#1: Foodie favourite – Mudgee, New South Wales A perennially popular spot for weekends and mini-breaks, Mudgee is a food and wine destination worth allocating a few extra days to explore. Savour the drops at one of its many family-owned cellar doors – the region has 150 years of winemaking under its belt and is renowned for its cabernet sauvignon and shiraz – and enjoy leisurely breakfasts, long lunches and degustation dinners at sophisticated, local-produce focused eateries. Fine diner Pipeclay Pumphouse, based at Robert Stein Vineyard & Winery, affords the chance to indulge in all of the above. Positioned lakeside in an atmospheric space that, in its pumphouse days, serviced the winery, menu options include a degustation of five, eight or 10 courses with matching wines. Or, for small plates and wine in an old converted cheese factory, travel 10 minutes down the road to The Cellar By Gilbert.
#2: Foodie favourite – Margaret River, Western Australia When it comes to food regions they don’t come much more fabled than the Margaret River, three hours from Perth. With delightful towns like Dunsborough, Busselton and Yallingup to recommend it, the area could easily rest on its laurels as a sun-drenched summer holiday Mecca. But the stunning coastal scenery plays second fiddle to the food, wine, and boutique brews. With so much on offer, we ask a WA native, our art director Anita Jokovich, for some help: Do: Check out an exhibition at Yallingup’s The Studio Gallery and then enjoy a rosé in the accompanying bistro. thestudiogallery.com.au See: Swim in the lagoon at Yallingup Beach, or go for a surf at Smiths Beach; you can’t go wrong along this stunning coastline. Eat: The recently opened Yarri Restaurant is a must, courtesy of renowned chef Aaron Carr.
#3: Foodie favourite – King Island, Tasmania King Island, a rugged, windswept beauty in the middle of the Bass Strait, has become foodie shorthand for stunning produce, most famously the rich, creamy cheeses that bear its name. By rights, not much should thrive here, isolated as it is in a constantly churning sea, but King Island’s remove has somehow contributed to its collective determination to make a name for itself on a world stage. And it has succeeded spectacularly: its wares are sought after by chefs and gourmands from Hong Kong to Spain. The best way to sample all the island has to offer at one time is by pulling up a chair at the King Island Long Table Festival (held in April each year), a weekend of farm and produce tours, cooking demonstrations and experiences, culminating in the namesake feast of seasonal dishes and accompanying Tasmanian wines.
#4: Foodie favourite – Merricks, Victoria Hiding in plain sight on the ‘other side’ of the Mornington Peninsula is a collection of small towns where a clutch of new openings are redefining the food and drink offering in these parts. One such place is Merricks, just outside of which sits the startlingly modern black form of the Jackalope Hotel. Spreading out across a still-functioning vineyard, the hotel itself is a riot of sleek purpose and modern design, while the restaurants attached – the hatted Doot Doot Doot, with its arresting ceiling of metallic lightbulbs and seasonal five-course tasting menu, and the relaxed communal dining space of Rare Hare, serving up hearty roasts and expansive views of the surrounding countryside – are arguably the stars of the show. Come by car and you will have the means to scoot down the road to Pt. Leo Estate to try the beetroot pancakes conjured up by executive chef Phil Wood at Pt. Leo Restaurant, and take home a few bottles of the wine produced here.
