a perfect brisbane-toowoomba day trip

Toowoomba is a pretty sweet little city. Despite having a relatively small population (~100,000) it has the vibe of a bigger city.

Another good thing about Toowoomba is its proximity to Brisbane. You can get up there fairly easily in 90 mins on a weekend, which makes it a perfect day trip destination if you set off early.

I set off early yesterday as the sun was rising and began my road trip. I couldn’t help but stop at the abandoned Servo Plus service station at Plainland (cool suburb name) for a few quick snaps.


There’s also a really cool red elephant statue on the same side of the road at Plainland (right near Wet Dreams Aquatics 😳) which is worth checking out as you drive by.

My first destination in Toowoomba was Table Top Mountain. This is a mountain just East of the main range which has a large grassy plateau on top which you can walk around on checking out the views of the surrounding pristine Lockyer Valley. I wanted to get here early before it got too hot, and also to see the rising sun to the East. The climb isn’t for the unfit or faint-hearted but the views are definitely worthwhile.


After admiring the views I made my way into the city to check out some of the Toowoomba street art. There’s a long weekend festival in Toowoomba each year called First Coat where street arts cover buildings around the city in murals. It’s been running since 2014 so there’s already plenty of murals to check out. Any lane in the city is pretty much guaranteed to have a few different murals.


One of the benefits of exploring the laneways in the city is you come across places to eat you wouldn’t otherwise discover. One such place was called Skewers which is an Indonesian street food style restaurant serving skewers grilled over hot coals, and slow cooked rendangs 😍


After wandering the streets and eating some lovely food I decided to start making my way back home.

I’m a huge fan of roadside produce stalls and doing some Googling I discovered that the Lockyer Valley sitting just East of the Great Diving Range has lots of farms, and lots of roadside produce stalls. So I descended from Toowoomba into Flagstone as Flagstone Creek Road has heaps of the roadside stalls. My favourite stall was at Winwill, and during the drive back I managed to pick up two dozen fresh eggs, two pumpkins, spinach, potatoes, a watermelon, two punnets of tomatoes, and three stems of broccoli.  All so fresh and delicious! The fringe benefit of this ‘produce run’ is that the views driving through the valley are top-notch:


It’s been a long but fun day so I make my way home to unload the produce and edit all the photos I’ve taken. Good times. 

 

table top mountain, toowoomba

I started my day in Toowoomba by climbing to the plateau of Table Top Mountain.

I can’t believe I hadn’t been up here before: it’s amazing.

The climb up and back down was much quicker, but much harder, than I was expecting. Once you’re at the top there’s a huge grassy plateau to walk around and admire the gorgeous views of the pristine Lockyer Valley around you 😍

There were a number of large prickly pear cacti growing around various parts of the mountain covered in fruit.

I definitely would do this again if I was in the Toowoomba area.

Elevation: 596m (206m gain)
Time up: 19m
Time down: 18m

mt edwards

I woke up before 5am on Saturday morning and drove (1h:10m) to Mt Edwards which is part of Moogerah Peaks National Park (next to Lake Moogerah) to hike to the summit. The hike up wasn’t all that interesting (besides walking over the dam wall at the start) or challenging (just a constant 3km ascent) but the views at the top were 💯 as you are right at the top of a very steep cliff-face.

Elevation: 634m (520m gain)
Time up: 1h:04m
Time down: 54m

 

goolman lookout / rocky knoll

With a slightly cool change in weather this morning I decided to take an early hike to Goolman Lookout. This hike is part of the same conservation estate as Flinders Peak but leaves from a different picnic area known as Hardings Paddock.

The hike to Goolman Lookout was pleasant and not at all difficult. The trail was wide and accessible, with some steep sections but no climbing or scrambling required.

I walked back via the ‘Rocky Knoll’ Lookout which, true to its name, was a rocky knoll which you can only access by climbing over a barbed-wire fence 😳

flinder’s peak take two

I took my mate Mike up to Flinder’s Peak this morning to kick-start 2017. Even though we began the ascent before 7am it was still really hot by the time we reached the top and we were lucky to make a quick descent before it got crazy hot. We both carried about 2.5 litres of water which was just enough for the temperature which reached about 36 degrees Celsius.

