The Retirees Escape from Covid – Stanthorpe

It’s a bright Friday morning. We meet up with Rod and Kerry Hayes for our annual wine weekend, but all is different – its not May and its not somewhere exotic. Typically, we travel to a new wine district within Australia or overseas but this year we are limited to wine districts within Queensland. Typically, it is May because Queensland has a May long weekend whilst the rest of Australia is still at work. Covid and government health regulations make it different, so we are travelling in July to Stanthorpe on the New England Highway near the New South Wales border 223 kilometres (139 mi) from Brisbane via Warwick, and 811 m above sea level 3 hours away by car.

Rod spent part of his early life in Stanthorpe, and it was home for his mother and father until his death. For Rod there was the important task of checking on his father’s grave for any repair and tidying up.

The land within the boundaries of Stanthorpe is primarily used for urban purposes: housing, recreational, commercial and industrial with some undeveloped land on the hillier slopes. Crops grown in the surrounding area include vegetables, apples, grapes and stone fruit. Wine is also produced in the area, and sheep and cattle grazing is also prevalent. Mount Marlay is to the north-east of the town and rises to 918 metres (3,012 ft).

Prior to white settlement, The Kambuwal were the first settlers with their territory stretching from the western scarp of the Great Dividing Range and their eastern flank ended around Stanthorpe. Stanthorpe was founded by tin miners. People came from many countries to mine tin from 1872. Prior to 1872 the area was known as ‘Quart Pot Creek’ but from then for a time, the area was the largest alluvial tin mining and mineral field in Queensland. A more suitable name was sought by the town fathers. Stanthorpe literally means ‘tintown’, as Stannum is Latin for ‘tin’ and thorpe is Middle English for ‘village’.

When the tin prices fell, many miners turned to farming. The subtropical highland climate was suitable for growing cool climate fruits and vegetables. Grapes were first planted here in the 1860s with encouragement from the local Catholic parish priest to produce altar wine. The railway reached Stanthorpe in May 1881.

Following the First World War, Stanthorpe was a major resettlement area for soldiers recovering from mustard gas exposure. Many of these Soldier Settlers took up the land leased to them in the areas around Stanthorpe which now bear the names of First World War battlefields.

Stanthorpe is also famous for its granite outcrops which abound and present headaches for large agricultural concerns.  Its also famous as the coldest place in Queensland. So we are headed for Diamondvale – weekend accommodation for the grey nomads of south east Queensland.

Travelling by car you must cross the cattle grid which bounces the passengers awake. Our first stop is at Heritage Wines cellar door set amongst its grape vines in the village of Cottonvale just past the cattle grid. The cellar door is attached to the machinery to make the wine in a barn style building. Inside is a large fireplace in the centre of the dining space and people in festive garb are nosily celebrating Xmas in July. Opposite the fireplace and the diners is the wine tasting bar but with the event in the dining room tastings move onto the enclosed verandah. Sun streams in and the glass keeps the chill winds out. The verandah is very busy with visitors but it is very pleasant to look across the vineyard tasting the bounty of the fruit. We can see a table setting under a tree with the empty glasses abandoned no doubt because of the wind. The bottle brush is in full flower as is the wattle.

Heritage wines Cellar door, Wattle, The “tastings” bar, The vineyard and the table

After topping up our wine stocks we left Heritage Wines travelling along the old Stanthorpe road into the township and out to Diamondvale Cottages. Our cottage boasted two bedrooms with ensuite, kitchen dining and lounge, air-conditioning and timber stove. Quart Pot Creek meanders past the cottages which are also home to a mob of Wallabies, wood ducks and Tawny Frogmouth.

We checked out our surrounds and met the mob. There is a slab hut setup as the catering hut for outdoor functions overlooking Quart Pot Creek. Our cottage has a small porch off each bedroom. The bush was starting to settle for the evening and the temperature dropping.

Our wine weekends also incorporate our card evenings. So after settling in, starting the fire, and preparing the smorgasbord of things to pick at whilst polaying cards, the cards are shuffled and we are in for the evening as the wind outside howls and the temperature plumets. Tomorrow will be Queensland’s coldest day for 2021.

