What to do with Kids on the Granite Belt: 18 Ideas!
Parents on the look out for new and fun outings with kids, won’t usually be looking towards the Granite Belt – a destination full of wineries and romantic couples getaways… but here’s 18 reasons why they should be!
We’ve uncovered a list of fun and cool things to experience in and around Stanthorpe on your next weekend or school holidays (and it’s all just 2hrs from Toowoomba, 2.5hrs from Brisbane and the Gold Coast).
Scramble Through the Caves of a Bushranger’s Hideout!
(and find the yowie there!)
This could be your kids’ most exciting adventure on the Granite Belt and it’s free! It’s called Donnellys Castle… and let’s clear it up from the start, it’s not actually a ‘castle’. It’s a quiet picnic ground in bushland and what makes it special is it’s next to a wonderland of giant boulders, with cave-like entrances and narrow crevices. This little known spot is truly a hidden gem that’s fun to explore, scrambling through, over and under the compact network of huge rocks!
Donnellys Castle is famously the site used by bushranger ‘Captain Thunderbolt’ as his hideout. There’s also an exciting lookout sited on the top of one of the granite outcrops, which is really quite unique and has lovely views.
All this is less than 100m from the carpark, so it’s quick to access and the fun exploring starts immediately. The picnic grounds is a little underdeveloped, but there are some basic picnic tables and toilets.
Parent’s Tip: Tell the kids their mission is to find a yowie (there is a big yowie painted on a rock within the crevices and caves). Younger and older children will all enjoy this adventure, but parents do stay close with the kids as there are a few spots where extra care should be taken in watching your step.
OPEN: Daylight hours
FIND IT: 15 minutes drive north west of Stanthorpe. On Donnelly’s Castle Road (you can use Google Maps to find your way). Don’t be put off by the lack of signage for this place – it’s worth it!
Solve a Riddle in a Giant Maze
Get lost in the fun of solving a riddle, searching the giant Granite Belt Maze for clues. The maze is designed for family fun and is usually solved within about 2.5 to 3 kilometres of searching. Entry fees include one game of mini golf.
…Read Brisbane Kids review of the Granite Belt Maze.
OPEN 9am – 5pm 6 days
Open daily during Queensland state school holidays.
Parents Tip: Food and drinks are available to be purchased on premises (no BYO except water bottles permitted.) Food available for purchase: sandwiches & rolls, pies & sausage rolls, hot dogs, fish & chips, scones & muffins, ice creams & snack foods, coffee, tea and cold drinks.
‘Big Apple’, a Big Castle, Apple Pies & Orchards
Playing a game of eye-spy or spotto with the kids is a must on any country drive and a great spot for interesting sights is north of Stanthorpe along Amiens Road.
Turn off the New England Highway at ‘Thulimbah’ area onto Amiens Road (it’s hard to miss if you are looking for the turn at The Big Apple!).
- Start or finish your drive with a ‘best-ever’ apple pie at Sutton’s Farm Juice Factory Cidery & Cafe – it’s across the highway from the Big Apple.
- Next you can pull in to the carpark at the Big Apple for some photos of the kids holding up or pretending to take bite out of the apple.
- Walk next-door to see the quaint historic Thulimbah Railway Siding (p.s. trains only pass here about once per month).
- Next follow Amiens Road about 2kms and tell the kids to spot the Castle! Castle Glen is a wine/spirits/liqueur-maker inside a large medieval style castle. Stopping here will depend on the age of your kids, as younger kids will find many bottles within arms reach very tempting.
- Between Castle Glen and the next stop spot lovely apple orchards on each side of the road as you approach the Stanthorpe Cheese Factory (where there’s cheese tastings inside and yummy milkshakes!)
P.S. Donnelly’s Castle is just a short drive from here too (see details at the top of this page).
Parents Tip: There is a carpark at the Big Apple, where you can stop and grab a fun photo with the kids pretending to eat the Big Apple, or pretending to hold it up! Castle Glen is an impressive sight for the kids, but venturing inside Castle Glen for a visit may not prove easy with younger kids, as there are literally hundreds and hundreds of bottles of fascinating coloured liqueur, all within grabbing reach. You’ll know your kids best and whether this will work for your family.
Feed Reindeer, Donkeys, Goats at the Christmas Farm!
