Beautiful scenery, fantastic food and lovely locals are just a few of the reasons to visit Stanthorpe and the Granite Belt. Escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life, taking the time to reconnect with yourself, those you love and the world around you. Spend your days exploring vineyards, connecting with local growers and sampling amazing food or cosy up in a vineyard cabin and get off the grid for a little while. However you choose to spend it, a trip to Stanthorpe and the Granite Belt is a nourishing experience. To help you plan an amazing trip of your own or simply be inspired to visit one day, here’s our ultimate guide to visiting.
But first, watch this…
Where is Stanthorpe and the Granite Belt?
The Granite Belt is an area of the Great Dividing Range in the Darling Downs region of Queensland, centred around the gorgeous town of Stanthorpe. It’s located very close to the Queensland and New South Wales border. The area gains its name from the predominantly granite rocks that distinguish it from other areas that make up much of South East Queensland. It’s a destination known for its spectacular scenery, incredible food and country hospitality. Interestingly, it’s also renowned for its apples and the region produces virtually all of Queensland’s apple crop! Here’s a screenshotted map to give you a clearer idea of where the region is located in relation to Brisbane, the Gold Coast and Byron Bay.
How to get there
You will most definitely need a car to get to Stanthorpe and the Granite Belt region. If you’re visiting from overseas and don’t have access to a car, you’ll need to hire one! In terms of vehicle size, a standard size car would be sufficient. It should take around 2 hours 45 minutes to drive to Stanthorpe from Brisbane CBD, 3 hours 15 minutes from the Gold Coast and around 3 hours 30 minutes from Byron Bay.
For us locals, it’s the perfect destination for a weekend getaway, especially if you were to make a long weekend out of it. You could easily take Friday off work or take advantage of a public holiday, for example, driving out on Friday, staying two nights and driving back home on Sunday afternoon. For overseas visitors, it would make an excellent addition to a road trip itinerary, offering the chance to explore country Queensland and sample our amazing food.
Best time to visit
When most people think of visiting Stanthorpe and the Granite Belt, they picture it as a winter destination. With an abundance of fantastic vineyards, great restaurants and cosy cabins with roaring fireplaces, it really does lend itself to being the perfect autumn or winter getaway. That said, Matt and I just visited in October, which is spring in Australia, and we absolutely loved it! The weather was beautiful and warm during the day and lovely and cool in the evenings, a far cry from the intense heat of Brisbane and surrounds. For me, Stanthorpe and the Granite Belt are a fantastic all-year-round destination!
We were speaking with the locals during our visit and they said they definitely see most visitors come in the cooler months but wish more people would visit in the warmer months too! In spring, you can expect to see the region bloom to life with fresh produce, wildflowers, baby animals and longer days. In summer, you can expect beautifully warm days that don’t get so hot it’s unbearable. This is the perfect weather for outdoor adventures, summer BBQ’s, sunset picnics and more!
Where to stay
There’s no shortage of fantastic accommodation options in the Granite Belt region so, really, you’re going to be spoilt for choice! Many are run by amazing locals whose passion for the region flows through into the accommodation they provide. You can expect personalised touches, a friendly welcome and help planning your days. I want to share with you the spot we stayed at for our most recent adventure, Ridgemill Estate.
You’ll find Ridgemill Estate located a short 10-minute drive from the heart of Stanthorpe. Not only does Ridgemill offer the perfect base for your adventures, but it’s also an award-winning boutique winery. We stayed in one of the eight studio style cabins and absolutely loved it! Our cabin was a really good size, allowing us plenty of room to get comfortable without feeling boxed in.
The cabin was equipped with a kitchenette, a great idea as it means you can stock up on local produce and provisions throughout the day and whip up your own delicious dinners or snacking platters to enjoy on the deck. The cabin also features a small desk, couch, television, fireplace, spacious and comfortable bed and a bathroom area. We found it had absolutely everything we could need!
We really enjoyed waking up on a winery each day. We would make a cup of coffee and head out onto the deck to sit and watch the area come to life, offering views over the vineyard and stunning country Queensland scenery. A great part of our stay was taking a stroll through the vineyard with the owner, Martin, who talked us through the history of the property and gave us a tour of the winemaking facilities, explaining the process as we sipped a glass of the good stuff! We also did a fantastic cellar door tasting with winemaker, Pete, which gave us an even deeper appreciation of what we were experiencing.
Another highlight for me was putting together a fruit, bread and cheese platter and heading out to a secluded picnic spot beneath the persimmon trees for a sunset picnic. Ridgemill also offers BBQ facilities for guests so you could have a fantastic starlit dinner, feasting on the best local food and enjoy a few glasses of wonderful wine without having to worry about driving.
