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
If there’s one area in Australia that should be at the top of any food lover’s holiday list, it’s Margaret River. The 110km stretch of coastline between Cape Naturaliste and Cape Leeuwin boasts more than 100 wineries, a clutch of microbreweries and plenty of farm gates.
This beautiful region is delightful to look at, the pace of life is relaxed and food and wine are key. Olives thrive here – check out the fantastic table fruit and olive oil produced at Olio Bello (Lot 1 Armstrong Rd, Cowaramup), Petra Olive Oil Estate (233 Sheoak Drive, Yallingup) and Agonis Ridge Organic, which also produces grains and pulses, stone fruit and beef cattle.
Fruit, veg, berry, boronia and lavender farms abound. There’s fantastic fresh rainbow trout available 7km south of Pemberton at King Trout Restaurant and Marron Farm (Northcliffe Rd). Meat lovers should make sure to drop in on McHenry Farm Shop for organic meats such as pork and lamb (5962 Caves Rd) and Margaret River Venison (5103 Caves Rd).
Luxury boutique hotel Cape Lodge (capelodge.com.au) made this year’s Conde Nast Traveller magazine 2011 Gold List. Its onsite restaurant placed in the top 10 hotel restaurants in the world.
The details: www.margaretriver.com
Up-and-coming gourmet destinations Swan Valley
WA’s oldest wine-growing region is becoming a hot gourmet destination thanks to the 32km looping road that makes up the Swan Valley Food and Wine Trail. Its rich fusion of wineries, lively breweries, fine restaurants, bustling cafés, distilleries, shops, accommodation and roadside stalls selling fresh local produce make it an attractive place for a getaway, especially considering it’s just a half-hour drive from Perth CBD.
The details: www.swanvalley.com.au
The Great Southern
It’s hard to go past Margaret River, but doing so will take you to another exciting gourmet retreat. The Great Southern region, encompassing Albany, Denmark, Frankland River, Mount Barker and Porongurup, features fantastic wineries and restaurants. Its riesling can rival that from SA’s Clare Valley. Visit Albany Farmers’ Market each Saturday morning to sample the region’s best wares.
The details: www.greatsouthernwines.com.au
Perhaps the biggest treats for foodies in WA are its Périgord truffles, which are in season from June 1 to August 31 and grow well in the fertile soils of Mundaring, east of Perth, and in the Southern Forests region near Margaret River.
These gourmet gems are celebrated with two annual festivals: the Mundaring Truffle Festival, which is held in late July to early August each year in the Perth Hills (mundaringtrufflefestival.com) and Truffle Kerfuffle, which is part of the Southern Forest Food Festival (www.trufflekerfuffle.com.au).
If you’d like to experience the thrill of a hunt for black truffles, you still have time to join the dogs on their truffle hunt every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday at The Wine & Truffle Co, Manjimup. Tours start from the cellar door at 9.30am and end around noon, having meandered through forests of hazelnut and oak trees. $95 per adult; $58 for children up to 16 years – children under 11 are dissuaded from taking part because of the length of the tour and lack of childcare facilities.
You can follow the Manjimup truffle dogs on their Twitter page (@SunnyandIzzie). Seven Day Road, Manjimup; (08) 9777 2474; wineandtruffle.com.au
Farmers’ markets for city folk
Perth City Farm Organic Growers’ Market
Now in its fourth year, this is the only all-certified-organic market in WA, with fresh produce, fruit and veg, dairy, olive oil, meats, eggs, bulk dry goods and environmentally sensitive household products.
The details: Every Saturday, 8am–noon.
1 City Farm Pl, East Perth (off Lime Street); perthcityfarm.org.au/organic-markets
Subiaco Farmers’ Market
Sustainable farming practices – particularly organic and biodynamic – are encouraged. You’ll find fruit and veg, seafood, meat, dairy products, bread, olive oil, nuts, eggs, teas, spices, honey and preserves.
The details: Every Saturday. Subiaco Primary School, 271 Bagot Road, Subiaco; subifarmersmarket.com.au
Country cooking schools
Bush tucker at Faraway Bay
With no road access, Faraway Bay Bush Camp in The Kimberley is reached by helicopter or light aircraft. The camp is on a remote site that was discovered in 1986 by colourful bushman Bruce Ellison, and is built from recycled local materials including pylons that originally supported Wyndham Wharf. The camp has a strict no-electronic-items policy.
Visitors are taken on sightseeing excursions to the falls on King George River and ancient rock art sites. The bush tucker and camp-oven cooking schools held here are truly unique experiences. Groups are taken on guided bush walks where fresh ingredients such as lemongrass and rock figs are sourced. Fresh fish is caught each day with mud crab, baby goat and duck also on the menu. Prices start at $4010 for a three-day package including air transfers, accommodation and sightseeing excursions.
The details: Faraway Bay, WA; (08) 91691214; www.farawaybay.com.au
Foreign flavours at Wildwood Valley
In the heart of the Margaret River wine region, Wildwood Valley offers a blend of Thai-and Italian-inspired courses. Host and chef Sioban Baldini has an excellent foodie pedigree, having trained under Rockpool’s Neil Perry and Longrain’s Martin Boetz. She spent two years in Tuscany refining her knowledge of Italian food, and regularly heads back to draw inspiration for her classes.
The school is hands-on; participants prepare slow-roasted lamb, crispy noodle salads and hazelnut honey semifreddo, rolling their own dough and cooking in an outdoor wood-fired oven. Four-hour courses are $120 per person and are great for travellers passing through. Weekend packages allow more time to explore the area and cost $385 per person including twin-share accommodation.
The details: 1481 Wildwood Rd, Yallingup, WA; (08) 9755 2120; www.wildwoodvalley.com.au