All tap and showering water is provided from rain water tanks and Stanthorpe was going through a rainy period after a very concerning period of drought when the Storm King dam was so low Stanthorpe was transporting water to the township. So, when the tap water turned brown and spluttered out of the taps, we suspected the tank had run dry. Our host was travelling to the Sunshine Coast some 4 hours away, so she arranged a neighbour to visit and troubleshoot the problem. He concurred with our view the tank was dry, so he diverted the water from the main tank, so we were saved.

During this chilling interlude (the back door was open to that howling wind) we learned from the neighbour that there is a bridge across the creek leading to a path following the creek down into Stanthorpe township. I decided to check it out tomorrow. After cards we stoked up the fire and retired to bed. Looking forward to a big day tomorrow.

No time off for good behaviour – Imprisonment on Norfolk Island

Day 8 Thursday

Good news we will fly home tomorrow via Qantas – good old Qantas to the rescue. Some further good news a local Kingfisher has stopped for a rest in the yard below us. The neighbours who arrived Wednesday and are here for bird watching and getting very excited of portents to come.

So, time for a swim at Emily Beach, a walk to Lone Pine, a walk through the Pitcairn Islanders Village (which is closed of course), and various other things to fill our day.

Emily Beach is the preferred swimming beach for the Island. Sheltered with a sandy beach and tucked up in front of the Polynesian ruins and beside Kingston, it is the choice of most locals. The school ran a carnival that day and all the kids appeared excited – a day off school at the beach. The water was nice and clear, the sand a little more course than the Gold Coast and shallow with out wave action because of the bordering stone benches stopping the waves.

Beside the beach the headland reaches out to Nepean Island and beyond Phillip Island both uninhabited. On this headland is a lone pine tree and hence the name nothing to do with the Dardanelles and the WW1 campaign at Gallipoli. On the other side of Emily Bay is Slaughter Bay and the Sirius monument. HMS Sirius was the flagship of the First Fleet, which set out from Portsmouth, England, in 1787 to establish the first European colony in New South Wales. In 1790, the ship was wrecked on the reef, south east of Kingston Pier, in Slaughter Bay, Norfolk Island and this monument identifies the spot.

Behind the monument is Norfolk Island’s historic Government House—built in 1829 and handsomely restored—is generally not open to the public. It is now the Administrator’s residence. Whilst we are down this way we go to Bloody Bridge and check on the progress of the baby Tropic Bird. Its doing really well.


We drive around to the Pitcairn Islander Historic Village principally to see if we can get lunch at this restaurant that never seemed to be open and when it did, we could not get a table. It was not open, so we walked through Queen Victoria’s Gardens adjoining the restaurant and then to the Village which was also closed but we were taken by the colourful and large hibiscus bushes.


The day is coming to an end, so we look at the map to see where we have not been. Marsh’s Rd at Ball Bay stands out. We determine to check on the red tail tropic bird at the foot of the huge pine tree on our way there and sure enough he’s there and growing quickly.

The map does not identify anything significant at Ball Bay, but we have time to kill and drive to Ball Bay. Here we find the port where petroleum is brought to shore, not by a pier or a tender but by an underwater pipe pumped directly into tanks on shore.


Farewell to Norfolk from the terminal. We enjoyed the break, and it was something I had on my bucket list to do. I am certain I would return but the slowness of life on the island would not suit Kerry at all.

A Short Imprisonment on Norfolk Island

Day 7 Wednesday

What experiences await us today? A bus trip to Hundred Acre reserve then Ona Cliffe (we were there last night), breakfast, a bus trip to Captain Cook monument, bus trip back to Taylor’s Road and then what? You will have to wait and see.

Hundred Acre Reserve – we entered it by the alternate entrance as though the driver knew we had been here before. We made our way down to the point called Rocky Point and there we found Boobie chicks sitting in their nests waiting for Mum or Dad to come home with breakfast. Completely unafraid they sat there as we trundled past. The track on this side was not as wet as the previous occasion we visited but still we had to scrape the mud off as we reboarded the bus. Then off to breakfast and I was more taken by the breakfast catering vehicle than the breakfast, so I grabbed some photos. I also explored a little further and came across an enclosure for groups when the tourists are running hot presumably.