We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at Ridgemill Estate. The location was excellent as it was close to town but far enough away that we felt like we were escaping it all. The accommodation was comfortable, enjoyable and catered to our every need and the additions of the vineyard, cellar door and resident goats and cats just made it that much more special. If you’re looking for a great place to stay in the Stanthorpe and Granite Belt region, I definitely recommend Ridgemill Estate.
Best things to do in Stanthorpe and the Granite Belt
The region offers a seemingly endless list of fantastic things to see, do and eat. To get you started, here are a few great ideas:
- Do a guided or self-guided tour of the region with Granite Belt Bicycle Tours & Hire. There are a number of different guided tours to choose from which highlight key spots and activities or if you prefer, arrange a gourmet hamper and explore on your own!
- Spend an hour or two at Ashbern Farms where you can pick your own strawberries fresh from the patch! Bragging rights and a free scoop of ice cream await the person who finds the biggest berry and the cafe serves up delicious bites including strawberry parfait, milkshakes and waffles. Yum!
- Stop in at Sam’s Fresh Fruit & Veg to stock up on fresh fruit, vegetables and delicious provisions like cheese, fresh bread, preserves, jams and more. We left with a box full of goodies and created an amazing fruit, bread and cheese platter out of it.
- Grab breakfast or brunch at the historic Wallangarra Railway Cafe. The cafe serves up delicious food including fluffy homemade corn fritters and yummy eggs benedict, perfectly accompanied by a great cup of coffee. All of this is best enjoyed at one of the seats on the railway platform.
- Be sure to visit Sutton’s Juice Factory Cidery & Cafe and get stuck into a monster piece of their famous apple pie! They also sell a range of delicious, fresh apple juice and other goodies like apple cider vinegar, chutneys and jams.
- Head into Girraween National Park and explore the various trails leading to amazing viewpoints, past huge granite boulders and beautiful stretches of bushland.
- Be sure to visit some of the region’s amazing wineries for cellar door tastings. If you’re keen to try a few and don’t want to worry about legal drinking limits, there are a number of operators who can help you with guided tours. Otherwise, you may like to drive yourself and either nominate a designated driver or space your tastings out over a few days.
- Grab a bite to eat at the Granite Belt Brewery where you can sample their delicious range of beers with a tasting flight or famous Brewers Platter with four dishes perfectly paired to complement the beers.
- Enjoy a delicious breakfast, fantastic service and wonderful coffee at the beautifully decorated Brinx Deli & Cafe! The food here is absolutely fantastic and it’s a great way to start a day – just be sure to book a table for breakfast on the weekends as it’s very popular (and rightly so!)
- Indulge in a spectacular lunch or dinner at Varias Restaurant overlooking the vineyard and town of Stanthorpe. Sample mouth-watering dishes like beetroot and fetta arancini, BBQ duck leg and perfectly cooked sirloin.
- Check out the Market in the Mountains held the second Sunday of each month showcasing arts, crafts, gifts, food, organic products, plants and so much more!
What to pack
If you’re visiting in the cooler months you’ll need your full winter get-up including lots of layers, warm coats, a beanie, scarves and warm socks and shoes. If you’re visiting in spring or summer you’ll want to pack clothes that are light and breathable for the sunlight hours as well as a few warm options to pull on once the sun goes down. Be sure to keep sun safety in mind and pack a hat, sunscreen and long-sleeve shirt as well. If you aren’t from Australia, you may not be used to our intense sun and could easily get burnt. Don’t make the mistake of underestimating it as an Aussie sunburn is no joke! Trust me!
5 Top tips for visiting Stanthorpe and the Granite Belt
- Make sure you allow extra drive time as you move through the region. There are loads of great spots to stop at including cafes and producers of delicious goodies like jams, preserves, cheese, chocolate and so on. You’ll spot them as you drive around and will want to ensure you have enough time to duck into those that take your fancy.
- It’s really important to keep in mind that crops are the livelihoods of the farmers who work them. With that in mind, it’s not okay to stop and pick produce from anyone’s private property (unless you’ve been given express permission by the property owner). It’s also not okay to wander onto a farm for a look around. There are plenty of ways to sample locally grown fruit and vegetables so be sure to visit places like Sam’s Fresh Fruit & Veg and spots like Sutton’s.
- Don’t wait until winter or autumn to visit! The region is the perfect playground for your spring and summer adventures so be sure to head out there, support the locals and their businesses and have an amazing getaway in the process.
- The locals are a big part of what makes the region so special so be sure to connect with them where possible. For us, this was in little moments talking to accommodation providers, restaurant and cafe staff/owners and even just people on the street! The country hospitality is fantastic and connecting with the locals makes a visit even more enjoyable.
- Don’t be deterred by bushfires or drought! The best way to show your support for the amazing people in the region is to head out there and visit. We spoke to so many wonderful people from growers and suppliers to accommodation and tour operators who wanted people to know the region is open for business and ready for your visit! If the thought of drought or bushfires is holding you back, banish those thoughts and get out there.
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