Ruggedly hand­some

There is so much to love about the Gran­ite Belt

Life & Style Weekend - - TRAVEL - TRAVEL with Liana Turner

JUST a few hours from Bris­bane, the Gran­ite Belt of­fers a unique world poised among starkly dif­fer­ent re­gions. Aptly named for its rugged, boul­der-strewn ter­rain, the re­gion has much to of­fer.

When en­ter­ing the Gran­ite Belt from sur­round­ing ar­eas, vis­i­tors can no­tice a re­mark­able change in land­scape. From each di­rec­tion, the sur­round­ing ar­eas give way as gran­ite be­gins to peek from be­neath the earth. It’s not the out­back; it’s far from it. But it’s still a dis­tant world from the lush, al­beit hot and hu­mid, rain­forests of nearby re­gions.

It might seem a hard-shelled land by na­ture, as veg­e­ta­tion grap­ples for a strong­hold be­tween gran­ite boul­ders, but there’s lots to love. In winter, the cold climes can be a shock to those trav­el­ling from just about any­where else in Queens­land, but they’re also a big draw­card.

Of­ten, this means frost. On the rare oc­ca­sion, there’s also the chance of sleet or snow.

In sum­mer, hot days melt into cool nights – a great ap­peal for coast-dwellers hop­ing to es­cape the hu­mid­ity.

The winer­ies are plen­ti­ful, beau­ti­ful, and pro­duce a pretty im­pres­sive drop. In this re­gion, those in­ter­ested in delv­ing into the world of al­ter­na­tive wine would be in luck. For a tast­ing or two, there a plenty of op­tions. There are wine tast­ing tours aplenty, but with vine­yards spread across a wide re­gion, it’s im­por­tant to plan your trans­port and re­main safe on the roads. If the viti­cul­tur­al­ists’ cre­ations have worn you out, the re­gion is teem­ing with other op­por­tu­ni­ties.

At the heart of the Gran­ite Belt is Stan­thorpe, a town steeped in his­tory. At 811m above sea level, it’s known as the cold­est town in Queens­land.

Stan­thorpe and its many sur­round­ing vil­lages have ex­pe­ri­enced many evo­lu­tions of iden­tity over the years. Stan­thorpe was founded by tin min­ers in the late 1800s.

When min­ing waned in the re­gion, many turned to farm­ing. With a bunch of Ital­ian set­tlers and a cool, dry cli­mate to boot, grapes – and wine – found their way into the re­gion.

Later on, much of the re­gion was staked out for sol­dier set­tlers af­ter the First World War, and their jour­ney of set­tle­ment can be ex­plored with the Ar­mistice Way, a 34km tourist drive through the vil­lages in­clud­ing Thulim­bah, Pozieres and Amiens.

In mod­ern times, the Gran­ite Belt has ce­mented its place as a tourist hub, with vine­yards, fruit or­chards and other farm­ing op­er­a­tions still strong. While a road trip for lo­cal ap­ples and stone fruit is a coup for vis­i­tors, many travel to the re­gion for an ex­tended stay each pick­ing sea­son.

The re­gion’s fruit pro­duc­tion is a labour-hungry busi­ness, and over­seas work­ers flow into the re­gion each year, par­tic­u­larly over the sum­mer months. This tran­sient work­force has also left its mark, with Asian gro­cers and back­packer ac­com­mo­da­tion ven­dors dot­ting the re­gion. In the sum­mer, cool evening walks along Stan­thorpe’s Quart Pot Creek are a treat.

Of­ten, the air might be laced with gar­lic aro­mas, an­other tell­tale sign of the Ital­ian branch of Stan­thorpe’s his­tory.

While many of the re­gion’s trea­sures have been cre­ated by its hu­man in­hab­i­tants, from the High St mu­seum to the Red Bridge over Quart Pot Creek – still used on oc­ca­sion by a steam train – and the Lock St sol­diers’ me­mo­rial, some of the great­est won­ders of the Gran­ite Belt are much older.

Gir­raween Na­tional Park’s many me­an­der­ing tracks are dap­pled with en­demic plant species. In spring, wild­flow­ers bring the park to life, and there are many you won’t see any­where else in the coun­try.

For ad­ven­tur­ous souls, the na­tional park’s Pyra­mids Walk is a de­cent, but man­age­able trek. It ends with a steep as­cent, with the great re­ward of breath­tak­ing views from the top.

This jour­ney will take you past pre­car­i­ously perched gran­ite boul­ders. There’s plenty of wildlife to spot along the way, and a few spots for a swim in the sum­mer.

Across the bor­der in nearby Bald Rock Na­tional Park lay more ad­ven­tures for those keen for an ex­tra drive.

If the hik­ing has left your legs ex­hausted, you can stop by Storm King Dam, 10 min­utes south-east of Stan­thorpe, for a spot of fish­ing.

PHOTOS: LIANA TURNER

A group looks over Stan­thorpe from the Red Bridge at sun­set and, top right, Quart Pot Creek, Stan­thorpe at sun­set and, bot­tom right, Tight path­ways be­tween gran­ite can be ex­plored at Don­nelly’s Cas­tle.

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