Then onto to the bus and we travel to the north-west of the island a few miles east from Howe Point where we saw the flying wedge tailed shearwater. After the bus lets us alight we are greeted by a stunning vista looking west to Point Howe. We then walk due north to the monument. It a rudimentary stone cairn with a plaque on it. The plaque tells us this is his second voyage of discovery. This voyage was designed to circumnavigate the globe as far south as possible to finally determine whether there was any great southern landmass, or Terra Australis. In the course of the voyage, he visited Easter Island, the Marquesas, Tahiti, the Society Islands, Niue, the Tonga Islands, the New Hebrides, New Caledonia, Norfolk Island, Palmerston Island, South Sandwich Islands, and South Georgia, many of which he named in the process.


My photos also show Moo-oo Stone, Green Pool stone and Cathedral Rock. As we climb back to the bus we pass some pine trees draped in grandpa’s whiskers. This is quite a regular sight but often difficult to photograph. We board the bus and head for Burnt Pine central which is the name of the centre of the Island and where you will find the shops. My photos give you an idea of the “cbd” Norfolk Island. Whilst we were shopping Kerry put down her bag with her phone credit cards cash but not her passport. It was not until we went to a café for lunch that she found it was missing. After a lot of searching and help from locals (including placing an ad on the local radio) Kerry decided she would go to the Police station and report it missing with no expectations. Well, there she found it. Some unknown local had handed it in – joy oh joy! It may not be the most exciting or professional tourism spot on the globe, but it would have to have the most honest residents.


Whilst we were at breakfast there was a Covid outbreak in NZ and flights home were cancelled – de je vu! So, we have any day in paradise.

A Short Imprisonment on Norfolk Island

Day 4 Sunday

It was still windy, raining intermittently and grey overhead. We had planned to visit St Barnabas Chapel and then go on to the craft market. So, we went to church for the Sunday mass to see the church again and mix a little with the locals after church. Bindi was helping out on the morning tea.

The foundation stone was laid in November 1875, but the building was not completed until June 1880. The mission church, St Barnabas Chapel, was built as a memorial to Bishop Patterson who was killed by natives in the Solomon Islands in 1871. The chapel is simply beautiful. The four windows in the apse depict the four evangelists, the seats are carved and inlaid with Christian symbols in mother-o’-pearl, polished black and white marble paves the broad aisle leading to the sanctuary, which naturally is the most beautiful portion of the chapel, with its coloured marble floor, and glittering mosaic reredos screened with richly-carved wood. In the centre is a massive silver cross that has been made out of Bishop Patterson’s own table-silver, and this is flanked by silver candlesticks and vases of flowers.

After the mass we walked across to the hall where Bindi was serving coffee and cake. We collected our coffee and cake and started to mingle. We were mixing very well, until we were joined by a tall, stooped man who seemed to make everyone else fade away. He started to espouse the benefits of Christianity and we realised he was the local “bible basher”. Still, we enjoyed experiencing a Sunday mass Norfolk Island style. Our photos show some of the architecture and stained glass of St Barnabas Chapel which seemed very out of keeping with the rest of the Island’s architecture. In the fields surrounding the church was a monument which we were told marked the original church graveyard and the modern graveyard was within the church grounds.

The Chapel,the marbled aisle, stained glass, the original cemetery and the tree obscuring the toilets

Our plans to go to the craft market changed. We decided to do some independent touring. The highest point on the island is Mt Bates at 321m above sea level and there is a walk to the peak from the 2nd highest point Mt Pitt. So, we started today with a drive downtown then up Grassy Rd onto Mt Pitt Rd to the peak 320m above sea level.

Our walk of 500m will give us a view to the north of the island. At the peak of Pitt there is a grassy knoll with picnic table and a vehicle round-about circling the grassy knoll. To the east is the track to Mt Bates.  Shaded by the abundant growth along the track Kerry spotted butterflies and spent some time trying to photograph them. The walk was quite easy and relaxing. From here you could see the runway of the airport houses and ocean.

