The Gourmet Escapes Mini-Guide
Foodie Destinations in Australia
Any food-loving Australian worth their weight in Himalayan pink salt knows Australia’s gourmet prowess is more than shrimps on the barbie. Whether you have an appetite for the classics or are a devotee of nouveau cuisine, today’s foodie culture caters for everyone. And much like the search of deserted beaches and natural wonders is cause for travelling, so is the pursuit of new tastes, sensational sips and incredible plates.
To satisfy your culinary cravings, you’ll need accommodation that has the food-and-wine game mastered. So in celebration of the most delicious kind of getaway, the Gourmet Escape, we’re delivering this mini guide – we like to think of it as an amuse-bouche – to some of Australia’s most Epicurean destinations. Not only have we found places for you to stay during your visit, but we've also uncovered the must-eats and local taste tips from the people who know the area best. To make the idea of packing your bags and heading off an a holiday even more tempting, some stays have exclusive special offers.
Tropical taste adventures in Queensland
The Sunshine State might be famous for its reefs and beaches, but its culinary credit deserves a shout out too. From tropical fruits and just-caught seafood to artisan dairies and coffee plantations, Queensland has a taste for every palate. And let’s not forget the award-winning restaurants and cracking cellar doors. Foodies that love the heat can match their gourmet pursuits with a trip to Port Douglas in the tropics. In this holiday town, visitors will discover al fresco eateries, a four-day food and wine festival, and a weekly market where local farmers sell mouthwatering fresh produce.
Thala Beach Nature Reserve, Port Douglas
Wade Bowen from Thala Beach Nature Reserve in north Queensland says: "There aren't many places where you can enjoy fine food and wine while overlooking 110 kilometres of glittering Coral Sea coastline and World Heritage-listed rainforest, but that's what you'll find at Ospreys Restaurant. My favourite dish on the menu at the moment is the barramundi (pictured) flavoured with herbs from our kitchen garden because it's both sensational to eat and a feast for the eyes. For a truly tropical sundowner, you can't go past our Coconut Hit cocktail, which is a mixture of different rums, coconut juice from our plantation, mango and lychee nectar. For those keen to explore the food bowl that is the Atherton Tablelands I recommend visiting Gallo Dairyland (for award-winning cheeses) and Skybury Coffee Plantation (for chocolatey arabica) for starters. For a cheap and cheerful lunch in Port Douglas, fish and chips on the deck of the Tin Shed is hard to beat, and if you want to make up your own picnic it's worth visiting OTZ Foods at Four Mile Beach. As for gourmet souvenirs, my tip would be a bottle of liqueur from Mt Uncle Distillery and some Daintree Estates chocolate."
The White House Holiday Apartments, Port Douglas
Margaret Wilson, manager of The White House Holiday Apartments, explains: "Not only does Port Douglas boast an array of world-class restaurants but we are on the doorstep of the Atherton Tablelands where some of Australia's most delicious fruit, dairy and nuts come from. Brett's Outback Tasting Adventures will introduce you to native fruit jam and locally made cheese, and Shannonvale Tropical Fruit Winery is not far away. In the Whyanbeel Valley you can eat fruit straight from tree at High Falls Farm and learn about sugar cane growing with Sweet Farm Tours. Back in town, my vote for the best coffee goes to Whileaway Bookshop & Cafe, while my pick for breakfast is Lure Restaurant because you can watch the boats heading out as you eat. We're fortunate to have regular foodie-friendly events here too, including Port Douglas Carnivale at the end of May and Taste of Port Douglas in August, which attracts some of the best chefs in the country. I've done some serious academic research into the cocktail offering around these parts and can confidently say that On The Inlet does the best espresso martinis, the happy hour at Zinc Restaurant is a must-do, and Seabean makes a great sangria. For an edible memento of your holiday, I recommend the amazing chocolates featuring flavours like lemon myrtle and chilli from Coffee Works."
Gastronomic getaways in South Australia
South Australia isn’t a novice when it comes to offering its visitors plenty of tastebud-tempting delights. Truth be told, wherever you venture across South Australia you’re likely to unearth gourmet goodies that’ll have you smacking your lips in appreciation. The Barossa Valley is arguably the poster child for South Australian food and wine. Scattered across a region only one hour's drive from Adelaide, eager foodies can slurp, sip and savour their way through boutique wine bars, artisan provedores and famous winery restaurants. Not to be forgotten is the Fleurieu Peninsula, which happens to be home to another of SA’s powerhouse wine regions, McLaren Vale. Hit the farmers’ market in Willunga, dine at seaside restaurants and sit down to a shiraz at one of the cellar doors.
