By Ben Janeczko
Australian food and drink is sought after all over the world due its high quality and consistency. The unique combination of multicultural history, enterprising spirit and great expanses of pristine growing environments have all contributed to the development of a sophisticated food culture. In recent years a focus by Tourism Australia on developing opportunities to visit the producers and meet the makers themselves in spectacular settings has seen food tourism explode. Let me whet your appetite with my pick of the top food and drink experiences currently on offer in Australia.
Oyster Shucking at Saffire Freycinet, Tasmania
Tasmania is renowned for its pristine environment and cool climate, which make it one of the premier oyster growing regions anywhere in the world. Luxury lodge Saffire in the stunning Freycinet Peninsula has formed a partnership that gives you the opportunity to don a pair of waders and visit a working oyster farm located in a beautiful setting within an internationally significant wetland and ornithological site.
During this remarkable visit you will develop an understanding for wetland and marine ecology as well as a taste for the prized local Pacific oysters. Add in some local sparkling wine – another thing that Tasmania produces to a world-class standard – for the perfect pairing as you admire the scenery. What makes this even better is that you are within an easy drive of more phenomenal wine, cheese and seafood producers to acquaint yourself with and surrounded by one of the most picturesque kayaking spots in the world to help burn off any surplus calories.
Lunch at Bistro Molines in the Hunter Valley, New South Wales
There are very few restaurants that have the spectacular setting of this long time favourite, perched atop a hill on a vineyard in the prettiest part of Australia’s oldest wine region. As you flip through the menu that champions local suppliers and features an all-star cast of local wines you will likely meet Sally Molines, who along with her partner Robert have been the Hunter’s most celebrated restaurant owners for as long as anyone cares to remember.
It’s not just the excellent food, wine and sparkling hospitality of a visit to Molines that makes this a special experience. The passion of everyone you meet along the way is really quite amazing. No visit to the Hunter is complete without stopping past a few cellar doors, and despite having its fair share of heavyweight wineries you are always given personal treatment and tips for what is new and worth trying – collaboration and camaraderie shines through. Don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations and don’t be surprised if you return home with plenty of consumable souvenirs and some new friends that you’re already planning to visit again.
Go on a Truffle Hunt in Manjimup, Western Australia
In the heart of sensational South Western Australia lies an unexpectedly good truffle region, which produces black Perigord truffles sought after by top chefs all around the world. Not only are these some of the best quality truffles you can find anywhere, but this is also one of the very few places in the world where you can join a truffle hunt. During the fascinating experience you will be aided by friendly and highly trained truffle dogs – pigs were given up as they used to keep the haul for themselves and sometimes a finger or two of their owner.
Once the hunt is over and you have secured your prized black gold, you can choose to explore the local forests, caves, pristine white beaches – or partake in a truffle-infused meal to really top it off. And of course, Margaret River’s world-renowned wineries will be there to tempt you into staying an extra few nights in the region… not to mention chocolate factories, breweries and some of the freshest seafood available. I wholeheartedly spending 4 or 5 days exploring this region – it’s a great road trip from Perth where you can continue onto the magnificent Coral Coast.
Blend your own Gin at Archie Rose in Sydney, New South Wales
It’s easy to find great restaurants, cafes and bars in Sydney, but did you know you can also blend your own gin (or whisky) at this funky city distillery that sits in an old cannery just 20mins drive from the CBD. Australia’s craft spirit industry has boomed recently, and Archie Rose has played a big part in this, being the first new bonded distillery built in the city for many decades. The beautifully decorated bar in the distillery also hosts regular cocktail making classes and other events, as well as catering to a regular crowd looking for something off the beaten path.
The roughly two-hour experience is an opportunity to learn more about the history of gin, the different botanicals that are distilled to make the spirit as well as some creative recipes to try at home with your personally crafted spirit. Conveniently located on the same block as Three Blue Ducks and Black Star Pastry, or a short walk to Bourke Street Bakery – this is the perfect foodie stop for those looking for something different to the classic Sydney Harbour dining experience.
Taste Your Way through Adelaide Central Market, South Australia
There are few places in the world that will get a foodie as excited as this spectacular celebration of the finest produce available. Located in Adelaide‘s CBD, you may just find yourself tempted back multiple times in one visit. South Australians are rightly very proud of their food and drink and this is the most exuberant celebration of it you will find. You can choose to meander between the fresh fruit & vegetables, cured meats, cheese, butchers & fishmongers (the list goes on) to collapse at a cafe… or join a tour to get a more in-depth taste of what’s on offer.
The market is closed on Sundays & Mondays, but it is so good that I’d recommend planning to be in town when it is open for at least one day. There are plenty of other foodie experiences to keep you busy in Adelaide, including the acclaimed wine regions of the Adelaide Hills, McLaren Vale and Barossa Valley all within an hour’s drive. Also check out Haigh’s for some of Australia’s best chocolate, and for something a little different, Ambra Spirits has a range of liqueurs showcasing the quality of local citrus and other unique tipples.
Embark on a Progressive Degustation Walk in Melbourne, Victoria
Melbourne is world-famous for its cafe & dining scene and there is no better way to explore the bounty on offer than to wander through the streets and sample as you go. You will find everything from rooftop bars, boutique coffee roasters, artisan chocolatiers and restaurants specialising in any cuisine you can think of (and likely some you’ve never considered) ranging from casual through to the best in fine dining.
Whether you stroll the infamous laneways or bold boulevards you will not be disappointed with the variety and quality on offer. With so much choice I highly recommend booking a tour that includes pre-arranged visits designed specifically to showcase this great city. You will get an insight from local sommeliers and chefs as well as your expert guide and get access to exclusive experiences all in one evening.
Catch Your Own Barramundi in the Top End, Northern Territory
If there is anything more satisfying than catching your own fish and eating it, doing it with the backdrop of the pristine landscape of the Top End surely must be it. Barra is one of the tastiest fish you can eat, and it is abundant across much of Northern WA and the Top End, providing many opportunities to add a fishing adventure to your itinerary. Renowned as a great fighting fish, hauling in your catch once you have it hooked is definitely an accomplishment to celebrate!
Fishing charters are available across much of the Top End, including popular Kakadu National Park and throughout the Mary River Wetlands, both easily accessible from Darwin. For those looking to really get into the wilderness and immerse themselves in nature, I would highly recommend a trip to Arnhem Land where you can combine an engaging Aboriginal experience with your fishing adventure. This part of the world is truly spectacular, and unlike anywhere else I have been on the planet. Sharing a fresh caught Barramundi cooked on the open campfire with a local expert guide is an experience I will never forget.
Picnic With Fresh Local Seafood on Whitehaven Beach, Queensland
Whitehaven Beach is one of those places that you really need to see for yourself to believe it’s real. Located in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef, with pristine white sand, crystal clear water and nature in all its spectacular glory surrounding you. Located in Queensland’s beautiful Whitsunday Islands National Park, this has to be the most perfect picnic spot anywhere on the planet. If you are staying on a nearby island (there are 74 in the group) there are options for short boat trips, and if you are on your own sailing adventure you can even set anchor to settle in and enjoy the view.
The ultimate experience here has to be taking one of the helicopter or seaplane excursions on offer that include a scenic flight to take in the unrivaled beauty of the area and an indulgent picnic on the sand. No matter how you choose to access this remarkable spot you must include some of the local seafood, tropical fruit or macadamias as they are all utterly delicious.
It’s needless to say that this is just a small selection of the diverse food and drink experiences on offer across Australia – contact us to talk to our team of experts for recommendations to suit your taste & budgets today.