Experience life on an Australian farm in these spectacular locations.
By Simon Webster
It can be a pretty good life on a farm – especially when you’re just visiting. Feel like milking a cow or making butter? Go for it. Rather just sit back with a glass of wine and soak up the views? Well, you are on holiday, after all.
On a farmstay, how much you participate is up to you, and all of these properties are about letting guests experience the country atmosphere, the fresh air and the fresh produce.
Just over an hour from Brisbane, in the Lost World section of the Scenic Rim (an amazing World Heritage landscape of mountains and rainforests), is Tommerup’s Dairy Farm, a small-scale operation that produces not only dairy but ethically raised pork and veal. The farm has been in the family for 140 years, and the present-day Tommerups are determined to give guests a taste of real country life, in a farm-to-fork adventure.
Accommodation is in 19th-century buildings that combine rural charm with modern conveniences, and activities include milking cows, feeding pigs, goat, sheep, calves and chickens, and collecting eggs, as well as fishing, kite flying and bird watching. “We want it to be an authentic experience,” says Kay Tommerup, who runs the farm, and oversees all the activities, with husband Dave. “We want people to see how milk gets from the farm to the carton. And relax, too.”
Also in Queensland is Spicers Hidden Vale, a gorgeous rambling property combining luxurious accommodation with family-friendly activities.
There are lots of reasons to like the Rustic Hut farmstay in Tasmania’s north-west. Firstly, it’s near a seaside town called Penguin, which is a great name for any town, but especially one that is home to a penguin rookery and a three-metre (10-foot) tall ferro-cement Big Penguin on the esplanade.
Secondly, the farmstay offers options: you can sit back and relax in one of four rustic huts, embark on bushwalks (everything from strolls around the farm to an eight-day hike to Cradle Mountain), or get a taste of farm life by milking cows, churning butter, feeding animals (everything from cows to goats to guinea pigs) and collecting eggs.
A kids’ Aussie Adventure Club gives parents time on their own and you can get home-cooked meals to complete the genuine farm life experience. “We want to show people what we do every day,” says Tania Farrell, who owns the farm with husband Phillip. “People especially love making butter – they find it fascinating.”
A petting pen for little kids to meet little critters, canoeing and fishing on a three-acre dam, a games room and playground, and the chance to help feed more than 100 animals – from alpacas to turkeys to kangaroos – are all part of the family-friendly (and pet-friendly) experience at Diamond Forest Farm Stay.
Near Pemberton, in the tall-trees region of south-west Western Australia (about a 3.5-hour drive south of Perth), the farmstay offers accommodation in private, self-contained, timber cottages with slate floors and verandas boasting suitably bucolic views.
“We mostly cater to young families,” says Kerriann Turner, who runs the farm with husband Mark. “Kids get to meet farm animals up close in a safe environment, and they absolutely love it. Even if they start off a bit timid, by day two they are having a great time.”
Also worth putting on your Western Australia bucket list is El Questro, in the remote Kimberley region. A vast cattle station, it offers stunning outback waterholes, prehistoric gorges and some seriously luxurious accommodation.
A working Angus beef farm, Rivendell, in Victoria’s far east Gippsland district, has been transformed since Peter Thomas and his wife Annette bought the property in 2003. They’ve added stunning gardens, a 200-tree orchard, a truffière, and farmstay accommodation in the form of two self-contained cottages: the four-bedroom Arkenstone Cottage and the quirky one-bedroom Bag End. There's also an on-site restaurant that can provide breakfast or dinner using farm and local ingredients.
Guests can feed sheep and chickens, groom horses, hang out with the peacocks, have a picnic and a swim at a private beach on the Tambo River, or explore further afield, where they’ll find wineries, trout fishing and boating on the Gippsland Lakes.
If you need to unwind after all that activity, the spa house in the orchard is a pretty good place to do it. “You leave the world behind when you come down the drive,” says Peter. “This is the most peaceful place you could find.”
Also in Victoria is the Royal Mail Hotel, the home of two highly regarded on-site restaurants, stylish lodgings, dedicated kitchen gardens and a food ethos centered around sustainability and seasonality.
Tucked away in the hills behind the surf town of Ulladulla, four hours south of Sydney (or two hours east of Canberra), Cupitt has a little something else going for it, too: it’s home to a winery, brewery and fromagerie.
Need any more convincing? OK, well accommodation is in a charming, two-bedroom, 100-year-old heritage cottage, secluded from farm activities behind a stand of trees. “There’s a large deck with lovely sunsets over the vineyard,” says functions manager Mel Louth. “It’s an oasis, really.”
While you can’t milk cows or feed animals here, you can take a behind-the-scenes tour to see the kitchen garden and where the wine, beer and cheeses are made, attend on-site growers’ markets, and stretch your legs on the two-minute walk from your cottage to the award-winning restaurant, offering seasonal food with French and English influences.
Also in New South Wales, though located in Sydney’s Blue Mountains region, you’ll find Farm Panaroma, a 50-acre hobby farm owned by prominent Sydney chef Sean Moran who uses the farm to grow produce for his iconic Sydney restaurant.