Always looking to get away for the weekend to find something new to explore and experience not too far from home, my wife Kirsten and I often keep our eyes on social media platforms like Instagram, for ideas.
When the following gorgeous image from talented landscape photographer Stephen Waller popped up in our feed recently we knew exactly what we were going to do this past weekend. Upon finding the image and reading Stephen's caption, there was a frenzy of research and discussion around where we could set up camp for a night and still be a small driving distance from the sunflower fields of Freestone, Queensland.
With a minimal amount of searching on the interwebs required, we found the clean, cheap and cheerful Kahler's Oasis Caravan Park in nearby Warwick. Here we secured our own "unpowered" patch of grass to pitch a tent for the night, for around $30. From there, it was no more than a 15-20 minute drive out of Warwick and in the direction of either Freestone, or towards Allora along Tourist Route 11, known as the Sunflower Route. In either direction you eventually find yourself driving alongside vast fields filled with the unmistakable glow of thousands of giant golden sunflowers!
Once you've found them, the fun and photographic opportunities are only limited by your imagination and how long you're prepared to stay out under the scorching summer Queensland sun.
How to get to the Freestone sunflower fields
Departing Brisbane, take the Centenary Highway (M5) out of town. When the opportunity presents itself, merge onto the Ipswich Motorway (M7) and head towards Toowoomba. Continuing straight on, the M7 becomes the M2 and eventually the Cunningham Highway 15.
Follow this for a good 100+ kms passing through Aratula, a great spot for a bite to eat at the fantastic little bakery on the side of the highway, and up through Cunningham's Gap. Just before you reach the town of Clintonvale, you'll see the Freestone Rd turnoff on your left.
Freestone Rd naturally takes you through the town of Freestone and, if you follow it the whole way, eventually spits you out on the edge of Warwick. Along the way, however, keep your eyes peeled for the sunflower fields. They're near-impossible to miss!
5 Tips for your visit
If you're looking to make the trip out to see the sunflowers and are keen dabble in some photography while you're out there (highly recommended), then here's a few tips to get the most out of your visit.
1. Take only photos. Leave only footprints.
I know, I know, this first one's a tad cliche. But after what I witnessed while out in the fields myself, sadly I need to lead off with this one.
It's simple really – use your common sense and don't be a dick. Farmers rely on the sunflowers to earn a living through the seeds and oil they extract from the crop. Take your selfies and other pictures but leave the flowers themselves, alone. Simple.
2. Pack a step ladder
This one is only a viable option for those with the space or vehicle that can accommodate one, but the sunflowers can grow to be over 6-foot in height. If you want to be able to get above the flower heads to take those "sea of gold" shots, a basic step ladder will be your best friend when a sturdy pair of shoulders are not available to perch yourself upon.
3. THE FLIES... consider yourself warned!
At least while we were there it was hot, humid, and the more we lightly disturbed the soil around the sunflowers, the thicker the fly swarms became. There's basically nothing you can do to combat this – but you can't say you haven't been warned!
4. Don't get bogged
Potentially, the better vantage points around the sunflower fields may be accessed by perimeter dirt tracks best attempted only by 4WD vehicles. From experience I can tell you, the fertile soil is pretty soft and if there's even a hint of mud-producing rain around, I certainly wouldn’t want to be caught down these tracks. Just saying...
5. Consider rolling out of bed early
So here's the thing, while sunflowers are growing they track the sun from east to west, and then return to face east during the night, ready to receive the first rays of light at sunrise. Once the flowers stop growing, however, they tend to permanently face east.
Now, it's a gamble knowing what stage of maturity any given crop is going to be at over the summer months when you show up. If you arrive assuming that the flower heads will be pointing east, then by definition, some of the best light coming from behind the camera will be available at sunrise.
With this in mind, I crawled out of our tent about 45 minutes before official sunrise on our second day in the area. I drove 15 minutes towards Freestone and was lucky enough to score a handful of shots like the cover image above. Magic!
My account of what was a surprisingly fun weekend getaway is short and sweet. But I hope there's a few bits of information in there to help you on your way to planning out your own visit to the floral sun-seekers out Warwick way.
Don't be afraid, however, to drop any comments or questions you may have in the comments section below. Happy snapping!
Links & Credits
- Cover Image // Rob Masefield
- Stephen Waller Photography // instagram.com
- Kahler's Oasis Caravan Park // big4.com.au
- "Brighten up with a drive on the Sunflower Route" // racqliving.com.au
- "How Sunflowers Follow the Sun, Day After Day" // nytimes.com