Enjoy an open fire at your campsite or beside your cosy cottage.
Enjoy an open fire at your campsite or beside your cosy cottage. Brett Wortman

Monkeying around makes farmstay a memory to savour

I WAS recently reminded that the journey can be just as rewarding as the destination when I took a road trip with my two boys to the Darling Downs to experience farm life for a couple of days.

Escaping the hustle of life on the Coast, we headed west and turned our backs on school holiday crowds and traffic jams.

Our destination was Bestbrook Mountain Resort in Maryvale, 24km from Warwick at the gateway to the Southern Downs on the western side of Cunningham Gap.

We chose the scenic route through Kilcoy, Esk and Gatton and in no time I was feeling rejuvenated by the fresh rural air and the wide open spaces.

As the traffic thinned, we could slow down and enjoy the views to the horizon.

The landscape gradually faded to a lighter shade of green, then brown, interspersed by a patchwork of irrigated farmland.

We passed through one-shop towns dotted along the food belt where we saw vegetables, legumes, wheat, barley, sorghum, beef and dairy cows in abundance.

For the kids, this was a lesson in where our food comes from.

The pride of Darling Downs Zoo are the rare white lions Shaka and Shenzi.
The pride of Darling Downs Zoo are the rare white lions Shaka and Shenzi.

Our first stop was the Darling Downs Zoo at Pilton, 30 minutes north of Warwick.

Situated seemingly in the middle of nowhere, it's well worth the visit. Owner-operators Steve and Stephanie Robinson established the zoo seven years ago and their love and passion for the animals is evident.

The pride of the zoo is their rare white lions Shaka and Shenzi, with only four zoos in Australia housing such beautiful beasts.

Experiencing staff hand-feeding lions and tigers through a cage from less than two metres away was quite a thrill, and those wanting a bit extra can pay to feed the big cats themselves.

We decided to experience the other encounter the zoo offers with the cutest creatures I have ever seen: the marmoset monkeys.

We hand-fed them from within their enclosure, and although patting them is discouraged, the curious little marmosets soon warmed to our company and were jumping all over us, making for some great photo opportunities.

The newest animal encounter at the Darling Downs Zoo allows you to enter the marmoset enclosure with one of the keepers and learn all about these cute and fascinating animals while feeding them treats.
The newest animal encounter at the Darling Downs Zoo allows you to enter the marmoset enclosure with one of the keepers and learn all about these cute and fascinating animals while feeding them treats.

The nearby settlement of Nobby is home to Rudd's Pub, which is a quirky tribute to the area's most famous citizen, Steele Rudd (of Dad and Dave fame).

We soaked up the charm and character of the old pub that doesn't look like it's changed much in a century while enjoying a hearty pub lunch.

With a few hours of daylight left and feeling the need to walk off our food, I decided to visit the nearby Goomburra section of Main Range National Park.

The natural wonders on offer in the region, including the beautiful Girraween National Park further to the south, are a huge drawcard.

The adventurous can choose overnight treks into rugged parts of the parks.

But being time poor with children in tow, I opted for a short stroll through World Heritage-listed forests, enjoyed incredible views over the Fassifern Valley and the rugged Border Ranges, and was soon back on the road bound for our farmstay.

Situated on 200ha, Bestbrook Mountain Resort offers great creek-side camping sites, as well as rustic self-contained cabins for accommodation.

We settled in to a cosy cabin, but couldn't resist the offer of lighting an open fire beside the cabin as we watched the sun set on day one of our getaway.

The homestead has its own restaurant serving up three meals a day and if you feel like a drink after the sun goes down, there's bound to be someone around the bar area to help you enjoy the experience.

Day two of our getaway was reserved for farm activities and things got under way early, as they tend to on farms, with animal feeding.

The kids milked a cow and I tasted milk fresh from the teat, before we moved on to the chook pen to feed the poultry and collect the eggs.

And just like on a real farm, we were able to see how baby sheep are made when a randy ram decided to put on a sideshow.

Later in the morning retired local corn farmer, Cyril Ryan, gave a talk on the history of the area and farm life in the region, before demonstrating traditional butter-making.

He used the leftover milk to whip up some damper mix and the boys cooked their own over a fire while billy tea was served.

The kids can make their own damper after milking the cows.
The kids can make their own damper after milking the cows. Brett Wortman

Horseriding was the final farm activity that we really wanted to experience, despite not owning a pair of cowboy boots between us and me feeling much more confident on a surfboard than a very large, intelligent, strong-willed creature.

I swallowed my fears for the sake of my boys, though, and after the kids had a thorough lesson in basic horsemanship, we set off on a trail ride through the property.

Rides are tailored to the skill level of the guests, with overnight rides available for the adventurous and experienced.

Like the day before, we sat around our fire as the sun set but not before my youngest and I trekked through rugged bush up to the ridge on the property.

It was a real adventure and a great way to finish off our getaway.

 

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