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Explore : Bruny Island

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Every journey to Bruny Island (pronounced brew-nee) starts on the ferry. Our ticket to and from the island cost us $33, which includes a lovely 2×15 minute ride across the D’entrecastreaux Channel. Our journey would take us from the ferry terminal south through the Neck to the southernmost pub in Australia and onwards to Cape Bruny.

 

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FAST FACTS

  • Bruny Island is actually two land masses that are joined by a sandy isthmus, which is known as the Neck.
  • The whole island is 100km long.
  • Adventure Bay was named after the ship that was captained by English navigator Tobias Furneaux, who landed at the island in 1773.
  • The island is named after French explorer Bruni d’Entrecasteaux, who sailed the channel and discovered that it was in fact an island in 1792. It was known as Bruni Island until 1918 when the spelling was changed to Bruny.

 

When we got down south, radio and reception was starting to fail. At one point, all we got was some church radio station. We listened for a little while and chuckled about the breastplate of righteousness that guards your heart against the evils of the world.

 

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The Neck

The Neck is the sandy isthmus that connects the north and south parts of Bruny Island. There’s a lookout there, Truganini Lookout, and it’s one of the best lookouts we’ve visited on our entire trip around Australia.

 

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Once you ascend the umpteen timber steps to the top, you are gifted with a 360 degree view of the ocean and the narrow strip of sand that connects the north and south ends of the island.

 

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Get Shucked

By far the best oysters in Tasmania and comparable to those in Coffin Bay SA, Get Shucked sells pre-shucked boogers of sea-salty delight that slide down your gob with lubricated ease. Give them a bit of punch with a sprinkle of Tobasco sauce.

 

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The outlet has a great sitting area and they’re licensed so you can enjoy a glass of Seven Sheds beer while you slurp down some oysters.

 

Bruny Island Cheese Co.

This artisan cheese producer is owned by Nick Haddow, who has been making cheeses around the world for over 10 years. He’s recognised as the finest artisan cheese producer in Australia and is also currently the only cheese maker in Australia that is allowed to use raw milk to make cheese. However, laws have changed recently so there may be more raw cheeses in the future.

 

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Our tasting session included four cheeses.

  • The Tom – a hard rind cheese that has a complicated and mature taste with a curious dimension of flavour.
  • The Saint – a soft white mould cheese that had a lovely delicate flavour of mould with plenty of buttery cheesiness.
  • The 1792 – a soft washed rind cheese with some pungency but a lovely soft cheese with plenty of salty goodness.
  • The o.d.o – a marinated cheese that is only one day old and is a combination of a feta and a mozzarella. It has a strong lactic acid flavour but would be awesome on some bread with a bit of smoked salmon.

 

Outside, there’s a fantastic deck space and picnic benches scattered in the surrounding gardens, perfect for stopping for a coffee, cider or cheese platter.

 

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Adventure Bay

 

Before stopping at Hotel Bruny for a beer, we detoured to Adventure Bay to see what was the big deal. Adventure Bay is on the eastern side of the Neck and was named after the ship of English navigator Tobias Furneaux’s in 1773.

 

While it’s mainly a holiday destination with heaps of options for accommodation, we did stop at one of the beautiful beaches and marvelled at the dark coloured sand.

 

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Hotel Bruny

Australia’s southernmost pub is located across the road from Sunset Bay. Needless to say, the view from out the front is fantastic, the distant mountains reflecting on the water. It’s a small pub with a standard pub menu that is reasonably priced for the location (a chicken parma is $26).

 

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We stopped in for a drink – Juz enjoyed a yeasty and crisp Cascade Draught while Dave opted for a dark Cascade Stout.

 

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Cloudy Bay

Located at the southern end of Bruny Island, Cloudy Bay is a great place for a quiet getaway. There’s a 5km long sheltered beach that offers great surfing, and you can drive along the sand to get to the Cloudy Bay campsite on the eastern end.

 

This is where we camped the night and enjoyed the company of the friendly wallabies.

 

 

 

Cape Bruny

The lighthouse atop Cape Bruny is quite significant. It is the second oldest lighthouse in Australia – first lit in March 1838 and decommissioned on 6 August 1996. It was replaced by a nearby solar powered light.

 

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Grandvewe Cheesery and Hartshorn Distillery

No, Grandvewe is not located on Bruny Island, but both are attractions of the Huon Trail, and it’s only 10 minutes south of the Kettering Ferry terminal.

