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TRAVEL & LEISURE

A Weekender's Guide to Ipswich

With cute cafes, craft beer bars and pools surrounded by bushland, who knew Ipswich could be so cool?
By Laura Dawson and Melanie Colwell
May 29, 2020
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A Weekender's Guide to Ipswich

With cute cafes, craft beer bars and pools surrounded by bushland, who knew Ipswich could be so cool?
By Laura Dawson and Melanie Colwell
May 29, 2020
  shares

in partnership with

We're simply spoiled for choice in Brisbane when it comes to heading off for a mini-break or weekend away. Sure, as the halfway point between the Gold and Sunshine Coasts, it's de rigueur to jettison yourself towards the beach during the warmer months, but what about when it's too cold for all that? Winter demands bracing walks, warm antique stores and hearty meals — and when the sun goes down, an open fire, a cosy armchair and maybe a glass of red. Is that too much to ask? Not in Ipswich, it's not.

Close enough so that you don't spend half of your day driving just to get there but far enough so that you feel like you've stepped away from it all, Ipswich is the perfect spot for a romantic escape or a fun-filled country weekend with mates. Plus, this southeast Queensland gem is packed with so many activities you might just find yourself planning to return while you're still here. We suggest driving out after work on Friday and staying for two nights. That way you can wake up early and launch straight into a day of activities on Saturday — or sleep in and enjoy the luxury of nothingness.

From pristine beaches and bountiful wine regions to alpine hideaways and bustling country towns, Australia has a wealth of places to explore at any time of year. We've partnered with Tourism Australia to help you plan your road trips, weekend detours and summer getaways so that when you're ready to hit the road you can Holiday Here This Year.

While regional holidays within Queensland are now permitted, some of the places mentioned below may still be closed due to COVID-19 restrictions. Please check websites before making any plans.

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Four Hearts Brewing via Tourism and Events Queensland

EAT AND DRINK

If, like us, the day doesn't begin until you have some caffeine in your system, your first stop should be local favourite Strictly Coffee. For a filling brekkie, we suggest popping into Rafter and Rose. Grab a seat in the leafy courtyard and soak up the atmosphere with a Single O coffee and selection of sausage rolls, pies, croissants and cakes. Everything, including the pastry, is made in-house. If you opt for something savoury, be sure to add a side of the bacon jam, which is every bit as amazing as it sounds.

For lunch, make tracks to Ruby Chews in Riverlink Shopping Centre for American-style burgers, hot dogs, wings and milkshakes. This retro diner also does classic frozen custards, but if you're craving something sweet, we suggest holding out for a scoop or two at Ungermann Brothers. This gourmet ice-creamery is known for its experimental flavours including salted caramel, bacon and pecan; blue cheese and fig; coffee, cardamom and liqueur; and — wait for it — roasted garlic.

Next up, the guys at Four Hearts Brewing have you covered for afternoon bevvies. Located in a stunning red brick, heritage listed, 100-year-old building, the focus here is on full flavour, high quality, chemical-free brews. With pilsner, pale ale, red IPA and stout just some of the varieties on offer, be prepared to settle in for a full afternoon of gruelling beer sampling. You can continue the drinking session over at Tap'd, a craft beer bar set within the PA Hotel, which boasts a whopping 72 craft beers and ciders on tap. It also offers a selection of classic pub feeds, including chicken schnitties, pizzas and burgers, to keep your stomach well-lined.

Homage Restaurant

Or, you can pop over to German beer hall Heisenberg Haus. Pull up a seat at one of the communal tables, order a beer and a pretzel, and later on maybe grab a serving of käsespätzle, which, if you haven't had it before, is a big ol' gooey serving of wheat dumpling noodles, fried onion and cheese. Lots and lots of cheese. This dish is a long-cherished chalet staple — and while it's not Arctic weather, the chill of a Queensland winter is reason enough to indulge, don't you think?

But if you're after something just a little bit special for dinner (okay, a lot special) the hatted Homage Restaurant at Spicers Hidden Vale is the order of the day. Select something from the a la carte menu or opt for either the two- or three-course tasting menu. The focus here is on paddock-to-plate dining and there's a real emphasis on sustainability. With such incredible local growers and farmers to choose from nearby, it makes a lot of sense. Feast on greens plucked from the kitchen garden, lamb from Mulgowie, steak from Toowoomba — you get the idea. This is truly a special spot, and dinner here would be a decadent and wonderful way to mark a birthday or anniversary.

Nerima Gardens

DO

Start the day with a stroll around Queens Park, which is home to a Nature Centre packed with native Aussie animals, including wombats, wallabies and bilbies. Yes, they're adorable. And yes, you will squee. Also in the park is Nerima Gardens, a Japanese retreat devised in close consultation with Ipswich's eponymous Japanese sister city. Soak up all the serenity as you meander around these picture-perfect grounds. 

Next, head for the bustling couple of blocks known as the Top of Town. Take your time exploring the quirky stores dotted around and be sure to visit The Vintage Advantage for that perfect 50s-style frock and CJ Vogler & Son, a hobby store that's been trading since 1877. Fans of antiques must go for a poke around the Ipswich Antiques Centre for quirky and impressive art, collectables, furniture and jewellery.

For a truly memorable experience, take the plunge and see Ipswich from the air. Pterodactyl Helicopters offer a range of tours to check out the scenery and surrounding sites (including wineries and pubs). The packages are super flexible, so you can craft a trip based on your interests and budget. Captain Mike is your main man, pilot, tour guide extraordinaire, and also possibly the most affable chap around. Take off with him to visit sights like Woodlands of Marburg — a stately plantation manor house built in 1890 but only opened to the public in 2002 — or maybe hop over to the Ironbark Ridge Winery for a tasting.

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Ipswich Central Cottage

STAY

To be right in the heart of the action, make this chic little cottage your home away from home for the weekend. This charming spot sleeps up to four guests, with two bedrooms, two bathrooms and two living areas, and is in easy walking distance to many of the sites mentioned above.

But if spoiling yourself is on the cards then head directly to Spicers Hidden Vale in Grandchester, which is a 30-minute drive from the town centre. Equally suited to couples and groups of friends, this spot has country luxury down pat. Your accommodation comes equipped with thoughtful details, and may very well have a fireplace or a spa — or both — meaning it may be hard to leave your room. When you do venture outside, be sure to check out the kitchen garden, smokehouse and orchard or complete one of the nearby walking trails. As dusk settles you might play a game of pool in the games shed, take a dip in the spa or toast some marshmallows around the campfire. Yep, there's plenty to do around here. That said, you'll likely be just as happy to just pull up a chair on your verandah and watching the sun dip below the hills.

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Whether you're planning to travel for a couple of nights or a couple of weeks, Holiday Here This Year and you'll be supporting Australian businesses while you explore the best of our country's diverse landscapes and attractions.

Top image: Spicers Hidden Vale

FYI, this story includes some affiliate links. These don't influence any of our recommendations or content, but they may make us a small commission. For more info, see Concrete Playground's editorial policy.

Published on May 29, 2020 by Laura Dawson

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