Road Trip Around Southern Queensland Country – Silos, Murals and Hospitality

The Queensland State Government has been dishing out tourist dollars in an attempt to encourage residents of the South East corner to visit attractions right along the coast of the state that are doing it tough because of closed international borders. 

So of course we opted to travel inland following the Southern Queensland Country painted silo mural trail throughout an area that had endured years of devastating drought, followed by damaging floods. Our five day road trip took us to two painted silos, three painted water tanks, and nearly 100 murals. We experienced some great artwork, gained further insight into Australia’s history, and sampled a smorgasbord of country hospitality.

Let’s start in Toowoomba, only 2 hours west of Brisbane and Qld’s largest regional city.

The original First Coat Festival took place in Toowoomba in 2014 as a creative initiative to encourage public places to be transformed into street art spaces with the walls of buildings and laneways used as backdrops ( as well as reducing graffiti issues). Over the next few years over 55 murals had been completed, and although the Festival is now defunct, the artworks continue to grow in numbers. The most recent additions are within the Grand Central Shopping Centre.

And here’s my first confession:

Toowoomba with its four distinct seasons, despite being only 120 kms away, is so unlike Brisbane (that is either hot and humid or warm and dry) I tend to visit some of the 150 parklands dotted across the city simply to enjoy the gardens. Traffic lights and shopping centres are avoided like the plague. We did walk down Ruthven Street to take in the murals.

Second confession:

We hit the Fluffy Ducks. Big time. Think the last Fluffy Duck I consumed was in the late 70’s at the Hilton Supper Club listening to The Commodores. Long time ago….. Totally my fault. Couldn’t face the crowds.

The Visitor Information Centre has two brochures available: one to follow the mural trail, and the other to follow the mosaic trail. Both are very helpful.

To be continued………

Kilcoy , Queensland

Kilcoy is a small township, with a population of less than 1500, and is situated on the D’Aguilar Highway 95 kilometres north west of Brisbane.

In the early days it was a timber and dairy town. In recent years Kilcoy’s claim to fame is its abattoirs, including one of only two in Australia that are accredited to export horseflesh.

Why am I sharing this information? Because if you happen to be driving through town it is a must to stop at one of the butcher shops. OMG. Let’s talk about meat that melts in your mouth : Wagyu beef with the marble score of 9. Or you can do what we did : a Steak Dinner at the Exchange Hotel on the main drag through town. Delicious. Easily the best steak I’ve eaten for twenty years.

The Exchange is a lovely old pub built in 1901, which has been renovated over the years as required. The interior walls are covered with old black and white photos which tell the history of Kilcoy and surrounding districts. Fascinating stuff. For those taking an interest in Women’s History Month one of The Exchange’s licensees was Olga Brett, one of Australia’s youngest women ever to do so.

May I add that I was totally impressed that this pub out in the middle of the sticks had a courtesy bus to transport its clients to and fro free of charge. I live near four hotels, three of which are high profile, attracting entertainment and both national and international tourists. Do you think any of these offer the services of a courtesy bus? Not on your life! High Five to The Exchange.

Although past its prime since the closing of the railway this little country town with its picturesque views of rolling hills in close proximity to Somerset Dam is very proud of its history. The walking trail around the township is flat with places of historical interest highlighted.

This is a RV Friendly town with a couple of Motels and Pub accomodation. There is a historical museum as well as two wineries. Yes, I said wineries.

In this decade the cow is king, though it wasn’t always so. Kilcoy is also known as the Yowie Town with the last reported sighting in the 1970’s. For those unfamiliar with Yowies they are comparable to a Yeti or the Abominable Snowman (without the snow.) Although mythical the aboriginals stated they too saw Yowies in the days of early settlement.

If travelling around the area may I also recommend carrying a purse full of gold coins. There are road stalls along the way where you can pick up pumpkins, local honey, fresh eggs and plants. I do so love a road side stall, don’t you?

