Pugcation on the Granite Belt

A pug’s adventure in dog friendly wine country!

Time for a pug vacation (pugcation)!  Husband, dog (Pugsley) and I, travelling from Brisbane to the beautiful Granite Belt Wine Country.  Confession time – I’m not even much of a wine drinker… so how will a dog, a non-wine drinker and husband fare on a mini-escape to wine country?

With promises of beautiful scenery, farm fresh strawberries, apple juice, chocolate, cheese and wine-tasting for the husband… Pugsley is excited for his pugcation and so are we!

Hidden Creek Winery Cafe Vineyard

First stop, alfresco lunch under the trees at Hidden Creek Winery Cafe Vineyard in Ballandean.  Their dog-friendly reputation is well deserved, with Pugsley brought his own water bowl and even welcome inside. Dining outside we enjoyed a 270 degree view of the vineyard, dam and boulder scattered hill and the picture was complete with the lovely breeze, dappled light and soft hum of cicadas.

An insta-worthy antipasto platter for two arrived. Hidden Creek pride themselves in baking on-site and sourcing their ingredients locally. The platter had so much variety including three types of meats and three types of local artisan cheese.  (Pugsley loves cheese even more than we do!)

Hidden Creek is ideal for visits with your fur baby – he enjoyed it as much as we did.

Tip: make your booking in advance as it can be quite popular.

Balancing Heart Vineyard

Venturing 10 minutes south we were welcomed at Balancing Heart Vineyard, where the owners were generous with their knowledge and patience (for us wine novices).  Husband nabbed some of their Campfire White to take home, which was a favourite with its strong lychee flavoured aroma.  We were very surprised there are no actual lychees in the wine, as the lychee scent and taste was so distinctive!

The Balancing Rock was a special landmark and great to see. The vineyard was very picturesque, backing on to beautiful rocky hillside, and with a view out to the pond full of ducks.

The cellar door was very dog friendly and were happy to have Pugsley inside while we tasted the wines. We were glad we kept him on a leash while walking through the vineyard as we saw ducks, a rabbit and a wallaby, all of which he certainly would have given chase to!

Tip: With beautiful packaging in a double-window gift bag and the cute Balancing Rock logo, these wines would make lovely gifts!  

Ballandean Pyramid

This man-made granite rock pyramid was a quirky, interesting sight.  It’s certainly not what you’d expect to find in the middle of a Queensland paddock!  Find the Ballandean Pyramid on Jacobson Road, a few kms outside of Ballandean and although it’s on private property, it’s viewable from the road and worth the drive by.

Briar Rose Cottages

We are staying in Stanthorpe at the dog friendly Briar Rose Cottages in the ‘Silky Oak Cottage’.  Country cottages don’t come more adorable, complete with a gorgeous spiral staircase to the bedroom and a sweet little balcony.

Small dogs are welcome to stay and to be inside (not on the bed and furnishings) – we brought along Pugsley’s own little bed. Pugsley was a bit wary of the staircase at first, but his confidence quickly grew. The property is unfenced, so we kept Pugsley on leash while outside as he has a real tendency to follow his nose!

Briar Rose Cottages are in a great location, not far from the main street shopping and restaurants.  The cottage has a fully equipped kitchen for the option of self-catering.

It was so handy being able to self check-in whenever it suited us and we even received a friendly text letting us know our room was ready 2 hours early if we were so inclined. Debbie, the owner kept in contact by text, reminding us of important details and asking if there was anything we needed.  I highly recommend this lovely little cottage.

Jamworks Gourmet Foods Cafe & Larder

Oh the menu! We had difficulty deciding with so many delicious options jumping out at us at Jamworks Grourmet Foods Cafe & Larder!  We downed a ‘Spectacular shake’ that was like drinking a Mars Bar, a ham, tomato & cheese croissant with Jamworks tomato relish and a Jamworks apple pie which surprised us with its whole apple slices inside.  We were keen to try the blended ice cream flavours and the Granite Belt Apple juice (which supports the local school chaplaincy program), but unfortunately our eyes were bigger than our stomach.

