Open studios, workshops, demos & entertainment event
Stanthorpe and the surrounding Granite Belt Area is home to many talented artists and craftspeople. For 3 days in October, from Friday the 29th to Sunday the 31st, studio doors will be open, workshops will be held, as well as activities for people of all ages. The Granite Belt Art & Craft Trail is the perfect time to spend a long weekend in the area.
The Granite Belt is part of a region known as the Southern Downs, which extends from Warwick in the north, down to the border of NSW. The Granite Belt is essentially a region that is full of granite rocks. Further north in Warwick, it is sandstone, but around Stanthorpe, there are a lot of granite boulders, with Girraween National Park being known for its spectacular stone formations, including natural stone arches and giant balancing rocks. Officially, the Granite Belt ends at the border of Queensland, but in reality, the granite keeps going over the into NSW.
Known as GBart, the art trail is about giving artists and craftspeople an opportunity over a weekend to really showcase their talents as well as giving visitors a chance to explore the artistic side of the region in more depth. So GBart was born and has been going from strength to strength. This year, it will go over 3 days, with the Friday being a public holiday in Brisbane because of the moved Ekka holiday.
The ladies of the Granite Belt Art Trail organising committee
It is hard to pick highlights because when it comes to arts and crafts, the issue is often about what interests you. So here are some things I know about, or have been recommended to me.
I do know that a lot of people are interested in the process of using a knitting machine to hand-make socks. If you have ever done any knitting, then a demonstration of the process by Dani at Crank'd Socks will be something worth checking out.
For people who like alpacas and their wool, then dropping into the Alpaca Artisans for their 1.5 hour workshops will be interesting. The members of this group are all alpaca breeders in the Granite Belt.
Art and craft demonstrations form the main attraction for the weekend, but there are also musical performances across the 3 days. The highlight will be Fresh Canvas on Friday October 29 at the Stanthorpe Showgrounds. The event includes a 2 course meal as well as music from local entertainers, the Stanthorpe Swooners and Matthew Manahan.
The entertainment highlight of the 3 days is the Fresh Canvas event on the Friday
You can catch live music at other venues during the day, including Heritage Estate, Granite Belt Brewery, Ridgemill Estate, Amiens History Association, The Summit Hall, Alpaca Arts Collective and Robert Channon Wines. This includes everything from string quartets to ukulele groups.
Eating & drinking
There are plenty of places to eat in the area. You can't go past a filling meal from a country pub, such as O'Mara's. Expect to spend around $20 for a big feed. There is also the Stanthorpe RSL for the type of meal you would expect from a country RSL. The other staple of the trip to the countryside is a pie from a local bakery, with Zest Pastries being the most highly regarded in the area.
Grab a classic country pub meal in one of several classic country pubs in the Stanthorpe region
The cafe scene is fairly food as well. I have eaten at Cafe 77, which a lot of people just refer to as the burger bar, as this is their speciality. Remember, being the countryside, the burgers are pretty big. If you are looking for a country-style cafe, try Lily's Cafe.
Then, of course, you can find a lot of upmarket places as well. There is the Granite Belt Brewery, St Jude's Cellar Door and Bistro, or Whiskey Gully Wines. Remember of course, the nicer the place, the more likely you will need to book ahead.
There are plenty of opportunities for fancy food in the Granite Belt
It doesn't all have to be about the arts and crafts. Girraween National Park is nearby and worth visiting if you are in the area. So is another rock formation, Donnelly's Castle. Sundown National Park has additional hikes and natural attractions but is only accessible if you have an offroad vehicle. You can also walk along the creek in town and visit the historic red bridge. If you enjoy history, do the Historic Stanthorpe Walking Trail.
There are plenty of wineries and cellar doors to visit in Queensland best grape-growing region. Foodies can visit Stanthorpe Cheese or the Truffle Discovery Centre.
If you are in the Granite Belt and enjoy wines, then you have to visit a winery or cellar door
If you don't live in the area, then you will probably want to stay there for at least one night, if not more. Luckily there is a range of accommodation available. But make sure you book early because, not only is this event on, but for Brisbane, it is a long weekend as well (thanks to the Ekka Holiday being moved to October 29).
In Stanthorpe, there are various motels, which are fine if you just need a place to stay and want to be in walking distance of pubs and restaurants. There are also several caravan parks near town with cabins, and caravan and camping sites.
For pure camping, there is Girraween National Park and, if you have a 4WD, Sundown National Park. There are also commercial campgrounds and caravan parks outside of town, such as Foxbar Falls.
Camping is an option when visiting the Granite Belt Art Trail
Then there are of cabins, B&Bs and other more upmarket accommodation in the area. I can't list all of the options as that would be pretty involved. But I am familiar with Sabo's on Severn with little self-contained cabins on a property backing onto the Severn River, and Braeside Homestead, which is good for a group of up to 8 people.
You can also look for holiday home rentals in the area and there are a number of interesting and unusual places you can rent out. One that I know about is Mia Chiesa, which is a converted small church, refitted to modern living.
Staying in a converted church is just one holiday home rental option in the area
The Granite Belt Art Trail is an opportunity to visit a region that is growing in its creative and artistic output while studios are open and you can learn more about the craft and skill behind the creations. Along with art and entertainment, there is more than enough to do in the area to fill up a 3 day weekend.