75 things to do in Ipswich
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, boutique shopping, fine dining and a lively coffee scene.
Take to the skies
A helicopter joy flight or a gentle hot air balloon float across the land at sunrise 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 and 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, or you can book a country pub tour or a joy flight over the region – 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 Brewery Bar – home of 4Hearts Brewing – 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 – as the original supply base of water 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. The 88 Limestone precinct is also home to Dovetails restaurant and Ungermann Brothers Icecream Parlour … but more on these later.
Explore planes, trains and automobiles
The romance of steam rail lives on in the Ipswich region – the birthplace of rail in Queensland – and there are myriad ways to soak it up as well as experiences for aviation fans and thrills seekers of the motor-sporting kind.
Immerse yourself in the history of rail at The Workshops Rail Museum with its 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 offering a glimpse into the construction and operation of Queensland’s first rail line, which ran from Ipswich to Grandchester. It’s open to the public on the first Sunday of each month when dedicated volunteers conduct tours for visitors. The Grandchester Model Steam Railway operates on the same day which is always a hit with littlies ones.
There’s still more rail history to explore in the country town of Rosewood where The Rosewood Railway offers rides on ‘Red Fred’ a restored 1930 Railmotor and trailer.
For aviation lovers there’s the RAAF Amberley Aviation Heritage Centre, open on the third Sunday of every month and for community and school groups by prior appointment on Tuesday and Thursdays.
If it’s motorsport that gets your heart racing, 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 or 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 & Rose with its beautiful botanical theme and eye-popping cakes cabinet has won a firm following in the heritage city but there are other laneway cafes to check out too. At Dancing Bean Coffee Roastery in a converted warehouse off Brisbane Street in the Top of Town you can sip coffee on beans that were roasted on site. And tucked in beside Indian Mehfil restaurant you’ll find 116 Laneway with its eclectic styling and burger-y menu, which blogger Hannah Statham discovered on her visit to Ipswich.
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 and is a popular destination for birdwatching, nature photography, mountain biking and hiking. Trails extend from a 200m walk to a full 19km round trip trail.
The Brisbane Valley Rail Trail is a recreational cycling trail following the old line from Wulkuraka, near Ipswich, to Yarraman, west of Kilcoy or you can hit the trails at Castle Hill Blackstone Reserve with 15 International Mountain Biking Association rated trails.
Kick back at a night market
Urbane Markets have continued to grow since arriving on the scene in March 2018 – they run every Saturday night with an ever-changing round-up of food trucks, markets stalls, family fun and live entertainment.
Spot a quoll… or a wombat
Ipswich Nature Centre in Ipswich’s 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.
Go hunting for antiques
Shop for antiques, kitsch collectibles and retro fashion in a restored heritage building – Ipswich Antique Centre is open Thursday to Monday but it’s just the beginning when it comes to vintage fossicking in the heritage city. In fact, there are more than 20 stops listed in this CRAVE trail of all things creative, retro, antique, vintage and eclectic.
Upskill in an upcycling workshop
This is becoming a popular day trip for Brisbanites – some even make a whole weekend of it. There are various workshops offered by many of the heritage city’s up-cycling and craft specialists such as Upcycled Treasure, F and H Revival, R & R Behind Red Doors or The Art & Craft Cottage – all are part of the CRAVE trail.
Try wild flavours from a Masterchef star
Ben Ungermann has a global following and it all started here in his hometown of Ipswich. He won hearts as a finalist on the 2017 of the TV series Masterchef and has since opened his first icecream venture in Ipswich – in the historic 88 Limestone precinct – and followed that up with a sister store in The Netherlands. You can taste incredible flavours such as lavender and honeycomb, Dutch spice or coffee & cardamom, or sign up for a cooking class to learn how to make your own!
Take a road trip to a country town
You never know what you might find in Ipswich’s history-rich country towns – landmarks such historic churches (that’s St Brigids Church at Rosewood in the picture) 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.
