Toowoomba’s chill factor is one of its greatest draw cards.
If you’re planning a trip to the capital of the Darling Downs, be sure to take all the warmth-providing apparel you can fit in your suitcase – and I don’t mean just in winter.
Cold winds can spring up any time of the year. I vividly recall wearing a tracksuit while visiting the city in mid-summer, many moons ago.
Located on a crest of the Great Dividing Range about 125km west of Brisbane, Toowoomba is one of the coldest cities in Queensland. It also has a reputation for high winds, hail and fog throughout winter.
Why visit Toowoomba in mid-winter?
While the opportunity for skiing as you might in Australia’s southern states is pretty much zero, it has snowed in Toowoomba on rare occasions, but its climate is officially subtropical.
So what is it about Toowoomba that makes visiting there in winter so inviting?
Let’s start with snuggling under a cozy rug on a sofa beside an open fireplace with flames twisting around blackened wood as it slowly turns to charcoal. It’s mesmerizing!
Bitterly cold winds had forced many businesses to close early that day so owners and employees could go home to shelter from the severe weather conditions.
As I arrived, my B&B host greeted me at the car and hurriedly carried my suitcase inside. Soon she offered me a mug of hot chocolate and invited me to join her in conversation beside the fireplace. Nice.
As I drifted off to sleep that night, I had visions of photographing icy dewdrops hanging from tree branches at the city’s Ju Raku En Japanese Garden in the wee hours of the morning.
The below-freezing weather was perfect for ice photography, or so I thought.
It wasn’t long before three bare-chested men jogged past me, apparently not letting the cold weather get in the way of their exercise regime.
“They must be crazy,” I thought.
But there I was, shivering behind my steering wheel as the warmth of my breath fogged the inside of my windscreen while I waited for daybreak to take photos of ice! Who was the crazy one?
Turns out, however, cold air needs to contain moisture to form the water droplets that I envisaged having turned to ice, but there was not even a hint of moisture in the air that morning. Doh!
Hello chill factor, my old friend
In August 2020 I was back in Toowoomba visiting a *Pierre’s son and his girlfriend who had just moved to the city. Again, it was mid-winter and the city’s chill factor was ever-present.
As Pierre’s son did what he does best in a soccer match at Gatton, about 50km from Toowoomba, we sat in spectator seats under a warm winter sun, peeling off our jumpers.
Just hours later at another match in Toowoomba, the familiar chill I’d known from previous visits to the city and Warwick, and having lived in the nearby towns of Nanango and Chinchilla, had wrapped itself around my ears again.
Toowoomba, a city of nearly 137,000 people, is beautiful and full of life when its annual Carnival of Flowers takes place in September yet equally inviting in winter, albeit for different reasons.
That’s when us Queenslanders get to experience the warmth and glow of indoor fireplaces without having to travel to Australia’s Snowy Mountains or Sweden.
It’s also the perfect time of year to experience Toowoomba’s arts, food and cultural scenes.
The city is a major centre for commerce, industry and education, and has Australia’s second-highest population for inland cities behind Canberra, which has nearly 421,000 people.
History charted in buildings
Toowoomba’s European origin can be traced back to 1816 and much of its history can be seen in its buildings.
Before leaving the city, bound for the Bunya Mountains, we did a drive-by tour of its historic and modern public buildings (pictured below).
These included the Empire Theatres, railway station, library, and St Patrick’s Catholic Cathedral, and yes, we still had our warm jackets, scarves, boots firmly packed for the next leg of our mid-winter journey.
*Pierre is not his real name.