[Note: This attraction is open year-round, but closed during the months February and March]
It’s free admission and only $2 per mini-bucket of animal feed for a whole lot of family fun at Granite Belt Christmas Farm. Here they grow thousands of real Christmas trees and you can walk through the avenues of trees and smell the fresh pine! But for the kids, Santa’s animals are always the highlight, including reindeer, gorgeous donkeys, some very eager goats, sheep, ducks and chooks. Stepping into the Mistletoe Christmas store is a must, as it’s a wonderland and amazement in itself and it’s here you can be tempted with their yummy Belgian hot drinking chocolate and other Christmas themed delights.
OPEN: Open 7 days, 9am – 4pm from March to January
FIND IT: 8 minutes north of Stanthorpe. 321 Aerodrome Road, Applethorpe
Free Binoculars at the Lookout & a Hidden Walk
As parents it can feel like we’re always forking out dollars to keep the kids occupied, so it’s super nice when you discover something unexpected for free. Head to Mt Marlay Lookout in Stanthorpe where the lookout over the town has free to use mounted telescope and binoculars (no – way, these things are never free at lookouts!). They work really well and it’s a nice bit of fun before heading on the short walk around the summit.
We say ‘Hidden Walk’ because there’s no sign to say so, but there is a walking track leaving from the carpark that can be followed on a short circuit walk around the summit of the mountain. The narrow concrete track gives access to a granite outcrop with lovely views towards the north, then meanders through trees for filtered views the whole 360 degrees around the summit, before joining back to the road and carpark.
Parents tip: Do a toilet stop before heading to Mt Marley as there are no facilities there.
FIND IT: Not far from the town centre in Stanthorpe. Mt Marley is on Lock Street, Stanthorpe.
Try a New Skill – Leather Stamping!
Usually a saddlery is a place you either go, to you or don’t… but here’s two fun kid-friendly reasons to visit the iconic Kent’s Saddlery in Stanthorpe.
Outside the front of the saddlery store there’s a leather stamping station for kids, set up with various shapes of off-cut leather – in fun shapes like hearts, trains and dinosaurs. It’s set up with simple instructions and all the tools needed for embossing your own leather shape to take home. There are decorative designs and letters of the alphabet to choose from for stamping onto the leather. It’s all free for the first two shapes and after that it’s $1 per leather shape used.
Also outside the saddlery you’ll find some cute farm animals, so it really is a family friendly stop and the parents can look inside at the top quality crafted bags, belts and more more made onsite.
Parent’s tip: Stay close by to instruct the kids to be careful not to hit their finger. Kent’s Saddlery is super easy to find, it’s right next to McDonalds.
OPEN: 8am-5pm Monday to Friday and 8am-midday Saturday
FIND IT: 25798 New England Hwy, Stanthorpe (next to McDonalds)
Fun Street Art Murals
Photo by: Andria O’Brien
Find a series of fun murals that all the kids can enjoy posing for photos with along a Stanthorpe alleyway. View more of murals here. It’s located between the Art Gallery and the swimming pool in Weeroona Park. You might stop for a play in the park, a look in the Art Gallery (free entry) or a swim at the pool in warmer months while you’re here.
FIND IT: Weeroona Park, Stanthorpe
Pick Strawberries on the Farm (October to May)
Ashbern Farms is a commercial strawberry farm in Stanthorpe that offers pick-your-own strawberries and it’s here the kids can get hands-on, helping find and pick their favourite shaped and sized strawberries in the patch. [Strawberry season is October to May. If coming in October check the farm has reached its season opening date]. Nothing compares to the taste of ripe strawberries picked straight from the patch and eaten still warmed by the sun! Get your container from the farm cafe and head out to the patch, where you can challenge the kids to find the largest strawberry for a bit of fun.
There’s a set of swings and lovely grass for the kids to run around on, so grab a coffee, maybe even a strawberry waffle and sit outside where you can steal some quiet moments to yourself enjoying the peaceful view of the strawberry fields.
Parents tip: The strawberry ice cream made right there on-farm really is divine, so time your visit with treat time. Also have a chat to the kids as you’re arriving, prepping them not to eat the strawberries in the field – let them know you’ll be taking them back to the shed first to be weighed.