Grand Cru Estate, Barossa
Roz Seppelt from Grand Cru Estate on the outskirts of the Barossa Valley says: "Of course, Peter Seppelt wines make for the perfect autumn indulgence, but other lovely cellar doors to visit in the picturesque Eden Valley include Fernfield and Edenmae Estate. One of my favourite foodie experiences involves shopping at Mount Pleasant Farmers Market, where you can find things like locally made triple cream brie, raspberry vinegar and Dutch-style shortbread. Aside from the sharing plates on offer in our Wood Oven Restaurant, I'm recommend visitors try the food at FermentAsian and 1918 Bistro & Grill in Tanunda."
The Australasian Circa 1858, Fleurieu Peninsula
Deborah Smalley, co-owner of The Australasian Circa 1858 in Goolwa, says: "We're lucky to have the Shaw Family Vintners and No.58 cellar doors close by, and it's an easy drive to the famed wineries of McLaren Vale and Langhorne Creek. A couple of my favourite spots for lunch are d'Arry's Verandah Restaurant at d'Arenberg in McLaren Vale and the Bremerton Wines cellar door, located inside a beautiful historic barn at Langhorne Creek. Other gourmet stops to consider when you're touring the region include The Currant Shed (before a tasting at Coriole perhaps), and The Olfactory Inn in Strathalbyn (after some antiques shopping). When you stay with us we set you up for the day with a hearty breakfast menu featuring locally sourced bacon, Harris Smokehouse salmon and homemade pesto, for example, and there are farmers' markets every weekend on the peninsula if you want to stock up on local produce. Our resident chef and patissier also offers a three-course dinner menu for especially indulgent Saturday evenings, when we enjoy pouring delicious wines from small South Australian producers like Karrawatta and Lino Ramble. If you're celebrating a special occasion, a great way to start is with a glass of the Bolle Felici (or happy bubbles) prosecco from Zonte's Footstep in McLaren Flat. As for souvenir shopping, The Farm Shop in Goolwa sells some delicious preserves, and you'll find superb single malt or botanical gin at Fleurieu Distillery in the wharf precinct."
Slow-food sojourns in Tasmania
It might be Australia’s smallest state but Tasmania is no shrinking violet in the gourmet stakes. First up is the Apple Isle’s capital Hobart. This city is teeming with waterfront restaurants and boutique watering holes, and the gourmet vibes are at their strongest in Salamanca Place. Explore the world-famous market every Saturday morning, wandering through the labyrinth of stalls clutching hot breakfast fare and a basket filled with gourmet bounty. Cast your foodie eye beyond to Derwent Valley, a region on the outskirts of Hobart. Find artisan breweries, an excellent cooking school and a five-star hotel offering foodie-skewed excursions.
Salamanca Wharf Hotel, Hobart
Anthea Pritchard, general manager of Salamanca Wharf Hotel, says: "The food and wine scene in Hobart is tantalisingly diverse, with lots of new places having opened in the past 12 months. I recommend you start the day with quality coffee at our cafe, and perhaps a dish of baked eggs with chorizo, then join Mary McNeill of Gourmania Food Tours for a fascinating introduction to the city's foodscape. If you have sweet tooth, you absolutely have to try Gillespie's Ginger Beer and the single-serve pavlovas from Pav-Lovas at Salamanca Market. For a beautiful lunch you can't beat the restaurant at Frogmore Creek Wines in the Coal River Valley, and to sample the best of Tasmanian cider a trip south towards Cygnet will take you via Willie Smith’s to the Pagan Cider cellar door. For dinner, Smolt Restaurant is perfect if you're in the mood for Mediterranean cuisine, Rockwall if you fancy a steak, and The Glass House if it's elegant drinks and snacks you're after."