During WW II a radar station was set up on Mt Bates. There is little to tell the tale, but you can go and view the cement slab on which the radar shack once stood and observe a derelict piece of machinery which played some role in the operation. Then you climb to the peak of Mt Bates where there is another grassy observation platform from which you can observe the modern telecommunication dishes on Mt Pitt, the ocean and some houses. Nothing really remarkable. There are a number of paths leading away from the peak to who knows where, so we elected to return by the route whence we came. As we returned, we pass some tourists like us taking a stroll from Pitt to Bates. These are the only people we will see on the walk. We arrive at Pitt get in the car just as the rain commenced to fall, look at one another and ask what now. Before revealing the next adventure, here are my photos.

From the top of Mt Pitt, follow the walking track, pass the remenents of the radar station, to the top of Mt Bates and view the radio towers on Mt Pitt then walk back (having a little rest) passed the wall of caged rocks and back to Mt Pitt.

We decided we would look at the north west of the island so we drove along Mt Pitt Rd into Mission Rd and partway along spotted a local “honesty stop” offering local honey jams and fruits. We both immediately thought of suggesting this style of selling to Mrs Hayes for all her surplus jams and pickles. I cannot recall what we bought probably local honey and pushed on to Ona Cliffe taking a righthand turn to Anson Bay Rd. I am pretty sure this was the first time we spotted the Sunset Bar at Puppies’s Point. It was closed at the time but we noted the opening hours and the owner spotted us taking a booking for the following evening. We pulled in at the park overlooking Anson Bay and moved onto the Gun Club. There are two establishments side by side – the pistol club and the clay target club – both perched on Anson Point home to a Masked Booby colony. There is a fence on the cliff edge to keep people and cattle from falling in the many Booby holes where they nest. The birds were not frightened by people and I was able to get very close to them. They are quite a large bird and certainly seem to have worked out how to share its habitat with Sapiens.

The honesty box, Anson bay, the wall of Anson Bay, the Booby nests and the occupants and the opposite wall of Anson Bay

We drove on to Point Howe following the wind and standing in a howling gale we spotted a wedged tail shearwater. Watch the ocean at sunset and you may sight a shearwater floating on the water or on the air currents before coming ashore just after nightfall. Known to the locals as ‘ghost birds’, you can hear their moaning calls echoing across the island at night. Shearwaters cover vast distances during their annual migration, travelling as far as 300 km a day on their way to Norfolk to breed.

Photos of Anson Point and Point Howe

We visited Cottage Pottery at the very end of Anson Road opposite Fisherman’s Lane before heading back to the Sunset Bar. Cottage Pottery and Art Gallery is in the backyard of a house on one of the remoter parts of the Island, but it is not the backyard pottery shop. The proprietor Steve Ryves told us that they were noted for producing high fired stoneware and porcelain. Steve is the potter and Alison paints and makes jewellery. Their work is exhibited in a gallery attached to the pottery. As you enter there is a pen of kids (goats). It turns out that their daughter has the main herd and produces goats cheese of some quality and renown on the Island. We promised ourselves we would find her farm as she does tastings but alas it was not to be.

The Sunset Bar near Puppies Point is a relaxed outdoor licensed venue providing full bar facilities with tasty platters (both hot and cold),exotic cocktails, stunning sea views and Great music and vibe. It looks like a house on a large block until opening hours when the locals and tourists book to visit for dinner as the sun sets. The trio on guitars entertained us but all looked familiar – I think one was our bus driver on one occasion.

We sat with a couple who managed one of the accommodation resorts on the island shared a few drinks and something to eat but it was all a bit tame. They had not advertised that they were opening so they only attracted the locals (on purpose is my guess), it was overcast, and the sunset was obscured – so there were a few reasons it was a bit flat and quiet. After driving home, we decided it would be a good night to read a book at the unit.