 

Grandvewe is Tassie’s only sheep milk cheesery and is the only place on earth where you’ll find Sheep Whey Vodka and Vanilla Whey liqueur. You’ll notice a lot of sheepy things, like wool in the garden beds and some cute sheep grazing in the paddock near the car park.

 

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Make sure you taste all the cheeses because they’re fantastic. We particularly liked the smooth and yeasty Brebichon and the Sapphire Blue, a mild blue cheese similar to Rochefort, so we bought a piece of each.

 

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There were wines and spirits available for tasting as well. The Sheep Whey Vodka had an interesting apple and pear flavour. We enquired how they make alcohol from a by-product that is predominantly protein. It seems that finding the right yeast was an important factor, and of the residual lactose in the whey, the glucose that is separated from the galactose is what is turned into alcohol.

 

We also tried the Vanilla Whey Liqueur, which was deliciously sweet, smooth and tasted like custard, as well as their lychee-driven Chardonnay and dry but fruity Pinot Noir.

 

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Food & Wine : Hobart & Surrounds

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Tassie has an abundance of local food, wine, beer and whisky, we tried our best to visit as many as we could! There are a few places located in a the heart of Hobart, but there is also the Coal River Valley out to the east, and to the north west is the Derwent River Valley.

 

If a place was within 30 minutes of Hobart, then we included it in the surrounding area. We started our tasting trail to the east of Hobart in Richmond.

 

The Wicked Cheese Company

This was the first stop of our tasting tour of the Hobartian surrounds. The Wicked Cheese Company was established in 2007 and is an award winning cheesery. They use both goat and cow’s milk to create a variety of cheeses such as cheddar, brie and camembert. The outlet also sells various local produce like sausages and chocolate. We picked up a Mediterranean terrine to munch on later.

 

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Nearby is the historic Richmond Bridge, which was built in 1823. It’s the oldest bridge in Australia that’s still in use and is a popular stop with the tourists.

 

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Frogmore Creek

One of our favourite wine tasting sessions happened at this beautiful award winning cellar door. Even if you’re not into wine, you can still enjoy the architecture of the cellar door, great views of the winery or peruse the local produce available for purchase.

 

We were lucky enough to be just in time to grab one of the last bottles of 2008 Mardi, a delicious sparkling white wine with hints of orange and brioche – a little like a Panettone. We also loved the 2015 Riesling, with serious pineapple flavours.

 

Of the reds, we enjoyed the 2012 Pinot Noir. It had spent 10 months in French Oak and had luscious fresh berries, a hint of cedar, and smooth, silky tannins!

 

We walked away from Frogmore Creek with a bottle of the pinot noir and Mardi sparking. When we were strolling through Salamanca Markets, we saw a Frogmore Creek stall and got to try a few other wines. We learnt that Josef Chromy used to be their winemaker, which is why both wineries have a Ruby Pinot Noir – a delicious sweet wine with blackberry flavours and creamy cashew.

 

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Sullivan’s Cove Distillery

This distiller is located in Cambridge and while the exterior doesn’t seem like much, once you’re inside, you just want to sit down on the beautiful lounges and sip on a whisky while you watch the afternoon go by listening to some relaxed tunes like Neil Young.

 

Sullivan’s Cove Distillery take pride in their drops, and the convict symbol on their label is a historical footnote of the first drop point for convicts at Sullivan’s Cove. They also said that their whiskies are distilled with conviction.

 

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We forked out $25 to taste a dribble of three whiskies, and an additional $10 for Juz to taste the gin.

 

All their whiskies are aged 12 years minimum before being taste tested. Instead of ageing for a certain amount of time, each whisky is tasted every 6 months or so to ensure that it’s at its peak.

 

Of the whiskies that we tried, our favourites were the award winners. The American Oak was sweet with hints of banoffee and vanilla, and the French Oak was full of toffee and fruit cake flavours.

 

Cascade Brewery

Cascade Brewery is the oldest brewery in Australia. It was established by convict Peter Degraves, who was not happy with the quality of beer in Hobart. He was released from goal in 1831 and set about brewing beer, and by December 1832, the first Cascade beer was sold.

 

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We would have loved to go on a tour of the brewery but all we had time for was a stop in for a tasting session by the beautiful gardens. A paddle of four beers was only $12 and you can choose any four beers you like.  We opted for the Lager, Draught, Pale Ale and Stout – all flavoured with Pride of Ringwood Hops but with varying degrees of crispness, bitterness and flavour.

