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12 Best Little Towns & Village Around South East Queensland

Home > Brisbane > Nature | Lists | Escape the City | Day Trips
by Roy Chambers (subscribe)
Lover of all things interesting and new
Published July 1st 2022
Plan a trip to country towns & nearby attractions in SEQ
There are lots of great country towns spread across South East Queensland
Most people heading off on a road trip around South East Queensland are likely to want to stop off in at least one country town, or maybe even make the towns their primary destination. Here are some of the best little country towns and villages around South East Queensland.

Country towns & villages all across South East Queensland welcome visitors
Country towns & villages all across South East Queensland welcome visitors


Maleny

For many people the top country town to visit in South East Queensland would be Maleny. While it has become very gentrified with organic ice cream, organic clothes, organic eateries and an overpriced pub, it still manages to have a country town feel to it. I particularly like the Sunday Markets there, and often end up in conversations with locals when visiting.

It is also interesting to pop into the Maleny Markets
It is also interesting to pop into the Maleny Markets


In terms of what to visit in the area, there is a lot, and I am sure to miss out on a few as there are so many. There is the Mary Cairncross Nature reserve with one of the last pockets of old-growth rainforest left in the area, Maleny Botanic Gardens and Bird World, the Obi Obi boardwalk starting in the town centre, Maleny Dairies for a farm visit, Baroon Pocket Dam for picnics or the start of a hike, Gardners Falls for a swim, and Maleny Cheese for good cheese. You probably want to spend more than one day there.

Swimming at Gardners Falls at Maleny
Swimming at Gardners Falls at Maleny


Dayboro

There is something about Dayboro that gives it the perfect village feel. Unlike a lot of other towns in the area, everything is close together on a narrow street that ends in a T-junction, while many other similarly sized towns spread themselves out reflecting faded dreams of becoming the centre of a boom. With a nice pub, several cafes, and some lovely shops which sell locally made crafts or rustic furniture, visiting here is a lovely way to spend some time. Don't forget to pick up some of the butcher shop's famous sausages.

Downtown Dayboro just north of Brisbane
Downtown Dayboro just north of Brisbane


Nearby, well there is of course Brisbane, which is not that far away. The nearest attractions are Lake Samsonvale for hikes, barbecues and fishing, and Lake Kurwongbah for boating activities. Most people passing through Dayboro are heading north to Mt Mee, North D'Aguilar National Park and other places to the north.

Bullockys Rest at Lake Samsonvale
Bullockys Rest at Lake Samsonvale


Montville

Montville is often thrown in together with Maleny as they are close together, but this village has a completely different feel. Buildings have been designed to reflect the area's German heritage, and the town and area are all very upmarket. In town, there are several galleries and shops worth checking out and a few nice restaurants. There is also the famous Chocolate Shop for chocoholics. While Horologists will want to visit the Clock Shop.

The countryside around Montville
The countryside around Montville


Outside of town are the wineries, including Flame Hill Vineyard which is great for fine dining with a view or going in for a wine tasting. The other main attraction is Kondalilla National Park including Kondalilla Falls which is a short walk to a nice place to swim. Nearby is the start of the walk to Baxter Creek.

Tasting wine at Flame Hill Winery near Montville
Tasting wine at Flame Hill Winery near Montville


Mapleton

I am including Mapleton on this list for one simple reason, the views. There are cafes with views, the pub has views and there is a park with views. This is because Mapleton sits perched up on the Sunshine Coast Hinterland looking down and out to sea. Also in town, there is the Mapleton Lilyponds, and if you are visiting at night, the Mapleton Observatory accepts bookings for groups and also has open nights.

The view from Mapleton makes it worth visiting
The view from Mapleton makes it worth visiting


Nearby there is Mapleton Falls which includes a nice lookout with good views down the canyon, but only a side-on view of the falls. Next to the lookout is a lovely short walk. There is also Mapleton National Park which doesn't include Mapleton Falls but encompasses the Gheerulla Valley which is good for a number of short walks or a 21 km circuit with camping, and it is also the start of the Sunshine Coast Hinterland Great Walk.

