Stanthorpe is a lovely rural town in Queensland’s Southern Downs area. After a rich mining history, the town has emerged as the heart of what is now referred to as the Granite Belt Region. Now known for its gourmet food experiences, unique wine varieties produced by family-owned vineyards, and plenty of beautiful landscapes nearby, it’s the perfect place to explore southwest of Brisbane.
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Stanthorpe sits at almost 1000 metres above sea level, making it one of the coldest towns in Queensland. This unique climate has made the region an agricultural centre, perfect for producing some of the best food and wine in the state. Here, you’ll find plenty of independent cellar doors and award-winning restaurants for an indulging weekend away from Brisbane and the Gold Coast.
It’s worth spending a few days around Stanthorpe to really enjoy all that the Granite Belt has to offer. From tasting some unique wine varieties to heading off on a hike in nearby national parks, there is much to do in the area.
This guide to the best things to do in Stanthorpe should help inspire your next trip to regional south Queensland.
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How To Get To Stanthorpe
Stanthorpe is located just 220km or almost a 3-hour drive southwest of Brisbane in Queensland. It’s easily reached by car on the Cunningham Highway that runs from the city through the Granite Belt region.
If you’re travelling from the Gold Coast, the town is 240km or a 3.5-hour drive away. This is a very scenic drive, especially if you avoid the major highways, as it crosses through some stunning national parks on the way. So take your time!
How To Get Around Stanthorpe
Being a rural town in Queensland, Stanthorpe and the nearby towns don’t offer much in terms of public transportation. So it’s best to have a car to drive around the area.
Whether you take your own or get a hire vehicle from Brisbane, the freedom to road trip between the wineries and attractions like Girraween National Park is the most ideal way to explore.
If you’re up for something a bit different, there are also plenty of cycling trails around Stanthorpe. You can opt for a Granite Belt Bicycle Tour between the wineries and streets of the pretty town. They offer both a guided tour or self-guided options if you want to explore at a slower pace.
Best Time To Visit Stanthorpe
Stanthorpe is actually one of the coolest places in Queensland. While you can visit at any time of the year, you should expect much colder temperatures than what you get on the Gold Coast and around Brisbane.
In winter, temperatures are below 20 degrees (and even down to zero), but you will get to enjoy the region with fewer crowds and crisp, clean air. Otherwise, spring and summer are considered some of the best times to visit Stanthorpe, as this is when the region is in full bloom, and the farms are full of colour.
Things To Do In Stanthorpe
While Stanthorpe seems like a small town, it’s worth spending at least a couple of days exploring the surrounding region. No matter what kind of activities and attractions you’re keen to see, there’s something for everyone.
Here are our favourite things to see in Stanthorpe.
Visit The Wineries
The Granite Belt has emerged as one of the most exciting wine regions in Australia. It’s known particularly for cool-climate wines, not usually found elsewhere in the country. While you will still find popular choices like Chardonnay and Shiraz, the real standouts here are what are referred to as Strange Birds or otherwise known as emerging alternative varieties.
These varieties make up less than 1% of the wine produced in Australia, making it a very unique experience to taste, something that you can’t get anywhere else. Some of the white Strange Birds include Roussane and Alvarinho, while red Strange Birds include Malbec and Sagrantino.
On top of that, most of the wineries and vineyards in Stanthorpe are still owned and managed by individuals and families who are passionate about innovative winemaking. This makes the experience a more intimate and memorable wine-tasting adventure compared to some of the more commercial wine regions in Australia.
You’ll find some interesting Strange Bird varieties at the following wineries and cellar doors that are worth checking out:
- Heritage Estate Wines
- Summit Estate Wines
- Twisted Gum
- Tobin Wines
- Ridgemill Estate
- Balancing Heart Vineyard
- Golden Grove Estate
Enjoy Gourmet Food And Drink Experiences
Stanthorpe is at the heart of a gourmet food paradise, with so many wonderful artisan produce and locally grown goodies to try on your visit. While the wine definitely is the main highlight, you can also visit some of these places for a unique foodie experience.
