In south-east Queensland, Warwick is a bonny old town going back more than 170 years.
In the CBD are churches, hotels and civic buildings composed of local sandstone and raised in a flurry of development at the turn of the 20th century.
You’ll find them on gorgeous tree-flanked streets, made even prettier by the flowerbeds that lend Warwick the nickname, “Rose City”. The town has a long tradition of horsemanship, celebrated by a famous rodeo and campdraft at the end of October each year, while Jumpers and Jazz in July is a delightfully quirky cultural festival.
Go out of town and you’ll be in the bucolic Southern Downs, known for their granite outcrops and vineyards.
1. CBD Walking Tour
Warwick is one of the oldest European settlements in Queensland, and so naturally has a lot of history on its streets.
But something special about the townscape is its sense of unity: The stately sandstone buildings around the CBD mostly date from a period of redevelopment in the late-19th century and early-20th century following a flood.
There’s a concentration of this Federation architecture over a few blocks on the parallel Palmerin, Albion and Guy Streets, waiting to be enjoyed on a gentle walk.
Some of the standouts are Warwick Town Hall (1888), the Court House (1886), St Andrew’s Uniting Church (1870), the Post Office (1898), the Criterion Hotel (1917), Condamine Sports Club (1913) and St George’s Lodge (1887).
2. Warwick Museum – Pringle Cottage
South of the CBD, Warwick’s town museum is in a historical village complex around the heritage sandstone Pringle Cottage.
Set in its original location, this two-storey dwelling dates as far back as the 1860s and was constructed by the Scottish stonemason John McCulloch.
Over the next decades McCulloch worked on a host of sandstone buildings around Warwick.
The cottage is furnished with all kinds of interesting pieces donated by early settler families, and since the 1970s has been accompanied by historic buildings and agricultural machinery from the town and the surrounding districts.
One anchor is the timber-built Overseers Cottage (c. 1890), housing artefacts from saddles to hotel and office furniture, while the old-timey Emporium was erected in 1982 as a reception and display area.
You can check out the development of printing equipment at the Printery and picture yourself out in the wilderness at the primitive Old Shepherd’s Hut.
3. Glengallan Homestead & Heritage Centre
Out in the Darling Downs to the north of Warwick is a grand homestead, constructed between 1864 and 1904 and rescued from dereliction in the 2000s.
To see this sandstone building today, with its beautiful verandah, it’s hard to believe that it was abandoned for more than 30 years.
You can pay a visit Wednesday to Sunday to savour the interiors, find out about the ongoing restoration and learn the Glengallan story, beginning in the 1830s with squatters.
You can buy tasty local produce and handmade gifts from the farm shop, while the Heritage Centre Cafe is a must for tea and scones.
4. Southern Downs Steam Railway
Warwick’s elegant old railway station is a fitting place to begin a steam train ride through the Southern Downs and Granite Belt.
These trips take place on the Southern Line between Warwick, Toowoomba and Wallangarra, and details can be found on the Downs Explorer Website.
The pride of the fleet is a Queensland Railways C17 class steam locomotive, one of 227 manufactured for the operator between 1920 and 1953, restored to working order in 2000. This and a wealth of heritage rolling stock awaits at the old Warwick Locomotive Depot near the station, where there’s an original turntable, workshops, locomotive sheds and water tower.
The site opens to the public on Wednesdays and Thursdays, boasting a ton of railway memorabilia and rolling stock undergoing restoration.
5. St Mary’s Catholic Parish Church
With a tower just shy of 30 metres, the tallest building in Warwick is this handsome neo-Gothic church, completed in 1926 and an enduring landmark for the town.
St Mary’s has a Queensland heritage listing, not least because of its high aesthetic value and exceptional workmanship.
This can be seen in the facade’s rusticated sandstone blocks, with smooth sandstone for the dressings.
The quatrefoil tracery on the main window is particularly accomplished.
Pass between the granite columns in the porch and you can look up to appreciate the joinery in the roof of the nave.
At the far end, check out the rose window in the chancel, and the high altar, hewn from fine Sicilian marble with panes of Red Verona and Verde Antico.
6. Morgan Park Raceway
In the bush south of Warwick there’s a race circuit dating back more than 50 years and used for a busy calendar of race meets and track days.
In its longest format, Morgan Park Raceway has a boot shape, a little like Monza, but can be modified into five different layouts.
