In the mood for a Sunday drive? There could be no better destination than the Peacehaven Botanical Park in Highfields, Queensland. Established in 2005 and located just 15 minutes north of Toowoomba, or a very pleasant 1 hour 45 minutes from Kingaroy. Boosting views of the gorgeous Bunya Mountain range and views of Gowrie Junction to the west, the gardens offer the perfect place to relax and unwind after a busy work week.
Stretched over 4.7 hectares and complete with well over 300 species of scrub and rainforest plants, including old growth eucalyptus trees to provide shade and shelter. The park is divided into various sections including both dry and wet rainforests, wetlands, prehistoric times, and open grassland areas. It is a place were people can come and see rare and endangered plants from south-east Queensland all in one place.
And if you are into bird spotting, this is the place for you. From the resident kookaburra family to a variety of rosella and lorikeets, all the usual suspects are on show. Friendly magpies, butcher birds, curious noisy minor birds, a multitude of ducks and the odd heron, even the sulphur crested cockatoo. I saw my very first scaly-breasted lorikeet in this park (pictured here) and the gardens are always alive with the melodic sound of bird song and nature at her very best.
Not just birdlife is on show in the Peacehaven Botanical Gardens. A recently built frog pond now filled to capacity thanks to badly needed rains, will provide a brand new habitat for the local frog population. The lush rainforest already home to the Eastern Dwarf Tree Frog and several other species - dragonflies, butterflies, beetles and tiny lizards. Even a family of Lychee Stink Bugs have made this stunning location their home.
Not just for the wildlife though, the park offers many features and facilities to keep us humans happy and entertained as well. There is an ever expanding population of picnic tables littered all around the 4.7 hectares, as well as bench seating to sit and relax, with a view to die for from every possible angle. The huge wide open grassed area in the centre of the park, offers a place for children to run free, or perhaps enjoy a kick of the footy, with seating around the entire perimeter for parents to keep a watchful eye on them.
There are multiple walkways through extensive plantings of local species and each walkway displays mosaic tiles depicting creatures and elements of mother nature. All the plant species are labelled and various plaques dotted around the gardens provide interesting local and historical information, to add to the educational aspect of a visit to Peacehaven.
At the rear of the gardens and with spectacular views across to the Bunya Mountains, lies the small lake with viewing platform and bench seating, where you can while away the hours in the company of the many ducks, fish and even the odd turtle. A blue heron is also known to make an appearance from time to time and there is always a dragonfly or two to be spotted.
Central in the park is the grand rotunda providing the perfect spot to sit and take in the 360 degree vista. The park is available for large parties and even weddings, and as a photographer myself, I can think of no better place for some lovely portraits than this majestic rotunda and it's spectacular views. Free use of electric Barbeques throughout the park also makes this a wonderful spot for any family celebration. What a great place for a kids birthday party with practically no after party clean up required.
For the community minded, Friends of Peacehaven is a not-for-profit organisation consisting of volunteers who support the development and management of the park, with projects such as the "Stump in Time". Two years in the planning, the giant ancient blackbutt tree stump maps a time line of local and international events throughout the life of the tree through it's growth rings. The display is creatively decorated with tiled mosaics created by Anglicare volunteers to further illustrate the history of Highfields. The Friends of Peacehaven also host periodical community tree planting days, with all welcome, and a sausage sizzle provided. And don't forget the annual Carols at Peacehaven in December for a uniquely natural way to celebrate the Christmas season. More information can be obtained from the society via their website.
Easy access to the park is provided via the large circular driveway entrance conveniently located close to public toilets with disabled access, and a public drinking fountain nearby as well. The park also boasts a community native plant nursery which is open to the public on Thursday and Saturday mornings selling a range of native species at very reasonable prices. Educational guided tours of the park can be arranged via the Toowoomba Regional Council.