A tour of Stanthorpe Cheese shop is one of the most popular things to do in Stanthorpe. As Queensland’s coldest and highest cheese farm, it boasts some of the best-tasting dairy products in the country.
All of their cheeses are made from a single herd of Jersey cows. You can taste some of the samples on offer in their farmgate shop or enjoy a cup of tea at their Jersey Girls cafe, which is open from morning until afternoon, serving food and, of course, more cheese.
You can also visit the café at the factory for a cheese platter paired with local wine. Don’t forget to swing by the gourmet store to pick up some cheese for your own gourmet meal.
Jamworks Gourmet Foods
Just south of town, this cafe and gourmet food store is a must-stop on any road trip in the area. Known for their wide range of relishes, sauces, pickles, and jams, you can stop in to pick some up for you and your friends.
Otherwise, their cafe is the perfect lunch stop with plenty of amazing local produce from the surrounding farms on the menu.
Truffle Discovery Centre
Stanthorpe is also home to a rare truffle known as French Black Perigord Truffle. It’s no surprise then that the best place to try some is at the Truffle Discovery Centre, where you can take a guided tour. You can also enjoy some of their food offerings, including the mouth-watering truffle triple cream brie and other local produce.
Sutton’s Juice Factory
The Granite Belt is also known as Queensland’s main apple-growing region. Just before you come into Stanthorpe stop at the Sutton’s Juice Factory, which is opposite the Big Apple. It’s one of Australia’s “big” tourist attractions.
Just like a working apple orchard, this local juice factory specializes in all things apple, including apple cider and apple juice. However, their famous apple pie with spiced cider ice cream is what people come from all over Queensland for.
This seasonal farm and private property opens its doors to visitors during picking season from October until May. The highlight of a visit here is that you get to pick your own strawberries from the patch which is an absolute hit amongst the kids. Otherwise, you can also buy some fresh in their farmgate store.
Sweet tooths will also find homemade ice cream and other treats that you can pick up in their farmgate store.
Heavenly Chocolate at Wisteria Cottage
Located next to Girraween National Park, this spot is a paradise for chocolate enthusiasts! It’s the ideal spot to cosy up with a very rich cup of European-style hot chocolate. The shop has over 20 delectable flavours to pick from!
Their gardens are full of flowers, and offer an amazing view of the granite mountains. A local chocolatier makes the chocolate, and the owner’s passion for chocolate truly shines through in the creations!
Shop For Local Arts And Crafts
Aside from food and wine, Stanthorpe and the surrounding area is home to some creative makers of arts and crafts. If you’re looking for the perfect gift for someone or opting for some self-love, there are plenty of unique shops to explore.
This beautiful shop in Ballandean, south of Stanthorpe is a hidden gem for those looking for skincare and wellness products. Their candles, soaps, and shampoos are to die for, and you’ll struggle to decide what to buy.
They focus on naturally produced products instead of the mass-produced palm oil-based skincare ranges you’ll find elsewhere. The sweet smell of the store will hit you before you even make it through the door!
On your way to Stanthorpe, you can stop in at Gardens Galore in Warwick. While it’s a popular cafe, they also have a beautiful gift store and garden centre. It’s the perfect place to pick up some unique gifts from local brands and makers. And if you’re into plants, you’ll especially enjoy the nursery which is a very picturesque place to pick up some new plants for your home.
Market in the Mountains
If you’re a marketperson, you’ll have to time your visit for the regional market that is held on the 2nd Sunday of the month in Stanthorpe. It’s the perfect place to find all the local makers and producers in one place.
There are plenty of stalls selling arts and crafts, garden features, local gourmet produce, fresh fruit and veggies, plus much more.
Check Out Local Street Art
A lesser-known attraction in Stanthorpe is the local street art. Many of the artworks received funding from the bushfire recovery, so many of the murals reflect the effect of the fires on the community.
