The ultimate itinerary for a long weekend in Stanthorpe and the Southern Downs
While you could count Stanthorpe as a day trip destination from Brisbane, you wouldn’t be doing the area justice flying through in a matter of hours before turning around and heading home.
With so much good food to devour and beautiful scenery to explore, a long weekend in Stanthorpe and the greater Southern Downs gives you more time to see the best that the area has to offer, at your own pace.
Here’s how to make the most of four days in Stanthorpe and the Southern Downs.
Before you go
Stanthorpe is decidedly seasonal and during the summer months you can expect to see fruit and vegetables growing in the fields, vineyards stocked with grapes and a lively buzz around town.
In winter, Stanthorpe earns its title of ‘coldest town in Queensland’ with temperatures dancing around the zero degree mark and even the occasional dusting of snow, making it perfect red wine and fireplace weather.
8am: Hit the road
You’re not in for a long drive – just over two and a half hours from Brisbane – but with an exciting day (hint: wine and cheese are on today’s agenda) ahead of you, it’s worth getting on the road early.
11am: Take a picture of the big apple
Stanthorpe couldn’t be more different to New York, but it does have its own big apple, which marks the fact you’re in apple country now (the apple capital of Queensland, in fact).
This you-can’t-miss-it icon also marks the turn off to one of the region’s other biggest flavour makers: Stanthorpe Cheese.
12pm: Did someone say cheese?
The rolling hills of Stanthorpe are full of jersey girls and Stanthorpe Cheese transforms their milk into a selection of artisan cheeses. The cheese tastes better down here, and not just because it’s made from the milk of a single herd of purebred Jersey cows, but because Stanthorpe Cheese is Queensland’s highest and coldest farm cheese shop, 925 metres above sea level.
Taste your way through the (many, many) samples, kick back with a Ploughman’s at Jersey Girls Cafe, or create your own DIY picnic to go from the huge range of cheese, preserves, cured meats and wines available from the shop.
1pm: Try the truffle
Stanthorpe is home to the rare French Black Perigord Truffle, fungi which is so precious some joke they need their own bodyguards to protect them. At the , you can take a guided tour of the truffière and enjoy food tastings. You haven’t lived until you’ve tried truffle triple cream brie.
With a gift store you’ll definitely want to visit on the way out, stock up on supplies of truffle oil and truffle honey that beg to be drizzled over the cheeses you bought earlier today.
2pm: Picnic for two
In addition to the cellar door (which yes, has a fireplace too), Hidden Creek’s cafe serves up locally sourced fare – including the option of having your own picnic in the vineyards or lakeside. The picnic basket for two includes a gourmet platter, wine and rug – just pick your favourite spot on the property, and you’re good to go.
Overnight: Alure Stanthorpe
Experience the definition of glamping and check into Alure Stanthorpe for the night.
Cocoon yourself under the canvas in 56m2 of camping comfort, complete with full kitchen and double-vanity ensuite so you will never look at your regular campsite the same again.
You won’t have to worry about sleeping bags or inflatable mattresses for this night under the stars; there’s deluxe linen, a four-poster bed, and a chandelier to set the romantic mood.
Don’t rule this accommodation out if you plan to visit in winter. Your tent comes complete with a fireplace (and if all else fails, reverse-cycle air conditioning), which will rock your perception of camping to its core.
9am: Trek through the National Park
Get to know how this rocky region earned its Granite Belt title with a morning exploring Girraween National Park.
If you haven’t read this guide to Girraween, expect dramatic landscapes and granite outcrops that protrude from the hillside like freestanding marbles, with river courses that tumble around them leaving beautifully carved, deep plunge pools.
The well-kept trails range from one to 20kms, winding (uphill) to landmarks such as The Pyramid, The Sphinx and Castle Rock. The pièce de résistance within the park is undoubtedly Balancing Rock, a giant boulder precariously teetering like a sculpture handcrafted by mother nature herself.
Looking for more nearby national parks? Check out this Big Sky Country Drive.
12pm: Refuel, Ballandean style
Ballandean’s Barrelroom feels like a family affair, and it is. The kitchen is run by husband-and-wife chefs Bobbi-Lee and Matt Wells, who specialise in Australian-Italian fare driven by local and seasonal produce.
On the à la carte menu you’ll find the Wells’ signature mushroom soup, made with the region’s field mushrooms and truffles, along with pan fried quail with sage and parmesan risotto cake, house made prawn and barramundi tortellini with carrot beurre blanc, and a different flavoured souffle every week.
Can’t decide? The degustation (six courses) has your name written all over it, and with an extra $40 you can up the ante with matching Ballandean Estate local wines.
2pm: Go from cellar door to cellar door
With over 50 vineyards scattered around its hillsides, Stanthorpe is known for wine. It’s also quickly gaining a reputation for being the place to try those wines that aren’t so well-known.