Pets are welcome at Jamworks, to dine with their owners on the fenced-off verandah, which has a gate and a dog water bowl available. The verandah is not only covered from the sun, but also has a ceiling fan, which was nice. As we were the only ones on the verandah at the time we let Pugsley roam off-leash, which he loved.

Tip: Sample the jams and relishes at the taste testing bar first.  We filled up on great cafe food and didn’t have any room for tastings, so learn from our mistake!

Mt Marlay Lookout

The lookout is situated in town and the steep winding road up to the lookout is actually quite a lovely little drive. The free mounted binoculars are a real treat as we’re the kind of people who never pay for the coin operated ones. The magnifying power of the binoculars was impressive and even allowed us to read signs around the township. While you’re there don’t forget to follow the path and have a walk around the summit.

Sutton’s Juice Factory, Cidery & Cafe

At the apple farm and juice factory north of Stanthorpe we sampled the juice flavours in season at the time. There are different flavours each time of year according to the season and we were surprised to find that Granny Smith was our favourite apple juice.  We went home with a six-pack of assorted juices, liqueurs & ciders – yum!

Sutton’s has a dog parking area in the shade with a water bucket, for while you are inside. Pugsley is a bit spoilt and doesn’t like being left alone, so once we made our selection from the menu, we joined him at the little table and chairs available under the tree in the dog area and the friendly staff brought our order out to us.

Of course having some of the famous Sutton’s Farm apple pie was a must and thankfully we were able to get it ‘to go’, as we were quite full at that point after their tasty burgers.  Unfortunately that meant we missed out on trying the spiced ice cream that’s served with their pies (which we’ve heard is a real treat). We’ll be sure to save some room next time!

Donnelly’s Castle Caves & Lookout

We discovered we’d saved the best for last, as our visit to the caves turned out to be a real highlight for us! It is off the beaten track, but worth the short drive there, so don’t be deterred by the partial unsealed dirt road along the way, or by the understated entrance that doesn’t give much away regarding the hidden gem ahead.

There’s no actual ‘castle’ at Donnelly’s Castle, it’s a short walk that leads you through caves and narrow rock crevices in such a way that it almost feels like you’ve ventured into out of bounds territory (in a good way)!  It’s surprisingly only a short 50m from the car park and you’re right in the midst of the caves and crevices already.

The lookout is also a short 100m walk up the gentle hill, with much more reward at the top than the effort to reach the rock platform.

It’s a great alternative to a National Park, as obviously dogs are not allowed in spots like Girraween National Park. Pugsley had the best time running up the rocks and sniffing around. It’s a great little outing and I’d say it’s even the best little adventure Pugsley has ever had.


Our little pugcation was too short, having left so many possible tastings behind and sights unseen.  We will be back to explore more of the Granite Belt!

More dog friendly tips on the Granite Belt…

CELLAR DOORS

• Hidden Creek Winery Cafe Vineyard is very dog-friendly, with plenty of outdoor dining tables under the shady trees and they can even pack a picnic basket for dog owners who would prefer to wine and dine further away from the cafe near at the dam or vineyard. Water supplied for visiting dogs and a Schmacko for especially well behaved pooches!

• Balancing Rock Wines is dog friendly and will enjoy the vineyard walk with you to the iconic heart-shaped balancing rock in the middle of the vines.  Dogs are welcome inside the cellar door and the verandah and picnic table under the trees all make for a great dog-friendly stop.

• Dogs are welcome at Twisted Gum Wines cellar door, where they can join you for tastings on the gorgeous heritage style verandah.

• Summit Estate are very dog friendly, with a pets welcome inside and outside the cellar door and a water bowl available.

• Jester Hill Wines are dog friendly and have a couple of big dogs that are friendly and love to play with the visiting fur babies. No dogs inside the cellar door, but there’s a tie-up pole and water dish on the veranda where your fur babies can see you through the windows as you wine taste.

• Robert Channon Wines are dog friendly and resident dog JS Bark is always happy to meet new friends. There’s plenty of outdoor space and outdoor seating to enjoy lunch or glasses of wine with your canine friends.

