Dappling the western flanks of the Great Dividing Range about 210km southwest of Brisbane, the Granite Belt subverts the southeast Queensland cliches of sun and surf. Here, rolling hillsides are lined with cool-climate vineyards, olive groves and orchards growing apples, pears, plums and peaches.
Stanthorpe & Ballandean
Queensland’s coolest town (literally), Stanthorpe is one of the state's lesser-known drawcards. To the locals, the chilly winter months are known as 'Brass Monkey Season', with events including Christmas in July and no shortage of Queenslanders snuggling up with a vino rosso from one of the numerous local wineries.
North Stradbroke Island
An easy 30-minute ferry chug from the Brisbane suburb of Cleveland, unpretentious North Stradbroke Island (Minjerribah) is like Noosa and Byron Bay rolled into one. There’s a string of glorious powdery white beaches, great surf and some quality places to stay. It’s also a hot spot for spying dolphins, turtles, manta rays and, between June and November, humpback whales.
If you’re not going further north in Queensland than Brisbane but fancy an island getaway, sail over to Moreton Island (Moorgumpin). The third-largest sand island in the world, its prelapsarian beaches, dunes, bushland and lagoons are protected, with 95% of the isle comprising the Moreton Island National Park & Recreation Area.
To its traditional custodians, the Ningy Ningy people, the Redcliffe Peninsula is known as Kau-in Kau-in, meaning Blood-Blood. The area's red-hued cliffs would also inspire its European name. Jutting into Moreton Bay about 35km north of central Brisbane, this is the site of Queensland’s first European settlement (1824).
Manly & St Helena Island
Just a few kilometres south of the mouth of the Brisbane River, seaside Manly is the closest access to Moreton Bay from central Brisbane. It's an affluent, sleepy, self contained suburb, with marina-side dining, sunny seaside lawns overlooking the mangroves and a Saturday farmers market.
From Toowoomba, the New England Hwy travels north for 50km along the ridges of the Great Dividing Range to small, sleepy Crows Nest. Circulating around a village green, the town's few attractions include a worthy historical museum and the kooky World Worm Races, held every October.
Girraween National Park
A short drive east of Ballandean, the 11,800-hectare Girraween National Park is home to astonishing granite boulders, pristine forests and abundant wildlife, including echidnas, eastern grey kangaroos and over 150 species of birds. Girraween is an Aboriginal word meaning 'place of flowers', and the area is famous for its brilliant springtime blooms.