The Southern Downs

From Brisbane, Cunningham’s Gap is the winding gateway to the elevated Southern Downs region. Here, summer is cooler and winters are cold – so cold, Queenslanders flock here to enjoy hours by open fires at cosy B&Bs and of course, a glass of local wine.

Warwick is a town with historic buildings testament to the rich past of the region built on the back of sheep, when large stations such as Talgai controlled vast tracts of land, and sheep were king.

As a result of this early wealth, Warwick has a collection of beautiful sandstone buildings in the centre of town. Warwick is also famous for the rather unusual combination in its Rose and Rodeo Festival in October, where visitors come to smell the roses and watch the Rodeo exploits of adventurous cowgirls and boys. A visit to the calf markets in Warwick every Wednesday morning is great fun, but be careful how you waive your hand or you might have a rather large souvenir to take home!

In Allora, you’ll discover some wonderful old colonial timber buildings and if you’re able to visit in late January and early February you can join the Australia Day Weekend and Allora Show celebrations. Visit the Glengallan Homestead for an insight into the history of the area.

Stanthorpe is the centre of the Granite Belt region, where rich soils that used to yield great quantities of tin (the name Stanthorpe means ‘tin village’) now support a wealth of agricultural activity, most notably fruits and wine. The Stanthorpe Apple and Grape Harvest Festival draws visitors from around Australia who come to celebrate the fruit and wine of the region and Red November is Stanthorpe’s celebration of all things red-wine, cherries and berries and fields of red poppies commemorating the wheat fields of France, before the devastations of World War I.

Brass Monkey Season brings Queenslanders in search of that rare experience in the warmer northern climate – cold nights providing the perfect excuse to light a fire and sunggle up. But this regions is not just for the cold weather – in summer the highlands are a perfect respite from the city heat and ideal for interstate visitors who want to experience Queensland, but are perhaps looking for somewhere not quite as hot and humid.

There are more than 40 wineries and cellar doors in this region and one of the best ways to experience the wines of the region is to take a winery tour. Lavender farms promise a sensory experience and Aloomba Lavender at Liston and Crystal Ridge Lavenders at Stanthorpe are two excellent choices.

No visit to the area would be complete without experiencing the Granite Gardens at Thorndale, just out of Stanthorpe where beds of beautiful roses and a stunning parkland lake can be admired over coffee and cake at the Café.

Ballandean was the first place in the region where grapes were grown and is a home to a number of wineries and cellar doors. A peaceful village atmosphere makes you feel right at home and a tour of the wineries is a great way to while away a few hours and fill the car with some liquid trophies to take back home.

Be sure to stop for lunch or dinner at the Vineyard Café at Ballandean and admire the Gardens.

Ballandean is also the gateway to four famous National Parks – Sundown, Bald Rock, Boonoo Boonoo and Girraween National Parks. Girraween means ‘place of flowers’ and in spring you’ll be amazed at the extraordinary collection of flowers among the dramatic granite boulders, balancing like giant marbles just waiting to roll.

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