I’d heard of Ipswich, of course.
It was a mid-size city just south-west of Brisbane. Due to an efficient PR office, I also knew it had an international hotel trading under the Metro label. That was really all that I knew when I grabbed the opportunity to spend a few days there and in the surrounding countryside.
And I do mean ‘grabbed’, because I’ve come to realise that some of the most unlikely places can be gold mines for tourists willing to get a little off the standard pathways.
I quickly learnt that it was a richly historic city, indeed Queensland’s oldest provincial city, and that it has some magnificent old architecture ranging from fine public buildings through to some gorgeous examples of grand homes built in the traditional Queenslander architectural style.
It’s also famous as a railway town, and the magnificently restored Workshops Rail Museum is obviously one of the city’s absolute must-sees, a place where some 3000 railway workers clocked on each day and now absolutely jam-packed with relics of a bygone era.
Highlights include beautifully restored locomotives and carriages, the state’s biggest model railway and regular tours of the workshops. There are also lots of hands-on activities to keep children amused for hours.
Certainly worth a visit is the Ipswich Antiques Centre which is housed in a heritage-listed former church hall. It’s made up of many individual retailers, and filled to the brim with furniture, books, records, clothing and assorted bric-a-brac.
One of the best ways to take in the beauty and historic nature of Ipswich is from the back of a Harley trike driven by Stephen Arnold, who operates as Ipswich Trike Tours and provides a range of touring experiences of the city and surrounds, including winery tours, Lake Wivenhoe tours and trips to hinterland highlights such as Tambourine Mountain.
And there are plenty of dining options in Ipswich — the Pumpyard Bar and Brewery, with a substantial range beers and excellent pizza, and the rich, Germanic-style fare at Heisenberg Haus. If you’re going to have the signature pork knuckle, sharing is probably a good thing. They’re huge.
For us, the highlights came on the form of beautifully prepared and presented modern fare at Fourthchild and a delightful breakfast at Rafter & Rose, which is tucked away, Melbourne-style, in a tiny laneway.
And, oh yes, the Metro Ipswich International Hotel, which is basically where I started this story of visiting a Queensland city that was largely an unknown quantity for this scribe.
It’s a fine property, one whose quality and standards you wouldn’t normally expect in a place such as Ipswich.
Its mid-city location is spot one, the room amenities, including the king-size bed, tick all the boxes, and the staff are prepared to bend over backwards to help (to the point of keeping the kitchen and restaurant, Harvest, open beyond normal hours after our flight from Sydney was delayed).
And the slow-cooked duck and lamb shank papperdelle were both excellent.
For general information about Ipswich, visit www.discoveripswich.com.au. It really does live up to its tagline —‘Queensland’s beautiful heritage city’.
John Rozentals was a guest of the Metro International Hotel and Discover Ipswich.