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Shady, tree-lined path in Queens Park, Toowoomba, Queensland
Colin and I share the same birthday. That’s either beyond adorable or frankly weird, depending on your point of view. Most people think it’s cute, but the novelty wore off years ago for us. While the advantage is that neither of us are likely to forget the other’s birthday, sometimes I wish I could have my birthday to myself. Just once I’d like it to be my day. I’m sick of sharing.

Palm trees and an art deco style buidling, Toowoomba, Queensland

Foot-stamping aside, such trials of life are always what you make of them. Our usual approach to is to eschew presents and parties and go out for a fancy meal, usually the fanciest of the year. This year we wanted to do something different, and since our birthdays (I try not to say “our birthday” as it makes us sound like twins…too weird) fell on a Saturday, we decided to go away for the night. Where do you go for a special weekend escape to celebrate your awkwardly conjoined birthdays? Apparently not Toowoomba.

View from Webb Park Lookout, Toowoomba, down over the Great Dividing Range
Poor Toowoomba. We were surprised by the negative reactions we received when we told people we planned to go there. I don’t really understand. Sure, it doesn’t exactly have the most rocking nightlife, but it’s a beautiful green town situated high on the crest of the Great Dividing Range. We’ve visited and stayed in many other places close to Brisbane, both the Sunshine and Gold Coasts (the usual holiday destinations for beach-loving Brisbanites), the hinterland of both Coasts, as well as Byron Bay in northern New South Wales. We had never been west of Brisbane. I love the cold, as I am ever fond of saying, and in Australia the winter is much colder the further inland you go. For my birthday, all I wanted was a properly crisp winter, trees that properly shed their leaves, a crackling fire, and a bit of batten-down-the-hatches. I got all that in Toowoomba.

Autumn leaves in Toowoomba, Queensland

Toowoomba (“the Garden City”) has around 150 public gardens and parks, and is best known for hosting the annual Carnival of Flowers every September.  At that time of year all of the public parks are awash with colour, which must be gorgeous, but in June the town was peaceful and green, with blazing autumn leaves, dappled sunlight and that gentle air of small-town slow. The centre of town is dotted with stone churches and halls, beautifully restored buildings like Cafe Valetta, and art deco treasures such as the Empire Theatre. It’s a great place for hunting antiques, wine-tasting at Preston Peak winery, and hiking around Table Top Mountain.

Rat rod outside The Engine Room cafe, Toowoomba, Queensland

We stayed for one night at Vacy Hall, a heritage listed building that was built in 1899 by a wealthy pastoralist. It operated as a private residence for many years, then was converted to a boarding house before being refurbished as guest accommodation in the 1980s. It is a wonderfully evocative building, with voluminous curtains, high ceilings and cedar-lined passageways that smell of linseed oil. All the rooms have open fireplaces. We lit ours after we got home from a great dinner at Veraison, and I lit it again at 6am the next morning – determined to get one more fire before we left.

Vacy Hall - historic guesthouse in Toowoomba, Queensland

Antique lamp in our room at Vacy Hall, Toowoomba

After checking out on Sunday morning we ate a fantastic breakfast at Engine Room on Railway St, then visited the stunning Japanese Garden situated on the grounds of the University of Southern Queensland. After a thorough wander we reluctantly hit the road back to Brisbane, feeling like our 24 hours in Toowoomba was exactly the mid-winter birthday escape we were after.

Japanese Garden on the ground of the University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba
Lately I’ve been trying to get my un-techy head around the manual settings on my camera. I’ve long relied on simple tricks, luck and repetition to produce my photos, but a growing dissatisfaction with my results has led to a bit of learning. Toowoomba provided ample opportunities to practice. I’ve often been drawn to capture scenes with a mix of sunlight and shadow, but I’ve usually ended up with over-exposed sunlight and under-exposed shadows. However, something must be sinking in finally because these shots are a big improvement:

Japanese garden, University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba

Tree-lined path, Queens Park, Toowoomba, Queensland


  1. misenplacememoir

    I was in Towoomba with my mom in 1988. I loved it and I loved Brisbane and the two coasts and Rainbow Sands and Stradbroke Island, and….

    • There are so many beautiful places here! Of course, none quite so beautiful as New Zealand, where I’m from 🙂 Nothing can ever equal home…

      • misenplacememoir

        I am from Hawaii so I agree with you there!

  2. Pingback: Old news, new memories | Chez Moi

  3. Loved reading about Toowoomba, wish I could go there too. 🙂 Also, I loved the photo of the lamp and it’s reflection. If that’s you trying your hand at photography, I can’t wait to see you get better with the camera!
    – Ishita.

    • Thanks Ishita, I took a whole lot of photos at night in our room with just the fire and the lamp for light. I love experimenting with low light conditions – these photos almost never make it to the blog though, so maybe I should think about sharing some more…

    • Thanks Lee! Three years ago we celebrated a very memorable birthday in Bangkok but I can’t remember the previous two years and assume that we just went out for dinner. Quite clearly, travelling for your birthday (even if it’s not far from home) is the better way to create lasting memories…I had better start saving for next year!

  4. I’m with you too. I like Toowoomba – and in fact, I’m going there in a couple of weeks too. And you can’t go wrong when you choose Vacy Hall to stay at. A wonderful, evocative place.

  5. laurie27wsmith

    Hi Chez, you can’t go wrong with a visit to Toowoomba. We go there often. You certainly caught the Japanese Gardens beautifully.

      • laurie27wsmith

        We never stop learning and every little victory with a camera, or anything for that matter is pure gold. 🙂

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