Some of the most impressive pieces include a large firefighter mural by Drapl next to the Woolworths plaza and a beautiful Trevor Horsnell mural on Folkstone Street, amongst many more than you can discover on an easy walk.
You’ll also likely pass the local favourite, the little brass monkey statue in the middle of the main street. The town often refers to winter as Brass Monkey Season, after the old saying, “cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey”!
Visit The Granite Belt Christmas Farm
The Granite Belt Christmas Tree Farm is open all year round, with around 10,000 real-life Christmas trees being grown in time for December. Obviously, harvest time is a great time to pick up your tree. People come from as far as Brisbane to get their Christmas Trees each year, but it’s a popular family attraction throughout the year.
They have plenty of farm animals, from goats to donkeys, which the kids are welcome to pet and feed. Visitors have lots to enjoy here, from feeding Santa’s farm animals to shopping for Christmas decor or having a lovely picnic amid the pine trees.
Take The Kids To Granite Belt Maze
Another great family adventure activity just north of Stanthorpe is to head out to the maze with the kids. They have three mazes plus a mini golf course, so you can entertain the whole family for hours.
The Granite Belt Maze is one of the few places in Queensland where it’s known to snow, so it can be really fun to visit in the winter.
If you come in the summer, their gardens are also particularly nice for a day out or a picnic with some of the fresh food you’ve purchased on your trip.
Check Out The Town’s Iconic Big Thermometer
Head to Lions Park, next to the Stanthorpe Visitor Information Centre, and you’ll come across Stanthorpe’s Big Thermometer, one of Australia’s Iconic Big Things.
It stands at about 10 metres tall and displays the temperature on a digital screen at the very top. The Big Thermometer makes a lot of sense since Stanthorpe is known as the coldest town in Queensland.
Explore The Historic Red Bridge
Starting at the thermometer, you can take a stroll through the middle of the creek or all the way to the Red Bridge.
Officially called Quart Pot Creek Rail Bridge, but commonly known as The Red Bridge, it was constructed in 1886 and has been recognized as a heritage-listed railway bridge since 1992. This historical structure was part of an interstate rail connection between Queensland and Sydney.
Visit Stanthorpe Heritage Museum
Stanthorpe Heritage Museum has been run by society members since 1970. This award-winning museum is packed with history, with 14 buildings and 20,000+ artifacts.
You can easily get lost in this incredible historical maze for hours. When you arrive, the staff will guide you along a seemingly puzzling route that starts to make sense as you explore further.
Immerse Yourself at Stanthorpe Regional Art Gallery
Located in the Granite Belt, the Stanthorpe Regional Art Gallery is a fresh spot featuring intriguing exhibitions of national and local significance.
Like MONA in Tassie, it’s one of Australia’s most stimulating galleries. The art gallery will reopen on December 1, 2023, as the building has pre-existing bookings during this time. Go for the experience and approach it with an open mind.
Go Hiking And Get Outdoors
Stanthorpe is surrounded by stunning scenery. The Southern Downs region of Queensland is home to the impressive Girraween National Park on the border with New South Wales, or you can find some lesser-known parks to stretch your legs.
Girraween National Park
Just south of Stanthorpe and close to the border with New South Wales, this park is one of the most popular outdoor park areas in southern Queensland. It’s known for its huge granite boulders, which explain how the Granite Belt earned its name.
Our favourite adventure in Girraween was hiking. With over 30 km worth of trails to explore ranging in difficulty and length, the park is definitely a popular stop in the Stanthorpe area. You can climb The Granite Pyramid, which offers great views over the whole park area, or get a photo at the famous Balancing Rock or Granite Arch, both accessible by a walk that even the kids can do. The starting point for those walks is roughly a 30-minute drive from Stanthorpe.
If you want to extend your stay in the national park, you can also camp there for the night. There are two designated camping areas at Castle Rock and Bald Rock Creek for an evening spent under the stars.
