Wining and Dining
Why Ipswich is Queensland’s Most Underrated Destination
As someone who wasn’t raised in Queensland, Ipswich was essentially a foreign city to me. Soon after my first visit I got to know it really well and discovered Ipswich is a city that we should hear more about.
The underrated Queensland destination offers a complete contrast to the white sandy stretches and tropical adventures offered further north. Instead, Ipswich is a wonderful mix of Australian native bushland, friendly Queensland locals and authentic Aussie experiences suited to everyone from the weekend explorer to families looking for a holiday destination that beautifully marries city life with country charm.
History that’s accessible
Just 50 minutes from Brisbane, Ipswich is a straight shot on the M5 from the city. It’s that short drive that makes it a great spot for a day trip, a weekend or a longer stay. Thanks to the comfortable and quick commute, we have found ourselves driving in and out from Brisbane for a morning visit on weekend on a couple of occasions already. So, even if you are just passing through, it’s well worth the detour. Ipswich is also rich in history. The first settlement of Ipswich dates back to its days as a mining town in the 1820’s.
This provincial history is evident all around the city in its character-filled original buildings; from the bigger industrial builds to the large Ipswich mansions and more modest historic homesteads.
Woodlands of Marburg is the ideal place to get a feel for what life might have been like in the area back in the 19th century. Built in 1890, the majestic mansion has been lovingly restored and since maintained by the family who now owns it. Sitting atop a hill overlooking paddocks thick with Woodlands’ own wine grapes, and the homestead’s much wider estate beyond, it is a stunning property. Book a table in the dining room for weekend brunch and feast on their very hearty menu before walking it off by wandering the extensive grounds.
From farm to fork fare to fine wining and dining
The Ipswich foodie scene is all about proudly showcasing local fare in varied and innovative ways. Whether you’re a health nut or you love some good pub grub, you’ll find it here. For a lazy afternoon in town, head to Pumpyard Bar and Brewery for a tasting of their local small batch 4 Hearts brews. The site where the brewery sits originally supplied water to the town, hence the name “Pumpyard”. It was later used as a technical college and is now part of a small dining precinct that embraces the location’s history.
Best off all, their beers are additive and preservative free and they serve simple, pub style comfort food. We settled into their oversized leather sofas one Saturday afternoon and took in the scene; couples popped in for a quick beer and a snack, others were stopping off to fill up their take home growlers and have a quick chat at the bar before the crowds rolled in for a meal, filling the dining room. This is one popular local spot. For something a little fancier, stroll across the footpath to Dovetails Restaurant.
Dovetails is a lovely place to come for a breakfast, lunch or romantic dinner. Part of the 88 Limestone Precinct, the design of Dovetails will make an impression on you as soon as you walk in the door. Celebrating the strong red brown brick of the retired technical college, pieces of wood engraved with former students’ names have been included into the design, warming the space. The former woodworking room at the college, those warm woods are carried throughout the space, illuminated with soft golden lighting and a marble bar acting as a striking accent.
We enjoyed a long lunch at Dovetails, sharing the melt-in-your-mouth pork belly and tender jerk chicken. Looking around the room, it was easy to see how this would be a great summer spot too with 4 Heart beers on tap and an outdoor deck area ripe for a Sunday catch up session.
Whether you are staying at Spicers Hidden Vale or you simply want a unique dining experience, book a table at Homage. Homage is truly a paddock to plate restaurant. The menu is crafted with care from local seasonal produce, most of which is grown on the property itself. If you can’t decide what to order, the tasting menu is made for you. Each course is bite-sized but deliciously presented. Each plate tells a story in an immersive way; celebrating a particular ingredient and the land where it was foraged, grown or raised.
It’s an adventurer’s paradise
I’ll admit I had no idea Ipswich was such a hub for the active traveller until I started doing a little research. I soon discovered it is an adventurer’s paradise with some of the best mountain biking and hiking tracks in Queensland a quick drive from Brisbane. Hidden Vale Adventure Park is a great place to start if you are a keen rider with over 50 kilometres of trails on the property. Staying at Spicers Hidden Vale meant we got to see the trails firsthand on a morning hike and it certainly whet our appetite for some MTB adventures.
There are many hikes around Ipswich from beginners and families to the advanced bushwalker ready to take on challenging terrain. White Rock-Spring Mountain Conservation Estate is a picturesque place to take the kids with some gentle multi-use trails delivering you to the iconic White Rock where you’ll enjoy stunning regional views from the peak.
For a truly epic and more challenging hike though, head to Flinders-Goolman Conservation Estate. It’s there you’ll find the Flinders Peak trail set to test the more experienced hiker. A full day turn around will take you up the rugged northwest ridge line promising breathtaking panoramic views from the famous peak.
Accommodation to suit all tastes
Driving out to Spicers Hidden Vale from central Ipswich, I felt my body physically relax as the tree-lined driveway carried us to check in. Spicers was exactly what I needed; a country retreat without the time consuming travel time. A true home away from home Spicers felt warm, even in the middle of winter. Our Heritage Suite was like a little cottage in the countryside with everything we could possibly need; a gorgeous seating area with fireplace, king bed, cosy desk nook and our own verandah looking out on the surrounding bushland. It was absolute bliss and we will be back for another stay soon to hit their biking trails.
For those who like being close to the action Metro Hotel International is the pick. Right in the heart to the city, the hotel is modern, clean and close to everything. Leave your car parked and wander down to Limestone and Brisbane streets where you’ll find cute cafes, bars and boutiques.