FROM the co-pilot's seat of the Piper Lance II six-seater, I had an uninterrupted view of the patchwork of manicured farms and high, forested mountain ranges.
We were on our way to explore the wonders of Stanthorpe in Granite Belt country and, with pilot Cheryl Arrentz pointing out sights along the way, the time flew.
Less than an hour later, we had landed on the other side of the range on a wide runway lined with fruit trees.
As this was the inaugural Sunshine Aviation flight from Archerfield to the newly upgraded Stanthorpe airstrip, we were greeted with cheers, chilled bubbly and my first walk down a red carpet.
The first thing I noticed was the pure “freshness” of the countryside. At an altitude of more than 800m above sea level, the air felt very clean and a little crisp.
Still best known for its apples and other fruit orchards, Stanthorpe now has a wider appeal to visitors with almost 50 wineries, lavender farms, cheese and olive processors and tempting pamper products on offer.
But more of that later. Soon, we were whisked away to the five-star luxury of The Olive Grove Estate.
With friendly staff, the accommodation has every comfort I dream about, including private outdoor spa, massage chair and leather lounge.
Jumping on board the Filippos Tour bus with our friendly driver Frank, the first stop is at Pure Heaven skincare factory and store in a beautifully converted timber farm house.
The organic skin care and pamper products are made on-site using environmentally safe manufacturing methods. Visitors can sample the wonderful array of colourful and deliciously scented scrubs, soaps and lotions.
No visit to Stanthorpe would be complete without taking in the liquid delights at some of the boutique wineries which offer less-common wine varieties and something for all tastes.
At Tobin Wines, the new range has been 10 years in the making. Turning his life-long passion into reality, Adrian Tobin presents tastings of his experimental wines, which have the flavour of the Mediterranean and bear the names of his grandchildren.
Wild Soul winery takes a hands-on approach to its wine-making with planting and picking all done by hand in the traditional way. The Boullier family specialises in red wine and welcomes visitors to sample its wares.
The Rocks Restaurant is known in Stanthorpe for its special dining experience. The owners, Paul White and Deb Thurlow, are chefs and their diverse range of dishes is guaranteed to tempt your tastebuds, as will the extensive range of local wines.
If you enjoy the finer things in life and have a penchant for chocolate, enjoy sampling the decadent desserts and heavenly nibbles of Bella Rosa's Tea Rooms in nearby Thulimbah. Set among the fine English china in a pink tearoom paradise, Nat Burton holds regular chocolate-making workshops.
Work off the calories afterwards by frollicking in the fields of Aloomba Lavender Farm. Former teacher Tere Bonner welcomes you into the warmth of her home to sample mouth-watering lavender scones.
The cooler months equate to specially warm hospitality with plenty of events happening around Stanthorpe. But any time is good time to enjoy the ambience of the town and surrounding areas. Call in at the friendly visitors' centre to enjoy a cuppa and a walk on the banks of Quart Pot Creek.
But my personal choice is curling up in front a warm fire, with good company and a delectable boutique wine.
The writer travelled as a guest of Sunshine Aviation and Granite Belt Wine & Tourism Inc.
Stanthorpe is close to the Queensland-New South Wales border, west of Brisbane.
Flights are available from the Sunshine Coast and Archerfield Airport.
Contact Sunshine Aviation on 5450 0516 or www.sunshineaviation.com.au to arrange your personalised tour or visit www.granitebeltwinecountry.com.au for more information.
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