It was a cold winter morning when we headed off to the media launch for Toowoomba's annual Carnival of Flowers (TCOF). It was early and to miss all the traffic, we decided to take the scenic route and it was definitely worth it – picture rolling green hills coming to life as the sun rose, native trees and all sorts of wonderful wild life. We even got to take a few sneak peaks at Somerset dam (always a beauty).
Three hours later, we arrived in Toowoomba and I was surprised to see how much it has grown! I was also surprised at the beautiful vineyard (Preston Peak Winery) where the media launch took place, and even more so by the amazing flower themed cupcakes on display.
(Wonderful cupcakes from the TCOF media launch - sampler of what is to come!)
We soon heard about all the great things set to take place at this year's carnival – if you're like me, it will definitely surprise, delight and inspire you to make your way to this year's festival. Some of the key highlights will be…
(Image courtesy of TCOF website:https://tcof.com.au/events/picnic-point/)
The best place to start your TCOF week is at Picnic Point. The heritage-listed point is atop the crest of the Great Dividing Range (picture 180 degree views) and is the best place to park. If you decide to take a stroll, walk along Pardalote Walk to get spectacular views of Lockyer Valley.
Feel free to bring a picnic or, if you prefer, dine-in at Picnic Point Café, which serves iconic violet ice cream! The café is open 8:30am to 5pm Monday-Thursday and 8am to 5pm Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Also, during TCOF, there will be heaps of music at Picnic Point - everything from jazz, blues, folk, funk, soul, country, rock 'n' roll and big brass acts.
If you need help about events, maps, shuttle bus info and bookings, or your keen for a spot of merchandise, the Information Hub on Tourist road will be more than happy to help out.
(Image courtesy of TCOF website:https://tcof.com.au/events/queens-park/)
Queens Park is another hub of the carnival hosting the Ergon Energy Food and Wine Festival, Heritage Bank Live Concert Series and Sideshow Alley – it will also be the finishing point for the Grand Central Floral Parade (please find more information below).
Queens Park is a sight to see, being home to wonderful flowerbeds and manicured lawns. There is also two playgrounds for children and an off-leash area for our wiggly-waggly friends.
The Ergon Energy Food and Wine Festival will be held in Queens Park from Friday 15th to Sunday 17th September. During this time the park will be filled with amazing food stalls and local produce.
Additionally, nearby, the Toowoomba Historical Society in the Botanic Gardens on Lindsay St will be providing light refreshments and food. Also, the Margaret St cafes will be open and bustling, providing a variety of foods and exotic flavours.
During the TCOF, there will also be a schedule of music, yoga and zumba.
Laurel Bank Park
(Image courtesy of TCOF website:https://tcof.com.au/events/laurel-bank-park/)
Just west of the city centre is Laurel Bank Park on Herries St. The grounds are stunning and there are some special treats for the kids (like the giant 'caterpillar'). For the adults, you can opt in for some traditional Devonshire Tea at the Croquet Club, or the Laurel Bank Park Hall will have some great food and drink options available.
Also, during the TCOF, Twilight zone tours will be running, providing the full experience of the park by night. Pictures in the Park will also be another fun evening event, which the whole family can attend for free (please find more information below).
During the day there is also a schedule of music, yoga and tai chi.
The Chronicle Garden Competition
(Image courtesy of TCOF website:https://tcof.com.au/events/the-chronicle-garden-competition/)
One of the biggest events for the TCOF is the Chronicle Garden Competition, which has taken place since the first floral parade in 1950. There are over 100 gardens to visit from passionate gardeners who work year round to create stunning floral showpieces. The Chronicle Garden Competition Guide will provide a full map (including the special exhibition gardens) and a copy can be picked up either from the newspaper on Friday 15 September (for $1.50) or from the Visitor Information Centre during the carnival (86 James St).
For something a bit different during the TCOF, why not visit a traditional Japanese Garden at the University of Southern Queensland's stunning 3-hectare site at 20 Regent St. The garden features a mountain stream, a dry garden, a central lake and over 230 plant species, both from Japanese and Australian origins.
For a breathtaking native Australian garden, visit Boyce Gardens at 6 Range St. To the north there is a rainforest, to the east there is a pine forest (along with an avocado orchard and an Australian flowering shrub garden) and to the south there are rose gardens and native orchids.
