Margaret River, Western Australia © Koomal Dreaming/Russell Ord
From farm to fork: unique Australian culinary experiences
Go straight to the source of Australia’s delicious produce on these refreshingly different foodie experiences.
By Lindy Alexander
There are few pursuits as rewarding as making or harvesting your own food. Australia’s food producers and artisans are not only world-class, but many of them welcome visitors to experience their craft – from hand-picking grapes to produce your own wine, to mastering the traditional art of butchery. Here are the top picks for hands-on farm-to-fork experiences you’re unlikely to find anywhere else.
Nose-to-tail butchery and cookery
Where: a 45-minute drive north-west of Hobart.
Rodney Dunn, the owner of The Agrarian Kitchen Cooking School & Farm in Tasmania’s lush Derwent Valley, has teamed with renowned butcher Marcus Vermey for The Whole Hog masterclasses. Over two days you’ll learn the intricacies of utilising a rare-breed Wessex saddleback or Berkshire pig sourced from the property or a local small producer, with the cuts used to cook 16 delicious dishes, drawing on Rodney’s expertise as a chef and food editor. Don't forget to take away your sealed goodies at the end of the class to savour your favourite course at home.
Djiljit Coastal Fishing Experience
Meelup Regional Park is a place of deep cultural significance for the local Wadandi Aboriginal people. Meelup means “the place of the moon rising” in the Noongar language, and under the phases of the moon, Wadandi people fished for herring, salmon and bream in the region’s sparkling, clear waters. On a family-friendly Koomal Dreaming cultural tour, you’ll cast a line with the help of a Traditional Owner to catch your lunch, while also foraging for your salad and discovering how the seasons influence the area’s flora and fauna.
Dive for lobster
Where: the Mornington Peninsula, 1.5 hours’ drive south of Melbourne.
Mid-November to the end of May is lobster season in Victoria, and the pristine waters of the Mornington Peninsula are one of the best spots in Australia to find the delicious crustaceans. Book a spot on one of Redboats’ lobster diving trips and learn the secret to finding and catching the shy creatures sustainably during a scuba dive in Port Phillip Bay. You’ll need to be Open Water Diver certified and obtain a Victorian fishing licence (a three-day licence costs AUD $10) to dive, so be sure to plan ahead.
Learn how to pickle produce
Iconic Sydney “picklery” Cornersmith teaches people how to preserve local, seasonal produce at its school in the city’s inner-west. During a 2.5-hour workshop you’ll learn different pickling techniques and how to match your produce to the right vinegar. You’ll make four types of pickles to take with you – all local and seasonal Australian produce to enjoy long after you leave the class.
Make your own wine
If you’ve ever dreamt about becoming a winemaker, here’s your chance. Silver Spoon Estate offers My First Crush: a vine to bottle experience where you’ll work alongside winemakers to crush, press, rack, blend, label and bottle your very own case (12 bottles) of shiraz. Better yet, the estate is an off-grid winery and cellar, powered entirely by sun-charged solar panels and lithium-ion batteries.
Learn the art of stingless beekeeping
Where: Pocket City Farms at Camperdown Commons in Sydney.
Australia has 1,500 native bee species, all of which are crucial to our ecosystem, and 200 of those are endemic to Sydney. In a fascinating four-hour workshop run by Pocket City Farms, you’ll dive into the enchanting world of native stingless bees, discover how hives are constructed and learn how and when to harvest honey in a way that ensures a healthy hive. Suitable for children of all ages, it's a great day out with the family.
Take an oyster tour via helicopter
See Tasmania from a new perspective on a luxurious helicopter tour. Starting at Clover Hill Wines, take flight and soak up superb views over the rural landscape and the Bay of Fires en route to one of the state’s most iconic oyster farms: Lease 65. You’ll tour the farm and learn the art of growing the perfect oyster before enjoying a freshly shucked dozen. On the return route, you’ll stop in at one of Tasmania’s best country pubs before returning to Clover Hill for a cheese platter and a sparkling wine tasting class.
Take a gourmet gin class
Where: Maggie Beer’s Farm, an hour’s drive north of Adelaide.
Craft gin has become increasingly popular in Australia and there are now a number of places you can make your own with unique native botanicals. Durand Distillery at Maggie Beer’s Farm takes the experience up a notch by including a three-course meal at on-site restaurant The Eatery, while the hand-made Italian copper still works its magic. At the end of the four-hour session, you’ll have your very own personalised batch of Aussie gin to take home.
Learn how to grow your own food
Where: Fat Pig Farm in the Huon Valley, just under an hour's drive south of Hobart.
One of the joys of having a productive garden is harvesting its fresh produce. In Tasmania’s Huon Valley, Fat Pig Farm is a working farm and market garden whose owners regularly run permaculture workshops designed to educate and inspire you about soil health, compost, propagation and growing edible plants. The sessions here will feed your heart, mind and belly – think wholesome soups with fresh vegetables from the garden, bread from the woodfired oven and warm cakes and scones. Stay on for a lunchtime feast at the Fat Pig’s open-kitchen restaurant before heading home with the skills to produce the ingredients for your own.