“Mary, have you decided on our holidays yet”, said Hugh at the breakfast table, “can we go to Blackpool as usual”. “Oh, Hugh you silly sausage” said Mary, “you know very well that we live in Australia now and that you haven’t been to Blackpool since 1976”. Hugh looked quite disappointed and turned to Mark and Caroline. “Why are you in our house for breakfast?”, he said, “didn’t we say we’d telephone the police if it happened again”
“Do stop being such a grump, Hugh”, said Mary, “you know how much I enjoy these special sleepovers. Anyway, Mark and Caroline have a surprise, they’re taking us on holiday to Childers, won’t that be nice”.
“Yes” said Mark, “The Professor has arranged for us to stay in a haunted hotel with Jane, Stephen and Colette. I think having eight of us will really spice up our usual foursome. The Professor said Jane would love some company”.
“Oh Mark, do telephone him now”, said Mary, “it sounds splendid and quite adventurous”.
Even Hugh began to get quite excited about the prospect of an adventure to Childers, “Will we see the Isis Devils?” he asked. “I do hope so” said Caroline, “I’ve heard that they are delightful”
OK, enough pseudo Enid Blyton already, and on to the real substance of this story; a lunch at The Hill of Promise Winery in Childers and overnight at The Grand Hotel. A trip we took with our friends; Mary & Hugh, Mark & Caroline and Stephen & Colette.
Childers is a superb example of a Queensland town with a number of heritage listed buildings. Its situated on the M1 Bruce Highway, the main north-south route through Queensland. If you’re driving through, it’s worth stopping to grab a coffee, and admire the architecture and street art. We’d recommend the coffee at Laneway Espresso just off the main drag. If you visit in late July, you might be lucky enough to coincide your trip with the Childers Festival when the Highway is closed for the Sunday to host the festival.
Childers sits in the Isis district, named after the Isis river. The river, in turn was named by its European discoverers after the Isis River in Oxfordshire, England which it reminded them of. There’s therefore no connection to the jihadist organisation which most people think of when they hear the word Isis. The local footy team is, however, really called the Isis Devils, a fact which has been picked up on by a number of visiting stand-up comedians.
Street art sits alongside the heritage buildings of the main drag, one of which houses Childers Art Space (CHARTS). CHARTS occupies the building that was previously the Palace Backpackers Hostel. This was the site of a very sad event in the history of Childers which made the international news nearly twenty years ago. On 23rd June 2000, a local itinerant, Robert Long, set fire to the hostel killing 15 backpackers. As well as exhibiting some superb exhibitions, CHARTS has a permanent and very moving memorial to those who died. The memorial includes the painting, ‘Taking a Break in the Fields’ by Sydney artist, Josonia Palaitis, which depicts the young victims in the Childers farmland. We’d strongly recommend you visit CHARTS but you might want to take some tissues with you.
There’s a couple of wineries in Childers and we’d visited to have a long table lunch at one of them, Hill of Promise. You might think it a bit far north for vines in Childers, but the inland location does make it possible to grow grapes here. However, Mary and Terry who own Hill of Promise concentrate on the winemaking rather than growing and buy their grapes from other producers. Some are local, but quite a lot of their grapes come from the Granite Belt in Southern Queensland, which you can read about in our post ‘Swallow Don’t Spit’.
Several times a year, Hill of Promise hosts a long table lunch and Jane & I had been to one previously as part of the Winterfeast food and drink festival . This time, we were joined by six of our friends who were keen to experience Mary & Terry’s hospitality and their wines. Terry has Sicilian heritage and this is what inspires Mary’s cuisine. (Coincidentally, Mary’s heritage is part Prussian and part from Crossmaglen, County Armagh, near to Hugh & Mary’s roots). We had a fabulous three course lunch, in a beautiful setting accompanied by some great wine and good friends. A fantastic way to spend the Sunday of a public holiday weekend.
Since living in the region we’d often thought it would be nice to spend a night in Childers. However, its one of those places that just feels a bit too close to home to justify stopping overnight. The long table lunch gave us the excuse we’d been looking for. We made a night of it by booking rooms at The Grand Hotel. The Grand is a typical Aussie pub. The rooms aren’t luxurious but they were clean, the beds were comfy and there was a suitably grand veranda overlooking the town. Our hosts were Sean and Deb who continued the great hospitality we found in Childers by keeping the kitchen open late for us and even joining us for a few drinks on the veranda later in the evening. Sadly, there was no sign of the ghosts that are purported to walk the corridors of The Grand.
In the morning, we headed a few kilometres north to Apple Tree Creek for brekkie at MollyDookers. Maybe a little surprisingly for regional Queensland, this diner specialises in Canadian inspired Australian cuisine and drinks, reflecting the origins of the couple who own and run it. Mike Vandenbrink hails from Canada whereas Queensland is home to his wife, Alana. We experienced yet more fantastic Childers hospitality and Andy couldn’t go past the brekky poutine; a Canadian speciality of hash potatoes, gravy and curd cheese, with the added twist of bacon and fried eggs. Others enjoyed the pancakes and maybe a cheeky glass of breakfast bubbles.
The eight had a spiffing day and night in Childers and didn’t go too wild, Enid would have approved.