Although the track has been around for decades it has risen to prominence since the late-1990s, now staging important events like the Queensland Super Sprint Championships and the WDSCC Southern Downs Challenge.
In short, there’s some kind of action most weekends, from endurance events to touring cars and open-wheels.
Normally in July or August, the Historic Racing Car Club of Queensland puts on the largest historic racing festival in Queensland at the circuit.
7. Warwick Art Gallery
The cultural mainstay of the Southern Downs region is right here in Warwick.
The Warwick Art Gallery has a program planned years in advance.
In three distinct exhibition spaces you can get a handle on the local art scene and view specially curated exhibitions and important touring exhibitions.
The major shows are held in the Main Gallery, while the work of local artists and groups takes centre stage at the new Orange Wall gallery.
Every year the Warwick Art Gallery stages the Jumpers and Jazz in July festival, an eccentric blend of live jazz performances and yarnbombing.
8. Leslie Dam
Off the Cunningham Highway, ten minutes west of Warwick, is a reservoir named after Patrick Leslie (1815-1881), the first person to buy land in the area.
Leslie’s likeness has been carved into one of the many granite boulders on the shore at the Washpool Reserve.
This is the largest and best appointed of the three places to camp by the Leslie Dam.
At Washpool Reserve there’s a scenic lookout, 33 powered sites, as well as toilet blocks, hot and cold showers, drinking water and ice available.
The Dam is obviously most attractive when it’s partially filled, and becomes a honeypot for activities like canoeing, swimming, waterskiing and sailing.
You can also visit for some freshwater fishing but will need a Stocked Impoundment Permit.
9. Main Range National Park, Goomburra section
The largest sweep of rainforest in south-east Queensland is preserved by the Main Range National Park.
The park has four visitor nodes, the most convenient to Warwick being the Goomburra section, lying in the western foothills of the Great Dividing Range.
Here manna gums and New England blackbutts grow in exposed dry forest, while down in the humid gullies are palms and epihpytes.
Beginning on the west side of the Goomburra section is a pair of loops: The Ridge Track and the Cascade Circuit, setting off from the well-equipped Manna Gum Camping Area.
Go east, further into the range, and there are point-to-point hikes to mountain lookouts and the beautiful Araucaria Falls.
10. Queen Mary Falls
One of the must-sees at Main Range National Park is this plunge waterfall where Spring Creek drops 40 metres into a rocky ravine.
You can visit the falls on a two-kilometre path, taking you to a lookout at the top and then down to the valley floor.
One of many compelling things about the walk is how the vegetation changes from eucalypt forest up on the ridge to lush rainforest deep in the valley.
And on a sweltering summer’s day there’s no better way to cool off than in the mist created at the base waterfall.
11. Queens Park
Queens Park is Warwick’s main public park, home to several local sports clubs.
In the 19th century this space was used as barracks and stables for the police, before becoming showgrounds and then hosting sports events.
Today you can follow a track next to the condamine river, and there are interpretation signs pointing out the wildlife along and in the river.
Queens Park is sizeable, containing ball sports facilities, a skate bowl, outdoor gym equipment, an off-leash dog park, shelters and picnic tables.
12. Darling Downs Zoo
About halfway to Toowoomba from Warwick, in the lovely Darling Downs, there’s a zoo that keeps animals from around the world.
Australia is represented by favourites like koalas, red kangaroos, cockatoos, swamp wallabies, crocs and wombats.
But you’ve also got geographical zones for South America, Africa and South-East Asia, where you’ll encounter the only pride of African lions and the largest herd of zebras in the state.
Some of the many other species at Darling Downs Zoo are cheetahs, the endangered Sumatran tiger, komodo dragons, boa constrictors, Brazilian tapirs, giraffes, ostriches, tamarins, marmosets and capuchins, to name a small few.
Every day there’s a timetable of free events, from wildlife talks to an opportunity to hold a baby crocodile or harmless snake.
13. Warwick Visitor Information Centre
One of many good things about the local information centre is the venue, at the impressive Town Hall from 1888. Naturally this is made from the local sandstone, and has an eclectic design, with an arcade, loggia, roof balustrade, two pediments and a clock tower with a hip roof.
When you visit you can step onto the loggia for a very photogenic view of Palmerin Street.
The staff can call on lots of local knowledge if you need help with food, days out, events, accommodation and much more.
Needless to say there are plenty of brochures and leaflets to hand, while the shop is stocked with heaps of local arts and crafts and produce.