Australian Traveller tracked down the best food and wine destinations in the country, from traditional favourites to up-and-coming foodie meccas, farmers’ markets and regional cooking schools. Bon appetit!
Tried-and-tested gourmet destination
The Sunshine Coast
The beautiful coastal and hinterland holiday haven around Noosa offers a fantastic food trail. Produce includes ginger, berries, olives, oils, vegetables, herbs and native foods, including rainforest fruits such as Warrigal greens, wattleseed and Galeru Rainberries (small, intensely flavoured berries that can substitute for cranberries in many recipes).
Don’t miss The Original Eumundi Markets on Memorial Drive, where many local producers and provedores have stalls each Wednesday and Saturday. As well as these, you’ll find handmade local arts and crafts.
Local vineyards with cellar doors include Eumundi Winery, Flame Hill, Blindman’s Bluff and Maleny Mountain Wines. The Sunshine Coast Brewery’s boutique brews include an alcoholic local Buderim ginger beer.
The Ginger Factory in Yandina (50 Pioneer Rd) is a fantastic and more family-friendly ginger attraction. There are tastings and you can go on a scenic ride through the rainforest on an original cane train. The Superbee Live Show sees beekeepers explaining honey production, and there’s also the recently opened Buderim Ginger Cooking School. Open seven days, 9am to 5pm. Free admission; tours extra.
The details: www.sunshinecoastregionalfood.com/localharvest/
Up-and-coming gourmet destination
As regional produce becomes more appreciated by consumers, knowledgeable travellers are showing a keener interest in experiencing foods that are farmed fresh and produced in the places they visit.
In recognition of this, the Scenic Rim Regional Council in south-east Queensland is currently developing a strategy to help support locally grown industry.
Its ultimate goal is to make the area one of Australia’s premier regional food and agri-tourism destinations, and it’s already got a lot to work with – this is one of the fastest-growing wine regions in the state. Nine wineries are currently on the Scenic Rim Wine Trail, which is less than an hour’s drive from Brisbane and the Gold Coast.
Grape varieties that grow well here include shiraz and verdelho – fine accompaniments to a hearty meal such as you’d get at Zangarra Country House and Pavilions near Boonah. This rustic B&B serves five-course dinners made from local ingredients, including herbs fresh-plucked from the owners’ vegie patch.
It’ll be interesting to see what comes of the local goverment’s strategy. We’d love to see tourism in the Scenic Rim take off.
The details: sustainablescenicrim.com.au; www.scenicrimtourism.org.au
The Whitsundays Localvore Tour
When you think of the Whitsundays, food probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. Often upstaged by the region’s 74 islands, white sand and blue waters, luxe honeymoon resorts and yachting regattas, the Whitsundays’ gourmet angle would probably get more press if it were in a less appealing location.
You can get a feel for the regional food on offer here at Capers at the Beach Bar & Grill at Airlie Beach. The restaurant features a daily four-course “localvore” [sic] menu of fresh, organic, seasonal local produce. An example dish is coral trout with dried mangos and preserved lemon, lime and mandarin, with honey and lime sauce. The restaurant is so keen to promote the area’s wares that it conducts monthly farm tours from April to December (maximum 20 people per tour). Participants visit producers of macadamias, lemon myrtle, coffee, hydroponic veg and beefalo (hybrid buffalo). The tour includes tastings, samples, a two-course dinner and an esky and ice in case you want to buy anything along the way. $69 per person or $299 with accommodation, tour and dinner for two.
While you’re in the Whitsundays, keep an eye out for Made in the Whitsundays branded produce such as beef, pork, seafood, mangos, tomatoes and eggs.
If you’re staying in self-catering accommodation in the Whitsundays, a good place to grab supplies is Cannonvale Coles, near Airlie Beach. If you’re staying on Hamilton Island, for example, you can shop at Coles online and have it delivered to your accommodation for the standard delivery charge.
The details: Capers at the Beach Bar/Grill, Airlie Beach Hotel, cnr The Esplanade and Coconut Grove, Airlie Beach; (07) 4964 1999; www.airliebeachhotel.com.au
Country cooking schools:
Mango Hill Farm
This organic mango farm on the Sunshine Coast also grows ginger and turmeric. Cooking classes start with a wander through the 500m2 potage garden, where vegetables, fruit and herbs are freshly plucked. Students then use them in dishes such as homemade fettuccini and prawn cassoulet, braised lamb shanks with sweet potato gnocchi and strawberry tiramisu.
You can stay on-site in quirky room options such as Winnie, a Winnebago with a stunning view of the Glasshouse Mountains. Classes cost $125 per person for a five-course cook-up served with wine (accommodation extra).
The details: 159 Commissioners Flat Road, Peachester; (07) 5494 9329; www.mangohillfarm.com
Spicers Clovelly Estate
French and Italian delicacies are on the menu at the Long Apron Cooking School held at Spicers Clovelly Estate, also on the Sunshine Coast. Classes are held on the first and third Saturday of the month, alternating between a Little Italy class (where handmade pasta, authentic pizza and Italian salads are whipped up) and a French Slow Foods class (think confit duck, daube of beef and wet roast lamb).
Running from 10am to 3pm, classes start with a tour of the grounds, where seasonal herbs and vegetables are picked from the organic vegie patch, and end with lunch under a grand 80-year-old jacaranda tree. Classes are $165 per person with accommodation-inclusive packages also available.
The details: 68 Balmoral Rd, Montville; 1300 252 380; www.spicersgroup.com.au/property/spicers-clovelly-estate
Spirit House Cooking School
Specialising in the art of Asian cuisine, the cooking school at Spirit House has been operating for more than 12 years. Guests fire up their woks for dry red cuttlefish curries, sweet soya and cinnamon braised pork, and sweet potato dumplings with Szechuan glaze. Classes range from quick and easy meals to Thai banquets and Asian-style canapés for a dinner party menu.
Spirit House has four teaching chefs, including Rockpool’s former head chef Katrina Ryan. The class costs $125 per person, which includes recipes and wine with lunch.
The details: 20 Ninderry Rd, Yandina; (07) 5446 8994; www.spirithouse.com.au/school
Farmers’ markets for city folk
A fresh produce market is held here each Saturday, with 170 stallholders from south-east Queensland and northern NSW stocking fruit and vegetables, meat and poultry, bread and baked goods, gourmet and deli produce.
The details: Sherwood Road, Rocklea. www.brisbanemarkets.com.au