Take a two-day Lockyer Valley Road Trip and explore fertile fields, eat country fresh food and enjoy country hospitality. There are plenty of Lockyer Valley things to do, all just an hour’s drive from Brisbane. You’ll eat the best country cakes, fill your esky with country meat, skip back to the 1950s, buy some great greens, enjoy a country breakfast, visit a sustainable farm and a sheep cheeserie. Accommodation options range from lux homesteads to budget hotels.
Lockyer Valley road trip
The Lockyer Valley is blessed with rich alluvial soil, which grows a wide variety of crops. Its produce, especially corn and beans, is sent to markets around Australia. If you have tasted the potatoes grown at Bauer’s Organic Farm in the Lockyer, you’ll immediately know why! Pack your bags for a weekend of country living, and don’t forget your esky and plenty of bags for those take-home treats you won’t want to leave behind. Some cash money for roadside stalls is also a good idea.
This road trip starts with a journey along the Ipswich Motorway, bypassing the heart of Ipswich to join the Warrego Highway. It is easy driving, although the traffic is usually heavy on this highly-used arterial road. The 327 km journey takes around four and a half hours to drive in total. We started our journey with a coffee and croissant at King Street Bakery.
Lemon meringue pie at Porters Plainland Hotel
First stop – Plainland
After an hour’s driving on the road from Brisbane, I was certainly ready for a coffee stop, so I bet you will be too! Warrego Windmill has an amazing selection of home-style cakes, pies and pastries that you can eat on the deck of the 100-year old Porters Plainland Hotel. They are all made in house. Once a humble bar and family home, the Plainland Hotel has come a long way since it opened its doors in 1905, and the building just keeps ongoing. You can wander out the back where there is more seating, and there’s also accommodation (see my Where to Stay suggestions).
Mel Porter at Porters Plainland Hotel
The dining room menu has a good selection of Valley favourites with a focus on local ingredients and some serious chargrill meat cuts from the Stanbroke beef herd. I have always found Stanbroke beef to be particularly delicious.
Schulte’s have an excellent range of house-made small goods.
Schulte’s Fresh Gourmet Market is on the other side of the highway (accessible by an underpass). I would suggest stopping here on the way home and stocking your car to the brim with their premium quality meat. They offer a unique paddock to plate service honed over 50 years, resulting in fresh red meat, pork, and lamb products of the highest quality.
The family’s German roots shine through in their large range of small goods. Their delicatessen offers an extensive range of gluten-free quality products, and there is a good range of other local items, including fruit and vegetables.
Peter and Melinda Schulte.
I am particularly fond of their Berkshire bacon, but any bacon here is going to be good. If you want to make it easy on the way home from your Lockyer Valley Road Trip, you can select your products, and Schulte’s will hold them for collection. Set a reminder on your phone so you don’t forget to stop.
Schulte’s makes all their small goods in-house.
Next Stop – A Blast from the Past at Flagstone
Step back into the 1950s and 60s with a guided tour through Scotty’s Garage at Upper Flagstone. Owner Scott has a story to tell about every piece in his fascinating collection of vintage and classic cars and everything that goes with them. I was amazed by Scotty’s collection, which includes an 1828 Model-A Ford and a Red Flying Horse children’s ride, one of only three in the world, but there’s so much more to see here.
Scotty’s Garage has been custom made to look like the real thing. Photo: Kerry Heaney
Then, with a big reveal move that would stun even a Eurovision audience, Scotty opened the doors to The T Bird Diner! Set up like a 50s milk bar with a jukebox and pinball machines, it feels like stepping into the set of Happy Days. I was so tempted to flick on a record and jive on that dance floor!
Scotty’s authentic T bird Diner. Photo: Kerry Heaney
There is more to see in The Barn when the tour is over, where Australiana memorabilia covers almost every shelf. Their scones are epic, but you can also have a light lunch here. Do you miss old style malted milk? The Barn will serve you a traditional style malted milk in a tin cup that looks like it has come straight from the 1950s.
You’ll want to spend hours browsing this museum. Photo: Kerry Heaney
The Barn and Scotty’s Garage does get busy, and sometimes it is booked for functions so, before you start this Lockyer Valley road trip, call ahead to book. There is a $10 entry fee (children free) for The Garage tour but it is well worth it.
Stop 3 – A Country Harvest in Gatton
On the way to your accommodation for the night, stop at Ghost Gully Produce, in Gatton. This is a family-owned and operated hydroponic lettuce and herb farm where the greens are hand-harvested, packed and delivered fresh from Brisbane to Toowoomba. Kym and Gary Samuelson grow pesticide-free, and all salad lines are washed in ozone-treated water, promoting longer shelf-life and leaving no residue. The Salad Shed farm gate is open seven days a week. Pack your purchases into that cooler bag or esky that I told you to put in the car.
Stop 1 Breakfast in Forest Hill
If you are staying at Branell Homestead or Spicers Hidden Vale, the breakfast options will be tempting but I say get on the road and see some more country. Just a short distance from Branell is Forest Hill. This very cute little town punches well above its weight with two great cafes, a product co-op and the sort of gift shop where you find it hard to leave without a purchase.
Café 4342 takes its name from its role as the Post Office, built in 1908. This is a cosy and casual eatery blending the best of fresh produce, Australian cuisine and international flavours with local produce. It is open for breakfast, brunch, lunch and afternoon tea.
