‘Welcome to Ipswich Central.’
There are many reasons to visit Ipswich. Whether you’re sharing a car racing or steam train experience, visiting family and friends or travelling for business, there are lots of reasons to stop, spend a night or two and enjoy the city’s hospitality.
We’ve returned for another visit, eager to discover more of the fascinating culture of this historic town.
As we crest the hill and Ipswich comes into view before us, we’re greeted by the Ipswich welcome sign. It includes references to parkland, rail and air travel, as well as noting the traditional owners of the land.
We’ve chosen the intriguingly-named Cumquat House as our accommodation, apartment living with the welcome of a B & B. Built in 1914 as a spec. house, Peter and Marie Adams bought the house in 1988 and have renovated it several times since. They are gracious hosts, extremely informed and helpful, while respecting the privacy of guests. Our suite is delightfully quiet and secluded with a luxe bed, and there’s a full breakfast with cereal, toast, fruit and a delicious hot dish prepared for us in the morning. Truly delightful! We’ve already rebooked!
The Prince Alfred Hotel
Ready for a drive, we head out to visit one of the oldest hotels in Queensland. 175 years ago, the Prince Alfred Hotel was a two-storey timber building in the middle of 40 acres of cotton fields. The original cold room still stands today, dating back to 1842. However, the present hotel, owned by the Johnson family for the past 30 years, would be a wonder to the original owners. Named ‘Hotel of the Year 2016’ at the QHA awards, this iconic hotel is worth visiting for its décor alone, let alone its 72 taps, each one pouring a different beer.
Its bar, Tap’d, has a beer theme throughout, including keg light fittings and a greenery-fringed tap waterfall wall. The PA’s restaurant, Char’d, is gorgeous as well. Replete with cow hides and wood features, its food offerings range from burgers to steaks and slow cooked shared plates of Sticky Barbecue Ribs or Beef Brisket. Price entry point on the PA’s meals is below $20.
170 Brisbane Road, Booval Ph: 07 3282 1577
Queens Park Café
It’s perfect weather for spending time outdoors. The summer heat has lost its bite, and bright sunny days entice us to take a walk. Queens Park, with its rolling hills, lush vegetation and animal attractions, is a favourite of Ipswich locals.
The airy café, housed in a modern building with an open-faced veranda overlooking the park, is ‘family central’ with something for everyone. It’s a favourite for casual family gatherings, breakfasts and lunch or just a snack with coffee. From Signature brekkie to the House specialty Chicken parmi, Ipswich’s thickest milkshake to an ice cream soda, this is fairly typical café food serving all-day brekkie. It’s easy to find something to suit all tastes. Our Spring roll salad and Seafood chowder are well-priced accessible light meals.
However, we’re most impressed with the service. There’s a brigade of mostly young wait staff, cheery and fresh, eagerly clearing tables and delivering meals – some of the best-trained and most conscientious service we’ve seen in some time. Inspiring!
Tip: Make sure you pop your head into the Environment Centre next door before you leave.
10A Merle Finimore Avenue, Ipswich
The Springfield Markets are held at the end of Education Drive in the Robelle Domain from 3pm-8pm on the first Friday of every month. It’s a beautiful location for this family market which offers a mix of art and craft stalls, multicultural food trucks and some local produce. Families take a picnic blanket and make the most of the evening outdoors. Entry is free and there is some free parking around the venue.
Woodlands of Marburg
The historic Woodlands of Marburg holds Sunday brunch in the café at the back of their delightful grounds. There’s a mix of small and main meals on offer on their menu, from a range of breakfast dishes (cereals, fruit and hot dishes), to snacks such as Bruschetta and Chicken wings, as well as mains such as Pork belly and Fillet steak.
We choose a Seafood platter for two for lunch, a selection of crumbed and fresh seafood including oysters and prawns, served with chips, lemon and tartare. There’s Lavazza coffee to accompany our meal or choose from the wine list.
