Discover Brisbane with Avis
Driven by better, exploring Australia's northern star with Avis. A short drive beyond Brisbane, Gourmet trails and glorious scenery unfold, offering a stress-busting escape to the country.
Brisbane has entered its prime. Artistic glass towers, restored Victorian buildings and stately palm trees grace the city centre, where locals drift along beautiful riverbanks, tuck into some of Australia’s best food, and attend major cultural events. But don’t limit yourself to its urban pleasures. Get beyond this gracious city and you’ll discover this whole corner of Queensland isn’t just hip and happening, but gloriously scenic too.
Rent an Avis car, drive southwest and, on a three-day trip, you’ll find slow pleasures from farm gates to great restaurants, rolling countryside to national parks. You’ll discover the Scenic Rim region, which combines pastoral loveliness with ancient volcanic landscapes far removed from Queensland’s busy coastal fringe. Beyond that lies one of Australia’s most underestimated wine regions. Enjoy.
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Left: Brisbane River winds through the Queensland capital beneath it's glittering skyline; Right: New Farm's Same Same Resturant.
DAY 1: CITY TO COUNTRY
With Avis’s innovative Digital Check In, you can minimise contact, speed up the collection process and be beyond Brisbane airport in no time. A 20-minute drive propels you into Fortitude Valley, where you can mosey along Brunswick Street and admire the glassware and paintings in the fancy galleries, and the always-interesting exhibitions at the Institute of Modern Art.
Continue down Brunswick Street and you’ll arrive in New Farm on the Brisbane River. This cool enclave has a host of top restaurants, from kick-back American at The Smoke BBQ to southeast Asian at hotspot Same Same. Take your pick, although you might consider tucked-away The Balfour Kitchen for a contemporary Vietnam-inspired meal in an iconic Queenslander house. The aromatic tasting menu is a treat, and beautifully plated.
For an alternative lunch, head south to suburban Sunnybank, whose large Asian-Australian population bequeaths it a less hip but equally flavoursome dining scene. A progressive lunch could start with Vietnamese spring rolls, move on to ramen noodles or Korean hotpot, and round off with Taiwanese dessert. Landmark Restaurant is one of Brisbane’s best dim-sum spots. In Sunnybank Plaza, you can take a chef-guided food tour and learn about Asian food history and culture.
Drive south from Sunnybank and in less than an hour you’re beyond Brisbane’s urban sprawl and into the green tranquility of the cow-chewed Logan Valley. Take a leg-stretch in agricultural centre Beaudesert, where you can browse a heritage museum and admire colonial-era facades – St Mary’s Church is a corker. Then detour into the countryside to visit a cheese producer (Towri Sheep Cheeses) or dairy farm (Scenic Rim Robotic Dairy).
Left: A taste of Scenic Rim Brewery; Right: Waterside at The Overflow Estate.
Tuck into pub grub at the Railway Hotel Beaudesert, and aim to stay the night at Wander at The Overflow 20 minutes west of town, where five plush bush cabins with sumptuous views sit on a sprawling cattle and wine estate. You’re perfectly placed on the Scenic Rim’s edge for a great day out tomorrow.
DAY 2: SCENIC RIM
Enjoy a slow morning. Start with panoramic yoga, a walk, or a lingering breakfast on your terrace. The Overflow Estate 1895 has a splendid setting on a finger of land overlooking a lake and leafy hills. The cellar door, whose peculiar architecture defies description, specialises in interesting Mediterranean varieties such as Fiano, Montepulciano and Vermentino – all varietals that have proven to do well in our northern climes.
Don't skip lunch at the café. The French-inspired menu is seasonal but might feature creamy crab lasagne and steak in pepper sauce; leave room for the Belgian chocolate mousse with salted caramel cream.
As you drive onwards you pass pretty scenery created by Wyaralong Dam. Soon you arrive in Boonah, where you can browse the art gallery, have a coffee at Flavours Café wedged into a 1916 building that once housed the offices of a butter factory, and plunder the boutiques. Don’t be surprised if you end up buying oddities such as beetroot soap or an elephant-shaped planter.
