Time out in Stanthorpe

posted in: Queensland, walks, wine | 2

A short escape to the Granite Belt

Mummy? Mummy? Mummy?! Mummy!!! There may have been a few more mummies (multiply by 20!) but Mummy knew one thing – I needed a time out.

“Are you happy mummy?”

“Actually no, I am feeling a bit stressed”. We have had a full on year so far. I won’t regale you with that story now but I knew I needed to hit my re-set button, and soon. My daily walks were just not cutting the mustard and something a bit more adventurous and distracting would be required.

Husband gets home from work. I say “We need to get away. I need a break. I’m sick of…. (insert multiple things that have been stressing me out for the past few months)”. Husband says “Ok, just choose somewhere close for the upcoming long weekend and we will go”.

So I choose the Granite Belt near the Qld/NSW border. We have been there a few times before. It ticks all the boxes. Walking? Check. Girraween National Park and Bald Rock are right there with many walking tracks of differing lengths and difficulty. Wineries? Check. There are 30 plus cellar doors on the Granite Belt. And it’s only a 3 ½ hour drive from our place (realistically its now 4 1/ 2 hrs with our son once you factor in the extra stops for toilets/playgrounds/child starving to death and needing real food).

It’s a bit cold up at that way in August (it got down to 1 degree at night while we were there) so I scratch the camping idea and book a one bedroom cabin at 31 the Rocks in Stanthorpe.

The weekend arrives and we set out on our adventure. After the aforementioned travel stops along the way we arrive at Stanthorpe and refuel hungry bellies with some lunch. Then its wine time. First stop Summit Estate Wines at the Summit.


Our one bedroom cabin at 31 The Rocks in Stanthorpe

Summit Estate Wines

Summit Estate Wines sits at one of the highest elevations of all the Granite Belt wineries at 920 meters above sea level (they can get snow here in Winter, yes I know snow in Queensland!). We pull up in the car park overlooking the vineyard and see that Harry has fallen asleep in the back. So Husband sends me in to get started before Harry wakes up.

I am finishing up on the whites and about to start the reds when Harry and Husband enter. Harry comes over to say hello and then heads to the kids toys in the corner, I hand Husband a tasting glass of chardonnay and move onto the reds. The wines have changed a bit since our visit early last year. I find the reds are more interesting than the whites here. When I go to a winery, I want something different that I won’t be able to find in the bottle shop at home.

I comment that I cannot see the 2011 Shiraz tempranillo on the list anymore. Eugene overhears me and comes over to tell me it sold out. Although he may have a couple of bottles hidden out the back left over from a food and wine event in Brisbane. He disappears and I continue tasting. I am quite impressed with the Alto tempranillo, monastrell cabernet, the QC (cabernet) and the 2011 merlot cabernet. Now I have to say generally I am not a merlot drinker (and no the Sideways film is not responsible for this), I find it a bit too soft and flat. But the Granite Belt and Grampians region of Victoria are my exception. The merlot really takes on the taste of the granite here and I am always surprised at how full and robust these merlots can be. On the first smell of the merlot cabernet I think to myself, aah yes we are back on the Granite Belt.

I decide to buy a few bottles of the merlot cabernet which at $18 a bottle was well worth it (I went on their website today and found out they are sold out of it so clearly other wine drinkers enjoyed it as much as I did). Eugene reappears carrying a few bottles of the 2011 Shiraz Tempranillo. I relieve him of these, we say goodbye and head onto our next winery, Boireann Wines.


Boireaan Wines

Boireaan Wines is only a short 9 minute drive from the Summit. This is a small boutique winery that along with a few other wineries here on the Granite Belt have successfully been experimenting with mourvedre, tannat, sangiovese, barbera and nebbiolo to complement the standard grape varieties grown here in Australia. Peter the owner and wine maker is a character and makes the wine tasting experience a personal and enjoyable one. Harry is full of beans so by the time we are onto tasting the 5th wine he’s wanting to run around outside and burn off some steam. I stay and chat and taste with Peter while Husband takes Harry outside to explore. As they do laps around the tasting shed I pass out a tasting glass to Husband giving him a brief rundown on what he’s trying and then going back inside to get the next one. We find this approach works well with a 3 year old, one of us tastes getting the info on the wines, while the other watches Harry and gets passed the wines and tasting notes outside. I find most wineries have been happy for us to take this approach, in fact I think they find it kind of amusing! I like it too, as we seem to get shown extra hospitality with winery owners or staff saying “take him out to see the sheep, dogs, tractors, dam, pick some grapes etc”.  I feel like we get to see and experience more at wineries than when we were pre Harry!