It was great to have some company (I usually hike alone) and I hope I have piqued his interest in climbing some more mountains (perhaps when it cools down a bit).

mount ngungun

I did a quick hike up Mount Ngungun, one of the Glasshouse Mountains, early this morning (after a failed attempt at climbing Mount Tibrogargan 😞).

I really enjoyed the walk up and the view at the top. It wasn’t at all challenging compared with other hikes I’ve been doing, but that didn’t make the view any less special.

There are great views of the surrounding mountains. I’m planning to take the boys up here when it cools down a bit: I’m sure they’ll love it.

nathanael johnson quote

“There’s a reason adult humans learn to put our blinders on when it comes to nature. We need to get through life and pay the bills. We can’t stay so fascinated by the ants on the sidewalk that we forget to catch the bus to work. We forget how to see the world with a childlike wonder. Remember that we can take those adult blinders off every once in a while. Life gets a lot richer when we do.”

~ Nathanael Johnson provides a gentle reminder of the wonder of nature – via The Smith Journal

mount warning 

I hiked to the top of Mount Warning in Northern NSW this morning.

It’s about 9km return and it took me a bit over an hour up and a bit under an hour coming back down. I had hiked this about 20 years ago and it was a bit steeper than I remembered at the top where they have some chains part of the way to assist with vertical rock scrambling.

The views at the top were mesmerising, particularly as I love the Northern NSW landscape so much as it’s so green and stunning.

I was lucky enough to have the summit to myself for about 20 minutes whilst I was up there which is very unusual for such a popular place to hike. As soon as I started my descent I saw about 50 odd people heading up so I imagine it would have been very crowded at the top.

I wouldn’t rush back to hike Mount Warning again anytime soon but I’m glad I revisited it today. It’s too popular to start with, and I think there’s better more challenging shorter climbs closer to Brisbane (Mt Blaine, Flinder’s Peak).

mt blaine

I’m taking this week off work to unwind, unplug and recharge. I’ve decided not to go anywhere per se, but rather stay in Brisbane and just do some really enjoyable things.

My new favourite thing is climbing mountains so this morning just after breakfast I headed south to hike to the top of Mount Blaine: a mountain on the  Northern side of Flinder’s Plum and that offers fantastic 360 degree views of South East Queensland and some of the best views of Flinder’s Peak around.

Whilst it was a short hike – about 4.5km return – the trail to be summit was very steep and very rocky so there was plenty of rock scrambling happening.

The summit was pretty amazing – quite a few butterflies and lots of large prickly pear cacti which were all in bloom and covered in bees. Beautiful.

There was a small rock cairn on top (this isn’t a very popular mountain – I saw no one else the whole time and the track is slightly overgrown) and I was happy to add a rock to the cairn as I always do at a summit.

I was originally planning to take another path down but couldn’t find any track markers so I ended up returning the way I came up. Coming down was harder than coming up since the rocks were easy to dislodge so I had to be very careful not to slip which I still ended up doing a few times. I imagine hiking with others this could be rather dangerous with loose rocks rolling down the mountain.

All in all this was a very enjoyable hike that I’d happily repeat if I was looking for a hike that doesn’t take up an entire day but still offers inspiring views and a challenging scramble.

mount maroon

I took the opportunity this morning to hike to the summit of Mount Maroon: part of the scenic rim in South Eastern Queensland. Whilst Mount Maroon isn’t as accessible to Brisbane as Flinder’s Peak, the 360 degree views from the summit make the drive and the climb to the top definitely worthwhile.

I was stoked to see a large cairn at the peak when I arrived, and I was lucky enough to have the summit to myself and I felt on top of the world whilst I sat and admired the view in every direction.

The track was hard and didn’t have many markings at all so it was easy to get lost which briefly happened to me. If you visit take plenty of water and only visit on a cool dry day as the rocks would be very slippery and dangerous when wet.

Good times.