Kilcoy is another rural town with more than meets the eye. And if you’re local mark April 17th in your diary for the Digger’s Race Meeting at the Kilroy Race Track. This is an event designed to recognise and honour veterans, exservice personnel and peace keepers with Military Bands and protocols.

I think I’ll require a new frock.!

TIP: We Aussies have taken to the road in the thousands. If you aren’t in a caravan or motor home you are going to find it very difficult to find accomodation. Book ahead.

Some Bookish Gossip

Excited! Excited!Excited!

Words Out West is a Readers and Writers Festival based in the Western Downs area of Queensland sponsored by the Western Downs Libraries. March 2021 will see a line up of writers, illustrators, educators and musicians do presentations in a variety of venues including country pubs.

Never been to Watta. No idea where it is, but I’d kill to be able to tell people that I had a Parmi at the pub with Shane Webcke.

Pyjama Angels:

The Pyjama Foundation works with Foster families across Australia with a learning-based mentoring program called Love Of Learning Program.

Essentially this means that trained volunteers known as Pyjama Angels are matched with a foster child in care and meet with that child for an hour and a half each week to read books aloud, practise numeracy skills and play educational games.

So far, Pyjama Angels are averaging 

  • 101,000 books read to children each year
  • 714 Pyjama Angels trained last year
  • 1,416 children supported each week.

My daughter, who did a ten year stint with Community Services, highly recommends the organisation.


Just Because:

Hay Bales At Kalbar, S E Qld

Another glorious Spring weekend made it perfect for a day trip out to a rural community.

Where did we go?

Kalbar, in the Scenic Rim, about an hour and a half drive south west of Brisbane and located in the Fassifern Valley, which is an area with high yields of pumpkin and carrots.

Kalbar Country Day has been an annual event since 1991 with its most prominent feature being Hay Bale Sculptures around the township with families and community organisations competing for the title of Best Hay Bale voted upon by the public. Last years event was cancelled as the drought meant that hay was in short supply and far too expensive.

So the city slickers flocked to Kalbar, population of around 1000, to support their country cousins, and to follow the trail of 81 colourful Hay Bales.

There was a Bush Poets Breakfast, carrot tossing competition, vintage car display and the main street was closed for market stalls which were offering mostly produce from the SEQ corner. Of course I came away with a pumpkin or two!

A lot of the old Queenslanders  (homesteads) are undergoing renovation and it seemed to me to be a popular destination for those chasing a Tree Change. Good luck to them………


How can you tell when you’re in a country town?

The Window Displays feature straw hats and whips.

Spring, Bruschetta and Toowoomba’s Carnival of Flowers.

Spring in Queensland is delightful and I am suffering from an over supply of tomatoes and basil from the garden. Obvious solution : Bruschetta in front  a  Sunday afternoon movie. ( Shenandoah with Jimmy Stewart for those interested. An old favourite and the tune is hauntingly beautiful).

Spring also marks the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers, an annual event  for over seventy years that ensures thousands of tourists visit for the magnificent displays of colour, the heritage, culture, food and country hospitality. 

Toowoomba, 2 hours drive west of Brisbane, is Queensland’s biggest inland town, and at 700 metres above sea level has a kinder climate than our capital. The floral displays may not have been as diverse this year because of Covid 19 though the parklands full of garden beds were every bit as beautiful.

Looking out east from the top of the range to Brisbane and the coast
Poet, Dorothea Mackellar got it so right!

There are simply too many places of interest to visit in Toowoomba to mention in one post so I will tackle them in future posts. The Cobb and Co Museum is Number 1 to add to the Must Do List: it takes you back to the times of  horse-drawn carriages and steam trains with its interactive displays and heritage trade workshops in silversmithing, millinery, whip plaiting and blacksmithing. A great place for the Little People to become immersed and the fresh scones are only as country folk can prepare them. ( Question : Why is this ?????)

