WELCOME TO THE GRANITE BELT
The Granite Belt on the Southern Downs is beautiful country; rugged and diverse, dotted with precariously balancing prehistoric granite boulders, fertile soil, big sky panoramas, meandering creeks, gourmet
produce and award winning boutique wineries.
Located on the New South Wales Border just two-and-a half hours drive south-east of Brisbane, the Granite Belt sits high on a plateau of the Great Dividing Range, more than 1000 metres above sea level, and feels
like you are close to the heavens. Our region is small but diverse, stretching just 60kms from north to south and roughly half as wide. Spread along the New England Highway, the main town of Stanthorpe is located
in the northern centre of the region.
The Granite Belt has a population of more than 10 000, with approximately 5500 located in Stanthorpe, and the remainder residing in surrounding villages and hamlets. To north are Applethorpe, Amiens, Pozieres, Thulimbah, Cottonvale, The Summit and Dalveen. To south lies Severnlea, Glen Aplin, Ballandean and the
border township of Wallangarra. Each have their own character and charm... take time to explore them all.
Life by the Seasons
Soaring altitude creates a region of four seasons and a climate a world away from Queensland counterparts. Warm in summer, but rarely exceed 30 degrees; and breathtakingly chilly in winter. Yes, it can even snow.
The seasons guide life in the Granite Belt. Spring is our season of celebration with Primavera (Italian for Spring) gastronomic and cultural events, and new wine vintage releases. It is also a visual feast of apple blossoms and wild flowers. In summer, the paddocks are full of produce; stone fruit and berries the favourite. Summer is also the time to explore the great outdoors and national parks.
Fall in love with autumn and its rich colours, as the deciduous landscape turns golden. Autumn is harvest
time - pick your own apples or watch vineyards bringing in grapes. Winter is colloquially our Brass Monkey Season; frosty mornings, crisp clear days and cold nights by roaring open fires.
A Sacred Hunting Ground
Stories tell us that the Kambu Wal Aboriginal tribe used the Granite Belt as their scared summer hunting grounds for thousands of years.
First Settlers Climb the Mountain
In 1827, Allan Cunningham ventured through the pass that now bears his name and discovered the lands beyond. Pastoralists arrived in the region during the 1840s, and in 1857 a staging post inn was built for coaches travelling between New England and the Darling Downs. Known as Quart Pot Creek, for many
years the area consisted of four large pastoral runs and a few prospecting huts. The Crown Land Act of
1868 led to a small influx of settlers, enabling shearers and other farm labours to acquire land of their own.
It was all about Tin
Historians record that Stanthorpe is the only town on the Downs which owes its birth to minerals and not agriculture. By 1872 the area was experiencing a mining rush, which gave Stanthorpe its name: stannum
is Latin for tin and thorp is English for village. The rush brought people from many countries, and for a time became the largest alluvial tin mining and mineral field in Queensland. Gold, silver, copper, wolfram,
arsenic and other important minerals were also found.
Miners turn to fruit
The fruit and vegetable industry for which the Granite Belt is famous for today, was born through forced economic diversification. When the tin prices fell many miners turned to
farming, with the climate and granite soil deemed very suitable for growing cool climate fruits and vegetables. At this time, grapes were also first planted with encouragement from the local Catholic priest Father Jerome Davadi to produce altar wine. His Italian descent, and plenty of Italian settlers, made wine production a familiar past time.
A Place to Grow Health
The railway reached Stanthorpe in 1881, bringing increased population including German settlers. This
prosperity continued until the
terminus moved to Wallangarra in 1886. At this time, the Granite Belt was also considered a place for
recuperation, the cool dry climate valued as an aid to health especially for those suffering from Tuberculosis or chest conditions.
Our French Battlefields
Following World War I, soldier
settlements were established and
villages named after the French
battlefields sprang up – Pozieres,
Messines, Fleurbaix, Amiens, and
Passchendaele. The area was
considered ideal for returning soldiers suffering from mustard gas exposure.
