The Southern Downs and Granite Belt

The Southern Downs and Granite Belt in beautiful Southern Queensland Country is known for its sweeping vistas, as a place to relax and unwind.

If you’re more of an adrenaline junkie though, there’s plenty of that too at the Mount Marley Biking Trails just out of Stanthorpe.

With trails set among the giant granite boulders, this region is so famous for, they vary in difficulty.

“We roll through granite boulders, we roll down drops, there’s jumps, there’s lot of stuff to keep you entertained,” said avid mountain biker Stephen Lambert.

A great way to explore these trails is with the Southern Downs Mountain Biking Club.

“If you’re at a beginner level, you can come out and we’ll show you around,” Stephen said. “We do social rides regularly and we cater for all skill levels.”

Another great thing about mountain biking on these trails is that because of the cooler climate, you don’t need to get out at the crack of dawn for it to be comfortable.

When you’ve had enough adrenaline for the day, sustenance is in order and in town there’s a bakery that’s very popular with the locals.

Zest Pastries offers everything from boulder-sized Wagyu meat pies to cultured butter croissants and decadent tempting treats.

When it comes to a place to stay, Debbie at 31 The Rocks has you covered.

The name is fitting as the granite boulders are scattered throughout the property which is perched on the edge of Girraween National Park.

“People love to come here and put on the fires. Winter’s the peak season here. But they do love to come here, light the fire, make it as hot as they can possibly have it inside the cabin and then outside into the cold,” said Debbie. “People get up early in the morning, we have people doing yoga up on top of the rocks. Just experiencing what they can in nature and how quiet it is.”

The Southern Downs and Granite Belt region is known as wine country and with good reason. It’s home to over 100 grape varieties and you can visit over 40 cellar doors on the Granite Belt Wine Trail.

The trail follows the New England Highway and at the very northernmost point is Heritage Estate Wines.

It’s aptly named with some nods to history in the winery like the beam across the ceiling, a relic from the Sydney Harbour Bridge, or the parliamentary table where Queen Victoria formed Queensland’s colony in 1859.  It’s at this very table that winery owners Robert and Therese Fenwick put on a very special lunch.

The Nips and Nosh Epicurian Lunch is a journey through food and wine pairing with five dishes and a selection of 10 wines.

“We have our sommelier talk through the wines, then our chef talks through the dishes, you enjoy those dishes and then we take you out to the vineyard,” said Therese.

“Each dish has been carefully thought about so that you take a sip of the wine, you take a bit of the food and each one enhances the other.”

From the northernmost point of the trail to the very southern, Balancing Heart Vineyard has been pleasing palates for over 25 years.

Working his magic here is winemaker Mike Hayes, a.k.a the dirt eater.

“It reflects what’s in the soil,” Mike said. “This is what delivers the flavour to the wine.”

“Where we are on this particular vineyard, it’s the most further south vineyard,” he said. “The further south, the cooler it is. The cooler it is, the longer the growing season and you get more thickness and flavour in the skin.”

With over 42 years in the industry, Mike’s seen Granite Belt wine come a long way, thanks mainly to the region’s diversity.

“The Granite Belt, it’s 56 kilometres long, 12 kilometres wide. It ranges in elevation from 600 metres to 1050. Five different types of soil, different aspects… northeasterly, northwesterly, southwesterly and throw in different little pockets of cool air and warm and you’ve got all the ingredients of success.” Mike said. “I’d like to hear the Granite Belt mentioned exactly along the lines of Barolo in Italy, or Bordeaux.”

With so much to explore, needless to say you’ll need more than a day in the region. Accommodation awaits at Braeside, a heritage-listed homestead.

Here Heath and Erika Green run the place.

“Many of our guests tell us from the moment they turn off the highway and they see all the gardens on the right and the homestead sitting on the banks of Turners Creek, they feel their shoulders relax as they know they’re about to be immersed into the countryside.” Erika said.

The gardens are absolutely spectacular and all Heath’s handiwork as he meticulously manicures each and every inch.

“You can see the love, the passion and the talent that goes into it and it just makes it so special for our guests when they stay.” Erika said.

Guests can stay in the cottage which is perfect for couples or in the main homestead which sleeps up to ten people and is nothing short of lavish.

You could quite easily spend your entire time in the region here, but of course, if you can manage to tear yourself away, there is plenty to do close by.

Take a bush walk through Girraween National Park, visit more of the wineries, or sample local produce at places like the Stanthorpe Cheese Factory.

Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie or a seeker of serenity, Southern Queensland Country has something to suit.

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