#5: Foodie favourite – Fleurieu Peninsula, South Australia Located 45 minutes from Adelaide, the Fleurieu Peninsula has much to recommend it, not least the four distinctive wine regions contained within, including McLaren Vale, which translates to over 100 cellar doors. But man cannot live on wine alone, so it’s just as well that the area is one of the ultimate foodie destinations in the country. The best way to get to the good stuff being produced here is at one of the many weekend markets. Here, some to look out for: Victor Harbor Farmers’ Market, Saturday 8am–12.30pm The Vale Market, McLaren Vale, the first and third Sunday of each month 9am–1pm Willunga Farmers’ Market Saturday 8am–12.30pm Port Elliot Market, first and third Saturday each month and Easter weekend, 9am–2pm
#6: Foodie favourite – Stanthorpe, Queensland Queensland and wine are not terms you often see together, with the Sunshine State largely overshadowed by the big names down south. But, Stanthorpe is in fact the home to more than 40 cellar doors, producing over 20 ‘Strange Birds’, Granite Belt wines made from alternative grape varieties like Sylvaner, Nero d’Avola and Petit Verdot (to be classed as an alternative variety it must represent no more than one per cent of the total bearing vines in Australia as defined by Wine Australia). Set off on the self-guided Strange Bird Wine Trail (find the map here) and you can sample the difference yourself, as well as picking up gourmet goodies along the way, from locally grown olives to fresh berries and apples.
#7: Foodie favourite – Swan Valley, Western Australia Five things you probably didn’t know about Western Australia’s Swan Valley:
- It’s ridiculously handy to Perth; with gorgeous vistas of rolling hills and endless grape vines stretching on for as far as the eye can see, the Swan Valley is only around 30 minutes’ drive from Perth, making it a perfect getaway.
- It is WA’s oldest wine region, having celebrated the 180th anniversary of the planting of the first vines in 2014; the first commercial vintage was released in 1834.
- There are more than 40 wineries scattered throughout the valley, including names like Sandalford, Houghtons and Mandoon Estate.
- It is Australia’s first and only Humane Food Region, with a commitment to humane farming practices and the welfare of animals.
- The 32-kilometre Food & Wine Trail is a self-guided tour that takes in 150 restaurants, wineries, breweries, cafes, art galleries and distilleries.
#8: Foodie favourite – Coffin Bay, South Australia Located some 46 kilometres from Port Lincoln on the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia, Coffin Bay is often described as ‘sleepy’. Its namesake oysters are sold all over the country (and indeed the world), but it’s worth the journey to the source to experience the stunning location and dedication to the craft of oyster rearing. The first Pacific oysters were introduced to the waters here in 1969, and there are now over 40 independent growers tending lease sites here. Tours are available from various operators to get an insight into the process of growing the silky, salty molluscs, but for those who would rather cut to the chase and chow down, head to 1802 Oyster Bar and Bistro on the Esplanade. And when you have had your fill of oysters (if that is even possible), Coffin Bay’s location between the sea and Coffin Bay National Park offers up lots of activity, from fishing and snorkelling to walking trails.
#9: Foodie favourite – Bangalow, New South Wales This town in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales, Byron Shire, is the perfect place to indulge in the best produce of the region away from the bigger crowds that Byron itself attracts. “Bangalow brings together the best of what the regional restaurants and producers are doing on a weekly basis and showcases it in the one place during the Sample Food Festival every September,” says Jacqui Riley, north coast resident and owner of Jacqui Riley Divine Cakes. “And it has a stylish country charm.” It’s also a handy base for discovering the rest of Byron Shire. “Its close proximity to the plethora of markets and dining options in nearby Byron, Federal, Brunswick and Mullumbimby makes it the perfect foodie destination on the far-north coast.”
#10: Foodie favourite – Kyneton, Victoria Regional towns don’t come any cuter than Kyneton, a little foodie hub on the up and up in Victoria’s breathtaking Macedon Ranges. Piper Street, the beating heart of the town, is lined with the kind of historic shopfronts that you would undertake a road trip to see (it’s just over an hour’s drive from Melbourne along the Calder Freeway), many of them now housing cafes, restaurants (including the hatted Source Dining) and gourmet fare. To really soak up the atmosphere, grab a selection of goodies from Piper Street Food Company picnic shop and head for Kyneton Mineral Springs Reserve for a picnic (spots in the rotunda are much sought after); you can fill up with the health-giving natural mineral waters that proliferate in the area at the old pump for free.