In Queensland, we’re spoiled for choice when it comes to road trips. Whether it’s winding along the coast or trekking through the outback, opportunities to explore the state’s myriad landscapes abound.
There’s only one place, though, which can lay claim to having one of the state’s oldest towns, largest wine region and biggest inland waterways – the South Burnett.
Two hours’ drive north-west of Brisbane, the South Burnett region envelopes the charming townships of Blackbutt, Yarraman, Nanango, Bunya Mountains, Kingaroy, Wondai, Proston, Murgon, Goomeri and Kilkivan, not to mention Lake Boondooma and Bjelke-Petersen Dam.
During my weekend road trip, I managed to visit just half of them, but it was enough to whet my appetite for more.
Blackbutt – the ‘Gateway to the South Burnett’ – is best known as being the birthplace of tennis ace Roy Emerson, winner of a record 28 Grand Slam titles (12 singles and 16 doubles) and the only man to win singles and doubles titles at all four majors. A life-size bronze statue was erected in the town centre last year in honour of the sporting legend, right next to the Roy Emerson Museum. For the full Emerson experience, try a Roy Emerson burger at local favourite, the Bunya Nut Café.
Bellies full, we hopped back in the car for the hour-long drive to our accommodation for the night – Yallakool Park on Bjelke-Petersen Dam, Moffatdale. Spread over 2500 hectares, the dam is a popular freshwater fishing spot as it’s routinely stocked with Golden Perch, Australian Bass and Silver Perch (just be sure to grab a permit from the onsite kiosk). Accommodation options include camping, cabins and villas.
As the sun began to set, we drove down the road to Dusty Hill Vineyard and Winery in the Barambah Valley. The family-owned and operated winery offers wine tasting, boutique accommodation and Prendergasts Irish Tavern – our dinner destination. The family-friendly tavern overlooks a children’s playground, designed to keep little ones busy so parents can enjoy a peaceful dining experience. The comprehensive menu has fare to suit all tastes, best paired with one or two of Dusty Hills’ finest (for the adults, of course).
First on the agenda was a morning cycle from Murgon to Wondai along the South Burnett Rail Trail. The full trail stretches 43.5km from Murgon to Kingaroy, but our trip to Wondai was just 12.9km. You can set your own pace along the bitumen trail, which winds through the picturesque countryside.
Wondai is unique in that it offers a free, 48-hour caravan stop for road trippers, which is just enough time to visit attractions like the South Burnett Timber Industry Museum, Woodcrafter’s Workshop, Heritage Museum and Wondai Art Gallery.
Next stop was the largest town in the South Burnett – Kingaroy. Swapping the rail trail for the wine trail, we called in to Kingsley Grove Estate for lunch. Founded by the Berry family in 1998 and operated by the family ever since, Kingsley Grove is self-sustaining with everything grown in the vineyard produced onsite in a fully equipped winery. Tastings can be enjoyed in the winery rather than a separate cellar door and you can order a wood-fired pizza to go with your beverage of choice. Finish off with a Kingsley Grove Gourmet Wine Ice cream. With flavours like Fat Fox Port and Dark Chocolate, Hilltop Shiraz and Raisin, and Verdelho and Lemon Sorbet, the hardest part will be choosing what to try first.
Our accommodation for the night was in the heart of Kingaroy at Room Motel, which was unlike any motel I’ve ever seen. European-designed rooms offer a level of comfort that has earned it a four-star rating. After an early dinner just down the road at Aussie’s Pizza, we were off to the Kingaroy Observatory for some star-gazing. Astronomer James Barclay shared his wealth of experience and knowledge over a two-hour session, during which we could explore the sky through powerful telescopes. Night shows start at 7pm between 1 March and 30 September, and 7.30pm between 1 October and 28 February. Bookings are essential.
As someone who loves lavender, I couldn’t think of a better way to start the day than with a visit to The Lavender Farm at Pottique. After browsing through the largest lavender shop in Australia and stocking up on oils, soaps and plants, it was time to relax with a pot of lavender tea and scones in the café.
I could’ve stayed longer at the farm, but our next destination – the South Burnett Energy Centre in Nanango – beckoned. The centre showcases the energy technology that developed in the region through interactive displays including a ‘gumball bike’ which, when pedalled, generates energy to a gumball machine which dispenses a sweet reward.
Gumballs in hand, we were off to South Burnett Kart Hire for a spin around the track. Helmet on, I sat behind the wheel of a motorised kart for 15 minutes of adrenaline inducing fun. Needless to say I was in need of a nerve-calming cuppa afterwards, so we headed to Ringsfield House. The 110-year-old Queenslander was originally a family home, but in 1942 became the Ringsfield Maternity Hospital and was where thousands of babies were born until it closed in 1970. For 20 years the grand property operated as a women’s refuge and now, after meticulous restoration by the Nanango Shire Historical Society, Ringsfield House is a snapshot of a bygone era. It’s as though time has stood still, in the most beautiful way.
Writer travelled courtesy of Discover South Burnett.
photos Deb Eccleston & Tourism Queensland.
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