When was the last time you escaped to the country? To where the air is clean, the seasons ever-changing and the produce plucked straight from the very ground on which you walk?
If it’s been too long, it’s time to discover the Granite Belt, the region that sits three hours from Brisbane, whose natural assets give rise to one of the best food and wine scenes in the country.
Start planning your trip to the Granite Belt with these 10 things to do.
1. Go from winery to winery
Queensland’s very own wine country needs little introduction, renowned for its cool climate wines which you can sample at over 50 cellar doors in the region.
In fact, the Granite Belt wears the title of Queensland’s most-awarded wine region.
Oenophiles can thank Mother Nature for the perfect winemaking conditions – the region’s high altitude and cool climate (the coldest place in Queensland no less) make for nutrient-rich soil, perfect for growing.
So where do you start with so many cellar doors to try? These 8 of our favourite Stanthorpe wineries.
2. Wander Girraween National Park
Welcome to the granite playground on the Granite Belt, Girraween National Park, the 117km2 National Park that hugs the boundary of Queensland and New South Wales.
You’ll want to pack your walking shoes to discover Girraween’s many hiking trails which range from short strolls to long term multi-day adventure hikes.
Undoubtedly the most famous route is the Pyramid, which takes you all the way to Balancing Rock, the giant granite boulder precariously placed on what looks like a 10-cent piece.
To help you start planning your Granite Belt adventure, you’ll want to read everything you need to know about Girraween National Park.
If coming from Brisbane, the Sunshine Coast or the Gold Coast, be aware Girraween is a good three-plus hour’s drive, so it’s a little far for a day trip. You’ll want to keep these places to stay near Girraween to stay up your sleeve.
3. Visit somewhere that’s always in the mood for Christmas
Are you the sort of person who has their Christmas tree up well before 1 December, decks the house with fairy lights and plays carols on repeat?
The Granite Belt shares your love for the festive season with its very own Christmas Tree Farm, which celebrates the magic of 25 December all year round.
Spend the day exploring Santa’s animals (reindeer!), wandering the avenues of Christmas trees and breathing in the aroma of freshly crushed pine needles underfoot.
Each December, the farm starts its harvest season, where visitors come from far and wide to pick their perfect Christmas tree, ranging from small potted 65cm versions to towering 11.5-foot trees.
Beyond trees for purchase, the onsite gift store, Mistletoe Store, packs more Christmas cheer than the North Pole itself – a place where you can pick up a Christmas souvenir no matter when you visit.
4. Visit a place that celebrates sundown
It might not be as famous as its Girraween National Park neighbour, but if you have a 4WD and an appetite for adventure, you’ll want to visit Sundown National Park.
You’ll find this national park on the Queensland-New South Wales border, accessed via Stanthorpe in the north and Tenterfield in the south.
It’s a place that’s not for the faint-hearted – with zero phone distractions, challenging bush walks and sections of the park only open to the adventurous few happy to test their car’s 4WD capability.
Best known for its dramatic landscapes, you can expect sheer-sided gorges, tree-lined ridges and peaks rising over 1000 metres above the Severn River.
If you have a conventional vehicle, you’ll want to enter via the Broadwater camping area at the southern end of the park.
5. Pedal the Granite Belt Bike Trail
Peddling through vineyards doesn’t need to be reserved for the hills of France and Spain – you can cycle the Stanthorpe to Ballandean Bike Trail in the Granite Belt too.
Hire a bike, pack your own or join a guided bike tour with Granite Belt Bicycle Tours to follow 32km of quiet country roads which connect the famous vineyards.
Forming one of our favourite three ways to do the Granite Belt, easy, graded riding conditions link to some of the best restaurants in the region so you can order that degustation with none of the guilt that goes with it!
6. Enjoy an apple a day
Proudly wearing the crown as the apple capital of Queensland, the Granite Belt produces all of Queensland’s apple crop.
Take a drive through apple country, following Amiens Road, which hugs many of the orchards which burst into bloom over summer in time for picking from February.
To sample farm fresh apples straight from the branch, pay a visit to the Seasonal Feast Markets in Stanthorpe CBD and taste the difference.
All year round you’ll find apple by-products pumping out of Suttons Juice Factory – with everything from juice to apple cider vinegar and apple brandy.
No matter when you visit, you can’t visit the Granite Belt without a slice of their apple pie, served with apple cider ice cream and fresh cream, or better yet, both!
7. Man-made Pyramid at Ballandean
Skip the international air travel to Egypt – did you know there is a pyramid sitting in the Granite Belt’s backyard?
Built with over 7,500 tonnes of granite rock, the Ballandean Pyramid stands 17.5m high, sitting in the middle of a paddock owned by the winery, Henty Estate.
While you can’t climb it or walk to its base, you can still take an excellent tourist style photo from the roadside, pretending to touch the top of this stone pyramid.
Don’t forget to share your pictures with us over at #sqcountry.
8. Take a spin across Donnellys Castle
Don’t let the name fool you, Donnellys Castle isn’t a real castle but a granite rock formation a short drive from Stanthorpe, near Poziers.
You can walk all over this rock formation, which once played hideout to ‘Thunderbolt’ a bushranger who roamed the New England Tableland.
Today, Donnellys Castle attracts picnickers rather than bushrangers who come to explore the well-maintained parkland that surround the area.
9. Discover the history and heritage of the Granite Belt
Turn back the pages of the Granite Belt’s history with a visit to the Stanthorpe Heritage Museum.
Inside you’ll find history ranging from pastoral, tin mining, orcharding, military, Aboriginal, Italian, Red Cross, medical and social history from the area.
Made up of 14 buildings, including the Shepherd’s Hut (1842), Gaol (1876), School Residence (1894) Ardmore House (1920) Heath House (1940) Council Chambers (1914) and Telecom building – you’ll find more than 20,000 artefacts within the museum.
10. Pick your own strawberries
Everyone knows strawberries picked straight from the vine taste all the more sweeter, and good news for strawberry lovers there’s more than just apples grown in Stanthorpe. Enter, Ashbern Farm in Stanthorpe.
Picking season runs from October to May where you’re able to pick your own strawberries straight from the patch.
Fill your punnet as much as you like, you’ll only pay by the weight of what you picked.
There are other ways to enjoy strawberries beyond farm-fresh at the onsite gift store, which sells everything from strawberry jam to ice cream.