Tamborine Mountain, Gold Coast, Queensland © Tourism and Events Queensland
Best places to eat and drink like a local in Australia
If the best way to discover a destination is via its food, then Australia is a multicultural smorgasbord just waiting to be savoured.
By Krysia Bonkowski
Each new generation of Australians contributes to the flavour of the nation. Inspired by traditions from around the world but never afraid to break the rules, Australia’s culinary culture is as exciting as it is diverse. With some of the world’s best ingredients at our fingertips and a population always hungry for something unexpected, every meal is an opportunity. Follow the locals to their favourite haunts and you’ll get Australia, on a plate.
Taste the world in Melbourne
Where: Footscray, Melbourne.
Want to take your tastebuds on a mini world tour? That’s easy. Just head west out of Melbourne’s city centre to the suburb of Footscray. This inner-city neighbourhood has been shaped by waves of immigration and now gentrification, with new arrivals all contributing a little something to the melting pot. Until quite recently, Footscray managed to slip by under the radar, but it’s now firmly in the crosshairs of Melbourne’s proud foodie haven. Start your day as they do in Vietnam with a bowl of pho, pick up a speciality coffee to pair with Sicilian cannoli (piped to order), mop up an Ethiopian feast with spongy injera bread and finish with a cheeky pint of local craft beer.
How to experience it: Discover local food favourites on a Footscray walking tour, or focus on one particular cuisine that has shaped local food culture on an African food tour.
Slurp laksa for breakfast in Darwin
Where: Darwin, Northern Territory.
You can’t count yourself as a true Darwin local until you can declare your favourite laksa. At the tip of the Northern Territory, Darwin is the closest Australian capital to South-East Asia. On those balmy Top End nights, as a cool breeze rustles the palm trees, you could almost be there – and that’s even before you taste Darwin’s laksa. The spicy noodle soup, a staple of Peranakan cuisine (a fusion of Chinese and South-East Asian flavours), has become the city’s signature dish, with vendors competing to win the loyalties of locals. Some swear by the iconic Mary’s or Yati’s laksa at Parap Markets (go on Saturday morning and join the queues). Others vouch for Chok’s Place, while still more stand by Rendezvous Cafe.
How to experience it: Try them all on the laksa trail during the annual Darwin Laksa Festival in November.
Eat the rainbow on the Rainforest Way
Where: The Rainforest Way in the Northern Rivers region of northern New South Wales and south-east Queensland.
From the hot pink dragon fruit to the jewel green native finger lime and golden mango, see – and taste – the rainbow on the Rainforest Way. These scenic driving routes wind through some of Australia’s most luscious farmlands, dotted with pockets of ancient rainforest. Folks around here have a serious taste for seasonal produce; do as they do and hit up local markets or – better yet – go straight to the source. Honesty boxes are a rural tradition still going strong on the Rainforest Way, simply take some produce and leave some cash. Look out for stalls by the roadside – some organic eggs here, macadamias there, and a bunch of bananas for good measure. You’ll never look at your supermarket run the same way again.
How to experience it: Rent a car in Byron Bay or the Gold Coast and self-drive the Rainforest Way touring routes, or join one of many foodie tours around the region.