After World War II, Italian POWs and migrants arrived - of the region’s 15 per cent non-Australian born population 65 per cent are Italian. The Granite Belt’s wine pedigree continued to develop as many immigrants made table wines for their own consumption. The history of the Granite Belt can be experienced by following the Heritage Trail and visiting the Stanthorpe and District Historical Museum. Historical landmarks of interest include the Wallangarra Railway Station, the panoramic views of Soldiers’ Memorial that was built to mark the end of the Boer War, and the beauty of Red Bridge. The region also has some impressive historic buildings including El Arish (Place of Rest) built as a summer house for Major Chauvel, the Federation Post Office, to the Masel Residence - one of Queensland’s first examples of International Modern architecture.up all the water and caused a drought.
The Granite Belt is a premium wine growing region with a recognised Geographical Indication (GI). Its unique blend of granite terroir, cool climate and some of the highest altitude vines in Australia makes it well suited for
producing award winning wines. Steeped in European culture the region is also a famous culinary experience.
40 Cellar Doors
Many people start at our wineries,
with more than 55 vineyards and 40
boutique cellar doors. Innovative local winemakers are carving out an
impressive reputation for the region with a range of awards.
The Granite Belt is a versatile growing region due to its varying elevation which ranges from 700m to more than 1200m above sea level. Main wine styles include Chardonnay, Verdelho, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz. In recent years the Granite Belt has also proved a successful producer of more than 21 alternative varieties which are marketed under the Strange Bird brand. Dedicated to continuous improvement, we are home to the Queensland College of Wine Tourism.
The best way to experience our wine region is to take a tour – and make someone else the designated driver. For more information or bookings see the Stanthorpe Visitor Information Centre.
The Produce Pantry
Since the 1860s, the Granite Belt has also been one of Australia’s leading fruit and vegetable producers. Stanthorpe apples find their way into almost every home in Queensland!
The rich volcanic soils provide excellent growing conditions not only for apples, but also pears, table grapes, berries, stone fruit, olives, persimmons and figs. The region also grows an array of vegetables including beans, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, capsicum, cauliflower, celery, Chinese cabbage, eggplant, leeks, lettuce, parsley, peas, mushrooms, pumpkin, rockmelon, eschalots, sliver beet, spinach, squash, tomatoes, zucchini and more. You can stock up at roadside stores – or at times of the year – from the farm gate.
Produce is used by the region’s talented chefs, bakers and makers to create
tantalising gourmet delights from chocolate, ice-cream, olive oil, jam to cider, chutney, vinegar, cheese and more. The region also has a reputation for quality wild-game meat, lamb, and beef. The Granite Belt celebrates Nude Food. It’s not rude – the Nude Food Trail is a self-drive trail showing food as nature intended, in region and season.
From a degustation lunch overlooking vines or a picnic by the creek, there’s a culinary experience to suit every taste and budget. Enjoy it with a Granite Belt wine or locally brewed beer.
The Granite Belt is blessed with two national parks, Girraween and Sundown. The great untamed Sundown National Park offers excellent 4wdriving from sedate tracks to those that will test even the most experienced driver. You can explore the impressive Red Rock Falls, Mt Lofty, Red Rock Gorge and Carpenter Gully with steep gorges, waterways and amazing birdlife.
Girraween National Park has more than 20 kms of walking trails. Scale the prehistoric granites, formed about 250 million years ago - climb to the top of the great pyramids and see the iconic Phoenix monolith, or experience the elevated feeling of 360 views at Castle Rock. The park is also home to iconic Australian animals including platypus, echidnas, kangaroos, koalas, wombats, and 700 or so plant species.
Want more, within 100km of the Granite Belt there is an abundance of nature options. See the largest exposed granite rock in the southern hemisphere at Bald Rock National Park (New South Wales) adjacent to Girraween. Boonoo Boonoo National Park protects one of the district’s few remaining natural river landscapes and the highest falls in the region.
For a more relaxed approach walk or cycle along Stanthorpe’s Quart Pot Creek that unwinds amid deciduous gardens and picnic areas. Climb (or drive) up Mount Marley for commanding views of the town. At Donnelly’s Castle, near Pozieres, you only have to walk a few hundred metres to experience amazing granite rock formations and stunning views. Local tales say this was once a hideout of infamous bushranger Thunderbolt.
Prefer water; check out Storm King and Glen Lyon dams. You can enjoy water sports, swimming and great fishing. Both offer excellent camping options.
Share your Southern Downs Stories with us!