Bitterly disappointed to discover the Milne Bay Military Museum permanently closed as it requires a new location. When I last visited I was bogged down in school projects and laundry and was clueless about the Kokoda Track. Shame! Shame! Shame! Might be time for a few letters from a garrulous retiree or two….

So good to see you again, Spring….

Harrisville and Conniptions

It has been my experience that those little country towns that are nothing more than a small dot on the map are often the most interesting.

Harrisville is a quaint country town only an hours drive west of Brisbane making it on the outskirts of Ipswich. Never heard of it, had you? It was named after the Harris brothers, John (1819–1895) and George (1831–1891), who established a store and cotton ginnery in the area at the time when the American Civil War had created a worldwide shortage of cotton.

There are numerous Heritage sites within Harrisville including:

13 Church Street: Courthouse and Police Lock-up
5 Hall Street: School of Arts
16 Hall Street: Masonic Hall
34 Queen Street: Commercial Hotel
35 Queen Street: Former Royal Bank
43–47 Queen Street: Memorial Park
54–58 Queen Street: Sacred Heart Catholic Church
1–5 Wholey Drive: Royal Hotel

Harrisville is flat which makes it ideal for exploration by walking. Allow a couple of hours to investigate as there are places for refreshments and retail outlets, including an Art Gallery and Lead Light Workshops, that will pique your interest.

So what was it in rural Harrisville that saw me have conniptions at high noon in the main street?

C’mon. I have refrained from mentioning the love of my life, Errol Flynn, for months. Is it any wonder that a girl suffered a major nervy turn, requiring far more than a G&T, when I found this?

Those small dots on maps – love them!

The Granite Belt

An hours drive south of Allora lies Stanthorpe, smack bang in the centre of the Granite Belt. Massive rocks are everywhere and they are even more popular than swans made out of old car tyres as garden features. 

Originally a tin mining town, at the turn of the 20th century it morphed into a fruit growing area with apple orchards and berries which still dominate the market. Winemakers and olive producers came from Italy to the district in the 1920s and helped establish what we now know as the food and wine trail. There are 50 plus vineyards in the Granite Belt and you’ll be shocked/amazed/disappointed that I didn’t visit one! ( Confession: our accomodation was at a microbrewery but that doesn’t count, right?)

Stanthorpe is over 800 metres above sea level so get this : in sub tropical Queensland winters in Stanthorpe mean log fires and the occasional snow flurry. They even celebrate a Brass Monkey Festival.

One of the outlying rural areas of Stanthorpe is Amiens, named after the battlefield in France in which Australians were involved during World War 1. It was a Soldier Settlement of approx. 17,000 acres and more than seven hundred returned soldiers were allocated blocks in what became known as settlements of Amiens, Messines, Bapaume, Passchendaele, Bullecourt, Pozieres and Fleurbaix.

Under the Discharged soldiers’ settlement Act, 1917  every discharged member of the armed forces was entitled to apply for land and financial assistance.  The important goals within this initiative were to open up new land for settlement as well as place willing and suitable settlers on this land.  At the same time, it aimed to provide employment as well as the necessary support for the many discharged servicemen who had served their country.”

Today, there are less than 300 people living in this area. It was windswept and darn cold – I cannot imagine the living conditions 100 years ago.

And for those who have been paying attention Stanthorpe really does have more than its fair share of fine pubs.

Allora, Qld, and Mary Poppins

I’ve been on a short road trip. Put your seatbelt on and remember, no smoking or eating in the car unless its chocolate – and be prepared to share.

The Blue Cow Hotel

Allora is a country town on the Darling Downs in South East Queensland, approximately 2.5 hours drive from Brisbane, and located between Toowoomba and Warwick. * It has a wide main street with a pub on each corner making it reminiscent of so many farming communities across Australia, a Cafe that is the busiest spot in town at lunchtime, two hairdressing salons, and a Little Community Library ( that I was just itching to tidy).

Being so flat makes it ideal to walk around Allora to inhale its history. Settled in 1840 there are many examples of fine colonial architecture highlighted by the plaques attached to 30 odd buildings of interest.