OPEN: 10am – 4.30pm Wednesday to Sunday during strawberry season, October to May
FIND IT: 2 West Road, Stanthorpe (next to the highway along the Stanthorpe bypass)
Walk to the Red Bridge
This nice walk in Stanthorpe, follows Quart Pot Creek along a short walk to reach the old ‘Red’ Bridge and is a good option for an end drive stretch of the legs. The bridge is no longer red as the name suggests, but this historical rail bridge still spans the creek impressively and near the bridge there’s opportunity for rock-hopping to explore the waterside. …More about this location
Parents: Of course please watch your children closely near the water.
Milkshakes, Lolly Bar & Burgers at 1960’s Style Diner!
A fun family meal stop is the Blue Topaz Diner, where mum and dad will enjoy their coolest meal stop ever as much as the kids will. The whole 1960’s American style diner setting is complete with vinyl seats, juke box, neon lights and rock’n’roll memorabilia. They are known for their ‘best burgers ever’, plus expect fun milkshake options, spiders and of course hot dogs!
Parent’s Tip: Preview the menu here to see kid friendly options
Open: 7 Days
FIND IT: at the Blue Topaz Caravan Park, 26806 New England Highway, just south of Stanthorpe at Severnlea
Find a Giant Pyramid
Let’s face it, a trip to Egypt with the kids is not going to happen… so we’ve found you a much closer alternative. Kids are short, so any pyramid is going to look huge and exciting to them anyway isn’t it?! The Ballandean Pyramid really is a curiosity, sitting 17.5m high in the middle of a farm paddock in the quiet countryside. The pyramid is on private land, but there’s a spot to stop on the roadside about 25m from the pyramid for a close up look and a photo.
Parents tip: Fun photo opportunity with the kids – have them pretend to be holding the pyramid up with their hands under it, or grabbing the top of the pyramid to lift it up.
FIND IT: Located 21kms south of Stanthorpe near Ballandean. In Ballandean, turn off the highway onto Eukey Road (eastward towards the Ballandean Tavern), then turn immediately right onto Jacobsens Road. Follow Jacobsons Road for 1.7km until you reach the giant pyramid on the right.
Chocolate Cottage with Garden Dining & Cute Chooks!
Near the entrance to Girraween National Park, find the cutest little roadside stop – Heavenly Chocolate! This chocolate cottage hand-makes chocolates onsite and there’s lots to love for the adults (like their unique Irish Ale beer-flavoured caramel chocolate) and fun rocky-road and chocolate sprinkles sure to catch the eyes of the kids. Order coffee, tea or hot chocolates and sit in the quaint cottage garden dining area, with a view to a whole farmyard of cute chooks to keep the kids occupied!
OPEN: 10am – 4pm Friday to Monday, plus everyday during Qld school holidays
FIND IT: Wisteria Cottage & Heavenly Chocolates, 2117 Pyramids Road, Wyberba
Bushwalk to the Granite Arch!
Girraween National Park is really an exciting playground for a family adventure with its giant granite boulders, rock pools and so many walking tracks! Of the 14 bushwalking tracks, a handful are really kid friendly and the Granite Arch is a favourite with families.
On your way to the Granite Arch you’ll walk by Bald Rock Creek with it’s interesting shapes carved by the water into its rocks over the years and then cross its across a narrow bridge. From there you’ll then complete a circuit through the forest and gaze in wonder at the many giant round boulders along a 30 minute walk (1.6km return).
If your kids are older and up for a challenge, there’s the spectacular climb to the top of the first pyramid for an awe-inspiring view and to see the most incredible giant 10 tonne balancing boulder right on the summit top! Find out more about the walks and information about which are easier and which are more challenging.
FIND IT: 30 minutes south of Stanthorpe. Pyramids Road, Ballandean
Eat on the Train Platform (& see miniature models!)
Train stations are just cool and having lunch right on the station platform is a fun family choice. The historic Wallangarra Railway Station & Museum in Wallangarra is only 15 minutes down the road from Ballandean and Girraween National Park.
Check out the model villages and railway displays at the museum inside the railway station (admission is free) and then enjoy the family friendly cafe menu while dining at one of the many tables spread across the vast platforms, on both sides of the station.
OPEN: 7 days for breakfast, lunch, afternoon teas
FIND IT: 30 minutes south of Stanthorpe, Rockwell Street, Wallangarra
Visit a winery… say WHAT?!?!
