Tempt your taste buds, capture your curiosity, and be amazed at our diverse history. The Southern Downs will deliver all this and more, while you take in some spectacular scenery.
Love history? Fancy a touch of Italy, France or England? Or are you just hankering for some warm country Aussie hospitality? You know you don't have too travel far to experience all these and more.
The Southern Downs region has long been known for its fruit and vegetable produce. At the turn of the 20th century Stanthorpe was developing from a tin mining town into a fruit and vegetable producing centre for South-East Queensland.
Winemakers and olive producers came from Italy to the Stanthorpe district in the 1920s and helped establish what we now know as the food and wine trail.
I'm in Stanthorpe delving into my family history and meet with volunteer Lorene Jones, long-time resident and history writer at the Stanthorpe Museum and historical village.
She is keen to tell me about the hidden treasures that many on the wine and food trail never get to see. She tells me stories of the early days in the wine and fruit production and of the quirkiness of the residents and their love affair with landmarks such as the Soldiers Memorial, the Brass Monkey and the Wine Barrel totem pole.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the commencement of the Great War, World War 1, 1914 to 1918. Many are planning trips to Gallipoli, the Somme, Ypres and other battlefields in Europe to mark the occasion. (The actual centenary of the 'Landing at Gallipoli' is 25th April 1915 at 2:15am.)
Remembrance Day services are held every year on 11th November. To coincide with this commemoration, each year in November, Das Helwig Haus opens its gardens to the public. The highlight of the garden is a field of scarlet Flanders poppies, planted as a Remembrance Field. Lorene suggests visitors coming in April or November might incorporate a commemorative service into their stay in Stanthorpe.
Following the end of the Great War, the government established areas of land for returned soldiers in an effort to re-establish them into the community and grow the regions. A Soldiers' Settlement was established near Stanthorpe with the returned soldiers choosing names of the famous battlefields in northern France.
A drive along Armistice Way takes me through the Soldiers' Settlement villages of Amiens, Messines, Bapaume, Passchendaele, Bullecourt, Pozieres and Fleurbaix. Signs displaying the Rising Sun and the Poppy mark the Way. St Denys Anglican Church at Amiens was named after the patron saint of France. A visit to the Soldiers Memorial at Mt Marley, the only rest house of its kind built in Australia, provides a wide vista across the region.
Back in town, over an English Devonshire tea, I ask a local about the famous bushranger Thunderbolt. She tells me that some say he didn't exist but as the legend goes, he made his home in a set of caves and overhanging granite rocks in the Bald Rock National Park. I take a short drive out to catch a glimpse of the Rock.
It's late on a fine, sunny afternoon and the Rock takes on a ghostly aura against the clear blue and pink tones of sunset. As I stumble over the rocky ground, a rustle behind me causes me to gasp. Could it be Thunderbolt's spirit? No. It's just a sun-drenched Cunningham's Skink scampering for cover!
On the interpretative trail back to the car park, a local ranger tells me that at nearby Girraween National Park, the rangers lead walking tours along scenic graded walking trails to features such as First Pyramid, Second Pyramid, The Sphinx and many others in the Park. That will have to wait for another day, as darkness draws in on this one.
My thoughts turn to dinner. Tonight my hosts have prepared a delicious home-cooked Aussie meal. We take after-dinner port by the fire and I turn in, contented, under a dark and starry, country night sky.
ANZAC Day (25th April) and Remembrance Day (11th November) services are held at numerous locations around the district. A dawn service is held at 5.30am at Weeroona Park Memorial followed by a Gunfire Breakfast at the Stanthorpe RSL with a parade and civil service commencing at 10.30am on ANZAC Day each year. St Denys Church at Amiens holds an annual Remembrance (Armistice) Day service on 11th November.
For further information, contact Norm Steele or Thomas Cavanagh on 07 4681 0047 – SubBranch Stanthorpe RSL Services Club.
It's not too late to enjoy winter in Stanthorpe. This is Brass Monkey season with many wineries and restaurants celebrating Christmas in July. Enjoy a glass of mulled wine or eggnog by an open fire.
Spring brings the wildflowers that grow in the open fields and along the sides of the road. Spring also heralds the beginning of the new season for farmers.
If you like art, Nest Gallery is a new art space in Amiens Road, Stanthorpe. For more details of these and other attractions, contact the Stanthorpe Visitor Information Centre on 07 4681 2057.