It was my husband’s birthday not so long ago, and for his present, he wanted to visit wine country. I live in Australia and there’s no shortage of good wine, but as I’m in Queensland, once known as the Sunshine State and still known for its scorching heat and suffocating humidity, I assumed the best wine would be much further south in cooler climes.
Turns out there are cooler climes on my doorstep… if your doorstep is three hours drive long. We packed up the car and headed to the Granite Belt, a region reached from Brisbane by driving inland and climbing 1000 metres above sea level up the Great Dividing Range, and not coming down. Due to the elevation, temperatures hit below zero celsius in winter and barely broach 30 in summer.
We stayed in a little cottage in the bush, which was warmed with a wood fire stove at night. I’m now in love with wood fire stoves and have placed one in my dream house. I was well impressed with how efficient it was – two or three small logs kept the cottage so warm that we were in shorts and t-shirts despite the freezing temperatures outside.
My husband and I sharing coffee in the sun. In hindsight, I probably should have lost the slippers.
We stayed near Ballandean, which features many wineries, a corner shop with ageing vegetables, a disused train station and a triceratops.
We were also near the Girraween National Park, so we went walking. The Australian bush tends to be shades of washed out grey and green, but there’s bright colour if you keep an eye out for it. I was a surburban kid, but many holidays were spent camping and walking in the bush with my family, so I have a real soft spot for it. Something about the colours and shapes is as beautiful to me as a lush deep green European forest.
My husband was on the look-out for a koala, but they’re shy beasts and are rarely seen in the wild. We did however spot a swamp wallaby and her joey.
Feeling virtuous after our short walk, we embarked on the purpose of our trip; wine tasting. As designated driver (happy birthday honey!) I was only sipping, but it was a lot of fun. In three days we visited nine wineries; a drop in a bucket in an area with over fifty. The choice was bewildering, so for something a little different we focussed primarily on wineries featured on the Strange Bird wine trail. Strange Bird highlights wineries that work with grapes not commonly found in Australia. Not just your merlots and chardonnays here, but also tempranillos, voigners, moudevres, nebbiolos, and a heap more. I really enjoyed the change from the usual blends, although that didn’t stop me tasting a cab sav or two along the way.
The wine was great, but being late winter, the vinyards weren’t at their most photogenic.
Still, there are worse places to enjoy a glass.
Before we left the area, we spotted a sign, and had to go investigate.
The Post Office wasn’t very exciting, but much like the one in Ballandean, I couldn’t resist the old train station. The railway line is still in use, and unlike Ballandean, The Summit station looks like it still gets a little bit of traffic, from freight I suspect rather than from passengers. The line was built in 1881 and the small and simple buildings have that late 19th century Queenslander charm to them.
The internet tells me that this line used to be the main line to Sydney, and that passenger trains stopped running on here in the 1970s. However there is a “Winery tour” steam train that brings tourists up from Brisbane once a month. Now that would be a fabulous way to travel. Maybe one day.
Many thanks to my cousin and her husband for the heads-up and advice about the Granite Belt region, it’s truly a hidden gem of Queensland.