A slice of history –
If you’re looking for a nice day trip out of Brisbane, consider the relaxed country town of Gatton. Less than 100km from Brisbane, with two or more lane highways until the Gatton turnoff, the drive is quiet relaxing. You can even make a few stops along the way at rest stops, fruit barns or antique stores.
Tell me more about Gatton –
First proclaimed a town in 1859, agriculture has always been Gatton’s main industry. In places it really does appear like a town time forgot where you could just as easily be in 1916 as 2016. Low lying areas of the town were quite badly affected by the 2011 floods but rebuilding is all but complete. The town is also home to the University of Queensland’s Gatton campus where there is a strong focus on the agricultural industry. You will also find a 24 hour veterinary clinic on site.
Lake Apex and Freeman Wildlife Sanctuary and Parkland –
We set out on a Sunday afternoon to Lake Apex and Freeman Wildlife Sanctuary & Parkland and had no hassles with traffic, just be aware of the changes in speed along several stretches of highway. It can at times get a bit chaotic and accidents can close the highway so be sure to check traffic reports before heading out.
Over 100 different species of bird call this gorgeous park home with the lake also teeming with turtles and other wildlife. It is quite a sight to see when a flock takes to the sky; hundreds of birds moving as one. Don’t take any bread with you to feed the birds, as it is not allowed.
You will also find here the Queensland Transport Museum, a great place to explore for car fans young and old. Entry is quite reasonable and you could easily spend an hour in here. I couldn’t explore properly due to the fact I had my dogs with me but will return one day with the whole family to explore together.
Attached to the museum is a cafe with plenty of cakes, slices, coffee and milkshakes on offer. We weren’t particularly impressed with the speed of service or the quality of coffee, but are willing to give it another go just to ensure it wasn’t a one off bad day.
Still within this building you will also find an information centre with plenty of great ideas about other places to explore with the Lockyer Valley and upwards to Toowoomba.
There are several playgrounds for the kids with equipment available for all ages, and plenty of shade to set up a picnic blanket. My nephew was quite fond of the “bike track” as pictured.
I took my two dogs with me and didn’t see any signs discouraging this, but be aware if you do take your four legged friend that it is a bird sanctuary so you could be asked to leave. At a minimum, you would have to keep them on a lead at all times.
You’ll also find a little gym so you can have a warm up or warm down after your adventure around the park. My nephew had a go on all the equipment and it was all in good working order.
On the opposite side of the lake from the main carpark (you can walk the whole way around) is a fantastic bird hide where you can watch the birds and see how many different species you can spot! Not being a bird enthusiast myself I am sure I was seeing the same species a few times but our count got up to over a dozen in the ten minutes we were in the hide.
For a bit of nostalgia, stroll around to the other side of the lake where you will find an old fashioned train station with a few carriages down the line a little further.
Lights on the hill –
At the top of the park you will find the Lights on the Hill Trucking Memorial. Every year over 600 trucks take to the road as part of the annual Lights on the Hill convoy, forming two convoys that stretch for many kilometres before ultimately converging in Gatton for a day of family fun, food and live music. As the old saying goes “Without trucks, Australia stops” and this memorial is a sobering reminder of the lives lost on the road of those who keep Australia well supplied. Take a moment to read the names of these truckies and reflect on the great service trucks provide this country.
There was a lot of construction that seemed to be underway when we were there which looks like it will be turning into another carpark but this did not impede us in any way. We took this as a good thing as it likely means the area is growing and we can expect more to do there next time we visit.
Got the munchies?
After spending a few hours bird watching, jogging or just relaxing, head down to ‘Hot Rods Diner’, a short drive away. A touch of America in a quiet country town in Australia may seem out of place but it is a fantastic place to grab a bite to eat, or even just a quick beverage. If you’re over the curly fries stage, have you yet been introduced to waffle fries? Delicous! I can highly recommend the burgers and hotdogs, and the milkshakes are to die for! I wasn’t game enough to try the Mt Rushmore burger but if you’re game enough to take on a 2.7kg burger, please let me know how you go! For those not quite up to that challenge, how about the 2kg Grand Canyon (beef) or 1.65kg Monument Valley (chicken) burgers? There is also a kids menu for the little un’s. The staff are friendly, the servings generous and the atmosphere reminiscent of an authentic American diner. What’s not to love?
For an afternoon adventure, we were very impressed with everything Gatton had to offer us. If you’re wanting to have a relaxing day in the country, give Gatton a go. You won’t be disappointed.