 

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Larks Distillery

Located in the heart of Hobart, this popular Whisky bar has an incredible selection of spirits. We stumbled across the cellar door by accident during our evening walk around the Waterfront. We loved the atmosphere of the place – it was almost like finding a cave of wonders.

 

We settled ourselves at the bar and got the tasting paddle that included three little nips for $20. The bar staff were really friend and happy to talk about the spirits that we were tasting.

 

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The first was the 43% Classic Cask, which was a bit rough. The second on the paddle, the 58% Cask Strength whisky was gorgeous. Yes, it also had a good burn but it smelt like maple syrup and the taste had hints of coffee liqueur.  The final little nip was a Whisky Liqueur. It tasted a little like Jaegermeister, which probably explains the secret herbs and spices in the recipe. While it was a little medicinal, it was sweet and syrupy.

 

Derwent Valley Estate

We needed to waste a little time so we stopped in at the Derwent Valley Estate for a tasting. Our session was hosted by a nearly deaf old codger who emitted an air of playful petulance and loose authority. We tried to be playful too but it was a little awkward because he couldn’t hear our jokes.

 

We made it through a tasting and walked away with the Rose – smooth and sweet like strawberry jam, but we would have loved to take the buttery but peachy 2014 Chardonnay home but it was simply too pricey to justify the purchase.

 

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Tour : Boag’s Brewery

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A visit to Launceston wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Boag’s Brewery.

 

We pulled into the Boag’s Centre for Beer Lovers and were immediately fascinated by the beautiful Georgian building. Located across the road from the brewery, this building was built in 1826 and used to be a hotel licensed by women. It was originally called the Lame Dog Hotel, then the Gold Lion, and finally the Tamar Hotel before Boag’s adopted it. Exploring the building is quite a treat in itself – check out the original wallpaper on the ground floor.

 

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Our guide for the day, Don, has been doing tours for around 10 years. He began the tour in the Centre of Beer Lovers, talking about the history of the brewery and the main ingredients that go into beer – water, malt, hops and yeast.  He then guided us downstairs and outside to cross the street to the brewery.  As soon as you are out the front of the brewery, you can smell the sultry scents of malt in the air. The brewery takes up the whole block and all the steps of the brewing process are performed onsite.

 

The History

Boag’s beer all started back in 1853 when James Boag arrived in Australia with his wife and three kids. He got a job in a brewery, and after a year, his son James Boag II was born. When James Junior was old enough, he worked in a brewery too.

 

In 1883, father and son teamed up and bought the newly established Esk Brewery, forming J. Boag & Son. They didn’t stop there though – by 1900, J. Boag & Son had bought most of the other breweries in Launceston, and owned the entire block.

 

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During this time, James Boag III was born, James Boag I died and James Boag II was managing the business, up until 1919 when he died too. James Boag III took over the family business and was managing director until 1944. His contribution to the community through sporting and business activities made him a well loved and respected member of society.

 

As of 2008, J. Boag & Son has been owned by Lion – an Australian arm of the Japanese conglomerate – Kirin.

 

 

The Process

The making of Boag’s beer starts with the main ingredient – water. They source theirs from the Tamar River, which is pure soft water – low salt and mineral content. If a brewery wants more minerals in their beer for extra bitterness, then the water is burtonised by adding salt and minerals before brewing.

 

The second important ingredient is barley. The majority of the barley that goes into Boag’s beer is locally grown and is malted in Devonport. For a batch of beer, they use about 8-10 tonnes of malted barley.

 

The next ingredient is hops, and it just so happens that Tasmania is an ideal place to grow hops! More than half of Australia’s hops are grown in Tasmania because of the excellent growing conditions.

 

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The main ingredient that makes beer what it is, is yeast, and for each batch of beer, Boag’s use a tonne of the stuff.

 

Each batch of Boag’s beer makes about 49-50 thousand litres and they can do 7-8 batches in 24 hours. Once the mash has been cooked and hopped, it goes into fermenting tanks with the capacity to hold 200 thousand litres. The beer stays there to bubble away for around 7 days, depending on the brew. Ales prefer a more aggressive fermentation, while lager likes a low and slow fermentation, which is why it goes into maturation tanks for around 2-3 weeks.

 

The maturation tanks at Boag’s brewery have the capacity to hold up to 1.6 million litres of beer. Annually, Boag’s Brewery produces approximately 75 million litres of beer – that’s 200 million stubbies!

