What you can’t miss on an escape to southern Queensland’s intriguing Stanthorpe…
So, what does Stanthorpe offer? Loads. It’s not just what Stanthorpe itself has to offer but also the expansive surrounding region.
Don’t let Stanthorpe’s rural reputation fool you into thinking there isn’t anything to experience in this small Granite Belt town of not even 6,000 locals. On each visit, Stanthorpe reveals a new and memorable discovery that makes the return list.
Wine tours, cheese tasting, nature walks, fresh and delicious local produce, wonderful accommodation whether cosy cabins with open fireplaces or a selection of upmarket abodes, friendly locals, what’s not to enjoy? All of this is within a leisurely short hop from Stanthorpe or actually in Stanthorpe.
I started writing one post on Stanthorpe but there is just so much to enjoy that decided to split Stanthorpe into two or maybe more posts.
Where is Stanthorpe?
Nestled almost on the border between Queensland and New South Wales, the rural town of Stanthorpe is in the Southern Downs region; around 218 kilometres southwest of Brisbane.
A little on Stanthorpe
Renowned as an agricultural paradise for growing apples, stonefruit, vegetables, grapes – read vineyards and wine – but much more, Stanthorpe is a great holiday destination or a quick getaway escape.
This sub-tropical highland region is between 680 metres to over 1,200 metres above sea level making this the coldest area of Queensland and also receiving snow. But, just under 34 square kilometres, Stanthorpe itself is not expansive.
What else can I share about Stanthorpe?
Well, Stanthorpe is also renowned as the centre of a booming winery industry and a national parks tourist destination. So, you can enjoy many lovely long trails or short walks or just sip on some exceptional locally produced boutique wine from your cottage’s deck. Have I sold Stanthorpe to you yet?
What to do?
As there is so much to do in and around Stanthorpe, I need to share in detail about the wineries and walks in another post. So, this post is a high-level taste (no pun intended) for you to meet me back here for next week’s post.
The Big Apple
One of Stanthorpe’s icons that dates back to the 1970s – The Big Apple – is found next to Vincenzo’s Café, Bar & Deli along the New England Highway in Thulimbah, just under 12 kilometres from Stanthorpe.
The owner of Vincenzo’s paid around AUD$22,000 in 2000 to have the local council move The Big Apple next to his cafe opposite Suttons Juice Factory, Cider and Shed Cafe.
A local artisan crafted the original Granny Smith big apple that graced an Applethorpe petrol station in 1978. At 4-metres tall and 4.5-metres in diameter, you cannot miss this imposing steel and fibreglass sculpture from the highway.
You may be asking why an apple? Well, Stanthorpe and the Granite Belt villages especially Thulimbah and Applethorpe, are where Queensland’s apple crop is grown.
Of course, you can hire a wine tour minibus that takes you to many wineries during the course of an explorative day, with a bunch of friends or strangers. I prefer to take each winery at leisure to really enjoy and speak with the Vintner for a little in-depth knowledge…
…and when it comes to wines, I don’t really have much knowledge, but happy to just savour the wine.
For the cheese monsters out there like myself, Stanthorpe Cheese & Jersey Girls Cafe in Thulimbah is excellent for a cheese-tasting experience accompanied by local condiments for only a few dollars.
An explanation of the in-house made cheese during a 45-minute indulgence is wonderful and a pre-cursor to making you understand the type of cheese available to buy in its local shop.
Don’t only stop for the cheese tasting but make sure to try the scrumptious Ploughman’s Lunch special – my taste buds are drooling just thinking of this lunch.
Artistic Walking Trail
A public art trail that’s free to all, is a great way to wander through this small town’s collection of sculptures and street murals.
Stop at the Visitor Information Centre to pick up a free map of this artistic trail.
History and Heritage Trails
For many millennia, First Nations people inhabited this area until the early 1800s, when European explorers landed in this region making it the first free white settlement in Queensland.
Learn about each site on this trail through the Southern Downs and Granite Belt regions, boasting diverse heritage buildings and humble shepherd huts.
Girraween National Park
The Granite Belt’s Girraween (‘place of flowers’) National Park only 35 kilometres from Stanthorpe, offers a photographer’s paradise along 17 kilometres of natural bushland walking tracks.
