When you think of Queensland, the first things that comes to mind might be beaches, rainforest, swimming with turtles and warm, sunny weather. But there is so much more to the state and Stanthorpe is a great place to visit for a very different Queensland experience.
Stanthorpe is part of the Granite Belt region, and it is all about local wines, local produce, beautiful landscapes, granite boulders and relaxing nights by the fire with a glass of red wine. Stanthorpe has something different to offer and is worth visiting in any season!
So here is what you need to know for the perfect weekend in or around Stanthorpe.
Where is Stanthorpe?
Stanthorpe is two and a half hours from Brisbane, or a three-and-a-half-hour drive from the Gold Coast. This is the perfect distance for a weekend getaway because one day just wouldn’t do it justice. If you are coming from the Gold Coast, you should take the scenic route past Beaudesert and Boonah. This route offers views over the scenic rim and the Great Dividing Range, a much more interesting drive.
What to do in Stanthorpe and the Granite Belt?
Go wine tasting
We’ve slowly been ticking the Australian wine regions off our list and have visited a fair few of them over the years. But when we moved to Queensland, we had no idea that there was even a wine region here. I mean isn’t it too hot to have good wine?
It turns out we were wrong. When we learned about the Granite Belt wine region, we knew we had to check it out. At 800 metres above sea-level, Stanthorpe is one of the coldest towns in Queensland, with a perfect climate for growing grapes. It even occasionally snows there in winter! Snow in Queensland, who would have thought?
There are 50 wineries on the Granite Belt, so if you enjoy some tasting you won’t be bored. However, as there is more to the Granite Belt than wine, you might want to pick just a few and keep the rest for next time!
We were actually very surprised with the quality of the wines we tasted. For a region that we had never heard of, the wine was very nice! The temperature was perfect for red wine drinking which we struggle with in Brisbane due to the warm climate.
On this trip, we visited:
We visited Symphony Hills because of its 5-star James Halliday ratings, and we were not disappointed. The wine was outstanding, so much so that we signed up to their wine club! Their Saperavi, Grillo and Albarino were our favourites.
Ballandean Estate is the oldest winery in the Granite Belt Region. Wine making began there in 1932. Their cellar door, however, only opened to the public in 1970. Ballandean Estate is Queensland’s oldest family owned and operated winery and one of the most popular in the region. Do not miss this one! Their Barrelroom restaurant is a great place for lunch or dinner.
Golden Grove Estate
Just across the road from Ballandean Estate, Golden Grove is also worth the detour. The lovely lady at the cellar door took us through their whole wine list and explained every drop. We couldn’t help but buy a few bottles to take home!
Balancing Heart Estate
We visited the Balancing Heart vineyard on their sunset pizza night and did a tasting beforehand. The winery gets its name from an interesting rock formation that sits amongst the vines. The natural granite rock formation resembles a heart balancing on a rock. The setting is beautiful, with a dam and vineyards in the foreground and granite boulders in the background. Their wines are very nice too!
You might even meet their beautiful wine dog who won’t mind sharing your pizza crusts with you!
We stayed in the cabin at Montview wines, so it was a short walk for us to get to their cellar door. Great reds and whites with super friendly owners. We ended up doing a very long tasting with them on our second night.
Go for a hike in the Girraween National Park
The Girraween National Park has over 30 kilometres of walking tracks, so if you enjoy a hike, take some time off from wine tasting and make your way there. This national park is home to dramatic landscapes and huge granite boulders.
The most popular hike is to the Pyramid where you get views of the Balancing Rock, however, the track was closed when we visited. We hiked to the Turtle Rock, Sphynx, and Castle Rock instead. It was an amazing hike and we loved it. The views from the top of Castle Rock were spectacular.
If you visit in Spring, you’ll see lots of wildflowers in bloom. Keep your eyes peeled for the local wildlife. If you arrive early enough, you might see a few kangaroos on the lawn right across from the visitor centre.
Have lunch at the Barrelroom
The Barrelroom is Ballandean Estate’s signature restaurant. The dishes are delicious and showcase the best of the local produce. Pair your food with some of their amazing wines for a nice lazy lunch amongst yes, you’ve guessed, its old barrels!
Take a stroll by Quart Pot Creek
Park the car by the Stanthorpe visitor centre and take some time to walk alongside this beautiful creek which meanders through Stanthorpe. There are five kilometres of walking (and bike) tracks so it’s a good walk to do to kick off a day of wining and dining!
Listen to the sounds of the flowing water as you pass by water-worn granite boulders and some stunning reflections. This walk is even more beautiful during the fall when the trees turn orange and red. There are lots of native birds around so keep your eye out for them. Why not bring a picnic to enjoy in one of the parks by the creek?
Admire the Red Bridge
During your walk along the Quart Pot Creek, be sure to check out the Red Bridge. The “Red” Bridge isn’t red anymore, but it’s a nice bridge all the same. It was built in 1886 as part of the Brisbane to Sydney rail line. Part of Queensland’s evolving history, it is now heritage listed. It was built solely using manpower, horse drawn drays and explosives. It’s a must see while in Stanthorpe due to its role in the town’s history but also because it’s a great photo op!
Visit the Granite Belt Brewery
Once you’re done with the wine, head to the Granite Belt Brewery. There, you can order a tasting flight and sample their delicious range of beers. They serve some lovely food too so you can even grab a bite to eat.
Check out the view at the Mount Marley lookout
The Mount Marley lookout provides 360-degree views over the township of Stanthorpe. There’s a 10-minute walk around the summit, and free-to-use mounted telescope and binoculars.
Visit the historic Wallangarra Railway Cafe
The historic Wallangarra Railway Station is right on the Queensland / New South Wales border. There, you can stand with one foot in Queensland and one in New South Wales!
The railway station was built in 1888 to service travellers who had to change trains from the standard gauge of New South Wales to Queensland’s narrower gauge. The two trains met here.
If you look closely, you can see the difference in the gauge sizes and a difference in the roofs on either side of the station building. The Queensland side has a bull nose roof, and the New South Wales side has a flat skillion roof. There is a small museum within the station buildings (it’s free) and there’s a café in the old railway dining rooms.
Go cheese tasting
Wine and cheese, the best things in life, right? The Stanthorpe Cheese shop is the highest and coldest dairy farm cheese shop in Queensland. They make cheese from a single herd of purebred Jersey cows.
In their tasting room you can sample around 12 cheeses, or if you are hungry, you can visit the Jersey Girls Café, where you can tuck into a Ploughman’s lunch with various cheeses, crackers, relishes, eggs, and cured meat, all washed down with a nice glass of local wine!
Where to stay?
There are many accommodation choices on the Granite Belt. Whether you want a hotel, a cabin, camping, a farm-stay, or a winery-stay you will find what you are looking for.
We stayed in an Airbnb cabin in Mountview Wines which was perfect for the two of us. Wine on site, lovely views, and a nice and cosy cabin.
Here are some more good options:
Just Red Wines Cabins – Winery stay
Windswept Country Retreat – Farm Stay
Granite Belt Cabins – Cabins
Ridgemill Estate – Aparthotel
If none of those are suitable, you can use HotelsCombined to search across all the major accommodation websites.