Queensland might be best known for its endless summer, but in the south-east corner, there’s a pocket of countryside that gloriously celebrates all four seasons, the Southern Downs and Granite Belt.
Hugging the border of Queensland and New South Wales, this destination is defined by its seasonality, which provides for farm-fresh produce, an award-winning wine trail and a natural playground that’s best explored with boots and a backpack.
If you’re looking for something new to do this holiday season, spend winter like this in the Southern Downs and Granite Belt.
1. Put Tyres to Tarmac
Any hodophile worthy of their title knows that bright blue, cloudless winter skies beg for exploring on four wheels.
If you’re looking for a drive-route that’s as much about the journey as the destination, this four day Nature and Foodies Trail packages up the best of the Southern Downs and Granite Belt into a neat itinerary package.
Sitting just shy of three hours from Brisbane, Stanthorpe (and these 10 things to do), is the epicentre of this itinerary, which takes in Girraween National Park and meets the makers and creators of the region.
2. Visit the Giant Thermometer in Stanthorpe
When a town lays claim to being the ‘coldest place in Queensland’, it’s fitting there’s a Big Thermometer to celebrate its shivery status.
Time your Stanthorpe visit for a cold snap and watch the mercury drop (sometimes) into negative figures, making Stanthorpe very much an outlier when it comes to the State’s average temperatures.
If you fancy yourself a snow chaser, you’ll want to keep your eyes on the weather report too, with snow flurries predicted for parts of the region most winters.
Snow or no snow, after snapping a selfie with the big thermometer, pop inside the Stanthorpe Visitor Information Centre to ask for insider’s Stanthorpe tips, before following the short walk that runs along the creek by the centre.
3. Hike Girraween National Park in the Cooler Weather
Explore Mother Nature in the optimum hiking conditions, winter, putting hiking boot to granite pavement in Girraween National Park.
Spread across 117 square kilometres, Girraween National Park is a granite playground, whose other-worldly stone formations seem to defy gravity and all laws of physics.
While there are a myriad of walking tracks to tackle, some of which will take you on multi-day hiking adventures, if you’re here for the main attraction, Balancing Rock, take the 3.6km return journey to The Pyramid.
4. Have a White Christmas at the Granite Belt Christmas Farm
Christmas in Queensland might be more of the hot and humid variety, but there’s one place which celebrates the silly season 24/7, 365 – Granite Belt Christmas Farm.
Have yourself a white Christmas (or at least, an opportunity to wear your ugly Christmas sweater while it’s cold) at this Stanthorpe Santa-institution, which grows over 10,000 Christmas trees each year.
More than just pine trees, there’re plenty of ways to get into the Christmas spirit from feeding Santa’s animals ($2 will get you a bucket of feed), shopping decorations in the Mistletoe Store or sampling Mrs. Claus’ festive hand-crafted sweet treats.
5. Explore the Region’s Cellar Doors
Sitting 1000m above sea level, the growing is good for wine in the Granite Belt.
Did you know, the Granite Belt is one of the highest wine regions in the world, almost 900m higher than Bordeaux or Napa Valley?
Vines were first planted here in the 1860s, and since then, the region has grown its reputation as one of the country’s finest wine producing regions and certainly is Queensland’s most-awarded.
Go from cellar door to cellar door, basking in the cosy atmosphere of each, sinking into a leather bar stool or swirling a glass of red wine by a roaring fire.
Taste everything from mainstream varieties such as shiraz and merlot, or meet the lesser known varieties aka StrangeBirds along the self-drive trail of the same name.
With over 50 cellar doors in region, you can expect to arrive a novice in cool climate wines and leave with near expert status.
6. Enjoy a Hearty Meal
When the weather turns cold, it’s time for the meals to be served hot – think mashed potatoes, slow cooked brisket and sourdough bread that’s been cultured for longer than it’s been a trend.
Warm up like a local at the Killarney Hotel, which has a fireplace in the main dining area and a menu starring all your pub favourites.
For something hearty to get you through Warwick’s winter, Rupert’s Bar and Grill serves up local fare including MSA graded beef, fresh seafood and succulent lamb.
If you find yourself in Stanthorpe and are looking for both a bite and brew, drop your pin on the Granite Belt Brewery, whose six on-tap brews are all crafted and bottled onsite, and made with Stanthorpe’s very own H2O.
For something more upmarket, translating from the German word “to eat”, Essen in Stanthorpe, takes its grow local, eat local approach very seriously. You’ll find its menu changes on a weekly basis, to reflect the season and local availability.
7. Stay Somewhere Toasty
Nothing savours the winter season quite like curling up around a fireplace or cosying down under a doona.
To stay close to the vines, nestle into a cabin at Ridgemill Estate and rise and wine, catching the first and last rays of the day bask over the award-winning vineyard.
If you’re chasing a charming wintery cottage, Diamondvale Cottages, has your winter escape’s name all over its 30 acres of pristine granite landscape.
For history and heritage told closer to your accommodation home, a stay at the Abbey Boutique Hotel promises tales from the past through its architecture.
This heritage-listed bed and breakfast takes you back to 1891, when the building was built originally as a convent for the Sisters of Mercy.
Today it’s all about cosying up in grand luxuries, including an oversized fireplace at the foot of your bed.
This is how we do winter like this in the Southern Downs and Granite Belt – we’ll see you soon.