Plan your escape to the country
Consider hitting these country roads for a well-deserved break.
If you're looking for a short break away from the hustle and bustle of the city, then we have a great option.
This three-day itinerary from our friends at Southern Queensland Country will have you cruising country roads, walking in the spray of waterfalls, crunching along granite trails and enjoying the region’s bountiful food and wine offerings.
Day 1: Brisbane (or Gold Coast) to Killarney
(173km, just over two hours)
Pack a picnic and head out of town via the small towns of Beaudesert and Boonah to your lunch destination, Queen Mary Falls (pictured below). From Boonah take Carneys Creek Road, which becomes The Head Road and then Spring Creek Road. Over this 60km stretch you will notice the landscape becoming greener, hillier and more beautiful as you wind your way over the twists and turns of the Great Dividing Range.
Part of Main Range National Park, Queen Mary Falls is a lush place to relax and explore. There are shady picnic tables, barbecues, toilets and a 2km walk to the base of the Falls.
If you’re not fond of stairs, stroll to the viewing platform a couple of minutes from the start of the track to see the Spring Creek cut its course and cascade over the 40m drop. Sitting at the base of the falls breathing in the fresh, damp air is well worth the half-hour circuit, which is easily done if you’re even moderately fit.
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After your walk, grab a coffee and a freshly baked scone, jam and cream from The Falls Cafe opposite the National Park and sit on the deck with the colourful king parrots, lorikeets and shy bower birds that are regular visitors.
From here it’s 10 minutes to Killarney along the Falls Drive. If you’ve developed a taste for chasing waterfalls, drop into Browns and Daggs falls along the route.
Check out Killarney Art Gallery, a local artists’ co-op where you can pick up paintings, sculptures, ceramics, jewellery and textiles, and call into the Killarney Hotel, a classic old pub circa 1910, for a quick drink on the wide verandah overlooking the main street. If you’re into history, Killarney Heritage Centre, open weekends 10am–2pm and by appointment, has an interesting collection of local historical photos, articles and small artefacts.
Day 2: Killarney to Stanthorpe
(113km, 1 hour, 15 minutes along country roads)
Rise early and take a two-minute stroll to Carr’s Lookout to catch the sun rising over the gorge and mountains – the view is often shrouded in dawn mist, making for winning Instagram pics.
Once you reach Warwick, take the New England Highway and set your course for Thulimbah – when you begin to see granite boulders, stone fruit groves and apple orchards dotting the landscape, you’re getting close.
Morning tea is beckoning and tucking into freshly baked crumbly apple pie with creamy spiced cider ice-cream at Suttons Farm is going to be a highlight of your day. Farmers Dave & Ros Sutton also make wicked cider, juice, jams, sauces and syrups from their apples, so don’t leave without stocking up.
Stanthorpe Cheese (pictured below) is just a short hop over the railway tracks where you can try and buy farmhouse cheeses made from the milk of happy Jersey Cows – and other local artisanal products like Lyrah-infused vinegars, Mt Stirling olives and olive oil, and New England Larder pickles, chutneys and relishes.
You are in Queensland’s premier wine region so a wine tasting or two along the Strange Bird Wine Trail is compulsory.
“Strange bird” is the nickname for the unusual, lesser known varieties of wine grapes grown in this area – Saperavi, Fiano, Verdelho, and Durif, to name a few.
As you’re heading south, drop into Ridgemill Estate, Hidden Creek, Twisted Gum, Golden Grove or Symphony Hill for a wine tasting and a chat with the winemaker at the cellar door.
Stop in at Jamworks for a range of sweet treats made from local produce. You can buy a jar of delicious strawberry, ginger and rose jams.
For a really special farm-to-table lunch book a table at Ballandean Estate winery’s The Barrelroom and Larder where the chefs source ingredients no more than a three-hour drive from their kitchen.
You are going to need to walk off lunch in Girraween National Park, a short drive away. Granite trails, from easy 30-minute strolls to challenging half-day hikes, take in spectacular granite landscapes, tracts of bush, meandering creeks and precariously balancing boulders.
If you’re keen on an early morning hike, you can stay close to the National Park at Girraween Environmental Lodge (self-catering) or at Vineyard Cottages (onsite restaurant or book a cottage with a kitchenette), or in Stanthorpe, book in at Diamondvale Cottages, Alure or 31 The Rocks.
Day 3: Stanthorpe to Brisbane or Gold Coast
(250km, just under 3 hours’ drive)
If you’re not off on a dawn hike, sleep in and enjoy a leisurely breakfast at your accommodation or try Foxy’s Bakery or Brinx Deli in Stanthorpe.
Before you set your course for home, drop in to the Truffle Discovery Centre to learn about the area’s truffles – a gourmet ingredient sought after by chefs and home.
On the way out of town, tour Kent Saddlery’s workshop to see master saddlers and leather artisans at work, or drop in to Granite Belt Christmas Farm – where you can buy fresh handmade chocolates from Mrs Claus’ Kitchen, or wander through the fields of real Christmas trees.
Travelling back through Warwick, and continuing on to the Cunningham Highway, you have the option of spending the afternoon in the beautiful Goomburra section of Main Range National Park or having lunch, horse riding and feeding the farm animals at Bestbrook Mountain Resort (pictured below).
Whatever you choose, you will be heading home relaxed and refreshed with a haul of gourmet goodies to tide you over until the next time you set off road tripping these country roads.