The Granite Belt’s past and present are firmly rooted in the boulder-strewn soil that gives the region its name. Post-war Italian immigrants settled here and soon realised the climate was ideal for fruit trees, including apples, peaches, berries and nectarines. The wine industry evolved similarly, with farmers growing table grapes to make wine for their own pleasure as they had in the old country. In the 1960s, these vines were replaced by wine grapes, and today there are around 50 wineries in the region, and all just a two-hour drive south of Brisbane. Although well known grape varietals such as shiraz and chardonnay are still popular, winemakers are also experimenting with lesser known varietals such as Nebbiolo, tempranillo, barbera and saperavi. So, what else is in store for you at Granite Belt besides the luscious wineries? Read on to find out!
1. Sip and cycle
The New England Highway connects the towns of Stanthorpe and Ballandean, with dozens of wineries between. Rent a bike and arm yourself with a map of the Strangebirds Wine Trail that features wineries producing more unusual varietals such as barbera, durif and Marsanne. The terrain is relatively gentle, but if you run out of puff, Granite Belt Bicycle Tours & Hire (24 Leslie Pde, Stanthorpe) will cheerfully come and collect you and drop you back at your accommodation, as well as picking up any of your vinous purchases.
2. Apples All Day!
Home of the famous Suttons Apple Pie, Sutton’s Farm (10 Halloran Dr, Thulimbah) has become a popular stop for visitors to the Granite Belt. Their delicious warm apple pies are served with cider ice cream, and require up to 800kgs of apples each week for the popular pies. Sutton’s also offers a dry cider served in a Champagne glass and apple liquids, plus a large range of apple juice, ciders, preserves and much more. You can even pick your own crisp, delicious apples direct from their orchard. (Harvest season is from February to June). Their shed cafe offers good home style food cooked on site that is sure to please even the most discerning palates.
3. Pass the Butter
The secrets of the famous bakery Zest (54 Maryland St, Stanthorpe), whose light, fluffy croissants and pastries draw crowds, are New Zealand butter and organic wheat. Everything is produced in-house, from the lemon curd and Italian meringue to the Jersey milk custard in the custard slice. The warm cinnamon doughnut loaded with local jam is our favourite. They also teach seminars on how to make bread.
4. For the Beer Aficionados
With several excellent country pubs and local craft brewers, beer aficionados are well looked after in the Stanthorpe region.
Granite Belt Brewery is a 1000L microbrewery on 30 acres of Stanthorpe wilderness, complete with an onsite bar and restaurant. You can enjoy a tasting paddle while enjoying the sunlight on their expansive rear deck. Open daily from 10am for beer tastings, you’ll be spoiled with choice with so many seasonal releases available.
Brass Monkey Brew House is another local nano-brewery located in the enticing surroundings of the Granite Belt region. They are family owned and run, and all of their beer is made and bottled onsite. They provide onsite tastings and takeout.
Possum Lane Hop Farm, Queensland’s first commercial hop farm, is a must-see for serious homebrewers. Victoria’s Secret, Cascade, Chinook, Fuggles, Hallertau, Hersbrucker, Goldings, and Saaz are among the eight hop types grown at the moment.
5. Savour the Heavenly Chocolate That is Wisteria Cottage
Do you like a Granite Belt IRA Beer Caramel (Irish Red Ale beer chocolate made with Granite Belt Brewery’s beer), together with a Boysenberry chocolate or a Granite Belt pyramid? We’re willing to bet you do, which is why we’d recommend making a stop at Girraween National Park’s Chocolate Cottage for a taste test.
Glenys and Anthony Bamberry own Wisteria Cottage Heavenly Chocolate, and their daughter Tash Bamberry is the chocolatier. Tash is a self-taught chocolatier whose beer caramel is a big seller despite the difficulty of perfecting the recipe. The other issue arises when Dad consumes the beer before making the caramel!
The Chocolate Cottage is an 11-minute drive from St Jude’s in Ballandean.
The Granite Belt is a favourite destination for both a weekend escape and an extended holiday. It is well connected to Brisbane, the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast. It is also a great holiday destination for families, with a range of vineyards and boutique accommodation options. For the more active, there are also plenty of trails, National Parks and state forests in the surrounding area.
Whether you’re visiting just for the day or are planning a full-weekend epicurean quest, go to the Granite Belt. Explore the sights, meet the people, and marvel at the delicious dishes that the region has in store for you.
Granite Belt Retreat houses a functioning microbrewery, fantastic restaurant, and awesome Stanthorpe accommodation in one. Have a weekend getaway like no other. Book your stay today!