In good seasons summer in Allora becomes a mass of yellow and is well regarded for its crops of beautiful sunflowers. Unusual for a community of just on 1,000 there are two museums : the historical and a regional sports museum. ( Local sports stars include Laura Geitz – netball, Matthew Denny – discus, Greg Holmes – rugby union, and Wayne Bennett – league.)

Perhaps the best known resident of Allora was Helen Lyndon Goff who later changed her name to Pamela Lyndon Travers, the author of Mary Poppins

Although born in Maryborough, Qld, which I’ve discussed in a previous post, the Goffs moved to Allora when Helen was 8 years old. The bank building in which they lived, and where her father died two years later, is available for tours.

  There is a nod to the author in the P L Travers Park in the main street.

Well worth a visit.

*One of the measures of a town has always been the number of pubs it supports though Covid has had a huge impact in this area.

The Australian Silo Art Trail

Our State Government has spent millions of dollars promoting Queensland in an effort to jump start tourism with the recent relaxation of Covid 19 restrictions. Now I know I’m being judgemental ( Sorry LA, Waking Up On The Wrong Side Of Fifty), but MORONIC: point me to a Queenslander who doesn’t know the location of the Great Barrier Reef.

The Northern Territory Government had the right idea in handing out tourist dollars to the first 200,000 Territory travellers, bypassing the Marketing gurus completely and putting the dollars directly into the hands of those who would share it amongst small business. Love your work…..

However, good breeding dictates that one must not discuss politics before supper and/or a bottle of vino.

Some five years ago a movement began in Western Australia to beautify the landscape and encourage tourists to rural communities by using silos for murals.

Yep, painting murals on silos depicting regional history and points of interest.

This has since grown to become The Australian Silo Art Trail and continues to flourish and attract thousands to regional centres. There are currently 36 painted silos which can be covered in six Silo Art Trail road trips in five states, as well as artworks on 40 water towers.

Thallon, Qld

I’ve just purchased the Silo Art Calendar for 2021 – because I’m optimistic that we will get through this wretched year – and am amazed by some of the stories reflected in the artwork.

If you are interested in learning more go here:

So ready to pack my bags. My feet are growing mouldy.


For best results when traveling throw out the bloody GPS.

 “ Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a Storyteller.”      – Ibn Battuta

Another Day Trip To The Lockyer Valley

Winter in South East Queensland means farmers are harvesting potatoes, sweet potatoes, cabbage, broccoli and silverbeet in the Lockyer Valley, less than 90 minutes west of Brisbane. For any day trip taking an esky is compulsory for purchases from road side stalls including fresh eggs and honey. I’m making fortnightly trips out that way following our Premier’s advice to “re-ignite the economy”.

My most recent find in the Lockyer Valley was Scotty’s Barn And Garage at 1709 Flagstone Creek Road, Upper Flagstone which is one of those spots that are worth a visit, particularly if you aren’t concerned about being separated from your partner for hours.

You see, Scotty’s Garage is a showcase of automotive memorabilia with vintage cars and motor bikes and everything in between. There are pumps, petrol signs, workshop tools and car paraphernalia that I am unable to name ( and don’t care). The Love Of My Life, an old bikie in a previous lifetime, lost hours lusting over the 1939 Lincoln Zephyr and an Indian motorcycle.

Then when the Barn Doors are opened you’ll be gobsmacked by the replica 1950’s diner with dance floor, jukebox and pinball machines.

No milkshakes sadly, but you can cross the lawn for Lunch or a Devonshire Tea with Homemade Ginger and Walnut Scones. I sampled more than I should have waiting for the boyo to emerge from his Fantasy Land.

This is a family friendly venue with areas to picnic and playground equipment for the Little People.

As with all places post Covid you need to book in advance 07 4697 5334

You know, I’m sad my trips to PNG, Longreach, WA and Darwin have been cancelled this year, but I am loving discovering new places closer to home:)