 

toowoomba carnival of flowers

We’ve been talking about going to the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers forever so today we made that a thing. It was a little smaller than I expected (having been to Floriade in Canberra) but I was still impressed.

We had a nice brunch at Picnic Point Park before driving back to Brissie. The view from Picnic Point Park was amazing 😉

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one (not so) perfect day in vancouver

When flying back to Australia from the Americas, all the flights leave late at night so I’m often traveling back for work that finished the previous night and I will have a day spare where I typically do some sightseeing (and stretch my legs before a long period of sitting down).

Last year I had one of these days in Salt Lake City and I unfortunately decided not to hire a car which meant I had to lug my suitcase around the city for a full day. Yesterday I had one of these days in Vancouver and I thought I’d be smarter than last year by hiring a car this time around but this meant I spend a lot of the day sitting in Vancouver traffic 😳 in a pimped out Chrysler 300s with Beats sound system 😎

I didn’t realize how bad Vancouver traffic would be. To access anything on the Northern side of the city meant crossing one of two very small bridges and driving through downtown. The standard Google map driving time estimate would often double or triple with traffic.

I started the day driving through Stanley Park. It’s quite a large park close to the city and would be great to explore on a bike but there’s a one-way road you can drive around the park on and the highlight for me was stopping  and seeing Lions Gate Bridge.

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After this I drove to the base of Grouse Mountain. I had initially considered walking to the top but a lack of sleep from the previous night meant I decided to catch the Gondola which was pretty impressive (but also pretty expensive at $48 for a return trip of six minutes each way).

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The views at the top were pretty nice and I stopped to sit and have a nice cup of tea, but there wasn’t much to see once you were up there and I really couldn’t see the value in the price of the ticket.

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The other thing about Grouse Mountain was how busy it was. It was a Wednesday but jam packed with people including bus tours and school groups.

My next stop was originally planned to be the Capistrano Suspension Bridge but having driven past the entrance (and its six large parking lots) on the way up I decided against visiting another expensive tourist trap so I researched and found another suspension bridge nearby but a little more off the beaten track.

This was called Lynn Canyon Park and I am so glad I visited it as it was definitely the highlight of my day. It was great to see lots of people enjoying it without it being overcrowded and not only was there a suspension bridge, but a lovely river with huge amounts of pebbles and a great forest to wander through. A pure delight.

After some exploring I drove (through congested traffic yet again) across the bridge to the Commercial Drive strip which unlike it’s not was a little bit non-mainstream and grungy which I liked. I found the ultimate shop to buy some Mexican gifts for Kitty.

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I also found a little bit of street art:

My final stop was the Gas Lamp precinct where I spotted some cool street art, my favourite being this electricity box:

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There were also some cool train carriages and sticker art:

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I headed back to the airport to return my car and prepare myself for the long flight back to Brisbane. Whilst I had some enjoyable moments; I wouldn’t choose to return to Vancouver in a hurry.

hiking alta lake, whistler

I was looking for a hike that I could do from Whistler Village for a few hours without a car and without a lift pass. Lost Lake is too close (and short) so I decided on Alta Lake which is a larger lake to the South West of Whistler Village.

It was easy to find, and despite the lake not being all that scenic, there were some great views of the surrounding mountains. I also managed to find some old car wrecks and some giant wooden chairs lakeside.

I walked around 12km in total in about two and a half hours; it was very enjoyable.

 

whistler train wreck

This week I had a chance to check out the Whistler train wreck site: a part of the forest near Whistler where several train carriages rest that were part of a train derailment in 1956.

The area has been declared a legal graffiti zone so each carriage is colourfully decorated in all kinds of spray paint.

I’ve never seen anything like it; it was like an urban jungle in the middle of a forest. Amazing stuff.

 

flinders peak

I’ve been wanting to walk to the top of Flinders Peak for some time; and today, Father’s Day in Australia, that opportunity presented itself.

I was a little nervous considering it’s a Class Five (Black) hike which is the hardest class of walk you can do in Australia, and there were some signs reiterating this at the beginning. But it is only 6.5km return so I thought I’d just ‘do it’.

