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Slab- and bark-huts a gateway to the rich expanses of the Darling Downs.
C 2 Toowoomba and Drayton prior1887 SLQ 1 236915 THUMB








Leichhardt first passed though the small collection of slab huts – then known as ‘Tuwumba’ – in early June 1843, on his way up from Newcastle via the New England region. It was a swift transit on horseback, Leichhardt accompanied by young Thomas Murray-Prior from the Dumaresq River on, and the pair reached Brisbane a fortnight later.

That Leichhardt did not linger is perhaps unsurprising, for it was the middle of winter and, as he was to note a year later, “the elevation of the Darling Downs – about 1800 to 2000 feet, according to the observations of Mr. Cunnngham – renders the climate much cooler than its latitude would lead one to suppose; indeed, ice has frequently been found, during the calm clear nights of winter.”

Toowoomba's colonial history traces back to 1816 when English botanist and explorer Allan Cunningham in June 1827 discovered 4 million acres (16,000 km²) of rich farming and grazing land, which became known as the Darling Downs.

Thirteen years later when George and Patrick Leslie established Toolburra Station 56 miles (90 km) southwest of Toowoomba the first settlers arrived on the Downs and established a township of bark-slab shops called The Springs which was soon renamed Drayton.

For many years the settlement of Drayton was principal in the district, but Toowoomba, better placed on the edge of the escarpment, was proclaimed a municipality in 1860, and received the much sought-after railway line extension from Ipswich seven years later.


On the edge of the Great Dividing Range 800 metres above sea level, Toowoomba is renowned for its architecture and open spaces that overlook the Lockyer Valley. One of city’s famous vantage points is Picnic Point, from where you can explore the graded walks along the range escarpment, or sit back, relax and take in the view.

Toowoomba really is Queensland’s ‘Garden City’, with more than 240 public parks and gardens. In Spring the city celebrates with its Carnival of Flowers, held each year in the last full week of September.

From March to May mellow tints of red and gold mark the Autumn Showing, when you can enjoy a carriage ride through lovers will be kept busy exploring the city’s internationally themed gardens, among them the University of Southern Queensland’s Japanese Gardens, and the Wetlands of the World.

Toowoomba’s history has been preserved in its buildings, featuring some magnificently-restored structures and Russell Street’s aptly-named ‘Heritage Street’ – all well-signposted for driving visitors. The Cobb & Co Museum hosts Australia’s largest collection of horse-drawn vehicles.

Above: View across Toowoomba and Drayton sometime before 1887. (State Library of Queesland 1 236915)

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Above: The volcanic heritage of the Toowoomba escarpment of the Great Dividing Range is vividly apparent in this photo. (Photostock DPC 29496718)

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Above: A view of Toowoomba around 1865, not long before the opening of the railway line extension up the range from the Lockyer Valley and Ipswich. (Queensland State Archives 1212228)
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Above: The flourishing inland city of Toowoomba exposed in this stunning 2007 satellite image looking towards the northwest. The Darling Downs spread out on the left of the image, with the escarpment dropping to the Lockyer Valley to the right and on down to Ipswich and Brisbane. (NASA)
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