Stanthorpe, a pretty rural town located three hours drive south/west of Brisbane, is the ‘Capital of Cool’ for family-friendly foodie getaways. And not just because it can get a little chilly. The Granite Belt wineries around Stanthorpe have an impressive reputation and they’re easy to find and visit.
The cooler Stanthorpe weather is perfect for a winter getaway with a cosy log fire. You’ll also find stellar dining at country prices and loads of hands-on Stanthorpe things to do. You will never hear those dreaded words ‘I’m bored!’ when you are visiting Stanthorpe and the surrounding area known as the Granite Belt.
The Granite Belt has the charm of an old-school driving holiday without the long distances (or the cries of ‘are we there yet’). Whether you’re visiting with young children or a teenager, there’s plenty to see and do for every age group. We’ve been many times over the years as a family and always enjoy it.
Our first visit was when our son was 10 and it began with an early morning start to see the cow milking at Stanthorpe Cheese. We stood alongside the fence as the ‘girls’ jostled each other good naturedly for their favourite spot at the milking machine. This is an ideal pre-breakfast activity, particularly if you have younger children who are early risers.
If you’re travelling with a teen, like we were on our most recent visit, it’s better to visit later in the day to do the (free) cheese tasting as getting a teen up before 6am is always a challenge! We tasted the delicious cheeses and chose one each to share in front of the fire with a glass of wine for the grown ups and sparkling apple juice for our son. Even better, we got to bring the leftovers home with us.
Brinx Deli in downtown Stanthorpe was recommended as a ‘must do’ on our first visit and is as good now as it was the first time we dropped in for breakfast. Pretty homewares line the shelves and the buzz of happy diners fills the air. Toasted sourdough topped with grilled haloumi and juicy local tomatoes proves that sometimes less really is more. We picked some strawberries at a nearby farm before heading off to explore the bush hideout which was supposedly used by bushranger Captain Thunderbolt.
We headed straight to the lookout then descended into the bush where the smell of eucalyptus tickled out nose. Our family clambered over the huge granite boulders and in and out of caves as we played at being troopers in search of ‘Captain Thunderbolt’ who looked remarkably like our 10 year old. Perhaps it was the fresh country air or the absence of outside distractions but we lost ourselves completely in the joy of the moment.
Nearby we discovered Suttons Juice Factory and Cidery, an unassuming shed packed to the brim with delicious apple goodies. Some people drive all the way from Brisbane just for the pie. No surprise, really, once you’ve laid eyes on the deep-dish showstopper filled with around 22 apples from the orchard outside. We passed on the pie this time around and bought some apple juice to enjoy for breakfast instead.
While children obviously aren’t allowed to taste at the cellar doors, most of them are child friendly. We dropped into Tobin Wines on our first visit where Adrian Tobin, a spritely wine maker in his 70s, makes award winning limited edition wines named after his grandchildren. Our son skipped the cellar door in favour of an old-style tree swing while we enjoyed a leisurely tasting. On our most recent visit the swing was still there!
Granite Belt Brewery offers more modern entertainment with a kid’s games room that is worth its weight in gold when you’re dining at the excellent on-site restaurant. At another Stanthorpe winery we watched children playing Frisbee with their dad beside the vineyard. Complaints about visiting another cellar door disappear more quickly than a good bottle of red when it is fun for everyone.
Now our son is a teen we only visit one winery each day but choose one that has really great wines and offers an extended tasting experience like Tobin Wines or Twisted Gum Wines. Each tasting can take up to an hour but we relax and enjoy it while our son sits outside and watches a movie on his phone or surfs the net. One tasting per day (even if a it’s a long one) seems to work much better than several shorter ones with teens. The opposite is true with younger kids. The promise of a subsequent stop at a chocolate or fudge shop if your kids are ‘good’ while you taste works well for every age.
On our most recent visit we finally visited Girraween National Park. This is an easy 20 minute drive from Tobin Wines and shouldn’t be missed. The trails are easy to follow and there are lots of opportunities for rock hopping and exploring. It’s also a good spot for kids to let off some steam before another tasting stop or lunch.
Nearby Wallangarra, the last town before the New South Wales border is worth a visit, particularly if you’re travelling with younger children. When the Queensland and New South Wales governments could not agree on a rail gauge this tiny settlement became a major junction where interstate passengers had to change trains.
The bureaucrats couldn’t agree on the grand Victorian station either. The Queensland side has a typical bullnose roof while the other is flat and angled towards the tracks. We stood on the platform with the breeze in our hair, imagining what it would have been like to arrive here in the late 1800s.
Much of the accommodation also offers a sense of history, especially if you stay at a restored cottage or cabin. We enjoyed Hooter’s Hut which is a rustic split wood cabin which looks like something from the olden days yet it is thoroughly modern inside. There is a billy cart parked beside the back door and a complimentary basket of ‘emergency supplies’ in the pantry including marshmallows for toasting over the fire.
We watched the clouds turn a dusty shade of pink and enjoyed a cheese plate and a glass of wine. Our son cremated the marshmallows and kept an eye out for the night’s first star. When he spotted it we fired up the BBQ and cooked a home made feast from the butcher in town. The Granite Belt is famous for its produce so buy from around the local area for a delicious breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Stanthorpe travel tips
Stanthorpe The Granite Belt is an easy 3 hour drive from Brisbane or the Gold Coast.
Maps of the area are readily available at most attractions so pick one up at your first stop.
Most wineries open at 10am and some of the smaller ones require an appointment. Check your map for details about these things.
It can get chilly at night in Stanthorpe, even in summer.
Bring a cold pack from home so you can store all those delicious edible goodies in the car as you travel around.
Wi-fi can be patchy, especially at some of the wineries. It’s a good idea to download some movies or favourite programs for your kids to watch before you leave home.
Hooter’s Hut offers cosy, comfortable accommodation and sleeps up to six people. It is fully self-contained with an indoor fireplace, outdoor campfire and a BBQ on the veranda. Rates are for the entire cabin.
Disclaimer: The writer was a guest of Granite Belt Wine & Tourism.
Do you enjoy good food and wine? Here are six of the best cellar doors in Queensland and some more suggestions on where to dine in Queensland once you’ve visited the Granite Belt plus some additional Granite Belt accommodation ideas.