Never heard of (or sipped) a Fiano, Montepulciano, Saperavi or Mourvedre? The Granite Belt is your chance to get up close and personal with Strange Birds (that’s wine speak for alternative variety vinos). Pick up a Strange Bird map from one of the wineries and prepare to meet your new favourite tipples.
Choosing to visit vineyards is easy, but deciding which ones and how to get there is nothing short of overwhelming. Take a load off: book a designated driver and let Filippos Tours do the decision making and driving. Their twilight tour takes off at 2pm and covers tastings at up to four boutique wineries, followed by a local, seasonal three-course dinner at Varias Restaurant.
Trust us, you’ll be grateful for your dropoff back to your Stanthorpe accommodation by the end of the tour.
Want to work off your wine along the way? Granite Belt Bicycle Tours offers guided and self-guided wine tours, as well as bike hire if you like to go your own way.
Overnight: Briar Rose Cottages
Some of the cutest cottages you ever did sleep in (and only one kilometre from Stanthorpe’s town centre), there are three to choose from at Briar Rose – each with its own personality. The Silky Oak is a cosy fit for two and has an internal spiral iron staircase leading up to the mezzanine bedroom, while the Mulberry and Cedar cottages sleep up to four and six people respectively.
8am: The most important meal of the day
If you’re talking breakfast in Stanthorpe, the answer is Brinx. The decor may feel like a cool New York deli, but owner Kristy O’Brien’s Italian heritage and appreciation for local produce drives the fresh menu of breakfast bruschetta, spot-on espresso and a dessert cabinet that’s impossible to pass up.
10am: See three falls in one day
One hour’s drive from Stanthorpe, you’ll find yourself in (unofficial) waterfalls country. Killarney boasts five falls in the area, three of which are connected by a route known as The Falls Drive.
Start your waterfall-hopping adventure at Browns Falls. From the parking lot, the walk is only 600 metres, although you should allow 20 minutes to navigate the undeveloped trail (rock hopping and creek crossing is required, but easily done) to the 15-metre falls.
Daggs Falls’ lookout is the easiest to access. One kilometre further along Spring Creek Road, the lookout above the 38-metre falls is just off the side of the road. (There is no trail to the base of this waterfall).
The biggest of the trio, Queen Mary Falls, plummets 40 metres over a horseshoe-shaped basalt cliff. The lookout is a short 400 metre walk from the parking area and picnic grounds, but devoting an extra 45 minutes to walk the two kilometre circuit will reward you with lush forest that opens to the rainforest gorge at the waterfall’s base. Insider tip: Walk the circuit in a clockwise direction, it’s easier on the legs!
Make one last stop at Carr’s Lookout for spectacular views over Head Valley and the Scenic Rim.
6.30pm: A five-course feast
After all that walking, you’ve earned a night of fine dining at luxury resort Spicers Peak Lodge’s hatted restaurant, The Peak Lodge, in Maryvale. Open for dinner Friday to Sunday, the modern Australian dishes here aren’t just about refined flavours and the nation’s highest quality produce; they’re also a celebration of the passionate providores who sustainably grow or source each ingredient. The set tasting menu takes the guesswork out of what to order.
Just sit back and let sommelier Nirvard Nelson choose the wines and head chef Dean Alsford dish up the most exquisite seasonal five-course meal.
Overnight: Killarney View Cabins and Caravan Park
Rather than a long drive back to Stanthorpe, settle in for the night at Killarney View Cabins and Caravan Park in one of their one or two bedroom cabins. Set on five acres, waking up to the surrounding mountain vistas is the perfect sendoff on your final day in the Southern Downs.
10am: Stock up on supplies
Forget your regular grocery shop at a major chain and take home edible souvenirs, like boxes of apples, cherries, grapes, peaches and pears that prove that everything tastes better when it hasn’t travelled hundreds of kilometres to your supermarket shelves.
For a gift that’s a bit more memorable than a bag of apples, a trip to Jamworks will deliver with homemade condiments including jams, relishes and chutneys.
You can’t leave apple country without stopping in at Sutton’s Juice Factory. A working apple orchard, Sutton’s onsite cafe and store is ripe with pure apple juice, cider, their famous apple pie (served with spiced cider ice cream!) and smallgoods to keep your weekend getaway alive weeks after you return.
12pm: Goodbyes are better with barbecue
As you leave the Southern Downs and your long weekend in Stanthorpe comes to an end, make one last pitstop in Warwick. The smoked American barbecue coming out of the Bluebird Kitchen is the sort of down-to-earth comfort food you need before returning home. The executive chef, Jim Osborn, is a Warwick local and runs the place with his high school sweetheart turned wife, Katie Osborn. The locally sourced beef brisket is as melt-in-your-mouth good as you’d expect after nine hours of smoking and goes down a treat with a side of sriracha ketchup fries, if you can handle the heat.
Don’t feel like going home just yet? Add these scenic country tourist drives from Warwick to your itinerary.
If you’re after a kid-friendly guide to Stanthorpe, check out the best things for families to do in Southern Queensland Country.
learn even more about the wondeful Granite Belt and Southern Downs region here.