Woodbridge on the Derwent, Derwent Valley
Laurelle Grimley, co-owner of riverfront mansion Woodbridge on the Derwent, says: "Foodies are in their element here because we are encircled by cooking schools, vineyards, distilleries, organic fruit farms and farmgates. If you want to boost your own skills in the kitchen, Sally Wise Cooking School and Rodney Dunn's famous Agrarian Kitchen are only a stone's throw away. The Stefano Lubiana Wines and Derwent Estate cellar doors (10 minutes downriver) not only offer award-winning wines but beautiful views too, and also nearby is the Two Metre Tall brewery where Ashley Huntington makes top-notch beer using heritage hops and pristine water direct from the Derwent. On your way up to Mount Field National Park you might like to stop for coffee and cake at The Possum Shed, and I recommend picking up some smoked trout paté from the historic Salmon Ponds on your way back. If it's more of a hunter-gatherer experience you're after, we offer guided fly-fishing tours of the property and our resident chef will happily cook up your catch for dinner. We have a special treat in store for wine connoisseurs on-site too, with a collection of acclaimed vintages that can no longer be found anywhere else in our Convict Lockup cellar. A visit to Westerway Raspberry Farm is a must in summer, and local jams make brilliant gifts for your foodie friends back home."
*Gourmet Escape packages at Woodbridge on the Derwent are valid for travel between October and December 2017 (the property is closed May to September).
Farm-to-fork forays in Victoria
No matter which direction you head in Victoria, you’re bound to stumble upon an area that has fare to whet your appetite. To the south-east of Melbourne is the Mornington Peninsula, home to a cluster of excellent wineries, hatted restaurants and the kind of farmers’ markets you’ll want to shop from every weekend. (Tip: there are pick-your-own producers too, so be sure to make room in your car boot for take home goodies). On the other side of Port Phillip Bay is the Great Ocean Road, and while this stretch of coast is famous for its landmarks it is also earning a stellar reputation for its burgeoning collection of breweries and cellar doors. Inland, Daylesford and the Macedon Ranges is a triple threat: this region delivers on natural beauty, luxury stays and impressive foodie offerings. How to pick which one to visit first? Perhaps a game of ‘Paper, Scissors, Rock’…
Casa Luna Gourmet Accommodation, High Country
Casa Luna Gourmet Accommodation owner and chef Gwenda Canty says: "Casa Luna is very close to Whitfield, where you'll find the King River microbrewery, and only about 15 kilometres from the Italian-spirited wineries of the upper King Valley known for their prosecco, sangiovese and nebbiolo. Winemakers around here are constantly planting new grapes and experimenting so there's always something new to try, and because they're still very much family businesses the cellar door experiences tend to be more intimate than what you find in other Australian wine regions. If guests are late back for dinner I know it's because they've got chatting with Fred at Pizzini Wines for example. One of the best cellar doors in the area for food is Dal Zotto, and I recommend the antipasti at Mountain View Hotel. We offer Italian fine dining with matched wines as well as wood-fired pizza nights at Casa Luna using all local produce, and one of our most popular dishes features Milawa free-range duck and quince from our tree. I also make a dessert inspired by the sgroppino cocktail combining Sicilian-style sponge cake with prosecco and limoncello. We often make up picnic hampers for our guests and recommend they take it to Powers Lookout for a beautiful view of the valley and to read a bit about its bushranger history. You can taste more the valley's wonderful produce at the farmers' market in Whitfield every third Saturday, and King Valley Dairy in Moyhu (where you'll find the best black truffle butter) and Milawa Cheese aren't far away either."
Flinders Hotel, Mornington Peninsula
Jane Webb at Flinders Hotel in the seaside town of Flinders says: "With multiple vineyards, artisan producers, farmgates and award-winning restaurants within easy reach, Flinders Hotel is essentially a one-stop-shop for foodies. There are numerous must-dos on the Mornington Peninsula, from creating your own sparkling wine at Foxeys Hangout or taking a gin masterclass at Bass and Flinders Distillery to fruitpicking at Sunnyridge Strawberry Farm and sampling the finest sweets at Mornington Peninsula Chocolates. In the colder months, you'll also find mushrooms lining the road and we dedicate weekends in June and July to truffle hunting and tasting. My ideal day of gourmet exploration would involve breakfast and a class at our Georgie Bass Cafe & Cookery school, followed by a wander down Flinders Pier to pick up some mussels straight off the boat of Michael 'Harry' Harris. I'd continue to Main Ridge (stopping at the dairy for goat's cheese) and Red Hill, then drop in at Ocean Eight Winery before returning via Benton Rise Farm in Tuerong for fresh fruit and honey. You certainly don't have to look far for picnic goodies, with Flinders Sourdough and a broad range of local wines and beers available at Flinders General Store for example, and our signature paella at The Deck is the perfect way to round out a busy day."
