Mini break: Killarney and the Southern Downs

There are plenty of options for a mini-break from Brisbane; north or south coast of course, east to the islands but less often do we think to go west.  On this last May Day long weekend, we decided to see what adventures the countryside had to offer.  On Airbnb, we found a charming little cottage in Killarney suitable for the 5 of us and Nanna.  Although the accommodation was in a blink-and-you-miss-it town about 30km outside of Warwick, the area had a lot to offer for a weekend break.

Our home away from home.

We could have come out the quicker way via Warwick but our cottage owner suggested the route over the McPherson Range from Boonah known as the Falls Drive.  And we were glad she suggested it.  This drive is consistently rated one of the best in Queensland and it didn’t disappoint.

Winding up through the spectacular range on a bitumen road little wider than a driveway, you make your way through forests of grass plants, eucalyptus, and when higher, moss covered pines.  The road is varied.  One minute you are heading through closed copses of dense sub-tropical rain-forest, the next on rolling hills of luminous green studded with hefty bovines.  And although you are generally climbing, the road seems to follow a ridge, both up and down and not just tight hair-pin bends that you find in other mountain roads on day trips from Brisbane.

A cut through the rock.

Not sure how much of the road we still had to travel, we stopped to stretch our legs and eat lunch at one of only two eating options on the road – the Spring Creek Mountain Café, with wonderful views of the Condamine Gorge to take in while we ate.  The food was not cheap but it was certainly delicious and generously proportioned.

Now that’s a view.

Our cottage was in Killarney and offered us three bedrooms (one being a ‘secret’ loft that the kids loved) on a large block with country views of cows and autumnal trees.

Plenty of room for games in the front yard.

View from the loft.

The ladder was entertainment in itself.

The grounds also had a fire pit which we used for an obligatory marshmallow toast.  The boys enjoyed their first open fire experience and it was great watching their faces light up as the fire caught.

Loving the marshmallows.
Listening to that fire crackle.


The waterfalls of the Falls Road were the destination for the next morning, starting with the area’s number one draw card, the Queen Mary Falls.

40 metres down.

There is a lookout atop them within easy reach of the carpark, but we also walked the 2km circuit that took us to the bottom.  Although the path doesn’t quite go underneath the water, there is enough spray from the 40 metre drop to give everyone a sense of excitement.

At the bottom.

Fortunately, we got an early start and encountered only a few groups on the track.  Though by the time we got back to the carpark, the place was heaving.  Leaving it any later and we wouldn’t have been able to get great photos without people present – very important to my photographer husband and I.

There are two other falls on the way back to Killarney; Dagg’s Falls which are a hop-out-of-the-car-and-take-a-photo number, and Brown’s Falls which are accessible only via a 600 metre walk up a quite technical creek track.  Being a short distance, we thought the kids could cope but after attempting to unsuccessfully cross the creek with dry feet carrying Connie in a Baby Bjorn, Nanna decided to take the kids back to the park near the carpark, so Stephen and I could continue on our own.  Good thing too, as the track is really not suitable for young children, with lots of tree roots, numerous creek crossings, large fallen trees to navigate and rocks to scramble over.

Now, how do I tackle this?

20 or so minutes later we emerged at the base of the falls, a secluded grove under an impressive granite faced cliff.  However, regardless of what it looked like, it was great to have this impromptu adventure just as a couple.

Worth the technical track.

In the afternoon, while the kids had a much needed nap in the car, we drove up a local road recommended by the cottage owner.  On the other side of the Condamine Gorge from the Falls Road, this gravel road took you up to Mt Colliery and further along a ridge, eventually ending in a rather spooky looking state forest.   Plenty of unfenced chewing cattle roadside to keep you interested if the picturesque views became boring.

So boooooring.

Finally, in the late afternoon, we drove into Warwick, primarily just to see what we could see.  While trying to find the city centre (it shouldn’t have been that hard!), we saw a sign for Leslie Dam and decided to go there instead.  I hadn’t been to this dam since a harrowing near-death experience on school camp, so I was curious to see if I would start rocking in the foetal position on returning 24 years later.  Although the level of the dam is much lower than when I fell in, it didn’t create the feeling of trepidation as it might have, and I slept nightmare free that night.  The dam itself was well worth the visit as you can drive right up to the bottom of the dam wall and climb the staircase beside it to the lookout at the top.  You are also permitted to partially cross the wall at the top for great views.

A scene of horror?

Unfortunately, on returning to Killarney that evening for dinner, I discovered my purse missing.  A thorough search of the car by all three adults revealed nothing and so I went about retracing my afternoon’s steps in my head, narrowing it down to probably having left in in McDonald’s when we changed Connie.  McDonald’s weren’t answering their phone so I made the decision to complete the 60km round trip back to Warwick in order to locate it.  The 30 km drive to Warwick on the dark country road was agitated; I was partly berating myself for losing my purse, partly wracking my brains as to its location and partly scanning the roadside for night-time kangaroos.  Unfortunately, it hadn’t been handed in.  So Stephen and I did another thorough check of the car (to no avail) and then went to the police station to report it missing, necessary in order to obtain another drivers’ license.  On the dark drive back to Killarney we continued to unpick our movements for the afternoon which only made us realise how little we remember of everyday actions.  Upon arrival in our cottage, we pulled all the bags out again and rifled through them for the umpteenth time and there, in a ‘secret’ compartment in the back of my camera bag, which I hardly knew existed, was my purse, hidden away so as to be not on display in the carpark.  Clearly my brain didn’t recognise the exact spot it had been secreted.  Although it had been a stressful evening, at least finding it meant another reason for me to be nightmare free that night.

On our final morning, we returned on the Falls Road, stopping at Carr’s lookout for more spectacular scenery.  A little way down the mountain, we took morning tea along a mossy walk beside the rabbit proof fence.  There was a dilapidated sign pointing the way but no indication of track length, so when the path began a steep decline, we called it a day.  Still, the eerie quiet of the secret, springy, secluded track was rather special.

A mossy walk.

As with all good holidays, after just three days away, it felt like we’d been away for much, much longer.  Our batteries were recharged and the kids have had some great new experiences.  As far as a mini-break destination, the west is definitely up there with the best.


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