A freelance writer and academic, living in Brisbane.
Published October 7th 2015
The granite belt has many attractions for the short stay visitor - wineries, fresh farm produce, antiques, charming accommodation. For me, though, the attraction is the landscape after which it is named, with its massive granite boulders and gorges with twisted gums and meandering water courses. So when I stumbled on Curlew Retreat online while searching for mid-week short stay accommodation close to Brisbane and its website boasted of its own rocky gorge, I was sold.
Curlew Retreat is a "villa" (or a small house or large cabin, depending on how you look at it) situated on a hill overlooking a treed rocky gorge in the middle of a 100 acre beef property. It could be in the middle of nowhere, and indeed phone reception is limited or non existent depending on your provider. However, it is only 20 minutes from Thulimbah, on the road to nearby Stanthorpe. And though it feels remote, Curlew Retreat is fitted out with the luxuries of home and more - a wood fireplace, broadband, a 48" HD television and televisions in each of two bedrooms, a very well stocked kitchen, a large barbecue, coffee machine, a spa bath. The list of features goes on.
Amusements include the local donkey and horses that roam the surrounding paddock and visit looking for carrots or apples, the extensive DVD collection and an impressive telescope for exploring the pristine night sky.
But to me having your own private gorge is the star attraction - a one kilometre long rocky gorge with massive orange-tinted boulder cliffs, sandy creek beds, crystal clear rock pools and abundant bird life. We whiled away hours rock-hopping, sketching and soaking up the serenity.
Two nights here worked like a week for refreshing the soul, but you could easily stay a week to venture beyond your own private escape and explore the local sights, including Girraween National Park, Bald Rock National Park and of course the wineries trails.
Some provisions are supplied, including coffee beans and local apple juice from nearby Suttons Apple juice factory. However you could just bring some basic supplies and stock up on the way in at Sam's Fruit Shop or Vincenzo's delicatessen. The latter has ready made lasagnes, chicken pies or pizzas ready to heat up in the oven, or fresh meat for the deck barbecue. You can even get local wine, beer, honey and tea here too.
Be sure to fit in a trip to Suttons Apple juice factory where huge slices of apple pie are served in the tea room in one end of the juice packing shed. You can taste test their delicious apple juices and take home a supply. Or you can visit nearby Allambe Lavender Farm.
The most direct route from Brisbane to Curlew Retreat is via Cunningham's Gap and Warwick then Thulimbah. We took one of many scenic routes home, via the quaint village of Legume to Tooloom falls then Urbenville and Wodenbong to Beaudesert. Alternatively, you can get there or home via Boonah, Queen Mary Falls and Killarney.
But you might want to get there and back via the quickest route possible to maximise your retreat to Curlew and its magnificent gorge on the Maryland river. I know we will for our next visit.