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Phil Brown -  journalist . writer . poet


Phil Brown

journalist . writer . poet

articles . books . poems

Phil Brown - Travel Stories

Chilling out in front of the fire

For a bracing mid-week break from the big smoke, a cosy Stanthorpe cottage ticked all the boxes

Qweekend, The Courier-Mail, August 15 -16, 2020

Story Phil Brown

The website promised a cottage overlooking bushland where kangaroos and horses graze. And, yes, there were horses but no kangaroos at first.

But later, on our first afternoon at Diamondvale Cottages, they turned up. I had just sat down to read my book when I looked up to see two of them nibbling some green shoots just behind Coolibah Cottage, our digs at Diamondvale Cottages & Lodge. "Cue the roos," I said and we sat watching them peacefully grazing outside, as promised. Nice.

Okay kangaroos are a common enough marsupial but we're city slickers and we don't see many except on television. So we were chuffed and it really added to our bush idyll.

For the past 20 years or so most of our trips away have been to southern metropolises, destinations overseas or to our usual Queensland getaway, Noosa.

But the Queensland Government's Good to Go Campaign, encouraging us all to holiday in our home state, really inspired us to do something different. Having lived in Queensland since 1970 without ever having been to Stanthorpe seemed ridiculous so it was high time I visited. It was an adventure for us, pointing the vehicle southwest instead of towards Noosa.

We wanted to stay in a cosy cottage with a fireplace, and a quick online search came up with Diamondvale Cottages. It looked promising and I can't tell you how many people I have run into since who have also stayed there and loved it.

Located on the eastern side of Stanthorpe on the banks of Quart Pot Creek it's just a few kilometres from town.

It's owned and run by Stephen and Taya Michalski who swapped 14 years of international corporate careers for a tree change. In fact they were guests of Diamondvale once and loved the place so much they came back and bought it. True story. 

They live in a lovely old Queenslander in the midst of the place but keep a pretty low profile although Stephen did welcome us and came over for a chat when we arrived, which was nice.

There are three comfy cottages and a bigger lodge which can accommodate up to four couples. Our Coolibah Cottage was a very comfortable, well-appointed, twobedroom dwelling with a little kitchen, a spacious loungeroom and that allimportant slow wood-burning combustion fireplace. There's something very satisfying about stacking the wood, lighting a fire and watching it slowly turn to embers. It's primal ... or something.

It is cold in Stanthorpe and that's what we were after. Last year around the same time we went to Tassie for a week and revelled in the chill. Stanthorpe was our little Tassie getaway in Queensland, a bracing midweek break from the big smoke.

There's a lot to do in this Granite Belt region, amazing national parks nearby, wineries and such. But I'm teetotal so wineries don't appeal to me although my wife doesn't mind a drop. We didn't really want to go gallivanting all over the countryside. We wanted to mooch around town and then get nice and toasty in our cottage reading our books, watching movies and enjoying the fireplace.

And that's just what we did. We did a walking tour of Stanthorpe too on a cold, drizzly day when the temperature struggled into two figures. It's a lovely little town with a surprising amount of public art and plenty of history. From Diamondvale Cottages there is a track that leads to town, a lovely and picturesque walk along the creek which you must do if you're staying here.

We dined out in town on our first night at Essen Restaurant, which was recommended and was excellent. On our day out in Stanthorpe our host was Mary Findlay who runs the burgeoning Stanthorpe Regional Art Gallery and she recommended Varias Restaurant which is part of the Queensland College of Wine Tourism. It's friendly, the food is excellent and we had such a lovely lunch there. And it also boasts a wine menu featuring plenty of the local drops, which my wife appreciated.

On our second night we opted to stay in our cottage watching the roos graze as the light faded and the fire crackled.

Two nights was nice but not quite enough. Three or four and we would have been really, really relaxed ... maybe too relaxed. I'd like to try and see how that feels next time. 

Phil Brown

Arts Editor - The Courier-Mail, Deputy Editor - CANVAS, News Queensland

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