Denyse and I ventured into Top of the Town Tourist Park in Stanthorpe on Queensland’s Granite Belt at the end of March 2014. For the coldest town in Queensland, it was warm (about 30°C) and remained so for the next couple of days. Sally and Helene in the office are a real asset to this park.
The park provided a package containing almost everything we wanted to know about the area, including brochures on walking tracks, various tourist drives, information on wineries, national parks, waterfalls, dams and swimming/picnic spots.
Accommodation - Top of the Town
This park, a member of the Top Tourist Parks group, is only a two-minute drive to town and is situated on 20 acres of bushland. There are a large number of powered sites with concrete slabs, and a few on grass, as well as ensuite sites. Sites are different sizes, so they need to know the size of your van if booking ahead, which is always a good idea. Big rigs are welcome, and there is a section with drive-through sites as well.
Campers are well catered for, with several areas of bush camping. Other sections of this large park contain various types of cabins and even a motel. All sites are situated on a landscaped hillside, rather than one flat area.
There are several amenities blocks, but the main one looks brand new, showing the quality of the design and build. Shower cubicles are large, with mixer taps, and contain aluminium shelves and several hooks. The hand basin area has stainless steel benches with mirrors right around. There is keyed entry and, for convenience, we asked for a key each. *Pets are welcome in this park.
There is a dump point, a good laundry, three camp kitchens, free barbecues, a camp oven cooking area and firepit, and a small herb garden. A swimming pool (for those game enough), games room and outdoor theatre complete the facilities.
A short walk to the top of the park leads to a sunset lookout, complete with a table and seats. The caravan park is a haven for birds, and we were woken each morning by birdsong. Fresh espresso coffee, cold drinks and ice cream are available from the office, as are many brochures about the town, wineries and restaurants.
Stanthorpe Sites & Activities
Stanthorpe has a regular population of 5400 that swells in the fruit-picking season. Shopping is good for a town of this size, with two major supermarkets. Although there is no caravan dealership, there is a large camping and hardware store, and you can get welding, tyres, plumbing, gas and refrigeration repairs.
It is well-known as a top wine, fruit and vegetable producing area, but it has many other attractions.
Storm King Dam is very popular for boating, fishing and swimming in the summer, and is close to town. There is a boat ramp, and we saw people waterskiing while we were there.
Donnelly’s Castle is definitely worth visiting, as there is a great view out over the countryside as well as several caves to explore among the granite boulders. There is a picnic area and toilets where we saw wrens and colourful parrots.
Every second Sunday, markets are held in the civic centre behind Woolworths. A car boot sale is held in the supermarket car park as well. We found the markets interesting, with a variety of stalls and plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.
The tourist information centre, which contains a cafe, lies at the bottom of the main street. It overlooks a waterway and lagoon with several types of waterbirds. This is a pleasant, relaxing area with meandering walks, and the kids will enjoy feeding the ducks.
GIRRAWEEN NATIONAL PARK
Denyse and I love the walks in Girraween National Park, so we headed there for the day despite the forecast for rain and storms all week. The national park is only 35km south of Stanthorpe, and you can choose walks from a short 600m to 10km, with varying degrees of difficulty. On our last trip there, I climbed to the top of the Pyramid and Castle Rock, both in the difficult category for the final ascent, so I wimped out this time. They are both closed if it is wet, when the boulders become treacherously slippery.
We headed back to the award winning Ballandean Estates for wine tasting and lunch. This winery has won several awards, including Queensland Winery of the Year in 2013 and Winery Restaurant of the Year in 2012 and 2013, so we were keen to find out why. We enjoyed a wonderful lunch, bought a couple of bottles of wine.
Also check out the Ballandean Pyramid in Jackson Street: this is worth seeing, and was built by the farmer from local granite rocks. This area has a reputation for hail and you will notice that most of the fruit trees are protected by netting. But the weather was a pleasant change after a very hot, humid summer at home.
Our week in Stanthorpe passed very quickly, with so much to do and see, and we were pleased to have a couple of great sunny days before the unseasonal rain came.
*Top of the Town Tourist Park certainly proved to be a great base, with very friendly managers and staff.
- Stanthorpe is 210km south-west of Brisbane on the New England Highway.
- Visit wineries, fruit orchards, The Granite Belt Dairy and lookouts, dams, national parks, walking tracks, swimming, fishing.
- Visitor information centre, 28 Leslie Parade, Stanthorpe, (07) 4681 2057, www.granitebeltwinecountry.com.au
- National park walks
- Fruit and vegetable trails
- The Granite Belt Dairy
- Dams and waterways
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