• Casley Mount Hutton are happy for visitors to bring dogs, where it’s suitable for dogs to run around outside at this secluded winery in the countryside outside Stanthorpe.

• At Ballandean Estate Wines dogs are welcome to be tied up out front of the cellar door while the family does winetastings inside.

• Pyramids Road Wines are dog friendly. Dogs can be walked around the property and tied up outside the cellar door in the shade.

• Symphony Hill Wines are dog friendly.

• Just Red Wines is a dog-friendly cellar door, for dogs on leash.

• Tobin Wines offer water and a tie up spot for dogs outside their cellar door.

• At Sancerre Estate pets are welcome by arrangement, so mention you pooch when you phone to book your wine tasting (tastings are by appointment).

TOURS

• Filippos Tours welcome your dog to join you on a wine tour, if the tour is booked as a private tour.

ATTRACTIONS

• Donnelly’s ‘Castle’ Caves, Crevices & Lookout is great spot for walks with dogs (dog-friendly alternative for exploring giant granite boulders – since dogs not permitted in Girraween National Park)

• The Ballandean Pyramid is viewable from a quiet country roadside, so a suitable stop with dogs on leash

• Mt Marley Lookout is a great dog-friendly spot for views over Stanthorpe and there’s a lovely short circuit walk around the summit along a concreted path (note the walk is not sign-posted, so just look for the pathway)

• Ashbern Farms strawberry farm with its pick-your own strawberries unfortunately can’t permit dogs in the strawberry patches (due to food safety regulations).  However if you’re visiting their cafe where you can dine with your dog on leash at the outside picnic tables which overlook the strawberry fields, you can do a spot of strawberry picking while your pooch remains in sight.  Open during strawberry season (October to May).

• Quart Pot Creek meanders through Stanthorpe and offers a truly a picturesque place to walk along the waterside with your dog on leash.  There is an off-leash area accessed from Connor Street between Talc Street and Britannia Street, or Allison Street, off Archibald Street.

• Storm King Dam is a great spot to take your canine friends.  The southern part, near the causeway, is best for swimming with dogs, as powered crafts are not allowed in the narrow tail of the dam. NOTE: Storm King Dam water levels are currently low (as at January 2019) and not recommended for powered boats.

• Click here to view a list of dog friendly walks in the area

WHERE TO EAT

• Ashbern Farms has a cafe on their strawberry farm, which is open during strawberry season (October to May). Small dogs on a leash are welcome to dine with you in the outside picnic area of the cafe which overlooks the strawberry patches (dogs not permitted in the café or the strawberry patches).

• Hidden Creek Winery Cafe Vineyard is very dog-friendly, with plenty of outdoor dining tables under the shady trees and they can even pack a picnic basket for dog owners who would prefer to wine and dine further away from the cafe near at the dam or vineyard. Water supplied for visiting dogs and a Schmacko for especially well behaved pooches!

• Sutton’s Juice Factory, Cidery & Cafe has a ‘dog parking’ area in a nice shady spot outside the cafe

• Stanthorpe Cheese Factory dining on the cafe verandah with dogs

• Platters available at dog-friendly Jester Hill Wines and Ballandean Estate Wines (see their dog friendly notes in cellar doors listing above)

WHERE TO STAY

Note: enquire at time of booking as an additional fees apply in many cases where dogs accompany you on your stay (to cover additional cleaning costs).

• Briar Rose Cottages are dog friendly, with one small pet allowed inside (not on furniture). Yard not fully fenced, so supervision required whilst outside the cottage.  $40 pet surcharge applies.

• Ridgemill Estate provide a dog friendly stay in one of their vineyard view cabins, plus their 3 bedroom house accommodation is pet friendly. Mention your pet on booking as prior approval is required and there are additional charges and terms and conditions..

• Granite Gardens Cottages are pet friends for small to medium dogs. Guests bring their own pet’s bedding. There are ‘off-lead’ areas on the property but we’d prefer a lead was used when dogs are around other guests or in common areas. A $50 pet surcharge applies.

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