Inspiring tales from rural Queensland

Shelley Winkel, Global Publicity Manager, Tourism Queensland

YourLifeChoices: Shelley is the expert on activities in areas that a lot of people haven’t discovered yet, so today we are flying into the Gold Coast or Brisbane, and Shelley, you’ve got a fantastic itinerary planned.

Shelley Winkle: Yes, I have an incredible experience. And it’s good timing and a response to the issues happening around the country and as a result of the drought. With the Queensland fires, the chips are down in some of the rural areas (like other rural areas across the country). We really need some tourists to get out there and see our beautiful country.

YLC: Can you tell us about The Scenic Rim? What and where is it?

SW: It’s this hidden gem about 19 minutes south-west of Brisbane, and about 90 minutes from the Gold Coast in the hinterland. As the name suggests, it is this rim, literally a necklace of mountain ranges that are formed around this incredibly old volcanic cauldron.

It’s also rich farming land, with heritage homes, B&Bs, barn-stays. It’s just a quaint, charming part of Australia literally on the doorstep of those two big cities.

John Deeks: So, you’ve organised a drive that can take you around the rim to enjoy all the area has to offer?

SW: You can get out there for a day from Brisbane and have an incredible lunch with food producers with what they call ‘local boards’. You can stay overnight (or two, three or four nights) at any one of the little towns in a cottage or B&B in the area.

YLC: Sounds fabulous. You also talk about the ‘Salad Bowl’ of Brisbane, so I’m thinking this might be a foodie heaven as well?

SW: It is indeed. As you head out from Brisbane to get to the Scenic Rim, you pass through a place called the Lockyer Valley, and that really is where the Salad Bowl is. It’s where farms are selling lettuce, carrots etc. There’s even a Cheesier out there. It’s pretty incredible, the cheese is actually made from Awassi sheep. I’m not quite sure what kind of sheep that is, but I know they produce some high-quality cheeses. They’ve got a flock out there and a whole manner of farming.

YLC: And national parks?

SW: Yes, as you go into the Scenic Rim, you come across Lamington National Park. This is an absolutely stunning place. It starts off with eucalyptus forests but as you go up to O’Reilly’s (Rainforest Retreat), you move into Gondwanaland. There is not much eucalyptus forest so thankfully it wasn’t affected by the recent fire and it’s all there and waiting for you. The area around O’Reilly’s is beautiful for bird watching, hiking and has stunning views!

YLC: Shelley, you have traditionally mentioned Stanthorpe as the place to go. Can you tell us where Stanthorpe is and why we want to go there?

SW: Stanthorpe is an hour and a half south-west of Brisbane; it’s almost touching the border of Queensland. Many people think of Queensland as this subtropical or tropical region, but Stanthorpe actually gets snow on the odd occasion, so it’s quite high up the range. Traditionally, it was an apple-growing region, but probably in the last 30 or 40 years, it’s become known for strange varieties of grapes. There is a wine-trail called the ‘Strange Bird Trail’, and you go from cellar door to cellar door tasting wines that you can only get in small amounts. You won’t see these wines at Dan Murphy’s, or at the big retail outlets because they only produce between 200 and 500 ton a year.

YLC: And by visiting Stanthorpe, you’re actually supporting people who’ve done it tough because of drought?

SW: Yes, you might have heard last year that this is a town that ran out of water!

There are farmers who have not had a crop and then on top of that, the fires came through in September, so then had a double whammy. Their big traffic comes through in the September school holidays and then over Christmas, and that literally died out last year. I was lucky enough to go out there last week and lucky enough to be out there when it rained! There was an incredible sense of hope, which is so needed because these are tourism operators and farmers who’ve done it pretty bloody tough.

I visited the Queensland College of Wine Tourism, and it has this incredible restaurant on site, and you can see where the fire went to the letterbox. And the local volunteers actually protected this tourism icon and kept the fire away from burning this building down.

And the same thing happened with the brewery down the road. Literally, the fire came to the letterbox, but they’re up and running now and they just need some people to get out there and check it out.

JD: So, Shelley, how can people find out more about this wonderful scenic route?

SW: The best place I’d say is to head to Or if you’re going to Stanthorpe in the Granite Belt, go into Google and search ‘Granite Wine Belt’ and some itineraries will pop up. Check out the pictures and then just start looking.

JD: And our grey nomads who are currently on trek around Australia. Make sure you check it out because it’s very close

SW: And have a chat to some of the farmers and some of the operators, they’ve got tales to tell and they love nothing more than leaning over that counter and having a bit of a chat.

JD: Shelley Winkel, thank you so much indeed. We hope that everybody supports those in need and visit that wonderful area that you’ve just described.

SW: Thank you so much. Have a great day.