Things to do
How to spend a long weekend in Ipswich
If you had asked anyone about Ipswich five years ago, it’d hardly be a place you’d set as your Google Maps end point, unless you were visiting friends and rellies. But, while the rest of the country spent better part of the last five years fussing over big-city-sister Brisbane, Ipswich was having its own resurgence. At last, people are realising what we’ve known the whole time – the historic home of Queensland is pretty damn awesome for a long weekend too.
But don’t just take my word for it. If you’re chasing those small country-town feels, without the lengthy commute or 4G connectivity problems – then point your bonnet west of Brisbane’s CBD to Ipswich. More than just a day trip destination, it’s got the kind of history that’s best absorbed over a longer-than-usual weekend.
After all, Ipswich is Queensland’s oldest provincial city with colonial roots dating back to 1826. If you want to explore a destination that’s becoming fashionable faster than the latest Coachella trend, you need our guide to discovering Ipswich in a long weekend. We guarantee you’ll find a city that’s punching well beyond its reputation’s weight.
5pm: Hit The Road
From Kedron in Brisbane’s inner-north, there are only 30 minutes and six sets of traffic lights separating Brisbane from Queensland’s fastest growing metropolis, Ipswich. The vastly improved Ipswich Highway makes this historic city the perfect weekender for those who prefer to spend more time strolling through town than sitting in traffic. If you hit the road straight from the office, you’ll arrive with enough time to buy a round during happy hour. Winning!
5.40pm: Whet Your Whistle
Arriving into Ipswich, make your first stop Pumpyard Bar and Brewery on Limestone Street, Ipswich’s first and only brewery specialising in boutique bevvies. Inside this cavernously large brewery, the atmosphere is pumping every day of the week but none more so than Friday knock off. You’ll find six craft beers, all made on site, available on tap.
When they’re not being poured from the tap, you’ll find the liquid gold bubbling away in the floor-to-ceiling vats, which top off the industrial styling that makes this bar so inviting day and night. From light ales to stouts and every shade of amber ale in between, it’s all about beer with full flavour, no chemicals, no artificial flavours or preservatives.
A deep-south inspired menu is the perfect meal to match your cold beer – think sticky sauce BBQ chicken wings and plenty of chilli mayonnaise. The perfect recipe for an awesome Friday night.
Tip: Not sure what beer to order? Ask the friendly staff for a taste from the taps before committing. After working your way through the ombre selection of ales, we guarantee you’ll find something that tickles your frickle (that is, if you ordered the deep fried pickle on the menu).
7pm: Check-In To Your Accommodation
Make like goldilocks and find a bed that’s just right in the historic city. Depending on how you prefer to holiday, consider these options:
For something luxurious:
Looking for a lap pool and somewhere to lounge? Look no further than Spicers Hidden Vale. It’s our choice for accommodation for those wanting to dial up the romance on a weekend escape. Expect a setting where Australian bush and luxury collide on 12,000 acres of working farm. Set around the historical homestead, Hidden Vale offers 29 rooms, with four stand-alone cottages, which promise the ultimate seclusion.
For something mid-range:
Choose to overlook the spires of St Mary’s Church in Ipswich with a stay at Oaks Aspire, which offers the choice one, two or three bedroom self-contained apartments in the centre of town. From here, you’ll be in the perfect location to springboard to the Ipswich Art Gallery, countless coffee shops and picnic areas in Queens Park.
Pitch your tent on the doorstep of 2200 hectares of Aussie bushland at Hardings Paddock Camping Ground. You’ll find it 20 minutes from the Ipswich CBD – a place where you can go unpowered and escape the city’s light and noise pollution. With just eight designated campsites, what we love about this campground is that it promises seclusion, which is what camping is all about.
From your tent’s doorstep, enjoy access to bushwalking tracks and bike trails. You’ll need to BYO drinking water – oh, and if you own a horse, you can bring it too! This is trail-riding country.
7am: Earn Bargaining Power If You’re Travelling With Little Ones
If you’re travelling with kids, earn bargaining power for the rest of the day by spending the morning at Bob Gamble Park on the banks of the Bremer River. Here, you’ll find a kid’s paradise with three sandpit areas, water park activities and a playground that will have kids embracing their inner spider monkey with a jungle gym of Amazon proportions.
9am: Breakfast Like A Local At Rafter And Rose
As cute as its name suggests, Rafter and Rose is a breakfast haunt that’s as popular on Instagram feeds as it is with local foodies who know where to get the best breakfast in town. Breakfast is a simple but tasty affair with meals like the house brekky – poached eggs and bacon jam on sourdough toast, presented beautifully on a bed of colourful leaves and flowers.
For those with a sweet tooth, sink your fangs into French toast brioche with real maple syrup ice cream and fresh fruit. You can wash breakfast down with coffee served either hot or cold pressed. The glass cabinet by the counter is packed with treats that we challenge you to walk past. They rotate but you can expect anything from NY Baked Cheesecake to gluten-free banana and coconut muffins, all baked in-house of course.
11am: Visit The Art Gallery
Walking distance from brunch is the Ipswich Art Gallery, which we’re convinced was designed as much for the big kids as it is the little ones. Set inside a heritage-listed building in the CBD, the gallery has an enviable collection of over 2,000 works spread over three just as impressive floors of early 20th century architecture.
