The Western Downs region of Queensland is known for its top fishing, wineries and rich heritage. It’s a rewarding destination just off the beaten track.
If getting there is your prime focus and cruising along the highway your goal, you stand to miss one of Qld’s hidden treasures, the Western Downs region. It has plenty to offer explorers with a keen interest in nature, fishing and local fare.
Five tourist highways dissect the region: the Great Inland Way, the Adventure Way, and the Warrego, Gore and Leichhardt highways. These give easy access to rich agricultural and mining country, meandering rivers, and unspoilt gorges, as well as great camping and caravanning destinations west of Toowoomba. The region takes in Millmerran, Goondiwindi, Chinchilla, Miles, Wandoan and Taroom, and extends as far as St George, Surat, Roma and Carnarvon Gorge.
It’s the gateway to the outback, so expect a taste of country hospitality, classic pubs, open roads, and red dust and roos without the associated driving distances.
The Western Downs, one of the state’s foremost freshwater fishing regions, has undergone a renewal, thanks to recent rainfall. Golden, silver and spangled perch, eel-tailed catfish, crayfish, Murray cod, barramundi and Saratoga populate the district’s water courses.
The Murray Darling Basin, Maranoa, Balonne River Catchment and Dawson Valley systems, home to many fishing spots, are the main waterways in the region.
Sites worthy of a mention include the recently formed Lake Nuga Nuga near Carnarvon, Wallam Creek near Bollon, where over 110 species of birds have been recorded, and Flinton near Westmar. There are lots of other spots along the Great Inland Way between Hebel and Yuleba, with some near Goondiwindi and a few between Miles and Meandarra.
These locations, along with many others, can be found in the publication Freshwater Fishing produced by Toowoomba and Golden West Tourism with local councils in the Western Downs region. The free booklet provides details of 79 fishing holes and two self-drive fishing tours. Maps and visitor bureau and fishing club contact details are also included.
Along the banks of the Balonne River at St George is Qld’s western-most winery, the Riversands Vineyards.
Here, you can sample a range of red and white wines at the cellar door. If you prefer a sweeter drop, don’t miss the liqueur muscats and the sipping of the tawny port from the boots of Barnaby Joyce, a St George local. You can also relax in the outdoor café and enjoy wine, coffee or tea with a cheese platter, mud cake or scones.
Two other wineries to put on your agenda are Romaville, the state’s oldest, established in 1863, which produced Riesling, Shiraz, Chenin Blanc, Viognier, Crouchen, Ruby Cabernet and Merlot just north of Roma; and Villacoola Vineyard on the banks of the Balonne River at Surat. Villacoola is known for its award-winning liqueur muscat.
Travelling the Warrego Highway, it’s hard not to notice that almost every centre has its own museum or historical centre.
The Chinchilla Historical Museum has a large collection of farm machinery. There is a 1900 steam sawmill, a collection of steam, oil and petrol engines and tractors, and a number of restored engine and horse-drawn vehicles.
The buildings on site include the old Chinchilla Gaol complete with charred sections from a fire lit by a disgruntled cell occupant, the first Chinchilla state school (built 1883), a blacksmith’s shop, cream dairy, slab cottage, a country dance hall and Chinchilla’s original Railway Signal Box. The museum also incorporates the Kathleen Emmerson Library, which houses a valuable collection of historical records, maps and books relevant to the region. They can be viewed on special request.
4. Historical Village
Miles Historical Village, opened in 1971, is known for its town buildings, which have either been recreated or restored to their original working condition from the early 1900s through to the late 1950s.
A post office with old phone directories and the telephone exchange, police station with “wanted” posters, doctors’ rooms with an iron lung used in the 1930s are just some of the buildings on display. The original-condition slab hut with a dirt floor and fireplace at the rear provides a particularly intimate view of pioneering life in the early 1900s.