 

When it’s about time for the beer to be bottled, it goes through rigorous sensory testing. The testers are the only people who are allowed to consume alcohol onsite, and testing is done first thing in the morning to ensure a clean palate. The sensory test isn’t just beer tasting, it also covers the aroma and appearance.

 

Once the beer is ready, it’s filtered for cosmetic reasons, because for some reason, people like to be able to see through their beer. Boag’s beer used to be chill filtered, but these days they use diatomaceous filtering, which makes it anti-vegan because it uses the fossilised skeletal remains of single celled aquatic plants called diatoms. It’s then packaged without any preservatives, but is pasteurised to ensure that it’s safe for human consumption.

 

In terms of reusing and recycling, Boag’s is concerned with sustainability, just like most large breweries around Australia. The steam from the kettle is captured and reused, and CO2 produced in the fermenting tanks is collected and used to push fluid through pipes for cleaning. Also, the spent grain from the mash is transported to local farmers to feed their cows.

 

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The Tasting… and Cheese Pairing!

After the tour of the brewery, we went back to the Boag’s Centre for Beer Lovers for some beer and cheese pairing. Deadset – this was our favourite part of the tour, because not only did we never think to pair cheeses with beer, but the pairings were so complimentary that Juz now likes smoked cheese, when previously she loathed it.

 

Boag’s Premium & Triple Cream Brie

Boag’s Premium is a fantastic beer. It’s only available in stubbies to maintain its classy image. The beer is really light and crisp with great balance of hops and malt. It’s a lager that tastes like a pilsner. It was paired with King Island Heritage Triple Cream Brie – a complimentary light cheese to go with a relatively light beer. The buttery, salty cheese was absolutely delightful with Boag’s Premium.

 

XXX Ale & Vintage Cheddar

Locally referred to as Boag’s Red, Boag’s XXX Ale is more robust than the Premium and has a bigger hoppy burst. It was paired with Mersey Valley Original Vintage Cheddar, which has a lovely salty tang. The bitterness of the hops with the tang of the cheese combined perfectly.

 

Wizard Smith Ale & Smoked Cheddar

This darker beer is made with crystal malt and mild hops. It has an almost fruity smell and taste, and would normally be paired with robust flavours like lamb and game. Therefore, it would only make sense to pair it with a flavourful cheese like King Island Stokes Point Smoked Cheddar. This pair blew our minds.

 

The story behind the beer was quite interesting. It was named after a guy called Wizard Smith, a drayman who delivered the beer and looked after the horses for Boag’s. In 1929, there was a flood and he risked his life to save the horses. In return, Boag’s granted him lifetime employment and this pale ale was named in his honour.

 

The XXX Red Ale and the Wizard Smith are exclusively available in Tasmania – which is a shame because they are two fantastic beers. We bought a case of Wizard Smith before leaving Tasmania just so we could enjoy it back on the Mainland.

 

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The Essentials

Boag’s Brewery is located at 69 Esplanade in Launceston, but the Boags Centre for Beer Lovers is at 39 William Street.

 

Tours of the brewery run every day – bookings are essential and fully closed shoes must be worn. You can book yourself in by contacting the brewery on 03 6332 6300, or book online via their website: https://www.jamesboag.com.au

 

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Flavour Trail : Between Devonport and Launceston

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The drive from Devonport to Launceston is a tasty trip – make sure you stop at every location to get a true feel of the local produce of the region. Each place is worth a visit, and there is something that caters for everyone.

 

House of Anvers

This was our first stop out of Devonport and we were thoroughly impressed. The House of Anvers Chocolate Factory was established in 1931 and resides within a Californian bungalow on 1.1 hectares of gardens. The site offers chocolate tasting, viewing of factory operations, a museum about the origins of chocolate, and a delightful cafe.

 

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We went straight to the tasting station and tried the hazelnut truffle, rum and raisin truffle and cappuccino fudge. But the real treat was walking away with a block of Fortunato No. 4 chocolate – the rarest chocolate in the world.

 

Thought to be extinct since 1916, the Pure Nacional cacao plant was rediscovered in Peru in 2008 and is ultimate single origin source of chocolate. Believed to be the mother of cacao, the cacao pods contain white beans that are shipped to Switzerland to be transformed into couverture chocolate. House of Anvers is the only place in Australia that has the right to sell it.

