All 4 seasons shine on this property in southern Queensland’s Granite Belt.

Story + Photos Mandy McKeesick

It is late summer and, while most of the country bakes, there is a shaded stillness at Granite Gardens, near Stanthorpe, where 4 guesthouses nestle in manicured grounds. There are layers here: radiant lawns and sprawling groundcovers, English lavender edging squares, Chanticleer pears lining a driveway, native frangipani butting against granite boulders, crepe myrtle and maple reaching skyward and regal Wallangarra white gums standing like sentinels. In a lake, a giant swamp cypress dominates.

Granite Gardens was established in 1991 as a showcase for 1,000 roses. Later it was a 9-hole golf course. Subsequent owners turned their attention to guest accommodation and, by 2018, only a few roses remained.

At that time Chris and Lynne Nolan lived in Sydney. He ran the treadmill of corporate life and she taught at exclusive schools. “I’d had some health issues and we began to question what we were doing,” Chris says. “We had a good life in Sydney’s northern suburbs, a beautiful home, but we wanted something more and as we always enjoyed short-stay guesthouses in our travels we began to look for an accommodation business with a difference.” Their search brought them to the cool-climate wine region of Queensland’s Granite Belt and to Granite Gardens, where they recognised an opportunity to build a business and bring a garden back to life.

“Unfortunately, we walked into the teeth of a fierce drought,” Chris continues. “The lake dried up and one of our first jobs was bagging dead fish. In the following months, the gardens became a dust bowl before our eyes and only the Wallangarra white gums on an underground stream gave us hope. But the drought also gave us a blank slate.”

Chris and Lynne went to work, upscaling their gardening experience by trading the wheelbarrow and shovel of their suburban city block for a tractor and several lawnmowers. They cleaned out and enlarged the lake, rejuvenated a natural spring, erected an exclusion fence around 4 of the 15ha (“so it wasn’t a free-for-all for the wildlife,” Chris says) and reimagined Granite Gardens.

This story excerpt is from Issue #155

Outback Magazine: June/July 2024