in Rosewood with facilties and free wi-fi at the showgrounds. Be sure to check out Marburg’s charming coffee stops – Special Branch Collective and The Girls’ Coffee Bar.
Enjoy a luxury picnic styled just for you
Still in the country town of Marburg, you can enjoy beautiful styled picnics by The Soul Nook Collective – from settings for two in a sweet bell tent to larger group bookings to mark a special occasion. They also host regular workshops and special events so watch their Facebook page to see what’s coming up, and there’s a superb shop on site in a chapel known locally as The Old Church.
Catch a show in a converted church
Studio 188 with its spectacular art deco facade started life as a church. However, these days it’s more likely to be jazz or contemporary music emanating from the stage. It’s nicely positioned on Brisbane St in the Top of Town stretch so there are options aplenty for dinner after or before the show.
Ipswich Civic Centre brings spectacular touring shows, local productions and special events to the city throughout the year. These range from internationally renowned ballets and operas to super star comedians.
… or a converted incinerator
Or take in one of the productions of the Ipswich Little Theatre which performs in the heritage building that was once an incinerator. True story. The site that was once used to burn waste now dazzles audiences with its architecture and ambience as a properly quirky performance space.
Pick a picnic spot… here are a few to try
Kholo Gardens (pictured) is one of many spots that lure families and couples and lone explorers on any given day. The gardens are vast so you can always find the perfect patch to spread out and kick back. There are walking trails to explore as well. Robelle Domain, Queens Park and Lobley Park are also great options, for more picnic spots around the region try this handy list.
Pat and feed animals
You can visit charming hobby farms in the region where you can pet and feed farmyard friends. See the goats, sheep, alpacas, chickens and native Australian animals (on special wildlife days) at EWE Nique Hobby Farm in Haigslea or visit the llamas, donkeys, camels, giant rabbits and more at The Llama Farm.
Splash around in the region’s water playgrounds
Ipswich has four water playgrounds for you to explore with the kids or on your own!
Spend the day by Orion Lagoon at Robelle Domain, grab some treats from the on-site cafe Breakfast at Stephanies. You can also find a zero depth playground inside Robelle Domain to explore. And while you’re in the area head over to Orion Springfield Central to see and play at the mega playground outside the centre.
For more information on water parks read Best places to cool off in Ipswich.
Find a fairy wren
Fairy wrens are a common sight around Ipswich. However, if you keep your eyes peeled there are another 276 recorded species that might catch your eye! Here are some of the best spots to try your luck. This list was compiled by local photographer Shane Allwood (who also took this smashing pic).
Book a table for lunch or dinner
Few cities can claim as many restaurants in charming century-old buildings as this heritage city! For steak lovers, head to Bakehouse Steakhouse in an historic bakery building that’s been converted into a contemporary restaurant and bar.
Find heritage landmarks
Towering St Mary’s Church – resplendent in jacaranda season when this pic was taken – is one of the city’s most photographed landmarks. But there are entire streets lined with grand homes for your wandering and photographing pleasure. Twice a year the National Trust stages Great Houses of Ipswich with three privately owned homes opened to the public. There are bus tours taking in all three with Devonshire Tea that can be booked through the Visitor Information Centre.
For more Ipswich history, check out Cooneana Heritage Centre with exhibits and displays and special events throughout the year. There are also stunning heritage collections of works upstairs at the Ipswich Art Gallery which offer insights into the city’s colourful history.
Taste test some local gin
The award-winning Imbibis Craft Distillery is a local distillery offering artisan gin and brandy.
They are open for tastings Fridays and select weekends and by appointment through the week.
Hit the shops
Ipswich’s Top of Town precinct is home to an abundance of unique shops that each attracts loyal regulars from as far away as Brisbane, Toowoomba and the Gold Coast.
At Cute to Boot you’ll find a shop dedicated to babies and toddlers, from tiny leather shoes to nursery items and thoughtfully sourced books and toys from around the globe.
You can also check out one of the oldest family-run shops in the country – CJ Vogler & Son – known locally as ‘Voglers’. In operation for more than 140 years selling model cars and train sets and more modern marvels such as drones and electronics.
Check out these charming shops in the Top of Town.
Explore the Ipswich Central Street Art Trail to see vibrant murals.
For more creative ideas check out the CRAVE trail.
Tackle the biggest craft beer offering… in the southern hemisphere
The biggest craft beer offering in the southern hemisphere is right here in Booval, Ipswich. Tap’d at the Prince Alfred was previously named best regional hotel in Australia. It’s not only the mammoth list of 72 beers and ciders on offer that has won fans. There’s also the smashing menu full of burgers and other crowd-pleasers.
For more places to explore on Ipswich’s colourful food scene, check out the Eat section at Discover Ipswich.
Find a new playground
Ipswich is known for its diverse parks and playgrounds. Here’s a list of 10 to cross off one by one that are some of the lesser known gems your kids will love.
Take a walk in an olive grove
Visit Pine Mountain’s Watercress Creek Olives and Limes farm where there’s a farmgate shop open on the weekends or by appointment.
They grow limes here too and bottle things like fig jam and delicious infused olive oils. Once a year, there’s an Olive Festival with a variety of stalls, live music and picnicking in the olive grove.
Tempt the tastebuds with tapas…
Ipswich’s newest tapas bar (The Rusty Nail) recently opened in Nicholas St and is serving up morsels of tasty locally grown produce, creative cocktails and live music on Sundays.
Enjoy Indian cuisine in old landmarks
Among the city’s many charming places to eat are a couple of Indian restaurants in quite signifcant historic buildings.
Indian Mehfil occupies an old bank building in the heart of the heritage city with a traditional menu and tables spilling outside under a shady verandah.
Have a hit at the state’s top course
Named the best golf course in Queensland by Golf Digest in 2018, Brookwater Golf and Country Club has undergone significant renovations including changes that removed some of the more challenging aspects of the course.
Golfers have since reported losing fewer balls in the rough and those famous bunkers are just a little less frustrating. The Greg Norman-designed course remains a true luxurious beauty and many events are hosted here throughout the year. You can even book your own corporate day out – and the restaurant is open to the public.