 

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Cherry Shed

The Cherry Shed sells all things cherry – liqueur and port, ice cream, jams, chutney, cake, gifts and chocolate. There is also a huge tree made of cherry pips inside the cafe. Tastings are available and there are plenty of cherry themed things everywhere – including Cherry Ripe!

 

If you’re not going to stop for the cherry delights inside, at least stop for the Big Cherries outside. They’re so big, you can go inside.

 

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Seven Sheds Brewery

Seven Sheds Brewery has been open since 2008 and is located in Railton – the Topiary Capital of Australia.

 

 

We tasted five beers during our visit. Juz liked the Paradise Pale but her favourite was the Razzamatazz (5.2%), a light, tart and dry beer flavoured with local raspberries and blackberries.

 

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Dave’s faves were the Black Inca (5.8%) – infused with Peruvian Fortunato chocolate, toasted quinoa and oats – and the Kentish Ale (5.2%), a flavoursome, full bodied ale with a great balance of hops and malted barley.

 

Seven Sheds also grow their own hops – Fuggle, Goldings and others – and you can see the hops garden from the bar.

 

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Ashgrove Cheese

A must for any cheese lover – there’s a fabulous selection of plain and flavoured cheeses like cheddar and feta, even lavender cheese! They also sell a bunch of local produce like jams and chocolates, and there is a great display of colourful cows outside.

 

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Christmas Hill Raspberry Farm & Van Deimans Land Ice Creamery

A nice place to stop for some chocolate covered raspberries and interesting ice cream flavours.

 

Liffey Falls

About 30 minutes south of Deloraine, with a few kilometres of gravel road, Liffey Falls is definitely worth the detour.

 

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Stretch your legs on the 20 minute walk to the falls. There are a few stops along the way where the water cascades down shelves of rock, and if you’re lucky, you might spot a lizard or snake.

 

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If you still have energy, there’s a really short walk just behind the toilet to the Big Tree.  As the name suggests, it’s pretty big.

 

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Bracknell River Reserve

A great place to stop for the night, the Bracknell River Reserve on the western banks of the Liffey River offers free camping, toilets and a BBQ area.

 

If you enjoy fishing, drop a line in the river and you might just pull out a trout.

 

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Drink : The Hunter Valley

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The Hunter Valley Wine Region is located around 60km inland from Newcastle, with Pokolbin at the centre.  It’s the hottest wine region in Australia and despite the plethora of vineyards and wineries, the area contributes only 3% of the total wine production of Australia.  The area had established vines by 1823 and flourished as a wine region from then onwards.

 

The two predominant varieties that are grown in the area are Semillon and Shiraz.  Semillon wines are white, crisp and acidic with some citrus, apple and subtle spice and they get better with age.  As the wine oxidises, it changes to a deep yellow colour and develops creamy apricot flavours.  Due to the climate of the area, the Shiraz wines are a little different – they almost resemble a Pinot Noir.  Shiraz wines used to be known as Hunter River Burgundy but because of France’s copyright on region names (like Champagne), they are back to being Shiraz.

 

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Wineries

Saddler’s Creek

The first winery on our Hunter Valley adventure, it was a great way to get to know the varieties of the region.  We tried a young crisp Semillon and compared it to an older Semillon with a distinctly more mature and delicious flavour.  Our host was great to chat to and knew a lot about the region.

 

Lindemans

One of the oldest wineries in the region, Lindemans have been around since 1843.  Their cellar door is quite impressive both on the outside and inside, and their entire selection was fantastic.  We particularly liked the 2013 Shiraz Reserve 1300 because it wasn’t as dry as most of the other Shiraz wines, and it was full of raspberry and dark cherry flavours.

 

Tulloch

We had a great tasting session here – the guy who hosted us really knew his stuff – but instead of focusing on Semillon wines, we explored Verdelho.  We learnt that Tulloch was the first to use the variety to make a table wine instead of a sweet dessert wine.  We dabbled with the reds before getting into the fortified wines.  The Limited Release Crème De Vin was absolutely delicious, full of ripe apricot and honey.

 

Piggs Peake Winery

All of the wines are named after something to do with pigs.  The Hogshead Chardonnay was lovely, the Suckling Pig Shiraz was sweet and fruity, and the Little Pig Verdelho Swines Only dessert wine was to die for, but when we were presented with a Shiraz named Kevin, our questioning glances were answered with one sultry word… “Bacon”.

