New York City might own the moniker ‘The Big Apple’, but there’s another apple capital a lot closer to home that you need to know about, Stanthorpe.
Set in the south-west corner of Queensland along the borderline of Queensland and New South Wales, you’ll find the apple of the Granite Belt’s eye, the rural town of Stanthorpe.
Point your bonnet three hours south west of Brisbane or two hours from Toowoomba to discover a town that’s ripe for a weekend’s worth of discovering.
To help plan your apple adventure, take a bite out of these things to see and do in and around Stanthorpe:
1. Take a photo with Balancing Rock at Girraween National Park
Did you even come to Stanthorpe if you didn’t get a photo with the iconic Balancing Rock at Girraween National Park?
Precariously balanced on a tiny rock edge, Balancing Rock does as its name suggests, hanging in the air as though Mother Nature wanted to test Newton’s law of gravity.
There’s over 30km of tracks to work your way through within Girraween National Park, but if you’re after a photo with this main attraction, take The Pyramid walk to the top.
If you time your visit for Spring you’ll see why ‘Girraween’ translates to ‘a place of flowers’ as the Granite Belt’s wildflowers burst into bloom.
For more information about Girraween National Park, walk your fingers over to this post which covers everything you need to know before you go.
2. Cycle through the vineyards
There’s no need to save cycling tours for your next European adventure, join Granite Belt Bicycle Tours for the only bike tour through Queensland’s premier wine region.
The team will kit you out with a bike for your adventure for you to mosey between Stanthorpe’s wineries using only peddle power.
Whether you choose a self-guided adventure or would like a host to guide your day, immerse yourself in the wineries, gourmet produce and fruit orchards of Stanthorpe on two wheels rather than viewing it behind the passenger window glass.
With three formats of tour to choose from, you can discover the region at the pace it was meant to be savoured, slow.
For more ideas on how to power your wine-tasting adventure, swing over to this article with how to see the Granite Belt three different ways.
3. Meet a few Strange Birds
If you’ve watched Somm or Sour Grapes on Netflix and are ready to test your wine knowledge, may we introduce you to the Strange Bird Wine Trail, a self-guided tour through the Granite Belt region’s more unusual varieties.
You won’t find any Shiraz, Chardonnay or Merlot on this list – instead tongue-twisters like tannat, petit verdot, gewurztraminer and durifs, the kind of grapes that have caught the attention of wine guru James Halliday himself.
To earn a spot on the Strange Birds Wine Trail isn’t as easy as planting a kooky grape and bottling it, the conditions are stringent.
In fact, to be considered alternative, a variety must represent not more than 1% of the total bearing vines in Australia and there’s a governing body who makes the call if your vineyard makes the cut.
You can forget about getting your hands on a Strange Bird at your local liquor store – their small production quantities mean the only place to try them is the very cellar door they were made.
4. Mountain Bike up Mt Marlay
When you have a mountain that stands 910m above sea level, what do people do? They pack their mountain bikes and take on the region by the handlebars, tackling the granite trails of Mt Marlay.
Four graded trails wind their way across the mountain, with green trails marked for beginners through to black trails reserved for experienced riders.
Unlike other trails in the south-east corner, their granite base makes them suitable after heavy rains unlike some of Queensland’s sandier trails which require to dry out entirely before riders can hit the road.
When you’ve graduated from these trails, don’t forget there’s also two more fire trails to ride at the nearby Passchendaele State Forest and Broadwater State Forest to try too.
5. Taste a paddle of locally made beer at the Granite Belt Brewery
The craft beer scene isn’t reserved for big city centres, but regional ones too – with the Granite Belt Brewery pouring bespoke brewskis since 2012.
Their ales and lagers are all made in Granite country, all produced within their 1000 litre microbrewery which stands in the shade of Broadwater State Forest.
The best way to work your way through their frothies is with a tasting paddle of eight different craft beers, or better yet, order the Brewers Platter, which pairs four dishes to the beers so you aren’t drinking on an empty stomach.
6. Take the kids to the Christmas Farm all year round
You don’t need to travel to the north pole to get into the Christmas spirit all year round. Stanthorpe is home to the Granite Belt Christmas Tree Farm, which brings the magic of 25 December to the Granite Belt.
It’s the sort of experience that ignites your five senses, from the smell of the pines to the crunch of pine needles underfoot.
The team (who aptly go by the name Santa’s Helpers) busy themselves for the other 11 months of the year pruning the 10,000 trees grown here for the big day.
Time your visit for harvest season (1st-23rd December) for the kids to be able to pick their own Christmas tree.
No matter when you visit, you’ll have the chance to feed Santa’s animals including three reindeer – Rudolph, Dasher and Cupid.
7. Try truffles
When it comes to precious produce, it’s hard to rival the rare French Black Perigord Truffle, which is found in Stanthorpe all year round.
Discover more about these knobbly underground delicacies at the Truffle Discovery Centre, where you can take a guided tour of the truffière and enjoy truffle tastings (and truffle smelling!).
Forget a souvenir tea towel from your Granite Belt adventure – stock up for loved ones with supplies of truffle oil and truffle honey at the onsite gift store.
8. Get lost in the Granite Belt Maze
Parents, how would you like hours of peace and quiet while the kid’s problem solve outdoors? Enter the Granite Belt Maze, one of Australia’s highest mazes at over 900m above sea-level.
What separates this maze from other varieties is the fact it’s made entirely of timber, so you can keep an eye on the little ones at all times, with none of the claustrophobic feelings of being stuck inside a giant hedge.
To keep the maze challenging, you’ll be given a series of riddles and challenges to put your brains to the test.
Once you’ve graduated from the maze, your afternoon is sorted with a game of giant chess or putt-putt mini golf onsite, before returning to your nearby accommodation for the night.
9. Say cheese, please
Not many cheeseries can lay claim to being made from the same herd of pure-bred Jersey Cows from the one farm for over a decade, but the Stanthorpe Cheese can.
Their cheeses have been perfected over the past 12 years from their lofty Stanthorpe heights.
Inside their glass cabinets you’ll find 12 different varieties of cheese all named to give a nod to the local area – Brass Monkey Blue, Snowfall and Summit Sunset.
Pop into the tasting room for a sample, or for something more substantial, time your visit for lunch at the Jersey Girls Café, where you can tuck into a Ploughman’s lunch with cheese, crackers, relishes, eggs and cured meat, all washed down with a local wine.
10. Enjoy a picnic at Storm King Dam
If you’re looking for a scenic spot to pop the top off your picnic basket, take the car 10km out of Stanthorpe to Storm King Dam.
This recreational hotspot also attracts water sport enthusiasts and keen fishers for the chance of reeling in golden perch, murray cod, silver perch, jew and river black fish.
You can always check in on the water levels before you tow the boat all the way out, this scenic spot also doubles as the sole supply for Stanthorpe’s urban supply network and the levels are updated regularly online.
To help you continue planning your Southern Downs & Granite Belt adventure, check out these articles to inspire your travels:
- How to do the Southern Queensland Country National Parks Trail
- 8 of our favourite Stanthorpe Wineries
- A traveller’s guide to the Granite Belt
** Please check the availability of all operators prior to travel as opening hours and experiences may vary with COVID-19**