Dirt, dust, flies, The pounding horse’s hooves, the snap of the driver’s leather whip as it cracks in the still outback air. The Cobb & CO stagecoach plies the country by-ways of the Lockyer Valley delivering its precious cargo of mail and passengers along what is known as the Cobb & Co Tourist Drive.
Established in Melbourne, Victoria in 1853 at the height of the Victorian gold rush, four newly arrived Americans Freeman Cobb, John Murray Peck, James Swanton and John B. Lamber imported several US-built horse drawn wagons and stagecoaches and set up the original Cobb & Co in Australia.
In 1865 Cobb & Co arrived in Queensland. The Cobb & Co Tourist Drive is a celebration of the first mail route awarded to Cobb & Co in Queensland where on the 1st of January 1866 the mail service got down to business travelling between Brisbane and Ipswich via the Lockyer Valley. Passengers and mail heading further West were taken from Ipswich to Grandchester (Queensland’s oldest railway station) by train and then by another Cobb & Co coach terminating their journey in Toowoomba.
Travel by Cobb & Co coach sounds romantic but in real life it was very different. Many passengers along with luggage, freight and mail jammed into the stagecoach as it travelled the Ipswich to Gatton route.
Today we’ll travel the same scenic route in our modern air-conditioned vehicles. There will be opportunities to stop and grab a “cuppa” while exploring Historical museums and villages, be invited in to look over early pioneer houses and walk in the footsteps of the early explorer and botanist Allan Cunningham as he discovered and named the vast Laidley Plains.
Follow the “wagon wheel” directional signs and make the same journey that Cobb & Co made over 150 years ago from Ipswich to Gatton – stopping at Walloon, Rosewood (staging post), Grandchester, Laidley, Forest Hill (staging post) and Gatton (staging post). Just as it was back in those early pioneering days, modern day road trippers also require the occasional stop in their expeditions. Three designated Staging Posts were nominated along the route being situated at convenient locations in Rosewood, Forest Hill, and Gatton. These Staging Posts were created where services such as toilets, food and drinks were available and accessible 7 days a week.
🔥Tip: With an early start from Brisbane the Queens Park Café – Ipswich opens at 8am where we enjoyed a hot breakfast and coffee to kick off our road trip. Queens Park is a fantastic day trip destination for all the family. If you want to explore this brilliant family day trip location, click on my Blog link: 10 Amazing Things You Would Not Have Guessed About Queens Park Ipswich.
Our journey begins at the Queens Park Cafe, Ipswich – the alternate starting point is the Workshops Rail Museum – Ipswich, wind you way west through the outer suburbs of Leichhardt and Wulkuraka onto Walloon.
At Walloon, the first stop on Queensland’s first railway line, there are several reminders of the town’s beginnings. Walloon has a number of heritage buildings lining the streets making them well worth a look. These include the Walloon Saloon, where the first hotel was built in 1877 as a favoured watering hole for weary travelers, and also built in 1877 the former school which is now the town’s community center.
We stopped here for a while taking a look at Henry Lawson Bicentennial Park. Have a look-see at the haunting memorial to the lost “Babies of Walloon” and Henry Lawson’s touching poem carved into the railway sleepers.
This park is also an impressive place take a break or have a picnic, with electric BBQ’s, toilets and under-cover tables and seating or if the kids are with you the playground will keep them amused.
Continue to Rosewood. As the sign says – Welcome to Rosewood Staging Post (Cobb & Co Heritage Park). Just like in the days of Cobb & Co coaches, when they stopped to rest and water their horses, this is where the modern day traveller can stop, stretch your legs, refresh, have a bite to eat and take the time to further explore Rosewood.
You are immediately greeted with a Cobb & Co Stage Coach, which is in pristine condition, on display just set back from the main road. This is a tremendous, little park to come and see. Plenty of street parking available, toilets and undercover seating with another playground for the younger ones to explore.
The Rosewood Staging Post is full of history. Give the Park the once over, read about it, listen to the history of Rosewood and the Cobb & Co story, celebrating the first mail route awarded in Queensland.
Next is Grandchester, located about 14 kilometres west of Rosewood. Previously known as Bigge’s Camp, named after pastoralist & parliamentarian, Francis Bigge, it was renamed Grandchester in the mid 1860’s and was the terminus for Queensland’s first railway line. The Queensland Governor of the time felt that a place of such an historical event should have a more impressive name and thus renamed the site Grandchester.
Laidley is a few kilometres off the Cobb & Co Tourist drive, the turn off to the town is well sign posted. Laidley was once another popular spot for travellers and the Cobb & Co teamsters. It is still very popular with road trippers today. You must visit the Das Neumann House Museum (free entry) and try the Devonshire Tea (scones, jam and cream) at Annie’s place.
🔥Tip: Laidley is a very friendly town steeped in local history and folklore. You could spend many hours exploring the experiences that can be unearthed. For all the extra information on the Lockyer Valleys second largest town – click on my travel Blog: Make The Most Of Your Country Road Trip To Laidley In The Lockyer Valley
Along the route we pass by the scenic Lake Dyer, Forest Hill and then in the distance we reach our final stop on our ROAD TRIP – Gatton. The village of Gatton was first gazette in 1855 and has now become the largest town and business centre in the Lockyer Valley. Noted as an RV friendly town with a 48-hour rest area, Gatton also offers many and diverse cafes, hotels and restaurants serving a great range of coffees, food and drinks. A hospital, fuel stations and several supermarkets can also be found in town.
Just out of town is the Gatton Staging Post, situated within the Lockyer Valley Cultural Centre on Lake Apex drive. You will find the Staging Post at the entrance to the Cultural Centre. Add in the extensive views of Lake Apex, this air-conditioned purpose-built facility is truly worthy of being a place for travelers to relax, eat and refresh.
Besides the café, the building prides itself on being the area’s Visitor Information Centre, home to a huge range of maps, souvenirs & local knowledge. Discuss your travel plans with the very friendly staff to ensure you have a perfect day while exploring the Cobb & Co Tourist Drive and Lockyer Valley.
While you are there, don’t miss visiting the Art Gallery, Library (free entry) and the very extensive machinery display at the Queensland Transport Museum (entry fees apply).
🔥Tip: It is important, particularly when touring outback areas to check at each visitor centre for up-to-date information on road conditions, opening and closing times of the places that you are visiting as well as any permits or entry fees that might be required. Lockyer Valley Visitor Information Centre (click here)
The Cobb & Co Tourist Drive is a scenic route between Ipswich and Toowoomba via the Lockyer Valley. Imagine being a part of those early pioneering days as your stagecoach ploughed along lonely bush tracks just trying to reach your destination in one piece. Those staging posts would have been a very welcome sight, like an oasis in the desert. Today we will be in the air-conditioned comfort of our modern motor cars, what a difference, but we can still relive those Colonial by-gone days. This is a must-do trip for all adventure-seekers and a welcome addition to my list / category – Discover South East Queensland – travel Blogs.
In Grandchester School Road I had my hobby farm, loved to explore this area including T.woomba!
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It is a beautiful area to explore. Grandchester has so much history. The area is so full of surprises. I have included the link to Scottys Garage, one incredible place.
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