 

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Pepper Tree Wines

This is a fairly young winery, having been established in 1991, and their cellar door operates out of a renovated barn that is simply charming.  They do a wonderful NV Tipsy Muscat that is supposed to come with its very own ‘tipsy’ bottle, but they had sold out that day so we missed out on the novelty.

 

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McGuigans

These guys are fairly well known but because they were right next to a cheese factory, we figured we’d check them out.  Their cellar door is huge and they have won several international awards for winemaker of the year.  Our favourite was the 2007 Bin 9000 Semillon – a gold medal winner that deserves its awards – and the NV Personal Reserve Muscat that had amazing nutty butterscotch and caramelised fig flavours that would not give up.

 

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Peterson House

Offering something a little different to the typical Hunter Valley range, Peterson House likes to add bubbles.  We tried most of what they had, each one better than the one before.  Their best seller, Pink Blush, was a great bubbly with floral and candied orange tones but what we loved was the Sparkling Botrytis Semillon and Sparkling Fortified Shiraz.

 

Breweries

Hunter Beer Co.

What was supposed to be a quiet session with a paddle in the corner turned into an incredible tasting extravaganza when one of the brewers came over for a chat.  Not only did we try the four beers on the paddle, but he also brought over samples of his zesty Ginger Beer, sweet Barley Wine, and the Slaked Magpie, which ended up being Dave’s favourite because it was like drinking a chocolate milkshake.

 

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He also told us a great story about how Hefeweizen beers existed in Germany before bananas, so when bananas finally arrived, everyone thought they tasted like beer!

 

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Lovedale Brewery

Located at the heart of the Crown Plaza Resort, the Lovedale Brewery offers a paddle of four beers for $9, which is pretty cheap.  We got the Lager, Pale Ale, Rye IPA and Porter, and while the Rye IPA was a pleasant surprise with deliciously sweet aromas and a toffee flavour, the crisp and refreshing lager was the clear winner.

 

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Matilda Bay Brewhouse

We broke all the rules at the Brewhouse, choosing our own selection of beers to taste instead of choosing one of their pre-selected paddle options.  While Juz favoured the Small Batch Bright Ale, Dave enjoyed the IGP (Itchy Green Pants).

 

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Hunter Distillery

With a massive range of spirits and flavours, there is something for everyone here, but our favourite by far was the honey vodka – it was like having honey on toast. The drinking vessels were very cool too.

 

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Food

The Hunter Cheese Factory

This was one of our favourite cheese tasting experiences.  We got a platter for $6.95 to share and it included five cheeses varying from a soft fromage to a creamy blue vein.  We loved the Sicilian style feta for its great savoury balance, as well as the Branxton blue brie for the rich earthy and mushroom flavours.

 

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Binnorie Dairy

The cheese tasting was free, fast and without any fuss, and before we knew it, we walked out with a tub of herb and garlic fromage frais.  This was an easy choice, but if we had more room in our fridge, we would have taken a jar of their labna and marinated goat fetta too.

 

Hunter Valley Smelly Cheese Shop

Stocking local and imported cheeses, this was our only chance to sample some Hunter Belle cheese, made with Murray’s Beer.  The cheeses were odd – they had a strange yeasty flavour – but they were still good.  We also got to try some St Agur, a decadent blue cheese from France that costs around $100 a kilo.

 

Hunter Valley Chocolate Company

While we didn’t really taste any chocolate, there was a counter offering fudge tastings.  There was a massive range of flavours, but we loved the Australiana with lemon myrtle and macadamia, as well as the salted peanut caramel.

 

Hunter Valley Cookies

Located at the Village Shops near the Gardens, this little cookie shop makes huge cookies, and even has an interesting and eclectic collection of cookie jars.  We sampled the gluten free Florentine, which was a big, fat disc of chewy deliciousness.

 

While we were in the Village, we checked out the Tunnel of Beer in the Garden Cellars.  The selection of local and international beers was huge and it’s definitely worth having a look.

 

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Hotel Cessnock

Set in a swanky old building, the Hotel Cessnock has a few cheap lunch specials.  After doing a few wineries in the morning, we stopped for some lunch.  Dave got the rump steak and chips for $11 while Juz splashed out on a chicken schnitzel burger and chips for $12.  Both were tasty and adequately portioned to keep us going for the rest of the day.

 

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Information & Accommodation

Self-drive tours of the Hunter Valley are fine, but you will need a designated driver.  There are so many wine tours available for the area, it would be a shame not to take advantage of someone else driving you and your friends around.  Accommodation and wine tour bookings are available at the Hunter Valley YHA.