With free entry, the Ipswich Art Gallery has to be one of the best ways to enjoy a day out without spending a dime. Exhibitions change regularly – and the current main attraction is a display of the world’s largest collection of wartime quilts. These delicate intricacies hang so close to your face that you can see the hours of painstaking labour that went into stitching these textured works of art, made using recycled materials from soldier’s uniforms.
As you wonder what happened to each of the soldiers whose uniforms make up the quilts, you’ll get a chance to sit back on leather lounges and wonder why you don’t visit local art galleries more often. Of course, if you’re travelling with the young, or young at heart, you can’t look past the Lego Tower exhibition (which is on until early July 2017). This exhibition merges play-time with modern architecture – with scaled versions of some of history’s mega towers like the Q1 Tower on the Gold Coast.
3pm: Visit The Antique Centre
You know the antiques and collectables are going to be good when a town wears the crown of ‘oldest provincial town’ in Queensland. Bring your Bargain Hunt game-face and fossicking fingers to explore the Ipswich Antique Centre on East Street. Inside this church hall you’ll find everything from retro tiki collectables to art deco lampshades, Edwardian chairs to entire bedroom settees. No matter your style, there’s plenty of ways to separate your money from your wallet here.
The building alone is worth exploring, with its high ceiling, stained glass windows and mezzanine levels, which will make you feel like you are the only person in world.
7pm: Enjoy Dinner At Heisenburg Haus
Bringing a taste of Bavaria to greater Brisbane, get down to Heisenburg Haus for a German-themed dinner fit for a Meister. Regardless of whether you are in for a couple’s dinner or a night out with the family, you know you’re in for a good time when the beer is poured into souvenir steins and there’s pork knuckle on the menu.
Those who actually manage to finish their pork knuckle will earn a place on the “wall of fame” – a Polaroid display that wraps around the counter, sharing snaps of triumphant pork lovers with their empty plate. Those feeling really piggy should time their visit for Heisenburg Haus’s ‘knuckle off’, a competition to eat as much pork knuckle as you can. Winners are judged by weight and rewarded handsomely.
8.30pm: Follow Dinner With A Show
For a taste of the arts and history, make tracks to the city’s old incinerator, which has been reincarnated into the Little Ipswich Theatre Company aka Incinerator Theatre. Built in 1935 by the man who designed Canberra, Walter Burley Griffin, the building was the city’s first municipal incinerator, which was rescued from the wrecking ball and transformed into the theatre.
The season’s schedule can be found online, guaranteeing family fun with five shows per season, most which will sell out. Bookings are essential – even if not to catch a show but to see the architecture of this historic building, which is now one of only six surviving examples of incinerators of this kind built in Australia.
8.00am: Enjoy A Leisurely Sunday Brunch At The Woodlands Of Marburg
Every weekend, the Woodlands of Marburg throw open their grand doors to a brunch service that wouldn’t feel out of place on the set of Downtown Abbey with its manicured gardens and old-world feel. With brunch menu items like Chefs Cut of Beef – potato puree, king oyster mushroom, spinach and glazed baby carrots or roast heirloom beetroot tartlet, whipped goats cheese, rocket and almond salad – the Woodlands offer a true classic brunch service.
Burn off the hollandaise with a walk around the gardens, and see what keeps the gardeners of this historical homestead busy all week.
11am: Dial Up The Action With A Stroll Through Queens Park
Queens Park is so much more than just those limestone tiered rocks you see as you drive into the city, but a botanic gardens well worth discovering. Dedicate at least a couple of hours to discovering Queensland’s first park built on 26 hectares of lush parkland. It’s so significant in fact, the park is heritage listed for its role and evolution in Queensland’s history.
The idea for the reserve was born in 1842 and today remains largely unchanged with formalised garden beds, Japanese Nerima Gardens, children’s play facilities, a bush Chapel, Croquet Gall and sporting clubs which have been added to the reserve over the years. What you probably didn’t know – is that Queens Park has its own zoo – Mary Poppins style!
Ipswich Nature Centre in Queens Park is open six days a week with free admission, and the animal enclosures are connected by pram-friendly wooden ramps, making this one of the most child-friendly activities in the city. You’ll see native animals like wallabies, kangaroos and emus, farm animals like goats, sheep and cows and more unusual creatures like black cockatoos, bilbies and snakes all living here.
Of course, there are also water dragons, which aren’t part of the exhibition, but roam free around the property and put on one of the best shows in town when they surprise unsuspecting visitors.
12noon: Don’t Undo Your Hard Work – Have A Bite To Eat
Check out one of the many cafe’s in the Top of Town for a bite of lunch.
5am: Get High. High Over Ipswich And The Lockyer Valley
You know what they say about early birds and worms. Well, the same goes in Ipswich where you can take a Floating Images Hot Air Balloon ride over greater-Brisbane for aerial views and golden hues all the way to Brisbane’s skyline. Follow the adventure with breakfast at Fourthchild Cafe Restaurant, where you’ll find everything from banana bread to bacon, leek and parmesan croquettes to sate your appetite from the altitude.
Fuelled with food and fun, you can head back home knowing you have a camera roll full of history and heritage from this long weekend itinerary.
• Before you travel, time your trip with something in Ipswich’s bustling events calendar
• Fancy a spot of shopping? Boutique Oh! Jo Jo stocks everything a modern day gypsy could want from its Brisbane Street hole-in-the-wall.