Potter south and choose where to linger next. Taste Rosé and fortified wines at Bunjurgen Estate Winery, perhaps. Or stop by Kooroomba Vineyards and Lavender Farm, slashed with purple fields and golden vineyards and surrounded by lovely dollops of hills. Here, hatted restaurant Karoomba Kitchen is an alternative lunch venue; at the very least, consider tasting the unusual lavender ice cream.
Left: The lavendar farm of Karoomba Vineyards; Right: Ice cream to die for at karoomba Vineyards.
Another pleasant stop is Scenic Rim Brewery at Mount Alford, housed in a heritage-listed general store. It specialises in craft beer with inventive names such as Fat Man Maroon Ale and Giddy Gout Milk Stout.
Then, head towards Thulimbah on Highway 15, which is a 90-minute drive that passes Lake Moogerah, where the views are superb, and continues to reward you with delightful countryside.
A Big Apple signals your arrival in Thulimbah in the Granite Belt. This region is the coldest in Queensland – it sometimes snows – but you’re compensated by great walking weather, crackling evening fires and hearty red wines. Summit Estate Wines produces elegant Malbec and Marsanne, introduced by Argentine-born, Europe-trained winemaker Paola Cabezas Rhymer. You should be just in time for a “sunset session” at the cellar door.
Spend the night in a timber cabin surrounded by bushland at Granite Belt Retreat, where you enjoy dinner in front of a log fire. Dishes such as beef cheeks and stuffed eggplant provide winter fortification well matched with a beer from the onsite micro-brewery.
left: Scenic Rim Brewery at Mount Alford; Right Granite Belt Retreat cabins.
DAY 3: VINE ROMANCE
You’re just outside Stanthorpe, the regional centre of the Granite Belt. Straddling the Great Dividing Range, this region has an altitude around 800 metres, frosty winters and granite soils ideal for growing grapevines and stone fruit – a real viticultural sweet spot.
Stanthorpe is a handsome country town best inspected by following the heritage trail. Then call in at the state-of-the-art Queensland College of Wine Tourism for an enjoyable lunch at the student-run bistro, matched with wines from Banca Ridge Winery beyond the windows. Incidentally, you can take a two-day “Winemaker for the Weekend” course here and learn about wine production, from grape picking to fermentation and bottling.
With 50 cellar doors in this region, you’re spoiled for choice. Grapes such as Shiraz, Semillon and Cabernet Sauvignon account for most Granite Belt’s production, but the real treat is alternative Mediterranean grape varieties loosely marketed as Strange Birds, and which include Barbera, Mourvèdre, Durif, Nebbiolo and many more. Symphony Hill is notable for Viognier, while Ballandean Estate has unusual cold-climate varieties such as German Sylanver and Georgian Saperavi.
Left: Stunning vistas await at Girraween National Park; Right: A stop by Ballandean Estate Wines' Cellar Door.
It isn’t all about wine, though. For an alternative tasting, indulge among the 30-odd flavours of Belgian-style chocolates flavoured with the likes of Cabernet Sauvignon or lemon myrtle at Wisteria Cottage in Wyberba. Lirah in Stanthorpe specialises in another grape product, vinegar, aged in barrels for two years; its balsamic flavours include caramelised honey, cranberry, Cabernet and Chardonnay.
Meanwhile at Stanthorpe Cheese, cheesemaker Karen Deeth epitomises the farm-to-plate ethos by raising her own cows and producing mostly hard cheeses that you can sample in the tasting room: crumbly and peppery, full-bodied and mature, hickory smoked. You can design your own tasting plate with a matching Petit Verdot wine.
Fortunately, all the Granite Belt’s gourmet excesses can be balanced with a hike or two in Girraween and Sundown national parks. With so much to do, you could spend several days in the Granite Belt. Luckily the Avis App allows you to extend your car rental with ease, if the spirit takes you.
Left: Kidding around at Towri Sheep Cheeses; Right: Fresh fruit from the Granite Belt
Before you head back to Brisbane, stop at Sutton Juice Factory in Thulimbah and pick your own apples: there’s really nothing like a box of Pink Ladies to scent your car, or a coffee and apple pie to help you on your way back to home sweet home after such Brisbane bliss.