Why on earth would you want to leave the coast to go inland over the Great Dividing Range during summer to visit Stanthorpe and the Granite Belt region? It’s a winter destination…. isn’t it?
It has never been an issue for me to escape the sun, sand and surf for the cooler hinterland temperatures and clean fresh air. Admittedly I’ve never been a beach person, so the alternative of a picturesque country setting is much more to my liking. Here are some of the reasons that initially drew me to this area and continue to entice me to stay in the region.
For those coastal dwellers who love the two-wheel mode of transport you will absolutely love the training you can get here. The altitude will put you ahead of those training at sea level. The roads are quiet so you can focus on your cycling technique and really get into those deep thoughts that you have when you’re out on the pedals. It’s not only for the roadies though, leisure cycling is very popular and there are many places to visit for refreshments while out cycling - this is a wine region after all ! If dirt is more your thing then Stanthorpe caters for the mountain bikers with some great trails conveniently located close to the centre of town. My favourite ride is meandering along the path next to Quart Pot Creek with my daughter who is now on two wheels, stopping at the play park for a swing or to feed the ducks - if we remember to bring the bread!
Just because I’m not a beach person, doesn’t mean I don’t like swimming. The perfect swimming hole for me is Storm King Dam. It’s fresh water, it’s quiet and the views are fantastic. Another place to cool off in summer is the natural rock pools at The Junction in Girraween National Park (see picture below). Take a picnic lunch with you for a great day out. Running east-west through Stanthorpe township is Quart Pot Creek where some locals like to go to cool off. There’s a few reeds when getting in but once you get passed them the water is cool and refreshing. If natural waterholes are not your thing then there is a 50 metre swimming pool in town for having fun with the kids or getting some lap training in.
Along with the great swimming holes in Girraween NP, there are also many beautiful walks to do. There’s short walks, long walks, and walks up granite rocks. “The Pyramid” is an experience that you will never forget but not for those who dislike heights like me! There are walks through natural Australian bush like at the back of Mt Marlay (see picture). Donnelly’s Castle in the north is a spectacular site and well worth a visit. For those who like a faster pace that walking, Stanthorpe has a Parkrun course. It can almost certainly claim for itself the title of coldest parkrun in Queensland (in winter of course). The course is beautiful as you walk, run or jog along the side of Quart Pot Creek at 7am each Saturday morning. There is something about running near water which I enjoy and used to regularly do along the Brisbane River before work each morning, in a previous existence.
The whole awareness of where your food comes from these days, how many kilometres it has travelled to get to you and eating seasonally has all come to the fore since moving to Stanthorpe. I never thought about it to be quite honest, I went to the shop and just bought, no thought as to where it came from, who grew it, why it was more expensive than last week, none of that. However, that has all changed, well, for me anyway. I love the fact that we now live in a growing area, around farmers and people on the land. This region is probably best known for its’ apples but it also has lots of other crops as well including strawberries, seasonal vegetables and of course wine grapes. The best time for indulging in fresh produce is in Summer and heading into Autumn. There’s apples on the trees, grapes on the vines and the sweetest strawberries you’ve ever tasted. Roadside stalls pop up all over the region with home grown produce so fresh your taste buds will dance. Oh, I can’t forget honey. The magnificent tasting honey, that is unadulterated and straight from the source. There are many options for local honey and most markets will have a honey stall – definitely get some when you visit.
For a different experience explore the granite belt in summer. Escape the humidity of the coast, discover cleaner air, great cycling, swimming, walking and fresh produce.
Bikes can be hired from Granite Belt Bicycle Tours & Hire or take a guided tour for that local perspective and knowledge.
Written by Vanessa Boulton
Owner Granite Belt Bicycle Tours & Hire