When the Queensland summer heat becomes too much, my favourite formula for escaping the humidity is to head to the hills on a weekend road trip to discover somewhere new – to relax, soak up the atmosphere, sample some culinary delights and explore.
Tucked up in Granite Belt wine country is Stanthorpe, a town affectionately known as the ‘coldest town in Queensland’ during winter. However, during the warm summer months the area is blossoming with life; fruit and vegetables fill the fields, the vineyards hang full of grapes and the town has a lively buzz.
Leave Brisbane early on a Saturday morning, drive the 250 kilometres inland and start your 24-hour adventure around Stanthorpe. Here’s my guide to enjoying the best of the area:
1pm Lunch at the Big Apple
Twenty kilometres short of Stanthorpe on the New England Highway is a wonderful delicatessen, café and wine store called Vincenzo’s, owned and run by a fantastically, quirky Italian man. His shop stocks everything from olives to salami and macadamias to merlot. My personal favourite – his homemade tomato relish with chili.
3pm Discover a winery tour
As the heat of the day starts to subside it’s time to wander through the vineyards of a local winery. With over 50 vineyards scattered around the hillsides taking part in a tour is a must-do – the difficult thing is deciding which one to join!
We stopped off at Felsburg Winery, a magnificent red cedar and granite building that’s perched on the top of the hill just south of Stanthorpe, wandered through the vineyards, sampled their Merlot and Shiraz (my favourite) and admired the view.
9am Trek through a national park
An early start is the key to having an enjoyable walk in Granite Country, to avoid the midday heat. Girraween National Park, situated 25 kilometres south of Stanthorpe, is the site of ancient volcanos. The elements have weathered the granite landscape into outcrops that protrude from the hillside like enormous globules or huge freestanding marbles, as river courses tumble around them leaving beautifully carved, deep plunge pools to refresh you in the heat of the day.
The well-kept trails range from one to 20 kilometres, visiting landmarks such as The Pyramid, The Sphinx or Castle Rock and they make for some great photos too!
12pm Replace that lost energy
Once you’ve worked up an appetite on the trails, why not head to The Bramble Patch to feast on homemade ice cream – virtually guilt-free! At the end of a picturesque road just south of Stanthorpe, you’ll find a culinary oasis specialising in homemade condiments, sauces and vinegars.
My recommendation? Walk straight through the shop into the café and order the Ice Cream Burger – two scoops of your favourite flavour sandwiched between two slices of chocolate cake. Maybe the 20 kilometre walk would have been better?
2pm – Visit the museum
Head back into Stanthorpe for a rather quaint trip back in time to the early 1920’s when the town was in its infancy as a mining centre.
Wander through the period buildings of the Stanthorpe Heritage museum, learn about the local gaol and roll-up tree (an early version of Facebook where people could leave messages for each other), and walk out armed with enough knowledge to annoy the hell out of your mates with seemingly useless facts. My favourite? How the town got its name – Stannum from tin, and thorpe from the English word ‘village’.
3pm – Stock-up on goodness
Before you drive back to Brisbane, fill up at one of the many fruit and vegetable stores in the town. There’s nothing better than buying produce fresh from the farmer, by the box-load. You too can have more apples, cherries, grapes, peaches and pears than you’ll ever need… just like I did. My fridge is now full of every juice under the sun!
Have you been to Stanthorpe? Anything I’ve missed out on?