Wine Down, Here Are 8 Reasons To Visit The Granite Belt
Country road, take us hereBy Dinushka Gunasekara | 21st June 2023
When it comes to winter wonderlands, let’s be honest: the Sunshine State isn’t the first place to come to mind. But despite our reputation for golden sands and sun-kissed cities, a venture down our border is all it takes to reach a rustic countryside of boutique wineries, cosy cottages, and fireplaces in every nook and cranny. Welcome to the Granite Belt.
As the coolest place in Queensland (literally), the Granite Belt is Australia’s highest wine region graced by crisp air and natural wonders. Stanthorpe sits at the heart of the Granite Belt, with its neighbours like Ballandean making up the rambling Southern Downs area. The scenic drive lies within three hours of Brisbane, Gold Coast, and Byron Bay, making for the perfect country escape when the simple life calls.
From regional flavours to family-friendly adventures, here’s everything you need to do in Granite Belt and its surrounds:
A true natural beauty that seems to have been crafted by giants long ago, Girraween National Park stands out from Queensland’s lush hinterlands with its epic rock formations. Lace up your hiking shoes and work up a sweat as you head to The Pyramid on a 3.6km return journey, soaking in sweeping views to reach Girraween’s famous Balancing Rock. A leisurely stroll more your vibe? The Granite Arch trail is just under 2km and rewards you with a snap-happy spot under Girraween’s natural stone archway.
Arguably the apple of Stanthorpe’s eye (besides the Big Apple itself, of course), this humble family-owned and juicy haven is home to the famous Sutton’s apple pie. Tucked away in an unassuming packing shed, the apple products on offer range from brandy, cider, and juice varieties you’ll love to the core. Always opt for the works – aka apple cider ice cream and whipped cream with apple syrup – to accompany your slice, which truly lives up to its reputation. Go on, pick another pie up on the way home!
Ho ho ho your way over to the most magical spot in town where the vibes are merry all-year-round! Amongst the sprawling grounds of growing Christmas trees, you’ll find a joyful Christmas village and boutique shop, packed to the rafters with ornaments, decorations, and lights that even Santa himself would be impressed by. The kids will have the chance to feed donkeys, goats, sheep, and even Rudolph and his friends – yep, they’ve got deer! Treat yourself to a Belgian hot chocolate from the cafe with festive food to have you feeling all the good tidings.
Proudly Queensland’s oldest family-owned and operated winery, Ballandean Estate Wines has been speaking the language of grapes since 1932. Home to some of Australia’s oldest shiraz vines and rarest wine varietals, Ballandean has honed their techniques over the years to combine the very best of old and new in every drop. Venture into their rustic cellar door and start your very own wine adventure with a tasting, or kick back in the Barrelroom wine lounge and peck on Ballandean’s signature grazing platters with a flight to pair. Now that’s the good stuff!
Naturally, food tastes better when it’s made with the finest local ingredients, but when owner and chef Clarissa Pabst has the area’s produce in her kitchen, the results are nothing short of extraordinary. Essen is an ultra-intimate restaurant that serves up an evolving set menu made to reflect the region’s best growers and artisans. With a laid-back atmosphere you might not expect for the calibre of dishes on the table, Essen will have you licking your plate and having no qualms about it.
Combining exceptional wines with memorable experiences, you’ll be welcomed inside this gorgeous vineyard and modern cellar door to sip on something truly special. Cheers to the breathtaking views stretching out to Roberts Range with a glass of small-batch varietals and blends – including their award-winning shiraz exploding with flavours of lush red and blue fruits. Snag a booking around sunset and enjoy wood-fired pizzas, designed for easy pairing with their wines. In the spirit for a cocktail? Balancing Heart Vineyard also plays host to a charming whisky bar, pouring an exclusive range by the fire.
The Granite Belt’s resident Willy Wonka sits in a charming chocolate shop with rows and rows of sweet sensations. Helmed by a husband-and-wife duo who craft all their handmade goodness on the farm, let your eyes be larger than your stomach as you pick and choose from over 50 different types of treats. Plus, it’s easy to beat the freeze with Heavenly Chocolate’s rich European hot chocolates that are available in 21 different flavours – perfectly enjoyed in their quaint garden setting as the fluffy chickens run by.
Cheese lovers, listen up! Beeline over to Thulimbah, where Queensland’s highest and coldest dairy farm and cheese shop is waiting. Their artisan cheeses for the past 12 years have been thanks to a single herd of purebred Jersey cows, with every morsel capturing the season and intense in flavour. Particularly beloved for their crumbly Stanthorpe Pepper, rich with whole Australian grown peppercorns, and their Granite Gold which mirrors the rocky plains of the region with its delicate ash veins, the expansive collection makes for a hard decision. Lucky for you, the Jersey Girls Cafe lets you sit back with a vino in hand and enjoy a delicious tasting experience.
Header Image: Tourism and Events Queensland