Australian Coastal Safaris, Eyre Peninsula, South Australia © Tourism Australia
How to forage a feast in Australia
Step beyond the white tablecloths and learn how to put some of Australia’s most delicious produce on your own plate.
By Krysia Bonkowski
The only thing more satisfying than a great feed? Rolling up your sleeves and foraging for the ingredients yourself. The makings of your next unforgettable meal are just under your nose – hidden in the mangroves, on the forest floor or under the sea. Look around and you’ll discover that Australia is one great big pantry. Here’s some of the best of its bounty for the taking.
Follow your nose to prized truffles
Where: Manjimup, a 1.5-hour drive east of Margaret River
In Manjimup, a gourmet delicacy grows beneath the earth. Referred to as 'black gold,' truffles bring an enticing richness to almost any dish. On a truffle hunt, you'll follow your canine friends as they sniff out the prized ingredient. After harvesting the savoury mushrooms from the ground, you'll indulge in a tasting experience complete with truffles and wine.
How to experience it: Truffle hunting season is in winter (June to August). Book with Truffle Hill to learn how to find mature truffles with the help of canine friends.
Fill your own seafood basket
Where: Eyre Peninsula, South Australia, a three-hour drive south of Port Augusta
Lapped by clear blue waters on one side and desert sands on the other, the Eyre Peninsula is often called Australia’s seafood frontier. Nearly 70 per cent of the country’s entire haul comes from here – but this laid-back region feels a million miles away from the fine-dining restaurants that clamour for its bounty. One of the best ways to experience it is on a tour that lets you source your own feast. Head out from Port Lincoln to fossick for pipis (cockles) in the sand, snorkel for abalone and pull Australian salmon from the waves. Your catch goes straight on the barbecue and is served to the best seat in the house: an empty beach, with only your fellow diners and the odd dolphin sharing the view.
How to experience it: Sign up for a seafood foraging day tour departing from Port Lincoln, a 50-minute flight west of Adelaide.
Learn how to survive in the forest
Where: The Southern Highlands, a 90-minute drive south-west of Sydney
As autumn moves in, this area of Australia really comes into its own. Along with the blaze of autumn foliage, the region’s cooler climate brings with it a precious crop of slippery jack and pine mushrooms – a dream variety for any chef. To find these tasty morsels, join a foraging excursion into the forests. As mists lift off the fields, your small group will set off into the trees clutching wicker baskets to learn how to safely identify edible fungi hidden in the undergrowth. Once the baskets are brimming, your finds will be cooked up with lashings of butter and salt to be eaten piping hot as the morning chill gives way to the afternoon sun.
How to experience it: Venture into the woods on a mushroom foraging tour, which typically run in April and May.
Become the Bear Grylls of the mangroves
Where: Dampier Peninsula at the north-west tip of Western Australia, a two-hour drive north of Broome
Over thousands of years, the Bardi people have learned to read the secrets of the Dampier Peninsula. Subtle cues – from the blooming of the wattle to the slightest shift in the seasons – tell the Bardi, or “Salt Water People” from the Aboriginal community of Lombadina, what’s on the menu. To learn how to read the land as they do, join them on a tour with a delicious ending. Some 155km (96mi) north of Broome, where bone-white sands and red cliffs meet turquoise ocean, Lombadina’s guides take visitors out in search of a local delicacy: mud crab. You’ll learn how to find your quarry in the roots, hook it and truss it for the trip back to the township, where it’s put straight to good use in a seafood lunch cooked over the coals.
How to experience it: As well as tours, Lombadina offers simple onsite accommodation or transfers between Broome.
Taste only-in-Australia ingredients
Where: Kakadu National Park, just under two hours from Darwin
Australia's First Nations people have been foraging for tens of thousands of years. They are the country's first chefs, with incredible knowledge about how to utilise the bounty that nature provides. Wander through the bush with an Aboriginal guide and you'll get hands-on experience in foraging for fruits, native carrots, edible grubs and more – foods you'll only find in Australia. Then, your haul is cooked up over the daily sunset campfire and served with two outback favourites – billy tea (cooked in a metal can) and damper (bread cooked in the campfire).
How to experience it: Embark on an Animal Tracks safari through the stunning Kakadu National Park. You'll get an in-depth look into ancient Aboriginal culture and the way plants and animals are used sustainably and thoughtfully.