Play and Stay on the Belt – Braeside Homestead
Travel restrictions needn’t rob you of the pleasures of exploring new and interesting landscapes; immersing yourself in art, wine and food from different terroirs and making new friends. John Caruso discovers a destination that has it all and is just a few hours away.
I left Noosa late Friday morning, heading southwest through the often twisty, inland roads with Google maps indicating that my destination; the beautifully restored and heritage listed, Braeside Homestead in Dalveen on the Granite Belt, was about four hours away.
The sun is casting a gorgeous golden glow across the property when I arrive mid-afternoon and I am greeted by property managers Erika and Heath Green. Green in name and nature it seems with stunning landscaping and hundreds of roses that will be breathtaking when they bloom in October. Accommodating twelve people, Braeside was established in the mid-1870s and operated as a stud farm from 1879 to 1901. Its original character is intact with most of the bedrooms inside the original building and additional accommodation in a cottage close by.
My room has a large king-sized bed, a beautiful clawfoot tub in the bathroom and a spectacular chandelier, one of many throughout the home which are painstakingly hand-polished and spectacular when sunlight scatters a kaleidoscope of colour across the rooms.
Chesterfield couches and fireplaces feature in almost all the living areas, and on this evening, the fires are doing a great job of warming the homestead.
Erika and Heath provide all guests with breakfast provisions for a delicious country style breakfast with many guests enjoying the opportunity to cook in the fully equipped gourmet kitchen.
There’s also a BBQ with packs available to pre-order from a local butcher.
I don’t overindulge in breakfast Saturday morning because I know what’s waiting thirty minutes down the road at Sabo’s on the Severn. Here you will meet two of the most wonderfully hospitable human beings ever, Joe and Lizzie Sabo.
The couple wanted a tree change and purchased the property four years ago.
“We’re on 33 acres and our property backs onto the Severn River with four guest rooms inside and four guest units, sleeping 26 people. I also run cooking classes which seem to be really popular,” says Lizzie.
We take a seat around a beautifully presented table with the main attractions centre stage – homemade scones with jam and cream, and a tall sponge cake decorated with strawberries!
Seated at the table with me is Rosy Chapman, the coordinator for The Granite Belt Art Trail that’s taking place in Stanthorpe in October. In its third year they are celebrating with a spectacular opening night planned with local food, local wine, and entertainment.
Rosy tells me the Granite Belt and the people who call the area home have lived through some very tough times with drought and bushfires and how art has played an important role in rebuilding the community spirit.
“I’m a seventh generation local and when I returned home in 2018, the region was suffering a terrible drought,” she said. “People were squabbling at the water hole. We had no tourism, the national park was closed, we experienced two bush fires in 2019; there was no fruit and veggie industry; we had no water, and we had no community.
“With my background as an art’s therapist and artist, I recognised that we’ve got an incredible arts community here and eventually we started the Art Trail to bring everyone together.
Roxane Scott from Wild Cat Tracks Tours is our driver who takes us into town via some of the amazing murals that adorn several buildings in the town centre, many paying homage to the firefighters who protected the local community during those 2019 bushfires.
“My tours are individually tailored to the needs of whoever wants to book me. I can take up to four people on winery and brewery tours, cheese tasting, sampling local products, history tours and more,” she said.
To further emphasise the importance of art to the region, it just so happens that the local pottery club is celebrating its 50th year, so it’s off to join the celebrations, by purchasing a locally hand-crafted bowl and filling it up with some delicious soup.
Yve Gray is the kiln coordinator with the Stanthorpe Pottery Club.
“We run a lot of weekend workshops where professionals come in and demonstrate and teach, and our members really love that. There’s about 35 members of the club now and we’re seeing a lot of younger people joining too,” says Yve whose Raku piece took out the big art prize earlier this year.
“I’ve lived here for nearly seven years, and I’m amazed at how integral and important art is to the people who live here,” says Mary Findlay, director of the Stanthorpe Regional Art Gallery. “Maybe the giant granite monoliths of the Girraween National Park provide inspiration. Maybe the changing seasons, the cooler weather, or maybe it’s because we had the sanitarium where people were treated for tuberculosis, and art was a part of their recovery.
“We had the soldiers from the great war settling here and we had a large Italian population as well with their wine making and their contribution to the arts and that breadth and diversity is unique to this area.
“The Italians had to fight and work hard to find their place in this community, and they bought their music and their art to the region, and all of this has brought us to this point where we’re recognised as an arts centre that people are drawn to,” she says.
A visit to the Granite Belt wouldn’t be complete without a visit to an apple orchid. Three generations of Nicolettis have produced apples in Stanthorpe, starting with Daniel’s grandfather.
“My grandparents came to Stanthorpe following the war. They grew apples back home in northern Italy; there were plenty of fruit trees and their gardens were always full of vegetables. When they came to Australia they settled where they either knew people or where there was sponsorship for them to go,” explains Daniel.
Stanthorpe is the second biggest apple producer outside of Shepperton in Victoria, and although Tasmania is often referred to as the ‘Apple Isle’, Stanthorpe produces more apples than all the apples produced in Tasmania.
The Granite Belt is also renowned for its wineries, so dinner with matching wines at Heritage Estate Wines with owners Rob and Therese Fenwick is the highlight performance of our intimate southern Queensland tour.
“The winery has been here for 30 years, and we’ve owned it for almost three years. We’re only the second owners and we bought it from the founders of the winery. We had a desire to be on the land and coupled with Therese’s history in wine, it was something we had to do,” explains Rob.
“The wines we produce here are fruit forward and they’re very elegant wines, but you still have the essence of the berry and that’s a style of wine we enjoy and fortunately many others like it too. When we have a restaurant full of people here for a function and they’re enjoying the food and our wine, I love the sheer ability to brighten people’s lives.”
The Granite Belt has so much to offer, and well worth the drive from our coastal home. Like I said at the start, if you’re missing the things that make travel so inviting and exciting, there’s new experiences right here in our own state that once you’ve sampled them will make you start planning a return trip in no time at all!
GO FOR GRANITE!
The Granite Belt Art Trail, 29-31 October,
The Condamine Country Art and Craft Trail, 6-7 November.
Stanthorpe Apple and Grape Harvest Festival, 25 February – 6 March 2022
Sabo’s on Severn,
Heritatge Estate Wines,
Wild Cat Tracks,
Stanthorpe Regional Art Gallery,
Southern Queensland Country Tourism