If you’ve been searching for a school holiday destination that will inspire, educate and excite, as well as keeping the kids interested, look no further than the Western Downs.
Just three hours from Brisbane, the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast, you’ll find everything from ancient rainforests to heritage-listed homesteads and giant watermelons to keep the whole family entertained.
Pack up the kids and head west for a taste of country livin’ with this school holiday guide.
1. Tour Jimbour House
International travel might still be off the cards for the next little while, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find a dose of UK architecture close to home.
If you were looking to treat the little ones with a trip to a stately manor house, put Jimbour House into your GPS.
Known as the ‘’Jewel of the Darling Downs’’, Jimbour House (est 1874) is reflective of another time with its ornate French doors, Tuscan columns, two-story sandstone walls and roof forged from Welsh slate.
For a small fee, take the kids on a tour of the gardens that surround the property and give them a taste of Downton Abbey living.
Keen to start planning your visit to the historic Jimbour House? We’ve got just the guide over here.
2. Eat your way around Urban Paddock’s menu
If you hear tiny tummies grumbling as you Experience Western Downs, stop off at Urban Paddock in Dalby for an all-day dining menu.
Chill out with a Di Bella coffee in hand, while the kids burn off energy on the playground and garden out the back of ‘Quambi House’.
With a special children’s menu with the likes of the mini eggs benny, the kids can experience locally-sourced ingredients on a menu just like mum and dad.
3. Experience the magic of the Bunya Mountains
If your family loves wildlife and nature, then take the aptly named Bunya Mountains Scenic Drive from Dalby north to experience the magic in the mountains.
The rolling hills are dotted with red-necked wallabies who laze in the sunshine when they’re not working as lawnmowers, keeping the grounds well-manicured.
For just a few gold coins the kids can pick up a tray of seed and feed the crimson rosellas that frequent the General Store each morning.
Once you’ve been acquainted with the friendly wildlife, strap on those hiking boots and discover the many bush walks that cover the mountains.
Looking to make the most of the Bunya Mountains over a long weekend? Check out our guide here.
4. Burn off some energy at the Chinchilla Botanic Parkland
If you start to hear the words ‘I’m bored’ coming from the backseat, it’s time to break up your family adventure with a play in the park.
Stop off at the recently constructed Chinchilla Botanic Parkland, which is so much more than 4.2 hectares of landscaped gardens.
The $5.9 million development includes a splash zone water park, climbing wall and Megafauna Discovery Space.
Psst – looking for more boredom busting ideas for those in the backseat? Check out these things to do in Chinchilla.
5. Make a stop to learn something new at the Chinchilla Museum
Take a step back in time at the Chinchilla Museum and treat the young ones to a glimpse of yesteryear with period costumes and historical relics on display.
Located next to the Chinchilla Botanic Parkland, the museum also features a petrified wood and fossils display, Cypress Pine Centre and Fire Tower Interpretive Centre.
Parent tip: on the first Sunday of each month, the kids can catch the miniature train that weaves through the museum grounds.
6. Grab fresh produce to go at the Chinchilla Farmers Market
Save some bootspace for an esky as you Experience Western Downs.
Our region has a rich agricultural heritage and is best known for high-quality produce including watermelon, chickpeas, cotton, sorghum, mung beans, wheat and barley.
Stop by the Chinchilla Farmers Market and pick up some locally grown fruit and vegies to take home, or even an apple or two for the backseat bandits to curb those road trip cravings.
If you travel with your tastebuds top of mind, discover more places to shop and eat local in the Western Downs.
7. Dig for a souvenir from the region at local fossicking sites
If the kids thought the petrified wood on display at the Chinchilla Museum was interesting, why not give them a chance to dig some up for themselves?
Stop by the Chinchilla Visitor Information centre to purchase a permit first, then take a short drive to your preferred designated fossicking site.
8. Tick off a visit to one of Australia’s ‘BIG things’
Did you even go to Chinchilla if you didn’t get a photograph with the big melon? We think not.
Chinchilla aka ‘The Watermelon Capital of Australia’, wears its title on its sleeve with a big fibre glass melon which welcomes people to town.
Stop by and take some fun photos with the four-tonne bright pink watermelon slice – don’t forget to hashtag #experiencewesterndowns.
9. Take a stroll through the Bell Biblical Gardens
The tiny town of Bell at the foothills of the Bunya Mountains is probably the last place you’d expect to find an Australian first, but it’s here you’ll find the only biblical gardens in Australia.
Located beside Our Lady Help of Christians Catholic Church and across from the Pips n Cherries café, Bell Biblical Gardens packs every plant mentioned in the bible into its quaint landscaped surrounds.
Religious or not, you’ll enjoy the beautifully preserved gardens and have fun spotting artworks made from recyclable materials that adorn the premises.
Once you’ve explored the grounds, head inside the church and spy the detailed murals painted by local Megg Cullen, the creator of the gardens.
On the lookout for more hidden treasures in the Western Downs? Discover a vintage car museum, lily-filled lagoon and a forest trifecta here.
10. Immerse yourself in the Miles Historical Village Museum
Pack the iPads and iPhones away for this one and step back in time to the Miles Historical Village Museum.
Give the kiddies a taste of life in the ‘olden days’ with a wander through a village streetscape- complete with 34 replica buildings set up like dioramas depicting Queensland’s rural history.
Explore the old-fashioned church, bakery, school and chemist (to name a few), all filled with authentic collections of locally acquired artefacts – including a 500-year-old bible!
The museum is also pet-friendly, so no need to leave your family’s four-legged best friend at home.
11. Learn about the Cactoblastis moth and how it helped save the region
What do you know about the ‘Green Plague’?
Visit the Cactoblastis Monument & Replica Shed in Chinchilla and learn about the prickly pear infestation that devastated rural farms in Queensland and New South Wales in the 1900s.
The Cactoblastis is a breed of moth that was introduced to control the spread of the prickly pear, quickly becoming one of the most successful examples of biological control ever.
The locals were so grateful they dedicated the hall to the small flying critters.
12. Horse around at the Rubern Lodge in Chinchilla
Giddy-up and head west for country accommodation with a difference.
Rubern Lodge in Chinchilla is an Airbnb listed, self-contained guest house attached to a working equestrian centre.
Upon arrival you and the fam will be greeted by the friendly horses who will be your NEIGHbours for your stay.
Relax in true country style on the veranda while the kids explore the grounds and the well-kept gardens.
For more rural retreats and cosy farm stay inspiration in the Western Downs, check out our guide here.