The drive into Toowoomba takes in wide tree-lined streets with views of the surrounding mountains. Downtown has streets laid out on a grid which is easy to navigate and we park up on Neil Street. We have a leaflet for the Cultural and Legal Precinct Historic Walk and decide to follow this to get a flavour of the area.
The Precinct is bounded by 4 streets; Neil, Margaret, Ruthven and Herries and is an area rich in historical buildings including the post office, churches, the court house, city hall, hotels, theatres and banks. The oldest privately built building is Tattersall’s Hotel which was built in 1883 and has a first-floor balcony which was used in the past by prospective horse buyers to view the parade to auction.
Mark as usual takes an interest in the court house which was built in the Classical Revival Style in 1878, however, his interest is also drawn to the Masonic Temple on Neil Street which was built in 1816. I love both the theatres, The Strand and The Empire, which are built in Art Deco style.
We entre the Art Gallery which has a new contemporary wing after walking through the Art Gallery park which exhibits Aboriginal Art. Downstairs is an exhibition of modern art and upstairs is art work from the galleries back catalogue. Many of the paintings are by Scottish artists reflecting the nationality of many of the original immigrants who arrived in Toowoomba.
On the streets around the Art Gallery are a number of murals celebrating the local culture and indigenous population. Across Ruthven street is Kwong Sang Walk which recognises the contribution of the Chinese community (unfortunately it is closed for renovations at the moment).
Continuing to the top of the street we reach The Soldiers’ Memorial Hall which was erected as a memorial to the participation, and loss, of members of the Toowoomba community in WWI and then later wars. The vestibule has honour rolls on the walls and as we walk through, we enter a former dance hall which is now utilised as a bingo hall.
Returning to the car after over 2 hours we set off to visit Picnic Point, an escarpment on the rim of the Great Dividing Range. We park and make our way to the lookouts over Lockyer Valley 700m below. As we look towards Brisbane, we can appreciate just how lofty Toowoomba is. Unfortunately, due to the fires the view is not as clear as it can be, nevertheless it is still fabulous.
We drink milk shakes in the café with a view before taking one of the walking trails around the point. Making our way back to the car we are reminded of the tragic events in New Zealand by the flag flying at half-mast.
Driving back towards the city we stop at the Japanese Gardens. The lake, waterways and bridges make for a lovely stroll in a shaded area - great as the temperature has reached 38C. We see turtles stretching their necks and basking on rocks in the sun and a wide array of water birds, including waders and a duck with her yellow fluffy ducklings. The gardens are a peaceful haven in the city.
As we return home, we can see clouds building and the temperature has dropped considerably. We settle down for the evening and then hear it. The rumble of thunder gets us to the door just in time to see bolts of lightening and the downpour starts. It rains throughout the night, which is a welcome relief to those living in fear of the nearing bush fires.