It’s not often a weekend in the countryside offers two free-roaming alpacas munching leaves outside your kitchen window at 6.00am. It is equally pleasing that as you step outside onto the porch at your lakeside cottage, you immediately have more encounters with wildlife. A turtle sluggishly cruises across the lake. Low flying wild ducks swoop down, causing quite a splash as they screech to a halt beside the turtle. This creates a momentary ripple and, shortly the ducks glide elegantly away across the lake, leaving the nodding turtle in their wake. Peace and calm return once more to the lake.
This is how time passes at the secluded Barney Creek Vineyard Cottages, in the foothills of Mount Barney, only 90 kilometres from Brisbane, where winter temperatures plunge as low as minus 8 overnight. This makes for cosy nights by a beautiful lake, stoking the potbelly stove, and enjoying the romance of staying in a vineyard, snug in a log cabin.
As the day warms around 10.00am, Mt Barney is calling and it is time to start this adventurous weekend away with nature, mountains and bushwalking. To climb the summit of Mount Barney you need to be an experienced hiker. There are no maintained tracks in this remote area and the climb is techniquely difficult. However, there are many bushwalks around the foothills of Mt Barney and my fantastic hosts from Barney Creek Vineyard Cottages told me of a lovely walk called ‘The Lower Portals’. It sounded like a body part to me, however being one not to complain or be negative; I headed off with great enthusiasm and excitement. I was also very keen to see what was inside my pre-ordered gourmet picnic lunch conveniently delivered in a backpack, including local Barney Creek Vineyard wine, chocolate, fresh baked muffins and a thermos of hot coffee.
The trailhead is located at the Lower Portals car park, a short seven-minute drive from the cottages. “When you get to the creek, don’t think you are there,” Jennifer said, “You need to do some ground-level climbing through two large rocks to get to ‘the portal’.”
The dictionary definition of a portal is a door, gate or entrance and that is exactly what the Lower Portals is all about. To walk to the ‘door’ takes an hour and a half. It is a little hilly in parts but very manageable for anyone of average fitness. The forest is mainly eucalyptus with a variety of plant species and prolific birdlife. You hear the water before you see it and after a creek crossing you come to a signpost to the Lower Portals.
Next, you are in store for what known as ‘bouldering’, which involves ground level climbing. To enter your perfect hanging rock picnic spot you must climb up and over two huge boulders. As the gourmet food was sent up and over first, I somehow managed to squeeze through the gap between the boulders thinking, “Wow, am I that skinny?”
If ever a perfect Australian picnic spot could be nominated, this would be a serious contender for first prize. Huge canyon cliffs rise up from the creek, which form a perfect swimming-pool size deep rock pool. Giant sized boulders overhang the water and the rock colour varies from shades of caramel to dark chocolate. Framed by greenery and the occasional bush flower, it is a dramatic scene of rock, water and blue sky. The silence is broken only by the odd rock wallaby tiptoeing every so gently over the rocks and the gentle chirping of birdsong.
We never saw another human being all day and that is what makes the foothills of Mt Barney such a great getaway.
Barney Creek Vineyard Cottages
Choice of self-catering with full kitchens or home-cooked meals delivered to your cottage.
Wine tasting and sample wines from on-site Barney Creek Vineyard –
a boutique vineyard.
Distance from Brisbane – 90 minutes
Closest Town – Rathdowney
Mt Barney – 1,359 metres. Queensland’s fourth-highest peak.
Barney Creek Vineyard Cottages
Photos by David Metcalf