Mapleton Falls Lookout provides great views down the canyon but only side views of the fall
Mapleton Falls Lookout provides great views down the canyon but only side views of the fall


Warwick

Warwick has the feel of one of those towns that dreamed of growing big. It is spread out with wide streets reflecting these dreams. Even though it is a major regional centre it still has a feel of a sleepy country town most of the time. The town hasn't become gentrified and you can still get a huge feed for small bucks in cafes and pubs here. In town, you are probably going to want to visit the Warwick Art Gallery, Southern Downs Steam Railway, or The Warwick and District Historical Society Museum.

Historic Warwick
Historic Warwick


The surrounding area of Warwick is overall not that interesting, with the nearest hiking destination up at Goomburra. You can fish or engage in various water sports at Leslie Dam when it has water, and for fans of motorsport, check to see if there are any events on at the Morgan Park Raceway. Worth visiting as well is the Glengallan Homestead & Heritage Centre outside of town.

Goomburra is the nearest hiking destination near Warwick
Goomburra is the nearest hiking destination near Warwick


Samford Village

In the heart of the Samford Valley is the lovely little Samford Village. Only about 2 kms past where Brisbane's suburban sprawl ends, and surrounded by national park, bushland reserves, hobby farms and country estates, this town is a country oasis where you least expect it. With quirky stores and cafes that can't decide whether they are going with a rural style or a gentrified style, it is a nice place to visit. There is also the Samford District Historical Museum as an interesting attraction.

Samford Valley seen from Mt Nebo
Samford Valley seen from Mt Nebo


Nearby is Cedar Creek which is popular in summer for swimming. Hikers rock hop their way up the creek up to Love Falls. You can also walk in areas like Samford Conservation Park. But most people go to Samford Village to specifically visit the town, as it is not that far to go.

A trail in the Samford Conservation Park
A trail in the Samford Conservation Park


Tenterfield

The most historic town in the area is across the border in NSW, but close enough to be considered part of the South East Queensland area, is Tenterfield. As a rich regional town it is no coincidence that it was here that the idea of creating a unified Australian nation was first publicly announced. If anyone is looking for a new date for Australia day, then it would have to be that day, and what's more, it comes with an automatic anthem, by Peter Allen, I Still Call Australia Home, who was born in Tenterfield. While there, you can visit the Tenterfield Saddlery where Peter Allen's father worked and which inspired the song Tenterfield Saddler. The town is pretty gentrified with nice cafes and restaurants, and is a lovely town to walk around for other historic attractions as well.

Yes, this is the Tenterfield Saddlery where Peter Allen's father worked
Yes, this is the Tenterfield Saddlery where Peter Allen's father worked


Outside of town, you can visit Bald Rock National Park or Boonoo Boonoo National Park, which are on opposite sides of the road. For views of the town, Mount Mackenzie Nature Reserve is a nice place for a picnic. In the right season, definitely visit a Lavender Farm.

Boonoo Boonoo National Park near Tenterfield
Boonoo Boonoo National Park near Tenterfield


Aratula

Aratula is a little town in the perfect spot. Located near several attractions it is also really the only stop on Cunningham's Highway unit you get to Warwick. For classic pub steaks that come served with locally grown vegetables (or at least, the last time we were there the pumpkin was grown in a one of the staff member's backyard) then head to the Aratula Hotel. Arthur Clive's Bakery Cafe is popular, but we usually go to Pedro's Cafe instead. There are also a number of antique shops in Aratula for the antique hunters. They have a fruit and vegetable shop, but a lot of it is just standard wholesale produce with some local produce available as well.

Classic pub meal at the Aratula Hotel
Classic pub meal at the Aratula Hotel


Nearby of course is Lake Moogerah for hiking, swimming, boating, fishing, camping and other lake activities. Also nearby are the hikes up at Cunningham's Gap. Other people are of course driving up over the range to Warwick, Stanthorpe and beyond.