Hepburn Springs Hideaway, Daylesford and the Macedon Ranges
Vicki Mamet at Hepburn Springs Hideway explains: "The Hepburn-Daylesford region is a foodie's paradise. You can't come here and not have lunch or dinner at The Lake House, for example. The restaurant serves the most sumptuous food, boasts one of the most extensive wine selections in the country, and the aspect overlooking Lake Daylesford is glorious. For a more relaxed dining experience I recommend Wombat Hill House, which dishes up healthy meals amid the beautiful botanic gardens. You simply must try the food and wine at Bress too, it's one of my favourite cellar doors."
Lakeside Villas at Crittenden Estate, Mornington Peninsula
Linda Crittenden of Lakeside Villas at Crittenden Estate says: "Autumn is a great time to visit because the seasonal menu at our Stillwater restaurant is delicious and you can take your time exploring the cellar doors that sit around every corner on the peninsula. Of course all guests receive a complimentary tasting at the on-site Crittenden Wine Centre – I highly recommend the 2015 Zumma Pinot Noir, and the 2016 Los Hermanos Saludos for something a bit different. While exploring the region I suggest lunching at nearby vineyards Ten Minutes by Tractor or Port Phillip Estate, and dinner at Two Buoys or The Rocks on the coast is a must. To start the day, Little Rebel Roastery in Dromana makes a darn good coffee, while Lilo Cafe in Mornington doesn't disappoint for brunch. There's also a great little deli in Safety Beach called Provincia that sells antipasti and picnic items, and if you're green-thumbed you should visit Heronswood Gardens to take in the view and pick up heirloom seeds for your own veggie patch. My dream day of gourmet touring would also include stops at the many farmgates in the area, including Hillock Downs Produce Store (for the grass-fed beef) and Johnny Ripe (for the incredible apple pie)."
Longmeadow Estate, Great Ocean Road
Sophie Knowles from Longmeadow Estate on the Shipwreck Coast says: "The large entertainer's kitchen and dining room at Longmeadow allow for extravagant dinner parties, but you're also only 30 minutes from Port Fairy eateries such as Coffin Sally and hatted restaurant Fen. For breakfast and great coffee I recommend Bank St & Co in Port Fairy, and for brunch – or amazing local seafood – I strongly advise checking out Clock by the Bay in Portland. The Bakehouse in Portland is also something of a hidden gem (get there early for the sourdough), while the tapas at Basalt Wines in Killarney make for an excellent afternoon treat. The farmers' market in Port Fairy is well worth a visit, and I recommend treating yourself to some cheese, chutneys and boutique wines from the Darriwill Farm shop. A good selection of picnic goodies is also available at Lido Larder in Portland."
Merricks North Retreat, Mornington Peninsula
George Hedley at Merricks North Retreat enthuses: "Not only are we surrounded by more than 50 wineries but the Mornington Peninsula region is also packed with fantastic restaurants and artisan producers. One of my favourite places to visit is Panton Vineyard, which is a family-run winery that makes gorgeous sangiovese and delicious tasting plates. With so many foodie spots to visit you're in danger of trying to do too much in a single trip, so it's better to hire a driver and just taking your time over tastings with a few producers. An experience I think everyone should have is joining the Red Hill Truffles team on a hunt. While in the area you have to try Johnny Ripe's pies, and Mornington Peninsula Cellar and Pantry is a great place to stock up on local produce. Another store worth stopping at is Tullys on the Mooroduc Highway. If you want to drink the best brew on the peninsula I recommend Commonfolk Coffee, which supports sustainable coffee farming in developing countries, while the nearby Merricks General Wine Store bistro is ideal for a fresh and hearty breakfast or lunch."
Tulum Sands, Mornington Peninsula
Gabby Cheatley from Tulum Sands in Balnarring says: "Many of best restaurants, wineries and cafes on the Mornington Peninsula are within easy reach of Tulum Sands. You'll find authentic French cuisine at nearby Le Bouchon for example, and the pinot noir from Hurley Vineyard is exceptional. In fact, guests who join us for a gourmet escape soon will receive a complimentary bottle of the Garamond Pinot Noir."
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