The town of Stanthorpe
|Population||5,000 (?)|
|LGA(s)||Southern Downs Region|
|State electorate(s)||Southern Downs|
The Granite Belt is an area of the Great Dividing Range in the Darling Downs region of Queensland, Australia. The Granite Belt is centred on the town of Stanthorpe. The cool, high country of the granite belt is located on Queensland's southern border and north of the New England Tablelands.
The area gains its name from the predominantly granite rocks that distinguish it from other areas that make up much of South East Queensland. The Granite Belt is known for its spectacular flowers, and produces virtually all of Queensland's $40 million apple crop from one million trees grown by 55 orchardists.
The area is also known as the Southern Downs. Including the town of Warwick, the region has a population of 32,600 people. The area lies within the Southern Downs Region local government area. The major river in the region is the Condamine River, a tributary of the Murray River.
The Granite Belt is further distinguished by its elevation, which makes it the coolest part of Queensland. This, and its relatively low rainfall, has made it attractive for viticulture. Winter months can be very cold on the Granite Belt, and night-time frost is very common. Bleak, overcast conditions on rare occasions bring hail, sleet, and snow. Situated at between 450 m (1,480 ft) to 900 m (3,000 ft) above sea level, the altitude is the main controlling factor for the climate. The elevation creates a climate of four distinct seasons on the Granite Belt.
The area is a popular tourist destination, particularly for the short-break drive market from Southeast Queensland/Northern New South Wales. The boom in wine tourism has been a key driver, and while winter is popular, the region benefits from being a cool contrast to coastal humidity in the summer.
The town of Dalveen is in the north of the Granite Belt. Other villages include Applethorpe, Amiens, Ballandean,Glen Aplin, Passchendaele, Thulimbah, Pozieres, and Wallangarra, in the south at the border with New South Wales. Liston is a small village in New South Wales that is considered part of the Granite Belt.
The area is Queensland's premier wine region and home to the Queensland College of Wine Tourism. Many of the fifty-plus wineries in the region have enjoyed significant success with Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay for some years. Recently Verdelho has performed very well and many wineries are experimenting with alternative grape varieties, including Nebbiolo, Sangiovese and Petit verdot.
Part of the Granite Belt is reserved as Girraween National Park, which features granite outcroppings such as the Pyramids, and an abundance of fauna and flora. 'Girraween' can be translated as "place of flowers" in the Aboriginal language from which it is taken. The latter are particularly in evidence in spring, when wildflowers explode into evidence. The area is home to at least 800 species of flowering plants. The botanical group known as the Stanthorpe Rare Flower Consortium has been established as a result of the region's significant floral heritage. Some of these plants include ground orchids, rock roses, pea-flowers and native bluebells.
The granite boulders of the region attract rock-climbers, and bush-walkers like to explore the little-known Underground River.
The district was first explored by Allan Cunningham in 1827. Cunninghams Gap was named after him. Agriculture was established in the region during the 1860s. During the following decade, mining of gold, copper and tin brought permanent European settlement to the district.
In 1881 the railway to Warwick was extended to Stanthorpe and then to the border in 1887, when Wallangarra was established.
The countryside around the Granite Belt, after World War I, was given to some returning soldiers as gifts or payment for their services in the war. As such, many of the rural districts are named after battles that took place in France, such as Amiens and Pozieres. These places were, at one point, rather busy and well-populated, but as Stanthorpe grew and returned soldiers grew frustrated with farming, the districts eventually died as many families left. In some places, where there were once Blue Nurse outposts and many stores, all that remain are small primary schools, while in other districts the post-war past remains only in the name.
- Morley, Peter (2008-02-11). "Weather gives apple growers rosy outlook" (News article). The Courier-Mail. Retrieved 2008-02-12.
- "Southern Downs Regional Council". Retrieved 2008-01-31.
- Hammond, Phil (2008-07-18). "Queensland proves its petal in wildflower stakes". The Courier-Mail. Retrieved 2008-08-12.
- Hema Maps (1997). Discover Australia's National Parks. Milsons Point, New South Wales: Random House Australia. p. 172. ISBN 1-875992-47-2.
- Queensland Environmental Protection Agency (2000). Heritage Trails of the Great South East. Queensland Environmental Protection Agency. pp. 116–117. ISBN 978-0-7345-1008-2.
- Granite Net web page
- Southern Downs Regional Council
- Granite Belt Wine & Tourism: a not-for-profit organisation that promotes the regions wine and tourism industry.