Discover South Burnett Queensland Country
It was a busy Friday afternoon when we left the gridlocked streets of Brisbane in favour of the open country roads, with a golden sunset beckoning us towards the farming lands of the South Burnett region.
Our car was loaded up with three kids and five bicycles, ready to eat, drive and cycle our way around the little-known but scenic countryside of South Burnett.
Three hours later we arrived at Kingaroy, a bustling town famed for its locally grown peanuts, and the perfect place to refuel and rest before a busy weekend of exploring.
The Burke & Wills Motor Inn welcomed our family of five with a delicious dinner in their Explorers Restaurant, and a clean and comfortable family villa to spend the night.
Early the next morning we enjoyed the crisp country air as we walked along the main street of town to a popular local eatery for breakfast: Utopia Café. After washing down Canadian-style waffles, pancakes and eggs Benedict with pots of tea and El Salvador coffee, we drove 35 minutes to the nearby town of Murgon.
Queensland Dairy and Heritage Museum
Our first stop was the Queensland Dairy and Heritage Museum, where an enthusiastic volunteer guide explained what life was like for South Burnett’s first settlers. The Museum’s displays of historical dairy equipment and material are housed in the former Bank of New South Wales building (circa 1920). Also on show is the first home built in Murgon, which has been restored to its 1902 glory, with each room recreating a family’s life in the early 1900s. The highlight for our kids though was trying their hand at churning butter, the old school way!
South Burnett Rail Trail
Clutching their goodies – souvenir milk bottles and semi-precious stones (the museum also houses an impressive collection donated by a local lapidary enthusiast) – we bundled the kids back into the car to make our way to the start of the South Burnett Rail Trail.
Once a railway line stretching from Kilkivan to Kingaroy carrying freight and passengers, the South Burnett rail trail is now a haven for bird-watchers, walkers and cyclists. From Murgon to Kingaroy is 43km of sealed, mostly flat pathway, making it perfect for families to cycle along, while taking in the rich red soils of the area, dams, vineyards and farms dotted along the way.
We met the friendly guides from Out There Cycling at the original Murgon train station to begin our family ride. After checking our tyres and strapping on our helmets, we set off, with one guide leading us along the trail, and the other shadowing us in the van.
Peaceful and secluded, the track winds through the countryside where it is not uncommon to spot kangaroos, koalas or even a platypus as you cross the bubbling Barambah Creek. Although we weren’t lucky enough to sight a platypus, we did see numerous species of birds, from the rainbow bee-eaters darting through the undergrowth, to whistling kites soaring overhead.
I breathed in deeply and became mindful of the little details as we cycled the 13 km towards the township of Wondai – delicate butterflies fluttering alongside us, the cheerful birdsong that seemed to surround us, and the big brown eyes of the gentle cows who stopped munching on their grassy meals to stare at us passing by.
Once in Wondai we stopped to wander through the Wondai Visitor Information Centre and South Burnett Timber Industry Museum. The timber industry is another important part of the region’s history and development, and it’s impossible to leave without purchasing one of the locally crafted woodworks.
The Grand Hotel
Back on our bikes (or in the Out There Cycling van for those with tired legs!) we made our way to the next township of Wooroolin, a 14km cycle from Wondai. The pathway conveniently passes The Grand Hotel in Wooroolin, a two-storey, century old timber pub, and is the perfect spot to stop for lunch.
Over a country counter meal, we rubbed shoulders with the film crew working nearby on an Australian movie, based on the Battle of Long Tan, called Danger Close. The kids were fascinated to hear them talk about how they created war-like explosions and battle scenes in the nearby forest.
Relax and Unwind
Next, our helpful guides from Out There Cycling dropped us back at our car in Murgon, before we made our way to our lodgings for the evening: the Wondai Accommodation Units and Villas, set in ten sprawling acres of land. A round of drinks and a hearty meal at the nearby Wondai Hotel kept us energised for a night under the stars at the Kingaroy Observatory.
The Kingaroy Observatory
Located far away from blinding city lights, the Kingaroy Observatory, run by astronomer James Barclay, is a real treat for families who love stargazing.
Joking that his business “is looking up”, James animatedly shares the wonders of the universe with his captivated audience, aided by three powerful telescopes and a laser pointer. No matter what age you are, you will marvel at seeing the cratered surface of the moon, spotting your birthday constellation or studying far away planets up close.
After a day of cycling through the countryside and an evening of pondering the universe, we all slept well, rising the next day to enjoy a drive to Mulanah Gardens for a relaxed brunch.
Set on a pretty farm with the spectacular Bunya Mountains forming the backdrop, the staff of Mulanah Gardens spoilt us with their country hospitality and delicious food – the perfect way to spend a Sunday morning.
After the kids had scoffed pancakes and iced chocolates, they ran outside to explore the grounds and talk to the cows, while the adults relaxed with a coffee and overflowing plates of bacon, perfectly cooked eggs, mushrooms, spinach and toast.
The Lavender Farm at Pottique
In no hurry to return to the big smoke, we stopped off at The Lavender Farm at Pottique (I can recommend the lavender honey) and stocked up on peanuts of every imaginable flavour from The Peanut Wagon, before heading home.
Our thanks to Discover South Burnett for hosting us in your beautiful corner of Queensland.