The Forest Hill Farm Stall at 12 Forest Hill-Fernvale Road has been closed for a while, but it’s worth checking in case they have reopened.
Cafe Sorella has plenty of must-have homewares and clothes too! Photo: Kerry Heaney
The road trip group lined up like cool kids in front of the Forest Hill mural.
Stop 2 – A Farm Tour
On the first Sunday of every month, 9Dorf Farms offer group tours through their working property. This is a chance for city slickers to see how sustainable and ethical farming works. You’ve heard about aquaculture grown Murray cod, barramundi and jade perch, pastured chickens living in caravans, pork and beef. Now you can see how it all happens on a diversified working property! Visit the girls (chooks) in the caravans and collect eggs in their paddocks or catch a fish the easy way when you tour the fish shed at feeding time (a 30-tonne aquaculture recirculation system).
Farmgate sales available include their organic pastured eggs and chickens. You can shop online or can purchase their products from markets or some Brisbane and Lockyer Valley butchers.
9Dorf Farms is a fourth-generation family-owned business. They have been working the Lockyer Valley soil since 1918.
Ready for lunch at Awassi Cheesery. Photo: Kerry Heaney
Stop 3 – Lunch under the fig trees
Nestled in the hills behind Grantham in the Helidon Hills, Awassi Cheesery is a family-owned farm specialising in Awassi sheep, which are reputed to be one of the best milking breeds in the world. Their milk is naturally homogenised and high in fat in proteins which means it makes great cheese.
Slow-cooked lamb was on the menu at Awassi Cheesery.
On arrival, visitors spend some time enjoying the gentle ambling of the Awassi and hearing how the cheesery operates. Cheese tastings can be enjoyed at the Farm Gate story or as part of a delicious Awassi shepherd’s lunch in the avocado grove.
David and Di Piggott, Awassi Sheep Cheesery
The Awassi Cheesery farm gate store, where you can purchase cheese, condiments, and beauty products, is open Thursday to Sunday.
Lunch under the fig trees is available by appointment. Cheese tastings cost $20 per person. You also can order their products online.
You’ll be full and probably a little tired if you have done this Lockyer Valley road trip in just two days so I’d suggest heading home now, but don’t forget to pick up your meat at Schulte’s.
If you want to spend more time in the region, add on some of the things to do below and enjoy the country vibes.
Native Oz Bushfoods have a wide range of products.
Other Lockyer Valley things to do
- The Lockyer Valley is a flood plain and has been severely affected by floods. A visit to The Floating Café in Grantham helps put a perspective on the flood damage. Grantham was at the epicentre of one of the deadliest floods in Australian history, and the café’s name is a cheeky poke at history. Try their delicious home-baked cakes, pies and contemporary café food.
- Look out for Native Oz Bushfoods wherever local products are sold. This Aboriginal family owned and operated business produces a range of Australian Bushfood products such as jams, sauces, and gourmet salt mixes, all made in small batches. I purchased several of their products and used them in this recipe for Sausage Rolls with Australian Bush Food Flavours. You also will find them at the Lockyer Valley Visitor Information Centre in Gatton, Toowoomba Saturday Cobb & Co Farmers Market, or purchase them online.
- Sue Renfree at Fordsdale Horseback Adventures offers one, two- or all-day trail rides around her 400-hectare property. A 90-minute trail ride for intermediate and experienced riders costs $88 for adults and $66 for children aged 8+. (Prices April 2022)
Horseback riding at Fordsdale Horseback Adventures
Branell Homestead has lux rooms that are perfect for your Lockyer Valley Road Trip. Photo: Kerry Heaney
Where to stay on your Lockyer Valley road trip?
The Lockyer Valley has a range of accommodation which includes high-end luxury and motel style accommodation. While it is lovely to stay in luxury, don’t dismiss a budget motel stay. Motels are the new cool accommodation, and many have been renovated to provide a very comfortable night’s sleep.
- Porters Motel at Plainlands has rooms for around $140 a night. A little further down the road, the prices at Gatton Motel start at around $114 a night, or there is the Hattonvale Motel at $118. (Prices current July 2020.)
- Stockton Rise Country Retreat is a three-bedroom home set up as a getaway for a family or group of friends. Think a barbecue on the wide deck overlooking a stunning country view.
- For a little more luxury, Branell Homestead just outside of Laidley has three luxury guest suites in the historic homestead which was rebuilt by the owners over five years. On the hill are three cabins which each sleep six people. I have stayed in both the homestead and the cabins and would recommend both. Set on a 32-hectare property, Branell is also a popular wedding venue.
- Spicers Hidden Vale at Grandchester is another alternative, but it adds to the travelling time. This lux resort has a wraparound bushland view that can be enjoyed from accommodation that will make you feel blessed. Homage Restaurant, where the paddock to plate philosophy starts in the farm-sized veggie garden outside the restaurant, offers exceptional eating. Rooms here cost around $489 a night (July 2020).
I recommend a one-night visit to the Lockyer Valley, but you could visit some of these Lockyer Valley things to do in a day. Better still, stretch it over three days and really explore the region. This map shows you a two-day trail from Brisbane. Enjoy your trip!
Like road trips? Try these trails
- A weekend in the Scenic Rim
- Drive from Noosa to Gympie with an overnight option
- Cairns to Cape Tribulation – exploring the Great Barrier Reef Drive with a stay in Port Douglas
Disclaimer: Ed+bK travelled with the support of Tourism and Events Queensland and Lockyer Valley Council.