Hit the 'Swich for great experiences on Brisbane's doorstep

Ipswich offers one-of-a-kind experiences on Brisbane’s doorstep.

When I told people I was spending a weekend in Ipswich I was met with noses wrinkled in distaste and a chorus of: “Why would you want to do that?”

My answer was simple: there’s so much more to Ipswich than people realise.

Located just 40km west of Brisbane, the city is actively casting off its unfair reputation as an undesirable holiday destination with a range of one-of-a-kind adventure activities for families and adrenaline junkies alike.

Each activity on my weekend itinerary was an exciting new experience that can only be found in Ipswich.

Helicopter mountain biking

I had never been in a helicopter before and could not remember the last time I rode a bike, let alone on single-track mountain biking trails, and I’m not sure which I was more nervous about.

Luckily, our pilot Brett from Elite Helicopters, Archerfield, was both a fantastic flyer and an accomplished mountain biker who filled us in on some of the finer points of off-road biking as we flew towards Hidden Vale Adventure Park, Grandchester.

Any nerves I had vanished as soon as we left the helipad and I took in the stunning views from the cockpit. 

If you think the view from a plane is great, the uninterrupted view from a helicopter is next-level!

Brett pointed out the major landmarks as we flew and regaled us with tales of his years as a pilot. 

Before we knew it, we were landing at the entrance to Hidden Vale Adventure Park and being fitted for electric mountain bikes.

We rode along a fire trail to get used to the bike’s electric features – the greatest invention in biking: going uphill is just as much fun as going downhill – before tackling one of the “easy” 10km single tracks.

Getting out into the bush was a lovely experience and we encountered huge kangaroos, wallabies and some stubborn cows who weren’t keen on moving off the trail.

There was even the decaying skeleton of a light plane, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, which we stopped to explore.

We completed the 10km circuit in about an hour and headed to Spicers Hidden Vale, next to the Adventure Park, for a well-earned beer, burger and chips at the recently reopened Homage Restaurant before our return flight to Archerfield.

With the guests at Spicers Hidden Vale watching us board the helicopter, it was hard not to feel like a bit of a rock star – especially with all the children waving madly at us as we rose above the resort. After all, it’s not every day that you get chauffeured by helicopter!

If a long, relaxing meal is more your scene, Elite Helicopters also offers lunch flights as well as pub and winery tours, heli-golf and island getaways. 

Boho-luxe picnic by the lake

After working up a sweat at Hidden Vale Adventure Park, my partner and I were looking forward to our private boho-luxe picnic dinner on the boardwalk at Springfield Lakes.

We arrived to the dulcet tones of local acoustic artist Virjilla Joyce and settled in among the boho pillows, blankets and fairy lights decked out just for us by Sip ‘n’ Dip Ipswich

Although we were only 10 minutes from our accommodation at Quest Springfield, it felt like we were a world away as we soaked up the cosy, relaxing atmosphere and enjoyed a three-course meal from Moselles Cafe and Restaurant. 

The food was amazing, especially the lamb koftas and chocolate brownie, but it was the carefully crafted ambience that truly made the experience special. 

TRAVEL_Ipswich_Boho-luxe-styled-picnic

Local llamas 

I was surprised to learn that Ipswich is home to Queensland’s largest herd of llamas.

Nestled in the foothills of Pine Mountain, just 10 minutes’ drive from North Ipswich, the 32ha Llama Farm offers tours and the opportunity to take one of the more than 70 resident llamas for a walk.

I joined owners Shane and Darren for a farm tour to get close and personal with the llamas, donkeys, camels, miniature ponies, miniature goats, giant rabbits, sheep, Maremma dogs, peacocks and a wide variety of poultry.

Shane’s background as a teacher was evident as he showed a group of children how to safely feed the animals and answered their myriad questions.

It’s wasn’t just the kids that were having a ball, it was hard to wipe the smile off my face as I offered a bucket of feed to the herd of hungry llamas who were as excited about the prospect of food as I was to be feeding them. 

From spending time with llamas, it’s easy to see why Shane has dedicated his life to the large camelids – they each have individual personalities that remind you of the importance of connecting with animals and nature. 

I was amazed at the range of experiences available in Ipswich and will be back to discover what else the region has to offer. 

TRAVEL_IPSWICH_Making-friends-with-food-at-The-Llama-Farm

Writer travelled courtesy of the City of Ipswich.