 

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If you don’t need the comfort of a tidy kitchen and warm bed, there is a rest area north of the region about 5km west of Branxton.  It can be a little noisy there though because it’s between the highway and the railway that transports all the coal to Newcastle for export. We didn’t mind because we had friendly neighbours JK and Oona to keep us company!

 

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The Tablelands

The Tablelands – Part 3 : Yungaburra to Millaa Millaa

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The southern end of the Tablelands is lush and green, with rolling hills and waterfalls, and the climate is perfect for dairy farming.  To get there, head south from Cairns and turn right at Gordonvale.  Follow the winding road past Frog Rock for around 45 minutes and that will bring you to Yungaburra.  Don’t forget to enjoy the scenery and stop to check out the Cathedral Fig Tree!

 

 

Cathedral Fig Tree

Our first stop on the way to Yungaburra was the Cathedral Fig Tree, a 500 year old strangler fig located in the Danbulla State forest about 15 minutes from the main road.  It is a huge fig tree with roots that hang down and create an enclosed little area.  It is certainly beautiful and makes for a great photo opportunity.

 

 

Yungaburra

After a quick walk around town, we stopped for lunch at the Yungaburra Whistle Stop Café and were blown away by the great service, relaxed and familiar atmosphere, and the great value of the yummy meals.  This quaint little heritage town gets its name from the local Yidinyji language and means place of questioning.  It remains relatively unchanged since 1910 and acts as a hub to a few local attractions.

 

Curtain Fig Tree

The Curtain Fig Tree is one of the largest trees in Tropical North Queensland and is a species of tree that strangles host trees.  The way the Curtain Fig got its name is when the host tree fell over onto a neighbouring tree, the fig decided that one tree wasn’t enough and started to grow around both trees.  The result is a huge curtain of roots that are absolutely breathtaking.

 

 

Gallo Dairyland

A perfect stop for any cheese lover, Gallo Dairyland is a fairly new edition to the Tablelands, but it depends on how you look at it.  The owners bought it in 1937 as a standard rotary dairy farm, but they had the dream of turning it into an ‘integrated educational dairy farm experience’.  Seventy years later in 2007, Gallo Dairyland opened to the public and offers delicious cheeses, chocolate, ice cream, lactose free options and a cafe, as well as the opportunity to meet some animals in the nursery, see how cows are milked and how the milk is processed.

 

We sampled their range of cheeses, with our favourites being the luscious macadamia cheese and bitey ‘Gallozola’, and we also tasted a few of the gourmet chocolates – YUM!

 

 

Lake Eacham

This beautiful blue green lake is located within the Crater Lakes National Park.  It was formed around 12,000 years ago when magma from the earth’s core moved towards the crust and heated up the water table.  The resulting steam led to an explosion that created the crater.  There are no streams that feed the volcanic lake – its water comes from rain and the water level fluctuates around 4 metres during the year.

 

The Tablelands

 

It’s a great spot for locals and tourists alike – the location is ideal for swimming, canoeing and wildlife watching, and there is a large grassed area that is perfect for picnics.  Fishing and motor boats are not allowed, which gives the fish and turtles that live in the lake some peace and quiet.

 

The Tablelands

 

Malanda

This small Tableland town was first developed in the 1900s after the discovery of copper and tin at nearby Herberton.  It is known for producing dairy and their furthest milk run went as far north as Weipa and as far west as Wyndham and Kununarra in Western Australia.  That’s around 3,000 km!

 

Malanda Dairy Centre

The best place to get more info about the history of the region is the Malanda Dairy Centre. Essentially, it’s a cafe, but it also has an art gallery and museum with local history and stories from the War era.   Definitely worth a visit, if not for a slice of cake.

 

 

Malanda Falls

On the edge of town is the Malanda Falls Conservation Park.  There is a small waterfall and swimming hole there that is a great place for a picnic.

 

 The Tablelands

 

Millaa Millaa

This small town has a population of around 300 people and includes a post office, library, newsagency, pub and a cafe.  The traditional owners of the area are the Mamu people, and the words Millaa Millaa mean plenty of water.

 

Lions Park

The massive Lions Park that takes up most of the main Street is a perfect spot for picnic or BBQ. There is also a playground, a display of giant Kauri Pine logs and historical statue of the explorer Christie Palmerston and his aboriginal sidekick Pompo.  Christie (yes, girls name for a dude) was the first European to make a track from Herberton to Innisfail.  He was also the first European to climb Bartle Frere.