Explore the museum by torchlight
Here’s some memorable fun for families to get in on… you can see Ipswich’s much-loved tourism destination, the Workshops Rail Museum, at night… with the lights out. Torchlight tours are offered during Museum Twilight Markets which are held a few times a year – the next one is December 14, 2018.
Pick a picnic spot… here are seven 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, and there are walking trails to explore as well. For more picnic spots around the region try this handy list.
Catch a show in a converted church
Studio 188 with its spectacular art deco facade might have started life as a church but these days it’s more likely to be jazz or contemporary music emanating from the stage. It’s nicely positioned on busy 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 – 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 a heritage building that was once an incinerator. True story – this site that was once used to burn waste now dazzles audiences with its architecture and ambience as a properly quirky performance space.
Find a fairy wren
Fairy wrens are a common sight around Ipswich city but 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, as compiled by local photographer Shane Allwood (who also took this smashing pic).
Book a beautiful dinner table
Dovetails restaurant offers a unique dining experience, set in the old technical college buildings of the 88 Limestone precinct but there are more restaurants to explore too, including The Cottage, Fourthchild and the big cheery German beer-hall themed Heisenberg Haus. Lovers of Indian flavours might venture to Indian Mehfil set in yet another of the city’s magnificent heritage buildings in the heart of town. If it’s classic tapas style plates you desire, check out the masterful creations chef Fenton Keogh offers up at the Ipswich Club on Friday nights. He had a much loved French restaurant in town for many years so these Friday nights on the heritage verandah are becoming a popular event.
Instagram some #streetart
Go wandering in the Top of Town precinct or ask the locals where to find the newest street art such as this dove that emerged early in 2018 on a wall in Ellenborough St.
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.
Hit the shops
Ipswich boasts many gorgeous independent stores including the emporium known as Country House Gifts & Homewares at 17 Limestone St, and Top of Town landmarks such as Obsession Shoes and Oh Jo Jo Boutique, to name just a couple. Retro fans will love Poison Arrow Retro. You can also check out one of the oldest family-run shops in the country – CJ Vogler & Son – known locally as ‘Voglers’ – it’s been in operation more than 140 years selling model cars and train sets and more modern marvels such as drones and electronics.
Land in the vineyard
No really… you can land here… Captain Mike at Pterodactyl Helicopters will organise that. He regularly makes trips out to Ironbark Ridge Vineyard (pictured) and Flinders Peak Winery, where they’re also making gin and specialty vodkas these day – and he can have you there in minutes, from the city helipad in the heart of Ipswich. Of course you’re welcome to arrive by car, if you must.
Pterodactyl also flies visitors in to beautiful Spicers Hidden Vale, whether it’s for a wedding, a weekend away or lunch in the stunning converted barn.
Tackle the biggest craft beer offering… in the southern hemisphere
It’s the biggest craft beer offering in the southern hemisphere and it’s right here in Booval, Ipswich – Tap’d at the Prince Alfred was recently named best regional hotel in Australia. It’s not only the mammoth list of 72 beers and ciders on offer that has won fans – it’s also a lot about the burgers and other crowd-pleasers on the smashing menu.
For more places to explore on Ispwich’s colourful food scene check out the Eat section at Discover Ipswich.
Explore the cafes of Springfield
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.
Sip champagne in the countryside
Once a year at the beautiful country retreat, Spicers Hidden Vale, a festival like no other lures city folk and locals with one thing in common – a love of champagne. This is a special event celebrating the world ‘s most celebrated drop and tickets are on sale now for this year’s Effervescence event in the spring.
Buy olives from the farmgate
Visit Pine Mountain’s Watercress Creek 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.
Answer the call of the loukoumades
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 recently 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 – but the Greg Norman-designed course remains a true luxurious beauty. Many events are hosted throughout the year – you can even book your own corporate day out – and the restaurant is open to the public.