Another beautiful spot to visit is the Harrow Homestead and Garden at 700 Cambooya Rd. The garden is a journey into yesteryear – it was once the centre of a small village with a collection of outbuildings, workers cottages and a school.
(Image courtesy of TCOF website:https://tcof.com.au/events/full-day-steam-train-tour/)
Another magical element of the TCOF is the train tours, with bookings available on a traditional steam train, the silver bullet or the diesel-hauled train. Each train is special in its own way and tours provide a day of sights, food and adventure.
From Friday 15th to Sunday 17th September, you will be able to dine on mouth-watering food and produce from Southern Queensland's best. There will be a bit of everything you can imagine (food-wise), as well as lots of wine and beer and various food tastings (such as BBQ).
The festival will also feature a wide range of day activities, including events being hosted by Sophie Thomson, from ABC television's Gardening Australia, and Anna Gare, one of Australia's most popular chefs. For a full schedule visit the TCOF website – a 3-day pass or daily tickets can be purchased.
Heritage Bank Live Concert Series
(Image courtesy of TCOF website:https://tcof.com.au/events/heritage-bank-live-concert-series/)
During the Heritage Bank Live Concert Series there will be huge range of acts on from Friday 15th to Sunday 17th September. So let your hair down and enjoy the music. Key acts will be Alex Lahey, The Paper Kites, The Temper Trap, Hot Potato Band, The Voices, The Angels, The Diamonds, Boys in the Band and Daryl Braithwaite. Bookings are essential – for more information and the full schedule visit the TCOF website.
Qantas Link Gala Dinner
(Image courtesy of TCOF website:https://tcof.com.au/events/qantaslink-gala-dinner-a-magical-night-under-the-stars/)
On Thursday 14th September, to celebrate the opening of the festival, treat yourself to a 4-course degustation in the Laurel Bank Park at the Qantas Link Gala Dinner. It will be a magical and delicious evening under the stars, even featuring special guest Anna Gare. Bookings are essential – for more information and the full menu visit the TCOF website.
Grand Central Flower Parade
(Image courtesy of TCOF website:https://tcof.com.au/events/grand-central-floral-parade/)
This one is a must! 100,00 people will line the street of Toowoomba as hundreds of beautiful floral floats, street performers, carnival characters and stilt walkers wind their way through the city to Queens Park. Afterwards, the flowers, fruit and veggies from the floats will be on sale in Godsall St Oval. Also, you can grab some free chalk to create your own artistic mark on the parade route. The parade will start at 3pm on Saturday 16th September. A map is available on the TCOF website.
(Image courtesy of TCOF website:https://tcof.com.au/events/sideshow-alley/)
Rides, games, fireworks, shows – what more can you say other than fun! Entry is free, but you do need to buy ride tickets.
Pop up cinema
On Friday 22nd and Saturday 23rd September, there will be a pop up cinema, Pictures in the Park, in Laurel Bank Park. Trolls and the Lion King will be showing and it'll be fun for the whole family (and free!). Bring a blanket, picnic rug or chairs for a magical night under the stars.
Foodie, garden, walking and regional tours are available for almost anything you can think of! There is also a broad range of community and floral events, featuring everything from cakes, crafts, music, bonsai, trains, polo, pottery, quilting, farmers markets, painting and, of course, lots of flowers. You can also visit the historic Empire Theatre or the heritage-listed Jondaryn Woolshed.
Family and community
The 68th TCOF will be an event that you can celebrate with all your family and friends, as there is something for everyone and every age. Why not make a holiday of it and create wonderful memories with the people that you love, enjoying all the splendour and events that the TCOF has to offer.
Another perk of the TCOF is that it is nearby (whether you are living in Queensland or interstate), so why not take the scenic route to what is sure to be an amazing experience.
You'll also help to support the wonderful Toowoomba community, which is a nice feeling indeed.
On the drive home, after hearing about all the wonderful events that the TCOF has to offer, I began planning my schedule – there is just so much to do and something for everyone! I will definitely be heading back in September and I plan to make an entire week of it, bringing my family and friends with me. You should too.