The 1890s mansion surrounded by landscaped gardens is situated on 250 acres of rolling hills, worth a visit for its scenery alone. The property is popular for conferences, weddings and corporate events.
174 Seminary Rd., Marburg Ph: 5464 4777
Top of the Town remains our favourite haunt, with us returning to shop and eat in this precinct.
The Ipswich Art Gallery is once more in holiday mode, brimming with children eager to take part in their Lego holiday program. From the skyscrapers of Asia constructed in Lego to soldiers’ stories told through wartime quilts, there are intriguing displays around every corner.
Though we dare not ask what the name means, we’re rather surprised to see that Heisenberg Haus (Ipswich) has a little popup coffee venue operating from the function room through a huge window onto the street. They serve the much-loved Toby’s Estate Coffee, CocoWhip and food to go on weekdays from 6.30am until 1pm.With tea and coffee costing $3 – $4, a sandwich $4 and a roll $4.50, it’s a cheap lunch served with a smile!
If there’s one restaurant which brings Ipswich’s heritage to life, it’s Fourthchild. The imposing 1879 building, which once housed the Commonwealth Bank, has been beautifully restored, including its historic rustic brick walls and pressed metal skylight (which gave the venue light in pre-electricity days). Now, huge bifolds open to the street and the magnificent wall-long painting by local artist Brett Sparke places the venue firmly in the modern era.
Owned by the Williams family, Chef Christine manages a team of seven in the kitchen including their daughter Jessie, while husband Ross takes care of front of house. Having been in hospitality all their lives, the couple run a tight operation. Service is very professional and the restaurant is spotlessly clean, with fresh flowers on every table. Details count in the food as well, the kitchen sourcing all local produce from Lockyer Valley farmers, making everything in house including the two well-stocked cabinets full of delicious cakes and slices, pulled pork and mushroom pies, quiches and lasagne.
Our Slow-cooked Rangeland sticky beef ribs with hand-cut chips and slaw are impressively moreish, as is their version of the Hinterland Duck à l’orange, a classic rendition served with a honey and pumpkin pudding. Sure, there are sides, but the mains are generous enough to feed the hungriest diner – a delicious meal ‘of generous proportions’, as Alexander McCall Smith might say. Still, we manage a Rosewater brulée, which hits the sweet spot for dessert.
Open 7 days for breakfast and lunch (there’s plenty of choice under $20, excellent for a business lunch), with dinner from Tuesday to Saturday, Fourthchild is also open late when other places close early. Live music, cut price cocktails and an impressive house wine entices us to stay. There’s even a function room upstairs! Funky, with the consistent quality of a family-owned business, Fourthchild really is impressive.
6/126 Brisbane Rd, Ipswich Ph: 07 3281 9934
A Steam Train Journey
The weekend provides a rare opportunity to relive Queensland’s first rail journey to the historic Grandchester Station travelling on one of Queensland’s steam trains, a nostalgic journey which brings steam buffs from afar. The engine dates from 1943, but many of the rail carriages are far older, one dating to 1912.
There’s something special about the journey that brings out sightseers. Boom gates down, we cross through the town, people crowding along the track to watch, cameras in hand. We travel through country towns, parents and children waving from weatherboard verandas as we pass, arriving at last in Grandchester Station, the oldest surviving rail station in Queensland, built in 1865 to carry timber by rail from the sawmill at Bigge’s Camp.
The Workshops Rail Museum in Ipswich is located at Australia’s oldest railway workshops still in operation. The 150-year-old workshop offers an interactive experience for visitors with hands on exhibits and huge steam locomotives, a ‘must do’ family experience…so why not stay a while and explore Ipswich while you are here.
The Workshops Rail Museum, North St., North Ipswich
Enjoyed reading about Ipswich? Find out more about our last trip to Ipswich here.
NOTE: Good Food Gold Coast visited Ipswich as guests of the City of Ipswich.