Chill factor tops in Toowoomba

Why visit Toowoomba in winter?

By Jocelyn Watts

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.

The city’s well-known chill factor can happen at any time of the year.

I vividly recall wearing a tracksuit while visiting Toowoomba mid-summer in the 1980s. 

Located on a crest of the Great Dividing Range about 125km west of Brisbane, Toowoomba is one of the chilliest cities in Queensland.

It also has a reputation for high winds, hail and fog throughout winter. 

If skiing is a non-event, why is the chill factor so inviting?

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. However, its climate is officially subtropical.

So if it’s cold but you can’t ski, 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!

How I felt the warmth of a fireplace (before venturing into the cold)

Embracing the warmth of a fireplace is how I spent my first night at Beccles on Margaret B & B in July 2015 when I visited Toowoomba for the then annual, pre-COVID-19, USQ Bookcase

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.

Beccles on Margaret

Beccles on Margaret.

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.

Before dawn, I ventured out to the Japanese garden at the University of Southern Queensland and waited in my car for the sun to rise.

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.

Things to see and do in Toowoomba

Toowoomba Railway Station

Toowoomba Railway Station

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.

On our recent visit, we lunched at Picnic Point and dined at Sofra-Turkish-Cuisine on Margaret Street, Toowoomba’s second most popular restaurant according to TripAdvisor.

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.

Discover history charted in Toowoomba’s 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.

Toowoomba's distinctive buildings.

Japanese Garden, Toowoomba.

*Pierre is not his real name. 


Beachside Home

Old fishing shack becomes a beachside home

IT’S HARD to imagine the stunning beach-side home of Keith and Daphne Buhr in Hervey Bay was ever a little fishing shack (pictured below).

The original owner, if still alive, would never recognise his former cottage. Even a subdivision of land has changed the street number.

Keith from Core Architecture admits that even he did not realise the cottage’s potential when they bought it about three years earlier.

When he and Daphne moved from Brisbane seeking a semi-retired lifestyle they bought two blocks of land in the street. They intended to keep the cottage as a boat shed on one block and build their home on the other.

“It wasn’t until later that we realised this block with the fishing shack had more potential,” Keith said.

The north-east aspect suited Hervey Bay’s climate perfectly.beach shack

While living in the rickety old cottage, Keith set about designing their dream home based on what was already there including the huge albesia tree that now shades most of their back yard.

Two and a half years later Keith and Daphne had a striking beach-side home that, to the untrained eye, looks simple in design. The reality is, however, every nook and cranny has been carefully planned to make the most of their environment.

“We installed an air-conditioner in the main bedroom but we have only used it once for heating in winter.”

A new building stands beside the old cottage, which is now a self-contained guest room, with a covered deck joining the two sections.

In keeping with the original style, the home was built with tin and timber. Daphne has completed the beach look with original Hervey Bay artworks throughout.

Originally published in the Fraser Coast Chronicle’s My Place feature, 2009.

fishing shack


Manors on the Mary – Ilfracombe


A CURTAIN has drawn on the Hyne family’s ownership of Ilfracombe, one of Maryborough’s most prestigious  historic riverside homes.

After almost 80 years  in the Hyne family, the chamferboard timber home now has a new owner.

James Hyne, resource manager at Hyne Timber, recalled the many days he spent on the bull-nosed verandas chatting with family and friends or quietly contemplating the world as the muddy waters of the Mary River flowed past.

“My grandfather Lambert left the home to Dad and it became the family home about 1985,” James said.  “The most memorable day for me at Ilfracombe was the day I married Jodie on the front lawn.”

Beautifully positioned to host weddings, James’ uncle Chris Hyne and his wife Carol also chose Ilfracombe as their wedding venue.

They were married in the drawing room where the original anaglypta-lined vaulted ceiling still exists.

Over the years, Ilfracombe’s sweeping garden with its many large established trees has been the scene of many functions, the last of which was a garden party in May for this year’s Biggest Morning Tea in support of the cancer research.

Sadly, James’ mother Margaret succumbed to cancer just three months after his wedding in 2000. His father Warren died seven years later.

James said it was also sad the home was destined to be sold and would no longer be in the Hyne family.

“There are just a few minor renovations to be done and it’ll be ready for sale,” he said.

Over the years, rear sections of the home have been removed and replaced, and the kitchen extended.  Despite many internal renovations, many original features remain intact including the drawing room ceiling and a fire place with painted tiles.

James is the son of Warren and Margaret Hyne and great-great-grandson of Richard Matthews Hyne who established the iconic timber milling business in 1882.


 Ilfracombe history

CONCEALED from street views, the state-heritage-listed manor Ilfracombe overlooks the Mary River close to the heart of Maryborough.

Originally named Blairholme, the chamferboard timber home with corrugated iron gabled roof, which includes an attic, decorative finishes and large garden, is characteristic of the large timber homes built in Queensland in the late 19th century.

The historic river-side home is associated with prominent Maryborough families, the Wilsons and the Hynes.

Queensland Heritage Register archives show Ilfracombe was built between 1893 and 1895 as the residence of Margaret Blair and her four children following the death of her husband in 1893. Margaret was the sister-in-law of Andrew Heron Wilson on whose land the house was built, adjacent to his home, Doon Villa.

Mr Wilson arrived in Maryborough about 1866 and established Maryborough Sawmills before teaming with R. Hart and J. Bartholomew to build a larger sawmill for Wilson, Hart and Co. in 1881, where the Brolga Theatre now stands.

After Mr Wilson’s death in 1906, the land was transferred to the Queensland Trustees Limited but the Blair family stayed in the home until 1935 when the allotments were subdivided and sold.

Hugh Keys bought the land on which Ilfracombe stood and two years later the property was transferred to James Richard Lambert Hyne, a member of another prominent Maryborough timber milling family.

J.R.L. (Lambert) Hyne was the grandson of Richard Matthews Hyne, an English carpenter who founded the Hyne dynasty on the banks of the Mary River in 1882.

The Hyne family had a family home in Lennox Street called Ilfracombe and when they bought Blairholme the name was transferred from this earlier residence.

On the death of J.R.L. (Lambert) Hyne, the property was transferred to his son Warren Henry Hyne who lived in the home with his wife Margaret (pictured below) from about 1985 until their deaths in 2007 and 2000 respectively.


Contributed photo.

Originally published in the Fraser Coast Chronicle, June 18, 2011.