Just 90 minutes from Brisbane, Southern Queensland Country is a cosy region offering crisp country air and oodles of charm.
Known for its distinct seasons, June-September is a gorgeous time of year to visit as you can embrace the cold snap – hard to come by in Queensland! Think of your favourite jumper and a log fire burning, while enjoying a hearty meal and a glass of wine. Bliss.
A trip here has been on my radar for a few months, but it wasn’t until I saw a Southern Queensland Country Facebook post advertising ‘the Downton Abbey of Australia’, that I was like, “ok yes, let’s book that in.”
As Sod’s law would have it, I came down with the most awful something a few days prior (COVID negative) and it was still lingering hard when the Ekka long weekend rolled around. Migraine, fever, chills, no appetite – I had it all. Not to waste a perfectly good travel opportunity though, we still went, and while I couldn’t cross everything off my (carefully curated) list, it was still a lovely weekend.
Set on two acres, the Abbey Boutique Hotel in Warwick is a heritage-listed building that dates back to 1891. Though it’s been extensively renovated to adapt to today’s comforts, the history hasn’t been lost. With only 12 rooms, each has its own character. We stayed in the quaint sized ‘Nuns Cell’, which is small, yet luxurious, and looks out onto the gardens. Due to the old plumbing, our room’s private bathroom was down the hall – not a fan, but it’s the price to pay to sleep in a time gone by.
After dumping our bags, we enjoyed a stroll around the house and gardens, taking a peek at some of the more expensive rooms (staff tend to leave the door open until guests check-in). Beautiful place, and it inspired us to live on acreage (with chickens) one day – the dream.
That evening, we took advantage of the in-house restaurant and enjoyed a pre-booked three-course meal. Well Joe enjoyed his while I moved mine around the plate 😫
After a little sleep in the next day (post 6am without the puppy is amazing), the plan was to explore the rocky marvels at Girraween National Park (what I was most excited about) but alas, had to swap this with a more gentle adventure.
Instead, we headed to nearby town Stanthorpe, home to Sutton’s Juice Factory, Cider and Shed Cafe. I’ve heard so many great things about this place and it didn’t disappoint. For one, my body was screaming for nutrients, and I got through a litre of pink lady apple juice in minutes. Secondly, how can you not try their famous apple pie with apple cider and cinnamon icecream? Although I could only have a bite – delicious!
After a slow and steady stroll and spot of shopping around Stanthorpe town centre, a pint was needed so we headed to the Granite Belt Brewery. Set on 30 acres of natural bushland, this 1000 litre microbrewery, restaurant and bar is the epitome of Southern Queensland Country. We had originally planned to have a meal here, but alas, sickness. I could just about handle a glass of Applethorpe cider, so small blessings. With the fire roaring and the place bustling though, I got a real sense of the ambiance there and hope to return – there’s even a collection of cedar cabins to stay at.
I sound like a broken record at this point but I spent the rest of the afternoon at the Abbey resting. That evening, Joe grabbed dinner from Bluebird Kitchen and Bar (highly reviewed) and he seemed happy with his choice so I’ll recommend it as a casual, Mexican dinner option in Warwick.
The following morning, I had turned a corner so we stuck to the plan and visited Queen Mary Falls. Through rainforested gorge, this 2km circuit takes you to the valley floor to look up in awe at the spray of these spectacular falls. A quick activity if you’re short on time, and well worth the stop.
All in all, not the perfect weekend I had planned for, but it was just as the title says – a taste of Southern Queensland Country. I’m ready for round two.