Lake Moogerah near Aratula is just one reason to head out through Aratula
Lake Moogerah near Aratula is just one reason to head out through Aratula


Forest Hill, Lockyer Valley

The Lockyer Valley is a region west of Brisbane where a large portion of the country's winter vegetables come from. It is also a great place worth visiting, with numerous attractions. There several little towns and villages in the valley and one of the nicest for a quick or longer stop is Forest Hill, which you will quickly notice is not on a hill and lacks much of a forest. Rumour has it that a cartographic error meant that flat Forest Hill and hilly Plainland had their names swapped.

Cafe in Forest Hill in the Lockyer Valley
Cafe in Forest Hill in the Lockyer Valley


In town, you can enjoy coffee, cake and food in several cafes, have a classic pub meal in one of 2 historic pubs, shops for local arts and crafts in the cafes and several shops, or just wander around the historic locations around town. Read here to find out more about what else you can do in the Lockyer Valley. Of course, you might just be looking for a stop on a trip between Toowoomba and Brisbane.

Shopping in Forest Hill in the Lockyer Valley
Shopping in Forest Hill in the Lockyer Valley


Stanthorpe

Many people have passed through Stanthorpe without visiting, or just stopped in for a quick meal, coffee or to pick up some local fruit. Yet there is a lot more than that in this town. In the downtown area you can do the history and art trails, visit their very popular regional art gallery, visit the pottery club, take a walk along the creek up to the historic Red Bridge, or walk or drive up Mt Marlay for views over the town.

Walking the Art Trail in Stanthorpe
Walking the Art Trail in Stanthorpe


Outside of town the biggest attraction are the wineries. To say that this is wine growing country is an understatement, because if you had a wine made anywhere in South East Queensland, chances are, the grapes came from Stanthorpe. Most of the wineries are too small to end up in your local bottle shop so it is well worth popping into a winery to grab something while you are in the region. Then there are other attractions such as the Amiens Legacy Centre & Memorial Park, fish in the Severn River or hike at Girraween National Park.

Heritage Wines is one of several great wineries in Stanthorpe
Heritage Wines is one of several great wineries in Stanthorpe


Mt Tamborine

More than a town, it is a whole mountain top with shops, cafes, restaurants, art galleries, farms, wineries, breweries and distilleries, often with a big focus on the tourist market. It has lost a lot of its shine in recent years, partly because of its ardent tourist orientation, but it is still a lovely place worth visiting.

Shops in the Gallery Walk on Mt Tamborine
Shops in the Gallery Walk on Mt Tamborine


One of the most popular activities to do in Mt Tamborine is hiking with a number of short walks. You can do all of them easily in a day or just choose one for a stroll. There is also the Cedar Creek Falls swimming hole, which was featured for about 5 seconds in the movie Thor: Ragnarok as a location in Asgard. So yes, Mt Tamborine is the place where gods (or at least space gods) live. Then there are other activities such as the Skywalk, Botanic Gardens, Glow Worm Caves, Thunderbird Park and Tree Top Challenge.

The Skywalk is one of many attraction in Mt Tamborine
The Skywalk is one of many attraction in Mt Tamborine


Rathdowney

This little town is really out of the way for nearly everyone. People come here to hike Mt Barney or to take the back road to NSW, but should you be here, it is worth a stop. Avoid the General Store if you can, eat at the Rathdowney Hotel if you like classic country food, and pop into the Historical Association and Tourism Information Centre. There is even a lookout over the town if you want some views or photos.

Lovely little Rathdowney
Lovely little Rathdowney


Nearby is Mount Barney National Park with a range of hikes at all levels. The 2 best for swimming are the Lower Portals and Cronan Creek Falls, while the shortest is the" id="ccblink" target="_blank" rel="nofollow"> Yellow Pinch Lookout. There are also more challenging walks such as the ones up [LINK=https://www.weekendnotes.com/mount-maroon/]Mt Maroon and Mt Barney.

There are lots of great walks in Mt Barney National Park near Rathdowney
There are lots of great walks in Mt Barney National Park near Rathdowney


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Why? It is great to plan a trip to these country towns, villages & nearby attractions in SEQ
Your Comment
Great series of articles Roy. Too many for a bucket list, perhaps we could start a barrel list.
by Neil Follett (score: 3|4476) 150 days ago
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