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TOOWOOMBA, 160km west of Brisbane, is a stately university city perched on the edge of a six-hundred-metre escarpment, with stylish houses and a blaze of late nineteenth-century sandstone architecture along its central Main and Ruthven streets. A prolonged drought has seen the development of water-conserving horticulture methods here, and the city still lives up to its moniker of "the Garden City", with several free gardens around town. The greenery is at its finest during September's flower festival, displaying prize blooms. Toowoomba's other notable attraction is the Cobb & Co. Museum, 27 Lindsay St (daily 10am–4pm; $9.50), 500m northeast of the centre across spacious Queens Park, which recalls the period from the 1860s to 1924 when intrepid coaches bounced across the Outback delivering mail and passengers.Splendid views from the escarpment unfold from the café, bar and restaurant and picnic area at Picnic Point at the top of Tourist Road, 2.5km east of the centre, as do several bushwalking tracks ranging from 850m to 5.3km.
Downtown Toowoomba is a compact area based around the intersection of Ruthven Street, which runs north to south, and Margaret Street (here also known by locals as "Eat Street" for its plethora of cafés and restaurants), which runs east to west. The bus station is one block east along Neil Street; trains pull up 500m northwest on Railway Street. The visitor centre is in James Street, south off Ruthven (daily 9am–5pm; Tel:1800 331 1155, Web:www.toowoombarc.qld.gov.au). Accommodation prospects include the well laid-out Jolly Swagman Caravan Park, at 47 Kitchener Rd (Tel:07/4632 8735; camping $22, cabins $61–100), about 1km southeast of the centre (there's also a parkland walking track into town); the spotless and friendly Garden City Motor Inn, near the visitor centre at 718 Ruthven St; and the central James Street Motor Inn on the corner of James and Kitchener streets (Tel:07/4639 0200, Web:www.jamesstmotorinn.com.au; $76-100), with barbecue facilities and a licensed restaurant and bar. Jilly's Café on Ruthven Street has a varied menu which includes some vegetarian options.
Moving on from Toowoomba, Greyhound Australia buses (Tel:13 14 99, Web:www.greyhound.com.au) continue northwest on their Charleville to Mount Isa run, while Crisps (Tel:07/3236 5266, Web:www.crisps.com.au) run south to Warwick, where you can connect with services to Stanthorpe and Goondiwindi.
Modern high-rise - In the heart of Toowoomba.