Queensland farms are known for some of the freshest and most vibrant produce on the planet. If you’re a die-hard foodie, you’ll know the immense pleasure of indulging in a paddock-to-plate meal – when every ingredient has been freshly handpicked with love from a local crop, there’s a burst of flavour that simply cannot be matched.
Whilst our cities may be famous for ‘gram-worthy bars and brunch spots, our rural centres are filled to the brim with unique food-focused experiences that celebrate the darn incredible work our farmers do.
Rural QLD, in particular, is packed with delicious hidden gems and experiences that are well-worth planning a trip around. From the Scenic Rim to the Daintree, each region is known for its own produce, which you’ll be able to get up close and personal with thanks to different activities that all conveniently end with eating. Not to mention, you’ll also be supporting farmers who’ve undeniably had a rough trot over the last few years.
Adventuring for food combines all the regular holiday activities of sightseeing, tours and getting to know the area – so here are a few unique foodie spots to suss if you’ve ever wanted to explore the wonders of Aussie farms and the best they’ve got to offer.
Sarina Sugar Shed
The Sarina Sugar Shed is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the Mackay region. Showcasing the wonders of all things sweet and sticky, they offer guided tours throughout the plantation, where you’ll watch sugar canes get pulverised and pummelled into product during ‘crushing season’ from late-June to early-December.
You’ll round off the day with a tasting of their in-house made fairy floss, sauce, liqueur, schnapps and ginger beer to truly send yourself into sweet oblivion just enough to crash on the couch of your adorb Airbnb/farmstead/cottage.
Ballantyne’s Strawberry Farm
Strawberries are the GOAT fruit. No other fruit compares to their universal appeal. They’re simply the best, and I will not accept any arguments otherwise.
Located about an hour away from Mackay, Ballantyne’s Strawberry Farm is the epicentre of all berry-related things in QLD. I’m not joking when I say you’ll have the most wholesome day of your life at Ballantyne’s – you can spend the day picking your own punnet of juicy strawberries and finish things off at the farm cafe to indulge in an afternoon tea of homemade scones and jam.
Seriously, I feel like my corrupted soul is cleansed just thinking about going there.
Dagun Growers Market
The Dagun Growers Market is a must-visit location if you’re not only interested in buying and tasting the best local produce on offer, but getting a closer look at just how sustainable Aussie farms are. Open every Saturday from 3pm until dusk and located just south of Gympie, the market is dedicated to ensuring no toxic chemicals or sprays are used in the soil or on plants. Farm-fresh produce is picked just before the market to retain its peak flavour and nutritional content.
Whitsunday Gold Coffee
If being Australia’s home of blindingly white sand, turquoise waters, and hidden tropical beaches wasn’t enough, The Whitsundays are also famous for their local coffee plantations too. Visiting the Whitsunday Coffee Gold is a must for caffeine lovers hitting rural QLD.
If you fancy yourself a city-slicking coffee snob, this place will put your knowledge to the test – you’ll be able to walk amongst 140,000 Arabica coffee trees (and cute farm animals) in their menagerie and get your daily hit with their famous espresso martinis and iced lattes at their popular on-site cafe and bar.
Greater Whitsunday Food Network
The Greater Whitsunday Food Network is an organisation that brings together all the most delicious players in the regional food scene together for hungry punters to experience. This year in July, they’ll be kicking off their annual St Lawrence Wetlands Weekend with a Local Farmers’ Lunch, headed by chef Matt Golinski whose menu will focus on fresh fish, shellfish and world-class beef.
The Greater Whitsundays Farmers’ Markets River Street Twilight Market is also another hallmark of the Food Network, as it brings together local food and artisan creators, makers and bakers, and gives locals and tourists the chance to buy directly from farmers and homemade producers from the area.
Alloway Farm Market
Queensland’s Bundaberg region is famous for its fertile soil, responsible for growing some of the country’s most succulent fresh produce on offer.
The Alloway Farm Market is where you’ll be able to cop the best of what Bundy is known for – from macadamia nuts to figs and strawberries. The markets also showcase the best in locally-made jams, jarred fruits, candles and more.
Sweet Days Hot Nights Festival
Sweet Days Hot Nights Festival takes place an hour south of Townsville and celebrates the diversity of the Burdekin region. If your idea of a whimsical evening is devouring a paddock-to-plate serving of succulent smoked meat whilst nestling up next to a bonfire, then this three-day event will surely rustle your jimmies.
The festival’s main event is the annual ‘first fire’ of crushing season, in which the sugar cane plantation is lit up to burn through the night. Other events include the local-favourite sugar cane cutting competition, whilst live entertainment and food stalls are peppered throughout the festival site for you to enjoy.
Urangan Pier Market
Located in Hervey Bay, along the gorgeous Urangan Pier, the markets are run by a dedicated group of volunteers. All profits made go to supporting local charities and schools, and you’ll be able to purchase locally grown and sourced fresh flowers, spices, olives, delicatessen goods, locally made jams, hormone-free beef and fresh fish every Saturday.
The Toowoomba Farmers’ Market
Toowoomba is one of the country’s most renowned regional centres, and the weekly farmers’ market showcases the diverse range of fruit and veg grown in the region, as well as spotlights local artisans and their custom-made products. It’s a great place to wander around and talk to stallholders about the products they grow, bake and make.
Gallo Dairyland is the definition of indulgence. The fully-operational dairy farm is an hour drive from Cairns, located within the luscious Atherton Tablelands and is famous for its gourmet cheese factory, handcrafted chocolates and café/restaurant. Guests of the dairy farm are welcome to view the afternoon cow milking, but as with all busy farms, check for opening times.Image: Sweet Days Hot Nights Festival / Facebook