Head in the Clouds

Head in the clouds.

Climbing above the misty morning fog heading west towards the sun. Rising up, constantly ascending ,you come to a elevated garden where the food table is diverse, and the air is thin above the clouds.

Obtrusive rocks are spread through the landscape like a giant toddler has forgotten to put away his marbles. A place unlike any other where the seasons tussle for domination each bringing there own coloured personality. Summers with green and earthen brown, Autumns rustic reds and oranges ,Winter, a cloak of ice and snow whites and greys, Spring a welcome start of floral bliss a burst of colour.

In winter nights are cool and days are clear,with mountain peaks casting gentle shadows over each other as they bid the day adieu and prepare for the brisk evening. The moon soon emerges from it's hiding place from behind the mountains , reflecting the glory of her big brother while granite monoliths reveal themselves in the fractured light.

As the moon descends the true glory of this region is revealed, a stellar cast of glittering white, a vision into the past of a distant galaxy that may no longer exist.

This is the land of Kambuwal , Thunderbolt and Geronimo , of Mackenzie and Fletcher. A land of tin miners,graziers,farmers and forgotten soldiers. A land of Granite.

My father first came to the region in the late 1960's after spending sometime teaching English in Europe. He was searching for land that was familiar to him that spoke of a sense of place. Like the vineyards he had visited in the Northern Rhone and Burgundy while teaching in Lyon, here in the highlands he had found what he was looking for.

From the days of Fletcher and Father Geronimo the vineyards were worked to supply eating grapes to masses. With muscat too ripe for market finding it's way to the Italian communities of the north as vino de tableau to refresh/numb the Ingham cane cutters.

By the late1970's the wine bug had become contagious and all manner of tribes were setting up shop to toil in the soil for their golden elixir.

And as we reach over fifty years since the first wine grapes were planted ,the Granite Belt region has more diversity on offer and sheer quality than ever before.



When you travel from Brisbane or the coast it can be deceiving just how high you climb. The gradual rise in elevation culminates at the summit (928m) and Eukey (1000m). For every one hundred metres you rise the temperature drops over half of a degree. So the region can historically be between five to ten degrees cooler than the coast and with a relative humidity around 50-60%.

Comparing the region to other wine regions around the world and Australia the Granite Belt has most similarities in temperature to Margaret River and Bordeaux particularly during ripening (both in average and maximum and minimum temperature). Rainfall is more evenly spread over the year than the southern Australian regions, comparing well with quality European wine regions like Bordeaux , The Northern Rhone and Burgundy during the growing season. Average mid summer temperatures are around 21 degrees with the maximum temperatures being particularly mild when the south easterly weather arrives typically in February. The region normally has ripening temperatures from late February to mid April in the range of 17-20 degrees and maximum temperatures between 22-25 degrees.



Recorded Years

Mean Temperature of the warmest Month

Average Maximum Temperature of the warmest month

Early Autumn (March/September) Mean Temperature

Early Autumn (March/September) average maximum temperature

Bordeaux/Merignac , Bordeaux France *






Cape Naturaliste , Margaret River WA *






Applethorpe , Granite Belt Qld *






Bergerac France*






Witchcliffe Margaret River WA*








7 month Growing Season Rainfall Mean (mm)

Applethorpe , Granite Belt Qld *


Bordeaux/Merignac , Bordeaux France *


Bergerac France*


Witchcliffe Margaret River WA*


Cape Naturaliste , Margaret River WA *


*Information from www.bom.gov.au for Margaret River and Granite Belt .

* Information from www.meteofrance.com for Bordeaux and Bergerac


The landscape is rugged with boulders of granite spread throughout the district. Some farmers have resorted to dynamite to blast the surface rocks to increase the soil depth (with the odd farm shed coming off second best). On the extreme south east rainforest pockets hide in shaded areas of Girraween National Park while on the western edge the region has a much dryer climate where Ironbark trees become more numerous. Most of the hills remain as native bushland due to the many steep rock slopes making them unsuitable to all but a mountain goat or some adventurous cattle. The rolling farmland below these slopes is covered with apples,stone fruit, salad greens, tomatoes , capsicum, strawberries, grapes,sheep, cattle and the odd lama. The soils for the vineyards are derived from the granite parent rock with sand, sandy-loam and clayey-loam bleached soils similar to some soils in both Alsace France and the Beaujolais cru villages just north of Lyon in France.

National Parks

On the southern end and more picturesque part of the region lie two National Parks the more rugged Sundown National Park on the western edge and Girraween National park on the south eastern section where dominant granite domes give a picture of the parent rocks underneath the whole region.

Food Bowl

The elevation makes the temperate climate more suitable to berries,vegetables and fruits more typical to Tasmania than the pineapple,bananas and mangoes associated with tropical queensland. Here olive groves , cheesemakers ,wineries and vineyards vie for sites amidst the usual suspects (tomatoes,capsicums, salads, apples, stone fruits,strawberries and the grazier crew).

Eating Out

Modern: Try Varias at the QCWT

French style Rural: Food Project on Mcgregor a MUST DO

Winery: Ballandean Cafe

Italian: Annas

Pizza: L'Aquila

Coffe Jam Doughnuts: JAMWORKS

Art Scene

Art in the Mill on the May Day long weekend provides eclectic pieces of pottery,sculpture and paintings to enjoy in the old Ballandean Timber Mill.

The Regional Gallery has some diverse exhibitions throughout the year and is a vibrant regional art space.


Apple and Grape Harvest Festival

A bi-annual festival that triples the population. Originally a celebration of the apple orchards and table grape vineyards (2000 acres in 1950) that has given way to the wine grapes. A unique celebration of the fruit and vegetables that grow in the region along with the wine.


Brass monkey Blue cheese at the Granite Belt Dairy or cocktails at Viscosity


smoothed granite stones washed and eroded over millions of years


Eucalypts or acacias in flower or the fresh clean minerally forest floor lifted scents after a rain storm.


The many bird calls as you trek throughout the National Parks in the early morning keep an ear out for the black cockatoo screech. If your lucky the lyrebirds, here at their northern limit, might disturb you with their mimicry.


#Night Sky (where did all those stars come from) ,check out the globular clusters from a local telescope.

#Wedgetail eagles circling above the valleys, on those clear calm sunny April days.

#Get a selfie with the Fruitasaurus at Ballandean


Climb up Slip Rock with views to the Pyramids below. Or hike through the many great walks in Girraween National park.


Check out the eclectic old school cafes in the historic town of Tenterfield just across the border.


There are over sixty wineries now apparently. With many different styles on offer. When one considers they have less than 1% of the industry, the regions wines do incredibly well in awards and wine reviews. With many high accolades and medals being continually won from as far back as 1975 through to today. When the wines are tasted on their merits they perform. Try it yourself, grab a known southern producer that is well regarded and try one of the wines listed in the next article against them in the same style and price category. Here's the trick though, get a friend to show you the wines blind without knowing which is which then pick your preference. My money is on the Granite Belt producer.