Once again the merlot surprises me. Peter asks if I am happily surprised or disappointed. I tell him what I wrote above earlier. We also really love the Lurnea, a bordeux style blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon, petit verdot, cabernet franc and tannat, and the mourvedre. Peter explains that the 2013 vintage got hit a bit with weather conditions but the 2014 vintage will be a ripper. Another excuse for a return visit next year! It’s now time to stretch the legs a bit so we bid Peter farewell and hit the road destined for Donnellys Castle. It’s time to look for yowies and bushrangers.


Donnellys Castle

“What’s a Yowie?” asks Harry with wide eyes. He appears to be happy with my explanation and heads off up the track to the caves to look for one. I also tell him about Thunderbolt the bushranger who used to roam the New England tablelands and is rumoured to have had a hideout here at Donellys castle. This story seems to worry him more than the yowies. I explain that Thunderbolt is long dead, but that I actually don’t think he was that bad a guy, maybe just a bit misguided and misunderstood. I tell him that of all the bushrangers Thunderbolt was my favourite. I imagine him now, standing alone, a solitary figure on this rocky outcrop. Surveying the countryside before him, waiting patiently for the mail coach to arrive so he can relieve it of its valuables.

Donnellys castle
Hunting for yowies and bushrangers at Donnellys Castle

Donellys castle is on Amiens road (a dirt road but fine for 2 wheel drives) and only about 10 minutes from Boireann wines. It is only a very short walk to the top of the lookout, but you can easily spend an hour just wandering around the big granite boulders and caves the boulders form from overlapping one another. It is a great place for kids to explore and let their imaginations run rampant and a relaxing place for adults to enjoy the sun setting over Stanthorpe. We leave Donnellys castle without finding any yowies or bushrangers and head to our accommodation. It’s time to check in and get ready for dinner at Anna’s Restaurant and plan tomorrows adventures.

Donnellys Castle
View towards Stanthorpe from Donnellys Castle


31the rocks
Harry exploring the property at 31 The Rocks Stanthorpe


Relaxing with a Summit Estate Merlot Cabernet at 31 The Rocks Stanthorpe
sunset from 31 The Rocks


Have you been to Stanthorpe before? Do you have a favourite bushranger?


At a Glance

map Stanthorpe
Is located approximately 2 ½ hours from Brisbane and 3 ½ hours from the Gold Coast
Google Maps Link

mapSummit Estate Wines
291 Granite Belt Drive Thulimbah
10 minutes north of Stanthorpe
Open daily 10am – 4:30 pm  http://www.summitestate.com.au/

mapBoireaan Wines
26 Donnellys Castle Road
10 minutes north of Stanthorpe
Open 10am – 4 pm Fri – Mon  http://www.boireannwinery.com.au/

mapDonnellys Castle
Amiens Road
25 minutes from Stanthorpe

map31 the Rocks
We stayed in the one bedroom cabin (we take a blow up mattress for Harry which saves us money as many places won’t charge for him as we are not using their bedding). I really liked it here and would stay again. Lovely bush setting and short walks around the 10 acre property. http://www.31therocks.com/

mapAnna’s Restaurant
Corner of Omara Tce and Wallangarra Rd Stanthorpe. Every time we visit Stanthorpe we eat here. The buffet on Friday and Saturday nights offers the best value and you get to taste a wide range of dishes (check website for prices). Licenced and BYO. http://www.annas.com.au/

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2 Responses

  1. Susan

    I normally feel the same about Merlot, so I am intrigued! May have to take a trip one day to find out for myself. I have spoken with hubby about visiting Stanthorpe, as he has not been there before, he always proclaims “its too far, too cold or not enough to do?” Might have to bring the conversation up again and enlighten him! For some reason I always have the urge to visit here in the cooler months.Was it cold in the Cabin?

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