If it’s a trip focused on nature is what you’re seeking, the Western Downs probably isn’t high on your list of regions to visit. Between all the gently rolling hills, forested plains and farmlands making up the bulk of the Darling Downs subregion, there’s not much variation in scenery to observe across the landscape.
Instead, while there is a noticeable lack of areas to get absorbed into the natural world, there still lie pockets of beautiful places between the country towns of Dalby, Miles, Chinchilla, and Tara that make for a lovely stop.
So whether you’re heading to the Western Downs for a relaxed holiday and looking for picturesque places to take a breather or are passing through and want to stretch your legs somewhere photogenic, here are some seven beautiful attractions across the Western Downs to visit.
Sitting a short drive outside of the easternmost township of Dalby lies the Western Downs only naturally occurring lake, Lake Broadwater. It’s a lovely, serene place to hole up for a little while, whether that means having a picnic, whipping out the binoculars and taking a short walk to the bird hide at the other end of the lake, or swimming in or kayaking on the lake itself.
Not only is it a way to get the sensations back in your legs, reactivating the glutes and flexing your rigid back, it’s also a great place to spend a night in nature.
Lake Broadwater has places to pitch the tent or park your caravan and motorhomes near the water for a small fee. It’s a lovely tradeoff from a hotel because it’s cheaper and a great place to spot some sneaky possums roaming in the night. Waking up there is also a gorgeous way to start the day.
P.S – There’s also an awesome hot shower out the back of the toilet block so you don’t have to sleep filthy.
Plonked firmly in the middle of the southern half of the Western Downs, Tara harbours its own beautiful, scenic attraction right in town. Tara Lagoon sits a stone’s throw away from the main road and is a beautiful place to take a break and stroll around its shores.
If you’ve come on a hot day and want to wash off some of the smells while having a grand old time, you can also engage with the lagoon by rope-swinging into its waters. Don’t worry if you’d rather not be squelching around in wet clothes or swimmers for the rest of the day. There are showers nearby where you can shed those outer linings, freshen up and plop on some new ones before continuing about your day.
Located to the south of the major town of Chinchilla lies the Chinchilla Weir, a stunning lake with a large, curved concrete wall containing the water.
While it looks massively fun to slide down the weir either on your butt or in a kayak, it would be ill-advised to do so, as you’d probably drown when you got down to the bottom.
Instead, you can picnic or BBQ here or paddle its waters in a canoe at a safe distance from the weir or explore further in a motorized boat.
It’s a gorgeous location to chill, but it’s also a beautiful place to light a campfire and sleep under the stars. And unlike Lake Broadwater, this one isn’t even going to cost you anything. Double score.
Much of the Westers Downs natural beauty lies in the lagoons that dot the landscape. Caliguel Lagoon is no exception. This stunning attraction is a breathtaking, serene place to paddle and kayak across or admire the landscape while throwing back a cold one.
It’s also another one of the regions free campsites, and it’s a magical one at that. Because it’s far away from any major towns, it’s incredibly peaceful. It’s also not super brightly lit like Lake Broadwater, so you recreate your version of the perfect camping romanticism of roasting marshmallows over campfires under a gloriously starry night.
Waterloo Plains Environmental Lagoon..
Another beautiful location in the Western Downs is the Waterloo Plains Environmental Lagoon. Sitting in the township of Wandoan in the north of the subregion, the lagoon is a serene place to stop and give the ol’ legs a stretch-a-roo.
It’s a lovely, relaxing walk around the lagoon where numerous waterbirds gather. Additionally, like many places on this list, you can also stay here and watch the night turn into day and back again. Making it an even more inviting place to stay, it’s free to do so as well and is only a stone’s throw away from the shops if you need to resupply.
Chinamans Lagoon in the town of Miles isn’t the most beautiful place in the Western Downs, but it is interesting. It’s home to a rare flower, which you may be able to see if the season’s right. There’s also a fascinating story of how the lagoon got its name. You might think it was named after a lovely Chinese man who liked to come down here and take a load off.
Yeah, no, the dude lived the thug life and was a local pain in the ass. Or so the story goes. But never forget the wise words of Joseph Campbell, “You are the hero of you’re own story.” So it’s all about perspective. You decide. It’s worth going there to check what they had to say about him.
Straddling two regions notoriously absent of true nature walks, Bunya Mountains National Park is a revered forest haven with a multitude of trails and an abundance of animals.
Not only is it a beautiful place to get lost in nature, but it also holds natural and cultural significance. The Bunya Mountains stands as the largest remaining forest of Bunya pine trees left. These trees produce edible nuts, which the Aboriginal people loved. Every three years, the towering, bountiful trees would produce more nuts than usual, and indigenous peoples would come from far and wide to feast on the delicious nuts at what has becoming known as the Bunya Festival.
While the Aboriginals no longer enjoy this festival, you can chow down on the surprisingly light and fluffy potato-tasting bunya nuts at the cafes at the mountaintop town, Dandabah, while you’re having a break from walking to the national parks numerous beautiful waterfalls and lookouts.
Click the links belowif you’d like to read about my trip to Bunya Mountains Camping Trip:
Sitting on the same range, Russell Park lies next to Bunya Mountains National Park to the eastern side. It stands separate from Bunya as Bunya is an untouched natural paradise. Russell Park, on the other hand, was used for logging.
But that was in the past. Now it serves as a historical park showcasing the era when trees were cut down willy nilly and didn’t have dedicated forests for that purpose. You can walk the logging trails, known as chutes, where they used to roll the logs down the hill and pray to God one won’t barrel down the hill and flat roll you like a scene out of an Indiana Jones-type movie. There’s a picturesque waterfall along one of the walks too.
The walks at Russell Park are also more challenging than most of the ones at Bunya, so if you’re looking to get a bit more sweat out of ya, just head next door.
Barakula State Forest.
Speaking of forests dedicated to logging, Barakula State Forest is one such place. But just because they sustainably turn the trees into goods doesn’t mean it’s not a lovely place to visit.
While you can walk, cycle and 4WD around the forest, the best part of being here is the camping. Park near the creek, and set up camp, and search for the creatures of the night as the stars twinkle ever so gently above you.
The further west you head, there seem to be fewer variations of natural beauty. Therefore, this can make places this far out appear unappealing to folks who like to bask in nature. But it’s not a lost cause. There’s still plenty of beautiful attractions across the Western Downs to visit.
More Western Downs:
The Western Downs is part of the Darling Downs region. Click here to see what the Darling Downs has to offer.
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