Yes you heard us right… lots of the Granite Belt wineries and cellar doors are kid-friendly and the kids can walk through the vineyards to see the grapes growing or learn about the stages of the vine’s growing process. While the parents are cellar door tasting, the kids can spend a while running around on the grass and exploring nature in the vineyard within view.
A few places to consider…
Balancing Heart Vineyard has a lovely vineyard walk to see the heart-shaped balancing rock (pictured above) right in the middle of their vineyard and outside at the cellar door is a lovely picnic table under the trees for kids to picnic, plus there are bats for playing badminton (supervision required as a dam is nearby).
Summit Estate has bean bags for the kids to flop into inside and large grassy areas to run and play outside, all within view of the cellar door tasting, plus a lovely big undercover verandah area. In cooler weather kids can sit by the fireplace in bean bags.
According to Heritage Estate Wines their “pianola is played by nearly every kid who comes in here (old and young). They love it.” What’s a pianola? See it pictured below – it’s an old style piano that you peddle with your feet and it automatically plays a tune and the keys move too! The winery has lots of spots to sit on the verandah and space to walk in to the vineyards with your kids. (Tip: Inside the cellar door is a treasure trove of heritage items, so toddlers need to be watched closely)
Jester Hill Wines has a bocce game ideal for older kids on the lawns outside. Note there are two very large and very friendly danes who greet you at this cellar door and horses in the paddock nearby. Children are welcomed by Ann and Mick here, who between the two of them have raised a very large quivery of kids themselves.
See a Chef in Action
NOTE: Awaiting advice on when these tours re-commence. Contact the College direct to enquire.
If your kids are budding chefs with all that Masterchef-tv inspiration, give them a real-life opportunity to see a chef in action. A guided tour of the Queensland College of Wine Tourism features a cooking demonstration in their new display kitchen with a chef or apprentice chef. There’s even a delicious tasting of the finished product at the end!
The parents shouldn’t miss out on some perks on a kids day out, so they an enjoy the wine tasting included at the end of the tour, in the purpose built ‘Tastes of the Granite Belt’ room, while the kids relax on the lounges overlooking the vineyard or run around in the grassed courtyard within parent’s full view.
Parents tip: Let the kids know that the vineyards that surround the College are special ones for research and they can’t walk in these ones.
TOURS: Commence 10.30am and operate Thursday to Sunday
COST: $10 per person
BOOKINGS: we recommend booking ahead Ph: 07 4685 5050
Family Friendly Mountain Bike Tracks
Get the kids out in nature and active on Stanthorpe’s fantastic family friendly mountain biking tracks! They opened in 2018 on Mt Marlay and one out of the four mountain biking tracks is especially suited to beginners and families. The ‘Green Granite’ trail is graded ‘green’ level difficulty, meaning it’s suitable for people with little or no experience to have a go.
There are also ‘blue’ and ‘black’ graded tracks and the ‘blue’ one named ‘The Grape Escape’ could be a suitable challenge for teenage kids looking for a bit more excitement! Find more details about the trails.
Take a Steam Train Ride
(Training currently suspended due to Covid – check here for updates)
Photo: Shane Andersen Photography
Plan ahead and book on a day trip adventure on a historic steam train. The one day trip from Warwick to Wallangarra and return is an exciting adventure and an amazing way to see the Granite Belt countryside, with a brief stop in Stanthorpe each way. Arriving in Wallangarra, you’ll find the Wallangarra Railway Station & Museum and a cafe with lovely dining on the the station platform.
Tours are available usually monthly and hopefully will soon re-commence (ceased currently due to covid-shut downs), so check back on their website soon.
TOURS: from $110 adult, $55 child (Price Guide Only, check the website for current prices) Check upcoming Tour Dates & Prices
FIND IT: Tours depart from and return to the Railway Station in Warwick
Kid Friendly Accommodation
Pictured: Kids Room, Straw House Bed & Breakfast
Plus here are a few suggestions…
The Straw House Bed & Breakfast has a room set up for 2 children, in addition to a Queen Room inside the Bed & Breakfast Homestead. Kids will love the chooks who love cuddles, the two highland cows, the firepit and plenty of space to run through the apple orchard.
Just Red Vineyard Stay Cabins with bunk beds for kids.
In Stanthorpe, check out Briar Rose Cottage’s newly renovated 3 bedroom Cedar Cottage or cute 2 bedroom Mulberry Cottage, both of which offer single beds.
There’s too many great options to name, so check out more accommodation here.