Camping, picnic sites, and an abundance of flora and fauna await the inquisitive visitor.
Stanthorpe and Granite Belt Memorials
If you’re a history buff or would like to remember our brave ANZACS, then this memorial trail includes around 18 sites to explore in and around Stanthorpe, which takes a good day or two.
Where to indulge?
Have I mentioned that Stanthorpe’s food and wine are pretty special and I can’t get enough? Starting with…
Vincenzo’s Café, Bar & Deli
A favourite, Vincenzo’s Café, Bar & Deli is a one-stop shop, which you can’t drive past this very busy eating haunt on your way into Stanthorpe. Situated on the New England Highway in Thulimbah, iconic Vincenzo’s has graced Stanthorpe for decades serving hungry locals and passing tourists to the region.
This video from G’Day Parks TV will leave you craving for some of the scrumptious homemade goodness!
Vincenzo’s also sells imported Italian and locally made authentic groceries with interesting souvenirs thrown in for good measure.
Anna’s Restaurant offers the best Italian cuisine in Stanthorpe or at least it did on the first visit.
Due to COVID, only takeaway meals or functions were on offer and a little pricey, on the recent Stanthrope visit. On a couple of previous visits, an exquisite buffet of all-you-can-eat Italian food was available on a Saturday night. I rarely go for all-you-can-eat buffets as food is typically overcooked or dried out from sitting around in a bain-marie for hours, waiting for hungry patrons. But not so at Anna’s, everything was incredibly fresh, scrumptious, and authentic – a gastronomic indulgence.
The last visit to Stanthorpe was late in 2021 during COVID restrictions but also following torrential rain and flooding so sadly, a lot of places were closed. Still, there was more than enough to keep us super busy for the four getaway days.
The Barrel Room
Just 16 minutes from Stanthorpe is the Ballandean Estate Winery’s Barrelroom, which is a wonderful dining lounge open also for lunch.
Wallow away relaxing for several hours while savouring local delicacies such as mouthwatering crab Aglio e olio entree or exotic seafood Fettuccine to name just a couple.
Where to stay
I remember some years ago driving from Brisbane after work the few hours until arriving late in the evening, at Stanthorpe’s outskirts to a drafty wooden cabin. Among bushland and without any outside lighting, it was pitch black.
Although the cabin had an unlit open fire, only 1 match and a couple of sticks as kindling were provided. After a few attempts in the winter’s bitterly cold and damp -1°C evening, the solitary match didn’t survive. So, it was back in the car for a brisk drive to Stanthorpe to hunt for anything that would light a fire. Finding the only petrol station that was still open, walked out armed with an oversized box of matches, fire starters, and many bits to make sure we could start a fire, before heading back to the cabin to get warm.
On the recent visit to Stanthorpe, accommodation was more luxurious and I would definitely return to the Honeysuckle Cottages.
Everything is provided including an open fire (with ample starter implements) in this fully self-contained quaint and tranquil cottage complete with spa-bath, located amongst five beautiful natural acres.
Also included is an excellent country-style breakfast basket full of fresh bread, free-range farm eggs, bacon, local honey and jams, but also teas and coffee, for a relaxing breakfast on the porch during your stay.
The country and friendly hospitality from the owners are inviting and make you want to stay longer. Wander to the small shop at reception with locally handmade souvenirs and condiments at reception for something to take home.
If you find yourself in Sydney (NSW) and feel like going on a road trip of around 8.5-hours, then head north on the A1 highway until you see the A15 highway sign. Follow the signs to Stanthorpe.
From Brisbane, head southwest on Highway 15 and follow the signs.
You wind your way through beautiful Cunningham’s Gap, which is a pass over the stunning Great Dividing Range that stretches between Queensland’s Darling Downs and the Fassifern Valley.
Positioned between Mount Cordeaux and Mount Mitchell, there isn’t really anywhere to stop on the steep ascents and descents through the breathtaking Main Range National Park.
If you’re stuck in traffic, make sure to wind down your car window and listen to the haunting calls of the Bellbirds (Bell Miner).
Hope I’ve shared a small taste of Stanthorpe, which makes you want to visit at least once on your travels through Queensland. Check back next week for a more detailed post on wineries and glorious walks in this superb Granite Belt region as there’s so much to see in this small corner of Australia.