Best of the Scenic Rim: a Brisbane to Stanthorpe road trip

A person is dwarfed by a seemingly teetering boulder near a sheer rock face in Girraween National Park, Queensland

In search of the good life in all its forms, Chris and Sarah go an adventure that includes epic hikes but also the chance to kick back and relax with a nice glass of red.

It’s true that Chris and I love to go hiking. It’s a passion of ours that also lets us indulge another one: food and wine. Once we’ve picked up our Apex rental car at Brisbane Airport, we’re heading inland to Stanthorpe. Along the way and when we arrive, there’s enough natural beauty and fermented grapes to keep us busy for four days. Although I’m sure you could stretch out a trip here for much longer than that.

High Hopes: Brisbane to Beechmont

Looking straight up into the lush canopy of a rainforest at Tamborine National Park, Queensland

There’s a bit of freeway to conquer but we’re soon at Tamborine National Park, where we plan to take on the Sandy Creek Circuit. I know this part of the world fairly well, having grown up in Brisbane, but it’s a new hike for me. Chris and I trek beneath the canopy of towering rainforest trees and follow the path all the way to the Cameron Falls lookout. This is where the big payoff appears before our eyes. The views from this high up stretch right across the valley and over Brisbane’s southern suburbs.

Back on the road we head towards Canungra, part of the Gold Coast hinterland but also on the eastern edge of the Scenic Rim. This part of the country was once a volcanic hotspot and you can see it in the landscape. Here, the rainforest is abundant. When we head further west, we’ll start to see the bounty of those rich soils. Bring on the fine food and wine. But first we get ourselves moving with a stroll along Canungra Creek, where the lush surrounds are hugely attractive to birds. There are long-legged waders near the water’s edge and king parrots screeching in the trees above. We’re only half a day into our trip, but already relaxation is taking over. How could it not when you’re surrounded by the sounds of nature?

Scenic Brim: Beechmont to Rathdowney

Aerial view of a car driving along a dirt road towards Mount Barney, its peak lit by the sun, Scenic Rim, Queensland

Anyone who knows Chris and I is aware of our love for cheese, and somehow we’ve managed to co-ordinate this trip with the first Saturday of the month, which is when Towri Sheep Cheeses opens the dairy gates to interested guests. After the sheep are milked, you can feed the lambs, taste the semi-hard cheese and ‘ewegurt’, and grab a cheese platter. This is the only dairy using sheep milk in Queensland, and it’s part of the Scenic Rim Farm Gate Trail where visitors can see where all sorts of produce – veggies, honey, olives, garlic, mushrooms and even camels – is grown.

We’re keen to see if there are more places we can visit, but there is another walk to conquer and we need to give ourselves all afternoon to do it.

As we’re getting ready to take on the Lower Portals track in Mount Barney National Park, Chris reminds me to put my swimmers in my day pack. Like many of the hikes we’ve done, especially in southeast Queensland, this one is not easy. Starting near the base of Mount Barney, it takes some creek crossings and steep rises to conquer this 7.4 kilometre walk. It’s quite a warm day, so we take our shoes off and soak our feet at one of the crossings then strip off when we come to the glorious swimming hole. It sits in a gap between two almost sheer rock faces and is blissfully isolated when we arrive. Once I’ve got used to the chill of the water – something tells me it never gets warm no matter the time of year – I feel as though I could float on my back here forever. Talk about a natural high.

Pedal Power: Rathdowney to Stanthorpe

Lake Maroon in the centre of a bushland setting with mountains and farm buildings in the distance, Queensland

While I like to float, Chris likes to use one. Or a sinker depending on conditions. An early start takes us to Lake Maroon, which is known for bass. Unfortunately this is a fish best caught on a fly, which is not a skill either of us has mastered. We find a spot near the recreational area and give it our best shot while wishing we had a boat. Chris manages to snag one undersized specimen casting near some weed, but we toss it back to grow and hopefully make another fisherman happy when it’s a bit older.

While he’d happily try his luck at the lake all day, I’ve got a more fruitful plan. I’ve hired wheels from Granite Belt Bicycle Tours so we can follow the Stanthorpe to Ballandean Bike Trail. It’s just over 30 kilometres, but along the way we stop at Savina Lane Wines for a tasting then pedal onwards to Jester Hill, where we take in the views and an antipasto platter along with a glass of Secco Rosato. All in all, it’s the perfect way to round off our Stanthorpe road trip – a leisurely ride through the countryside, topping up our glasses along the way and enjoying the best of this impressive region.