Another great spot to the north of town, Donnellys Castle, is a granite rock formation that is known as one of the iconic bushranger lookouts back in more lawless days. It’s certainly not as well known as Girraween National Park, but we think it’s almost just as impressive. There are massive granite boulders to scramble, trails to explore, and spectacular views from the top.
It’s especially great for kids, with some more accessible parts than Girraween’s larger local boulders. It’s one of the best places to head to for a walk near Stanthorpe.
Storm King Dam
Just outside of Stanthorpe, Storm King Dam is a local’s favourite spot to head for a picnic. This picturesque rural dam is great for fishing and a range of water sports, with a designated swimming area for those warm summer days. It’s one of the local’s favourite spots to take the whole family for a day by the water.
You can pop down for a picnic with all your locally produced food that you’ve purchased on your road trip or just head for a walk to stretch your legs.
Experience The Best View From Mt. Marlay Lookout
For awesome Stanthorpe views, go to Mt. Marlay Lookout. You can take a nice short loop walk around the summit on a paved path. It’s a bit steep, and you can bring your dog as long as they’re on a leash. The summit is a local favourite for biking too!
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Best Restaurants In Stanthorpe Area
With an abundance of delicious local produce and world-class wines, it’s no surprise that you can find some top restaurants in Stanthorpe.
If you’re looking for a special place to enjoy a nice dinner or drink, here are our favourite places.
This award-winning restaurant is located on the campus of the Queensland College of Wine Tourism in Stanthorpe. They have a variety of delicious dining experiences on offer, including a morning tea, lunch and dinner menu. They have both a cosy dining room with a fire for the winter visitors and an outdoor deck for those warmer days.
St Jude’s Cellar Door and Bistro
This relatively new cellar door and bistro, located in Ballandean, is a top place to enjoy any meal. Their opening hours span from breakfast to lunch and dinner, with individual menus suited for each mealtime. The rustic building offers both indoor and outdoor seating to enjoy a drink and a meal in the middle of Ballandean town.
Granite Belt Brewery
While wine might be the highlight of the Granite Belt, this brewery begs to differ. Since 2012, they have been producing tasty craft beers and cider to high acclaim. They aim to create all-natural beer on-site with tastings on offer every day of the week.
On the weekends, they also open their restaurant for lunch and dinner. Located in a large homestead, it’s a very rustic place to enjoy a meal along with one of their award-winning drinks.
Just south of town, you’ll find the Beverley Vineyard Restaurant at Whiskey Gully Winery. The highlight here is their six-course degustation dinner every Saturday night, along with live entertainment from the hosts themselves. With the menu changing every week, it’s always a great dining experience.
Where To Stay In Stanthorpe
Being one of the best places in southern Queensland to head for a weekend not far from Brisbane, there’s plenty of accommodation in Stanthorpe.
As one of the dreamiest Granite Belt accommodation options, Granite Belt Retreat is a unique accommodation option at a brewery in Stanthorpe. They offer really unique cozy cabins set amongst 30 acres of bushland. Kicking back in these dreamy cabins is the perfect way to relax at the end of a day exploring the area. It’s also a bonus to have the brewery on your doorstep for a beer and a meal.
The brewery is in the heart of the Granite Belt wine region, and serves a selection of prize-winning craft beers brewed on-site, like pale ales, lagers, stouts, and seasonal brews. They’ve got a rustic restaurant dishing up tasty meals with fresh, local ingredients.
Set right in Stanthorpe, this property offers a range of apartments from two bedrooms up to four-bedroom options for larger groups and families. It’s perfect for those looking to self-cater their trip with local produce and specialties from the markets, and they’re also pet-friendly if you like to travel with your pooch.
Staying at the Ridgemill Estate winery is definitely an ideal base from which to explore the area for wine lovers. The beautiful winery offers modern accommodation with incredible views across the hills and vines. You can choose from either the romantic one-bedroom chalet or a three-bedroom apartment for larger groups. They also offer a complimentary breakfast for guests.