A Short Imprisonment on Norfolk Island

Day 6 Tuesday

Having visited Colleen McCullough’s home and confirming that she was buried in the cemetery at Kingston, we thought we had better go and look again because we had missed it. It did not take long to find it when we knew that it was supposed to be there. A rather underwhelming headstone for probably the most internationally famous person on the Island but perhaps says something of the person or that her husband was a cheap arse and didn’t want to pay for anything elaborate or they wanted to avoid fans flocking to the cemetery or …. I could go on, but I won’t. We don’t know why, and it probably doesn’t matter to Colleen one bit. However, we did find the elaborate headstone for a local entertainer no one outside of Norfolk has heard of and good for him in death he has made his mark.

While we were down in Kingston, we thought we may as well investigate the ruins of the second settlement. And there were plenty of ruins. Traditional long boats, usually towed by motorised launches lie about some beyond repair. These are the boats used top unload cargo from visiting cargo ships that are visiting less and less. There are two jetties one on the southern side and the other on the north and neither big enough or in water deep enough to receive containerized ships and the world of loading into tenders is fast disappearing. Wild weather also prevents the delivery of cargo, so it is not surprising that the shelves in the supermarket are very scant of product.


Kingston and its relic buildings are to be found around the southern jetty. You can see the fringing reefs and understand why no ships of any size want to try and unload or load cargo here. Thank God for the aerodrome otherwise the Island would have to become self-sustaining. I have pictured some of the buildings and the reefs and rock shelves that are a barrier to big vessels.

Although the introductory tour had taken us to the northern jetty Cascade Pier we wanted to go back now that we had a better understanding of the operations of the pier. It is due north along Middlegate Road past the school and down Cascade Road to an open bay with far less natural shelter than Kingston Pier. From the conversations with locals we knew the Australian Government had at the islanders request extended the pier and fitted the large blue crane and the smaller boat crane to the pier but they all complained they installed the crane the wrong way round with the larger crane being almost useless in its present position. From what I could see on an average day with a strong wind and drizzly rain the whole pier was useless. We later found the point where petroleum products we offloaded and what a difference in strategy and design suggesting they really want the petrol but not so much anything else.


The only remanent I could see of the old whaling station is the rusted boiler you can see in my photos above. Beside them is some more Australian taxpayers’ largesse in the form of ferries to bring the cruise passengers ashore but where are the cruise liners?

We had booked a tour called “Tastes of Norfolk” where we visit a farm or two and try the local produce. Well there was some excuse about the farms not able to be visited so we were going to the Sunset Bar where we would have a chat eat some food from their kitchen and drink some grog. Actually, that is probably a fairer representation of the locals than of the “Tastes of Norfolk” and its farms. However, we did get to visit the Beehives of a local beekeeper. All aboard the bus and up the road to the Hundred Acre Reserve and just beside the reserve is the home of the bus driver who took us to Colleen McCullough’s house, and he has a few hives and he gives us a talk about beekeeping, his fruit trees his ducks – you get the feeling this tour business is a home industry.

The final leg of the tour is the green banana cooking. Back on the bus we drive to another home and there on the verandah is a propane burner and some green bananas a young lass clearly of Tahitian extraction and the local Norfolk Is cookbook of all the secret recipes. So we learned that you grate the green bananas make a batter and mix spoonsful in the batter and drop them into the propane heated boiling oil and voila green banana fritters. After this we return to Baunti base and head for home exhausted from so much activity. We will have to prepare ourselves for the famous Fish Fry tonight.


We had an afternoon siesta back in the bedroom of our apartment before heading back to Taylor’s Road HQ of Pine Tree tours where we catch buses to Ona Cliffe once again. Whilst at the booking office we are told about a change of plans. Tomorrow we go on a cliff top walk to the Captain Cook monument near Moo-oo Stone. Not anymore, the wet weather has forced the cancellation, but we will have a walk in the Hundred Acres reserve, breakfast at Ona Cliffe and bus it to the memorial.

So off we head for the fish fry. The photos of the bedroom and the fish fry are below but there is nothing good to say about the fish or the fry but the sunset was interesting.