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Enthusiastic travel writers hosted on the Granite Belt

8 April 2021

ASTW Famil Team Granite Belt 2021

President of Granite Belt Wine Tourism Martin Cooper, Southern Downs Mayor Vic Pennisi and CEO of Southern Queensland Country Tourism Peter Homan at Ballandean Estate with members of the Australian Society of Travel Writers.

Twenty members of The Australian Society of Travel Writers recently spent a glorious weekend on the Southern Downs and Granite Belt, hosted by Granite Belt Wine & Tourism in partnership with the Southern Downs Regional Council.

Arriving from as far afield as Sydney, Lismore and Brisbane, day one saw the group welcomed to Stanthorpe where a walking tour of the town introduced them to amazing coffee, innovative street art and a visit to the Stanthorpe Regional Art Gallery before they had the chance to sample the many culinary flavours of the Southern Downs from the local cafes and bakeries on the main street.

The two-day visit to the region included a number of opportunities to ‘Meet the Maker’. Writers were able to interact with growers, chefs and wine makers over lunch and dinner where the writers could learn first-hand about the people that make our region’s vibrant tourism industry tick.


‘Meet the Maker’ opportunities included meeting Granite Belt local and chef Bobbi Wells from the Barrelroom at Ballandean Estate, award-winning winemakers Robyn Puglisi-Henderson from Ballandean Estate winery, Mike Hayes from Balancing Heart Vineyard, fourth generation orchardist David McMahon and a stop at the new-look Granite Belt Christmas Tree Farm.


With overnight accommodation at a variety of sought after hideaways like Kurrajong Barn & Cottages, Sancerre Estate and Girraween Environmental Lodge, there was plenty of opportunity for the group to dream up their next travel story.

Founded in 1975 and incorporated in 2011 The Australian Society of Travel Writers Incorporated (ASTW) is the most highly respected travel media body in Australia.

Joined by CEO of Southern Queensland Country Tourism Peter Homan and President of Granite Belt Wine & Tourism Martin Cooper, Southern Downs Mayor Vic Pennisi welcomed the group for lunch at Ballandean Estate.

Mayor Pennisi said, “The opportunity to host a group of esteemed writers such as these allows Council to generate valuable and positive media stories about the Southern Downs and Granite Belt tourism experience.

“Hosting experience travel writers like these allows Council to support local tourism operators and generate new photo resources for regional tourism promotion.

“Opportunities like these gives the Southern Downs and Granite Belt media coverage that would not otherwise be possible on such a scale, and with an increase of almost 75% in visitors to our information centre in Warwick and Stanthorpe in the last 6 months of 2020, it proves that our region is a sought after destination for travellers who otherwise might have spent their valuable tourism dollars overseas.

“Southern Downs. A great place to live, work, play and stay.”

Mayor Pennisi also extended an invitation to the group to visit the Southern Downs again to experience the region’s rich heritage and growing ecotourism scene. 

What did the writers have to say about it? "Brilliant weekend!  I was really looking forward to it and it was a CRACKER of an itinerary.  You can just feel the love in that Granite Belt Region. I cannot wait to write about it and share on social media." Jennifer Johnston, Freelance Writer.

"It was such a great weekend with so many surprises packed into two days. I am impressed by what we saw and did and can’t wait to start writing about it all in Out & About with Kids and Travel Play Live," Fiona Harper, Travel Writer.

The Media Famil Program is facilitated by Council and is jointly funded by the Australian and Queensland Governments as a component of the 2019 Queensland Bushfires Community Recovery Package under Category C of the Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements. 


Saturday 27 March

  • Stanthorpe CBD: Weerona Park Murals, Stanthorpe Regional Art Gallery, self-guided walk through main street café and eateries.
  • Lunch – Ballandean Estate, The Barrel Room Restaurant
  • Overnight - Kurrajong Barn & Cottages; Sancerre Estate, Girraween Environmental Lodge.
  • Wallangarra Railway Station - ‘Meet the Maker’: Kim Hearn
  • Girraween Estate ‘Meet the Winemaker’: Owner Steve Messiter
  • Balancing Heart Vineyard ‘Meet the Winemaker’: Mike Hayes and Owner Greg Kentish.

Sunday 28 March

  • The Little Larder Stanthorpe to meet owner Cameron Giddings
  • Zest Pastries ‘Meet the Maker’: Stephen Lambert
  • Granite Belt Christmas Tree Farm ‘Meet the Maker’: Chocolate-Maker Katrina Fraser andChristmas Tree Grower: Brad Fraser.
  • Orchard Experience ‘Meet the Maker’: 4th Generation Orchardist David McMahon
  • Stanthorpe Cheese ‘Meet the Cheesemaker’: William Rodgers
  • Castle Glen Australia ‘Meet the Liqueur Maker’: Cedric Millar
  • Sam’s Fruit & Veg Supplies
  • Straw House Farm Bed and Breakfast to see the new Tiny House and farm animals

Please visit the Council website to view the program criteria, guidelines and application process at

In addition you can also subscribe to BizConnect eNewsletter and receive fortnightly updates on Southern Downs business news, support programs, events and more.

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