The wonders of the Granite Belt in southern Queensland attracted Gold Coast rider and MBW contributor Todd Parkes. He organised a two-day trip with the help of Monique Krause, marketing coordinator of Granite Belt Wine Country. Click here for the first part of his trip.
Day two of my new frontier exploration of the Granite Belt region led me to more wonders.
The Jamworks Gourmet Cafe and Larder was the place to go for breakfast where they make all their jams on site. One of the owners, Stef, was on duty and shared how they often get machinery clubs and car clubs among others journeying through or frequently meeting up there.
In fact as I enjoyed some apple juice and an omelette, the local classics group turned up for their monthly gathering. A smattering of classic vehicles surrounded the parking lot and the conversation rose enthusiastically within the cafe to fever pitch.
You aren’t visiting Stanthorpe properly if you haven’t experienced several wineries across the area. In fact there are more than 45 different vineyards in the region and to explore all of them in one hit is an impossibility which is why many people just keep returning.
Jester Hill Wines was my mid-morning stop. Ann and Mick Bourke own and run Jester Hill Wines. They are keen motorcyclists and they visited the Granite Belt on a bike trip together nearly a decade ago. They visited Jester Hill Wines when under its previous owner and decided to buy it out of the blue!
They have a wine called “Two Fools” and they say they named it after themselves and their story of the bike trip that ended in buying a winery. I had a great chat with them both as well as a lovely coffee. Wine tasting is available and a must as well as taking away some produce with you. If only I could have fitted a case on the bike!
They do courier your purchases (like the other wineries do too) though and often they arrive home to your doorstep before you do.
More spectacular scenery can be explored in the region including Girraween National Park with rock formations, caves and outcrops. On the way I saw a man-made pyramid in the Ballandean area on Jacobsen’s Rd. It is a stone pyramid, built from blocks of local granite, standing about 17.5m, 30m square at the base and containing 7500 tonnes of rock. It was built using an excavator and dump truck and it took eight months to complete.
Leaving Stanthorpe and heading south to the border I arrived at Wallangarra Railway Cafe in the old border station. In its prime, it received trains from NSW on their unique gauge and shifted the freight to waiting trains on Queensland’s different gauge railway line.
That doesn’t occur anymore but if you are in the region at the right time, a steam train comes from Warwick monthly to this destination (the next is February 9, 2019), stops for lunch and heads home. There is a museum with well-laid-out models, displays and a theatre room. Kim and the other helpful staff are always warm and welcoming as they serve you snacks, meals and drinks while sharing the site’s history.
At the end of my two-day ride through the Granite Belt, I resolved to return with my clan to explore the law dog training shows, see some glass blowing, visit the saddlery, taste some cheeses and see more of the region’s natural beauty.
I headed south to Tenterfield and then east through the ranges to Casino, Lismore, Bangalow and home to the Gold Coast. For more scenic non-motorway oriented riding you can ride through Kyogle, Nimbin and Murwillumbah. However you manage that trip, the roads are delightful.
Top 10 reasons to ride the Granite Belt:
- The roads to get there are great.
- The wines taste completely different to coastal areas or lower valley regions.
- The farm industry (apples, strawberries, grapes, etc) offers tasting, picking and tours as well as products such as juices, jams, snacks, etc
- The craft industry includes glass blowing, chocolate making, cheese making, beer brewing, fish hatcheries, leather goods and more.
- Natural sites to delight geology buffs include Girraween National Park, Donnelly’s Castle, many random sites with interesting granite formations and Mt Marlay Lookout.
- Local hospitality is friendly and inviting and the businesses seem to work together for the good of the region not in competition for tourist dollars.
- Cafes, restaurants and accommodation all offer unique experiences.
- Many think of it as a winter destination, the chance to maybe see snow in Qld and feel the warm fireplaces and drink hot chocolate at night, but in summer you can explore the roads without the heat and humidity of the coast.
- Unique experiences include the Law Dog Training school to see how dogs used in all branches of security work are trained; the Granite Belt Maze and Mini Golf, Christmas Tree Farm, Wine and Hospitality College.
- History buffs will enjoy the various museums, military memorials and the historic villages named after French and Belgium World War I Battles.