48 hours in Queensland’s Big Apple (aka Stanthorpe)
Move over New York, there’s another Big Apple in town, and you’ll find it so close to the Queensland-New South Wales border that you could wear both maroon and blue during State of Origin.
Just like its American sister, Stanthorpe is also known for attracting loved-up couples, although you won’t find them riding around Central Park in horse-drawn carriages.
Out here, it’s about scoffing good food, swilling fine wine and snuggling up next to roaring fireplaces.
AM: Pack your winter woollies and hit the road
Timing is everything for this Stanthorpe getaway – and we’re not just talking about what time you leave (PS. hit the road early).
Stanthorpe is decidedly seasonal and during the summer months you can expect to see fruit and vegetables growing in the fields, vineyards stocked with grapes and a lively buzz around town.
In winter, Stanthorpe earns its title of ‘coldest town in Queensland’ with temperatures dancing around the zero degree mark and even the occasional dusting of snow. Aka, perfect red wine and fireplace weather.
11AM: Take a picture of the Big Apple
New York might be called the Big Apple, but Stanthorpe has its own big apple, which marks the fact you’re in apple-country now (the apple capital of Queensland, in fact).
This you-can’t-miss-it icon also marks the turn off to one of the region’s other biggest flavour makers: Stanthorpe Cheese.
12PM: Did someone say cheese?
The rolling hills of Stanthorpe are full of jersey girls and Stanthorpe Cheese transforms their milk into a selection of artisan cheeses. You don’t have to look far to see how they got their names with the Stanthorpe Pepper, Snowstorm and Snowflake in the cabinet.
The cheese tastes better down here and not just because it’s made from the milk of a single herd of purebred Jersey cows, but because Stanthorpe Cheese is Queensland’s highest and coldest farm cheese shop, 925 metres above sea level.
Taste your way through the (many, many) samples, kick back with a Ploughman’s at Jersey Girl’s Cafe, or create your own DIY picnic to go from the huge range of cheese, preserves, cured meats and wines available from the shop.
1PM: Do the truffle shuffle
You won’t need to put your nose to the ground to find Stanthorpe’s very own trufferie, Truffle Discovery Centre.
Stanthorpe is home to the rare French Black Perigord Truffle, fungi which is so precious some joke they need their own bodyguards to protect them.
For less than the price of a large latte, you can get yourself inside for a guided tour of the truffiere and gallery, enjoy food tastings and a spot of truffle hunting.
If that’s ignited your senses as much as the taste of truffles itself, book in for a truffle hunt to go in the search of the black nobbly stuff with Conan, a hound whose sense of smell could rival a beagle at border control.
With a gift store you’ll definitely want to visit on the way out, stock up on supplies of truffle oil and truffle honey that begs to be drizzled over cheese … oh, wait…
2PM: Picnic for two
In addition to the cellar door (which yes, has a fireplace too), Hidden Creek’s cafe serves up locally sourced fare – including the option of having your own picnic in the vineyards. The picnic basket for two includes a gourmet platter, wine and rug – just pick your favourite spot on the property, and you’re good to go.
Overnight: Alure Stanthorpe
Experience the definition of glamping and check into Alure Stanthorpe for the night.
Cocoon yourself under the canvas in 56m2 of camping comfort, complete with full kitchen and double-vanity ensuite so you will never look at your regular campsite the same again.
You won’t have to worry about sleeping bags or inflatable mattresses for this night under the stars, there’s deluxe linen, four-poster bed and mood lighting that is so much more flattering than what you can create with a headlamp.
Don’t rule this accommodation out if you plan to visit in winter, your tent comes complete with fireplace (and if all else fails, reverse-cycle air conditioning), which will rock your perception of camping to its core.
9am: Trek through the national park
Get to know how this rocky region earned its title with a morning exploring Girraween National Park.
If you haven’t read this guide to Girraween, expect dramatic landscapes and granite outcrops that protrude from the hillside like freestanding marbles, with river courses that tumble around them leaving beautifully carved, deep plunge pools.
The well-kept trails range from one to 20kms, winding (uphill) to landmarks such as The Pyramid, The Sphinx and Castle Rock. The pièce de résistance within the park is undoubtedly Balancing Rock, a giant boulder precariously teetering like a sculpture handcrafted by mother nature herself.
Looking for more national parks in this ‘hood? Check out this Big Sky Country Drive.
12pm: Refuel, Ballandean Style
Ballandean’s Barrel Room puts its money where its organic, locally-sourced mouth is with a restaurant that’s so popular, you’ll have Buckley’s chance of getting into without a booking.
Taste the free-range, sustainable and organic difference with a menu that’s been carefully curated to ensure everything is sourced from within a three-hour radius of the restaurant.
On the a la carte menu you’ll find the likes of wild Ballandean venison and mushroom tart, local honey glazed duck confit and beef osso bucco. Can’t decide? The degustation (3 or 6 courses) has your name written all over it, and with an extra $40 you can up the ante with matching Ballandean Estate local wines.
2PM: Go from cellar door to cellar door
With over 50 vineyards scattered around its hillsides, Stanthorpe is known for wine. It’s also quickly gaining a reputation for being the place to try those wines that aren’t so well-known.
Never heard of (or sipped) a Fiano, Montepulciano, Saperavi or Mourvedre? The Granite Belt is your chance to get up close and personal with Strange Birds (that’s fancy wine speak for alternative variety vinos). Pick up a Strange Bird map and prepare to meet your new favourite tipples.
Choosing to visit vineyards is easy, but deciding which ones and how to get there is nothing short of overwhelming. Take a load off, book a designated driver and let Filippos Tours do the decision making and driving. Their twilight tour takes off at 2pm and covers tastings at up to five boutique wineries, followed by a local, seasonal three-course dinner at Varias Restaurant.
Trust us, you’ll be grateful for your dropoff back to your accommodation by the end of the tour.
Want to work of your wine along the way? Granite Belt Bicycle Tours offers guided and self-guided wine tours, as well as bike hire if you like to go your own way.
Not into wine? No worries! The Granite Belt is also home to two breweries: Granite Belt Brewery (with onsite cottages!) and Brass Monkey Brew House. We knew you’d drink to that.
Overnight: Alure Stanthorpe
8AM: The most important meal of the day
If you’re talking breakfast in Stanthorpe, the answer is Brinx. The mother-daughter duo behind this delightful deli & cafe bring the region’s Italian heritage to the fore with breakfast bruschetta, spot-on espresso and a dessert cabinet that’ll make you say mamma mia.
Just make sure you book ahead – this place is popular.
10AM: Stock up on supplies
Forget your regular grocery shop at a major chain and take home edible souvenirs, like boxes of apples, cherries, grapes, peaches and pears that prove that everything tastes better when it hasn’t travelled hundreds of kilometres to your supermarket shelves.
For a gift that’s a bit more memorable than a bag of apples, a trip to Jamworks will deliver with homemade condiments including jams, relishes and chutneys.
But if apples are the apple of your eye, you can’t leave without stopping in at Sutton’s Farm. A working apple orchard, Sutton’s onsite cafe and store is ripe with pure apple juice, cider, their famous apple pie (served with apple cider ice cream!) and smallgoods to keep your weekend getaway alive weeks after you return.
If you didn’t tackle the 20km walk yesterday, you’ll leave wishing you did.