The walk was rather spectacular; it gets increasingly difficult as you reach the summit and there were a number of cliffs you need to climb to get to the top, but luckily the way is fairly well marked with orange reflector arrows on the rocks so I didn’t get lost.

There’s a large number of huge prickly pear cacti on the way up which I believe are classified as a weed here because they spread quite easily. I also saw a lot of beautiful wattle in bloom, and also a large number of grass tees of which many had large spines in bloom.

The view from the top was amazing and definitely worth the rather strenuous climb. You can see out in all directions with Brisbane city easily seen to the North.

I managed to get up and back in less than two and half hours which is pretty good considering the guides recommend you put aside a full day. If (or when) I walk it again I’ll take some more water as the 650mL bottle I took was not enough, but luckily there was a rain water tank back down at the bottom which I used to replenish it.

A great hike; probably the most enjoyable I’ve done 😊

heart shaped pebbles

As I walk along a beach, I love looking at the pebbles that have washed ashore. Very occasionally, but more often than you would think, I come across a heart shaped pebble. Since every heart shaped pebble is a little bit of magic; I always pick one up should I see it and put it in my pocket to give to someone I love.

Here is one I found in Byron Bay last week; it’s a rather good specimen.

Heart shaped pebble
A heart shaped pebble found on Main Beach in Byron Bay

 

cairns

There’s something rather splendid about rocks; perhaps it’s just their age, or that they have played such a huge part in the entire history of our planet. Places like stone henge are amazing for this reason. 

All of our boys are obsessed with rocks; whenever we’re at a park or some place new they will discover and collect a few rocks that represent different things. 

Today I walked to White Rock and back. I walk a track that is a little less known. The track goes along the top of a ridge and towards the end of the ridge, just as you get into the ‘flow’ of walking in such a breathtaking environment, you’ll come across a beautiful collection of cairns. 

cairns near white rock

Each time I visit this park, which can be a few weeks or few months apart, there seems to be a few more cairns added to the collection.

There’s something transcendent about seeing cairns in nature; they encompass balance and some orderliness in nature, which has a tendency to be the opposite.

On my way back I couldn’t resist but add my own cairn to the growing collection of cairns. I hadn’t created one before and it was a very relaxing activity building something that balances on its own. 

I’m hoping my cairn will be there next time I walk through, which I believe will be the case as there seems to be an unspoken respect for this collection of sculptures that will stand the test of time. Well here’s hoping. 

on picnicing

One of our family rituals is going on picnics. We have found it’s a lo-fi activity that increases our families’ wellbeing. This has academically been proven to actually be the case:

“A marriage can cause an increase in happiness equal to a quadrupling salary. Making a good friend is equal to tripling a salary. Belonging to a club can cause an increase in happiness equivalent to doubling a salary. And going on picnics three times a year is the same as receiving a 10 per cent raise.”

~ Harvard Psychologist Robert Putnam quantifying the effects of good relationships (and picnicing)

Since we go on a picnic at least once a fortnight, we’ve established a picnic basket (which Kitty calls our ‘caravan’ – long story) which is always packed and ready to go. We typically do a BBQ picnic so we just need some food and the basket contains everything else like plates, cups, oil, sauce, BBQ utensils and even a thermos for hot water to make tea. Kitty picked up the picnic hamper, unused, at a nearby op shop (thrift store) for two dollars (bargain!). 

We’ll usually visit a park with some bushland or a place for the kids to play and explore before we cook our food and enjoy it together. 

This afternoon we found an old gold mine that still has some remnants left which the kids loved exploring and imagining how it worked almost one hundred years ago. 

the remains of a track that carried the mine carts across the creek

Afterwards we had a lovely BBQ in the light of the sunset:

mt coot-tha sunset in brisbane

We did have some over-confident, brazen kookaburras who managed to steal almost all our sausages from our plates as we ate, which freaked out the boys a little, but it was very fun nonetheless.

I love activities that require little effort but provide huge amounts of wellbeing, and picnicing, unlike motor-boating, seems to be just that 😎