_____–If you thought the only things to see and do in Southern Queensland Country were to explore the countryside and go camping – think again.
We’re full of surprises in our country – from secret bushranger hideouts on the Granite Belt to the quirkiest winter festival in the west.
If you like your holiday destinations to come with more than meets the eye, read on for our list of things you didn’t know you could do in Southern Queensland Country.
1. Explore a bushranger’s hideout at Donnelly’s Castle in Stanthorpe
If you’ve tackled these 10 things to see and do in the Granite Belt, you probably think you’ve seen it all, but we bet you didn’t know there’s a hidden castle waiting to be explored. Well sort of.
Located in Pozieres, a short drive from Stanthorpe, Donnelly’s Castle was once the secret hideout of Australia’s longest roaming bushranger, Captain Thunderbolt.
With a maze of giant granite boulders, caves and crevices, it’s easy to see why this was the perfect hiding place for Thunderbolt to evade authorities.
Explore the boulders to discover the secret passageways within and be sure to head to the top for spectacular views over the Granite Belt.
2. Visit Australia’s highest whisky bar in the Bunya Mountains
If you like a dram or two, make your way to Shackleton’s Whisky Bar in the Bunya Mountains.
Officially Australia’s highest whisky bar, you’ll want to spend a few days in the Bunyas to work your way through the 113 whiskies on the menu.
At 1000m above sea level, things can get a little cool in the Bunya Mountains – pull up a stool around the fireplace and let the warm whisky soothe your soul and your tastebuds.
With the Bunya Mountains National Park as your backdrop, we’re sure you’ll have no trouble tasting your way around the world with whiskies on the menu from Scotland, Ireland, Japan and America.
There’s more to see than just the whisky bar though. Here’s everything to know about the Bunya Mountains before you go.
3. Milk a sheep in the Lockyer Valley
You may have milked a cow, but have you ever milked a sheep?
In Grantham in the Lockyer Valley, you can do just that at the Awassi Cheesery, the local artisan sheep cheesery.
Awassi sheep are one of the biggest producing dairy breeds in the world, with their milk naturally homogenised, high in fat and proteins as well as low in lactose, which means they are ideal for producing milk for delicious yoghurts and cheese.
If you want to give sheep milking a go, you’ll need to head to Awassi Cheesery nice and early to be part of the cheese-making process.
Make your way to the property surrounded by avocado orchards for Awassi Cheesery’s farm gate experience Thursday to Sunday or attend one of their functions such as the Big Fat Lamb lunch, the Bees, Cheese and Honey Tour, or their Middle Eastern brunch sessions.
Psst – while you’re in the Lockyer Valley, discover where to source local produce with this guide.
4. Attend Queensland’s quirkiest winter festival in Warwick
There’s really nothing else quite like attending one of Southern Queensland Country’s quirky events and Jumpers & Jazz in July just might take the cake … or yarn.
Taking place in Warwick in the Southern Downs region, the festival takes over the Warwick main street for two weekends each July with over 100 artwork installations and live jazz bands coming together to create one big outdoor art gallery and street festival.
Expect to see streets of trees which have been ‘yarnbombed’ to be dressed up in tree jumpers – a concept created by the Warwick Art Gallery to personalise the bare winter trees across the region.
The event aims to bring colour and creativity to the streets of Warwick supported by the smooth tones of jazz music from local and interstate musicians.
5. Get on your bike in the Crows Nest Mountain Bike Mecca
Get back to nature and explore the local sights on two wheels on the Mountain Bike Mecca trails of the High Country Hamlets.
Located just a short drive from Toowoomba, Mountain Bike Mecca are a series of trail rides through Crows Nest with paths suitable for beginners through to more experienced riders.
There are seven trails to choose from (with more in the works) taking in the sights and sounds of the region such as the 22.2km Dahl Road Crows Nest National Park Loop for beginner to intermediate level riders.
Be sure to pop in to grab a beverage from the iconic Crows Nest Soft Drinks as well as stopping to refuel your energy levels, and discover the local produce the High Country Hamlets region is known for, with lunch at Nest Café or The Curly Carrot.
6. Try your luck at experiencing snow in the Granite Belt
This is one experience you won’t be able to plan in advance for – a winter snow escape on the Granite Belt.
At 2661 feet above sea level, the Granite Belt has been known to snow every four or five years officially making it Queensland’s coldest town.
It’s a case of being in the right place at the right time, to catch the rare Stanthorpe snowfall season.
The last major snowfalls took place in 2015 with the region receiving the most significant snowfall they’ve seen in 30 years – 8cm of soft white snow covered the Queensland wine region.
Did anyone order a wine snow cone?
Diary date: Make sure you head to Stanthorpe for the bi-annual “Snowflakes in Stanthorpe” event on 2-4 July 2021. Accommodation books up quickly so it’s best to plan your getaway soon!
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