8 Summer Adventures in Stanthorpe
Scramble through bushranger hide-outs, discover cool rock pools or devour delicious local treats…the choice is yours! Base yourself in Stanthorpe and choose your summer adventure with these ideas for your alternate summer escape.
Near the QLD–NSW border lies the exciting landscape of Queensland’s Granite Belt high country – a famed wine destination, full of surprising adventures for family and friends this summer.
1. Caves & Crevices at Donnellys Castle
You’re in for true amazement if you’ve never discovered Donnellys Castle… and let’s clear it up from the start, it’s not actually a castle. This quiet spot is a wonderland of huge rocks with cave-like entrances and narrow crevices - a hidden gem that’s fun to explore at all ages!
Donnellys Castle is famously the site used by bushranger ‘Captain Thunderbolt’ as his hideout! Thunderbolt was the longest roaming bushranger in Australian history and it’s no surprise he managed to elude authorities here, because as you wander over, under and through the network of boulders, you too will feel you’re hidden away from the world! There’s also an exciting lookout sited on the top of one of the granite outcrops.
While it’s not suitable for those with limited mobility, it’s ideal for young families to explore. Locate the picnic area off Amiens then Goodwin Road, 15 minutes drive north of Stanthorpe.
Tip: If the family are left waiting to see a ‘castle’, don’t worry, you can view Castle Glen Winery on Amiens Road – it is an intriguing faux castle.
2. Cheese OR apples
All the granite boulder adventuring of Donnellys Castle will leave you hungry for some tastes of the Granite Belt and it’s just down the road to your choice of Stanthorpe’s Cheese Factory or Sutton's Apple Juice & Cider Factory.
Sample true farmhouse cheeses at Stanthorpe Cheese, where more than 1,000 cheese wheels await your tasting…ok well at least a dozen at their cheese tasting bar! Their artisan cheeses are made from a single herd of purebred Jersey cows from their farm, making their cheeses totally unique.
Tip: Their Ploughman’s Lunch is a big favourite! Open daily 10am-4pm.
If a fresh farm baked apple pie sounds more to your tasting, head to Sutton’s Apple Cider & Juice Factory, where their on farm shed café offers a distinctly Granite Belt food experience. Almost all of Queensland’s apples are produced on the Granite Belt and here at Sutton’s Farm you can sample what is often heralded by visitors and foodies as the ‘best apple pie ever’! Seriously it’s amazing and served with their own unique flavour of spiced ice-cream to die for. Open daily 9.30am-4.30pm.
3. Discover a summer taste - only experienced on farm!
Ashbern Farms is a family-owned commercial strawberry farm that offers pick-your-own strawberries in Stanthorpe and it’s here we promise you’ll experience a strawberry tasting epiphany. Open Wed - Sun 9am - 4:30pm.
Nothing at all compares to the taste of ripe strawberries picked straight from the patch and eaten still warmed by the sun. Strawberries lose a little magic as soon as they hit the cool rooms, so visit the farm this summer for the sweetest summer experience!
Tip: Their strawberry ice cream is made on farm and yum yum yum!
4. Mt Marley and the Red Bridge
Right in the heart of Stanthorpe there’s two spots the locals love to walk and we know you’ll enjoy discovering Stanthorpe as you walk them too. A drive up the winding road to the top of Mt Marley brings you to the vast views from Mt Marley lookout, where a short but fun little cement walking track encircles the mountain summit.
Tip: If you’re into mountain biking, there are tracks for both novice and experienced riders. There’s nothing like riding across the granite.
Head down at the creek level near the Stanthorpe Visitor Information Centre to follow the scenic walking path that follows Quart Pot Creek to Red Bridge. OK let’s not confuse, you – it’s not actually red, but this heritage railway bridge is a sight to see as it sits to spectacularly astride the creek.
5. The family friendly tastings bar
This is the opportunity for ALL to get in on the Granite Belt tastings! Jamworks Gourmet Foods have a tasting bar, with sweet jams and tasty relishes, all made from Granite Belt locally grown produce.
Stop in for some seriously delicious treats and you’ll find their café menu features local produce too. This is a very popular experience and a must-stop on the New England Highway in Glen Aplin, south of Stanthorpe. Open Fri - Tues, 9am - 4:30pm and daily during school holidays.
6. Discover new wine varieties
You may be a wine lover, but have you tasted the white wine Alvarinho? We’re guessing probably not – it’s a rare variety and just released by Sancerre Estate in Ballandean – the first time this variety has been released on the Granite Belt!
It’s a grape variety typically grown in northwest Spain and Portugal, but the Granite Belt wine region is increasingly becoming known for its production of rare variety wines, known here as ‘Strange Birds.’
Follow the Strange Bird Wine Trail to discover wine tastes you’ve never encountered before and learn how they uniquely match to foods.
7. The Ballandean Pyramid
Image credit: @experienceknows
Sight-seeing takes an unexpected turn on the road between Stanthorpe and Ballandean, as through the trees travellers spot the most unlikely structure – a giant pyramid! Sitting 17m high, and 30msq at the base, the pyramid was built from local granite and sits curiously in the countryside surrounded by vineyards and farmland.
Stop to snap a photo with the pyramid, but be mindful that it’s on private land and so can be approached 25m away, from the roadside on Jacobson Lane, accessed off the New England Highway at Ballandean via Eukey Road, signposted Highland Drive.
8. Rock pools and balancing boulders
No adventure around Stanthorpe is complete without a visit to Girraween National Park. Even the drive sets an exciting scene, with so many boulders on each side of the road that a child-like mind can’t help but think of the ‘Rock Biter’ from the movie The Never Ending Story or the trolls in the movie Frozen.
Within the park, discover precariously balanced granite boulders and amazing views across 14 different walking and hiking tracks. We love Bald Rock Creek circuit and The Junction tracks for finding cool rock pools for dipping toes in – or take a dip if you’re feeling brave, but they can be frosty even in during the middle of summer!
Choose your own adventure with family and friends around Stanthorpe this summer and be amazed at so much more to discover: with a giant outdoor maze, truffle discovery centre, security dogs training demonstrations, a lavender farm, soap and candle makers, chocolate cottage and so much more to explore, all found dotted amongst dozens of cellar doors!
And the best way to see the cellar doors this summer? Book your group on one of the many local cellar door tours, so no-one has to be designated driver and you’ll love the added benefits of a local tour guide with specialist knowledge!
There are lots of accommodation options for visiting the Stanthorpe region, including multi-roomed country farmhouses, country villas neighbouring each other and caravan park cabins by the creek.
Stanthorpe and the Granite Belt is located near the Queensland – New South Wales border on the New England Highway, 2.5hrs from Brisbane, 3hrs from the Gold Coast, or 2hrs from Toowoomba.
See you soon!
This article was written by our good friends at Granite Belt Wine Tourism
For more inspiration on where to explore across Southern Queensland Country, check out our handy guide or head to our blog.