Monday, 10 November 2014


As promised, here is the second half of 'Cycling on the Granite Belt'written by a cycling buddy of mine, Graham Kimber. Hope you enjoy it.......

Map courtesy of  Riding with GPS

We came back a week later to ride Highland Way to Ballandean and return by the Regional Council’s road bike trail. Ballandean is roughly south of Stanthorpe, about 20 km along the New England Highway. Highland Way does not follow the highway, but runs from Stanthorpe to Ballandean in a 31km arc over the hills to the east. Interactive map and elevation profile for Highland Way is here

The return trip using the Regional Council’s new road riding trail zigzags through the hills, roughly parallel to the New England Highway along quiet back roads. The cumulative climb for the round trip Stanthorpe to Ballandean by Highland Way and return by the Regional Council’s bike trail is 679m.

In order to get an early start, we had stayed in Stanthorpe the previous night. The next day we really did experience tourist brochure weather – cold clear air, just a slight haze from last night’s wood fires, truly dazzling blue sky, grey-green eucalypts, occasional bright native flowers, bluish hills with weathered granite outcrops, slight winds just right for cycling.

Leaving Stanthorpe, for the first few kilometres along Sugarloaf Rd, we experienced the nearest thing to “traffic” of our whole time on the Granite Belt. Something to do with the time of day perhaps – maybe parents returning from the school run. About 4km out of town, Sugarloaf Rd forks into two. Highland Way takes the right hand branch, and at this point we were back to the virtually empty roads we’d experienced on Armistice Way a week ago. This branch of Sugarloaf Rd becomes Eukey Rd a little further on and continues all the way to Ballandean. 

Storm King Dam

The scenery for the first half of the ride along Highland Way was similar to what we’d seen on Armistice Way.  For the first 19km the slope was fairly relentlessly upward. There are a couple of possible side trips; the first at around 10km, where a short 500m ride takes you to the Storm King Dam picnic area, which was almost eerily empty of people or vehicles, but with a sense of tranquillity enhanced by the sight of water birds and a few cattle on the other side of the dam. The second is at at Breens Rd at about 15km, a couple of kilometres short of the locality of Eukey.  Turning off here is a possible 13km trip to Bald Rock Creek campground in Girraween National Park.  This is not the main road into the national park and is unsealed. We noted this as an exploration for another day with more appropriate bikes.

Vineyards galore

Two km past Eukey we reached the highest point of the whole trip at 1020m above sea level.  The descent from here to Ballandean included some fast downhill runs through winery country, with the granite mountains of Girraween National Park off to our left.

In the village of Ballandean, at the end of Highland Way, we crossed the New England Highway to the start of the new road bike trail. The trail turned out to be very easy to follow, with clear signposts at all road junctions. Except for two sections, the first of about 1.1 km and the other of about 100m, the roads were sealed, but the surface was of variable quality, some sections with coarse aggregate and some with ripples, bumps and occasional potholes. When riding through forested sections these irregularities are sometimes hard to see because the road is in patchy shade. In some places the road is quite narrow, but these are back roads and there were very few motor vehicles. At about 13km from Ballandean we encountered a sign outside a winery inviting cyclists (or possibly just one of them!) in for refreshments, but it seems there was nobody around that day.

At the village of Glen Aplin, 16km from the start, the trail crosses the New England Highway. At this point the highway is only two lanes, the speed limit is 60km/h through the town, and there are large signs alerting motorists to the presence of the bike trail.   

A collage of photos taken on this ride

At several points on the trail there are stops with a route map complete with elevation profile, sheltered tables and bike racks. Toilets and drinking water are available at the Glen Aplin stop. The next 10km passed very quickly, and suddenly we were back at the Stanthorpe tourist information centre, just 3km from our accommodation at the other end of town.   

So what are our impressions of Stanthorpe and the Granite Belt as a road cycling destination? I hesitate to tell you truthfully, because you’ll probably tell someone else, and soon everyone will know and there will be cyclists all over the Granite Belt! The total experience was great. We often felt the sort of meditative sensation that people associate with the granite country – helped along by the colours, the silence, the empty roads, steady exertion on the climbs, the dreamy scenery.   The roads are generally good and our road bikes were well up to the task. The locals are friendly; they waved encouragement when they saw us on the bikes, and if we asked directions, as likely as not they would draw a map.  The volunteers at the tourist information centre were rightly proud of the new trail and were keen to hear our feedback. 

Accommodation of all sorts is available, motels, villas, chalets, tourist parks, campgrounds. Their standards are all high, including a motel we stayed in with an operating-room level of cleanliness; no surgeon’s glove would pick up a molecule of impurity here. There is a variety of eating places in town; even a couple of Italian restaurants, for example this one, which have survived the Australianisation of the descendants of the post-war settlers.  A cycling holiday could be readily combined with food and wine tourism, or bushwalking with seasonal native flower appreciation.

All photographs in this post were taken by G.K.

Graham Kimber

I really appreciate receiving good, constructive and polite comments.

Cheers and safe riding,
Jimmy Bee

1 comment:

  1. I'm very familiar with Stanthorpe, and I loved your ride through country I know. You write invitingly. And your photos are beautiful. Thank you.