Top 5 things you should do on Southern Downs

You’ve dragged the winter woollies out of the cupboard, so why not look for an excuse to really put them to good use? It’s several degrees cooler on the Southern Downs in Australia’s winter, but still, the perfect temperature to explore the outdoors under clear blue skies.

So, if you fancy a two-hour drive over the Great Dividing Range, west of Brisbane, here are some fun ideas to fill a day or two.

Get Groovy with Jumpers and Jazz in July (18-28 July 2019)

Kicking off in mid-July, this swinging festival attracts thousands of revellers and bursts to life in a wintry coat of many colours. It’s a winning combo of local cuisine, wine, art and of course, all genres of jazz. The 14-day festival highlights how much the Southern Downs and its welcoming people have to offer, and its crafty competitions attract entrants from all corners of the globe. The hotly contested tree dressing contest is the most iconic feature and synonymous with the festival. During the two weeks you’ll be able to immerse yourself in local artisan markets, bonfires (most notably the Killarney bonfire), vintage cars displays, suitcase rummages, exclusive dinners, live entertainment and some of the biggest names in jazz. If you are looking for a winter treat, this one is for you to put in your calendar.

A retro caravan decked out in funky knitted craft for the annual Jumpers and Jazz markets in Leslie Park.

Get back to Nature at Girraween National Park

Do you want to absorb some breathtaking views of the Southern Downs and take yourself off the grid? Girraween National Park is 40 km south of Stanthorpe. Its crowning glory is the Pyramid of Girraween. Climbing this giant granite monolith is not for the faint-hearted. It’s a steep incline that’s sandpaper-rough, but the pay-off for the effort is 360-degree Insta inspo. The park has camping facilities, so hikers can make the most of other surrounding walks to The Castle, Sphinx, and Turtle Rock. But if hikes and steep rock climbs aren’t your thing, just bring along a picnic basket filled with delicious Stanthorpe produce, and set up by a waterhole at the national park entrance. Just be careful not to share with the local wildlife!

The Balancing Rock, (pictured left) is found at the top of the Pyramid hike and is an iconic attraction in Giraween.

Make a day of it at Queen Mary’s Falls and Falls Drive

For a change of scene … or should I say scenery … the Falls Drive is an absolute must on the Southern Downs! The route takes in three spectacular waterfalls (Browns, Daggs, and Queen Mary) and the marvellous view from Carr’s Lookout down to the head of the Condamine River system. It’s a fifty-minute scenic drive from the CBD of Warwick to Queen Mary Falls carpark, and then a steady walk on well laid-out paths to either the head or the base of the waterfall.  Standing atop a protruding platform, you get a great perspective of the 40-metre drop. Down in the gully, you can feel the fresh water spray. Perfectly positioned across the road is a café that attracts native birds like rosellas, galahs, cockatoos, lorikeets and king parrots, and visitors are invited to feed them.

A thrilling 40m drop and an impressive view from the main viewing platform on the Queen Mary’s Falls Circuit.

Leyburn Sprints, a Car-Lovers Playground (17– 18 August 2019)

Grand Prix Racing on the Southern Downs? Absolutely! In fact, this was one of Queensland’s first-ever motor racing events. Leyburn Sprints is now in its 24th year and a couple of hundred rev heads from all over the country put the pedal to the metal in this little country town every August. Vehicles vie for trophies in over 20 classes, from 1920s cars and vintage racers to modern classics. This is a unique event that’s not to be missed.

Enjoy a Winery Tour in Stanthorpe and Surrounds

 While we’re talking winter, there really isn’t anything quite like sipping a delicious red by an open fire. There are some very decent wineries in the Stanthorpe area, which is impressive for a town with only 4,500 people! The temperate climate suits grape growing, and the number of vineyard accommodation options that cater for winter suits anyone whose idea of a perfect weekend getaway includes snuggling by a fire. If you’d like to sample several drops, then bus tours can chauffeur you from cellar door to cellar door, and you can buy a bottle to take back home as a fitting memento.

By Chris Anderson