 

 

De Millaa’s Cafe

By the time we got to Millaa Millaa, we were starving for lunch.  We got a burger each and an iced coffee to share.  The one thing that stood out as exceptionally tasty was the bread – nice and gummy with a beautiful flavour.  We just wish they had some music playing – the tranquillity of Millaa Millaa town couldn’t compete with the sounds of us chewing our lunch.

 

Mungali Creek Dairy

A dairy producer of yoghurts, milk and cheeses, Mungali Creek is a familiar brand with their yoghurts available at most local supermarkets.  Their cheeses are also available at an outlet at Rusty’s.  They were open for tasting and also have a little cafe that overlooks the operations.

 

Millaa Millaa Waterfall Circuit

The area around Millaa Millaa is known for waterfalls, including the heritage-listed Millaa Millaa Falls.  This popular swimming spot is easily accessible and includes a lovely grassed area for sunbaking and picnicking.  The beautiful cascade of water runs over volcanic basalt that was formed around 1.5 million years ago.  As the basalt cooled, it formed cracks which have produced the columns behind the falls that you see today.

 

The Tablelands

 

Further along the circuit is Zillie Falls.  The viewing platform is located at the top of the falls, but it isn’t hard for the adventurous to locate the unkempt track that leads down to the bottom.  There is plenty of opportunity to explore the boulders and pools below, but please be careful about getting into rapid water, and of flooding during the Wet Season.

 

The Tablelands

 

The last stop along the loop is Ellinjaa Falls, a wide and irregular cascade of water over lava columns.  The pool at the bottom is fairly shallow and rumour has it that it is popular hangout for platypi and turtles.

 

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On your way to Innisfail from Millaa Millaa, you can see Queensland’s highest mountain in the distance – Bartle Frere.  Its elevation is 1,622 metres above sea level and was named after Sir Henry Bartle Frere, a British colonial administrator who was also the president of the Royal Geographical Society (NERD!).  Of course, it had a name before the British came to Australia – Chooreechillum.

 

The Tablelands

 

So there you have it – the Tablelands.  Our main highlights include Coffee Works and Mt Uncles Distillery in Mareeba, the Crystal Caves in Atherton, and Gallo Dairyland near Yungaburra.  We also loved the enormous fig trees and lush countryside, with the deep blue sky contrasting with the green hills.  After around 6 months of travelling through central Australia, it was such a relief to be out of the dry Outback and Savannah scrub.

 

The Tablelands – Part 1 : Ravenshoe to Mareeba

 

The Tablelands

Recipe : Damper

Recipe : Damper

Sometimes, making your own bread is much more economical than buying loaves that can go moldy in a few days.  Here is a recipe for plain damper, as well as some flavour suggestions if you want to mix it up a bit…

 

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of flour
  • 1 tbs butter
  • A pinch of salt
  • 175ml milk OR 175ml water with milk/yoghurt powder

 

 

Method

  • Put all the dry ingredients into a bowl.
  • Put the butter in and rub between fingers to make a breadcrumb-looking mixture.
  • Add the liquids and combine.  Knead into a ball of dough – if it’s too wet, add more flour and if it’s too dry, add more liquid.
  • Place dough ball into a small oiled pan and flatten with fist to make a disc shape. Put into a pre-heated dutch oven (with a wire rack inside to prevent the bottom of the pan from burning) for around 15-25 minutes, depending on how hot the oven is.
  • You’ll know it’s done when it’s a nice golden colour and the damper feels puffy instead of squishy.  It’s still going to be moist in the centre – but that’s just how we like it.

 

Recipe : Damper

 

Cheese & Bacon DamperMake the plain damper dough and knead in pieces of cheese and diced bacon before baking.

 

 

Chocolate DamperMake the plain damper dough and knead in chocolate powder or cacao.  If you want to make Double Chocolate Damper, sprinkle in some choc chips.

 

 

Choc Bacon DamperMake the plain damper dough and knead in chocolate powder or cacao with bacon bits.  If you want to make Double Chocolate Bacon Damper, sprinkle in some choc chips.

 

If you are curious about how much cheese, bacon or chocolate to add, use the Juz scale.  If you like bacon a lot, add lots of bacon.  If you like chocolate a little bit, add a little bit of chocolate, and so on.

 

Future recipe ideasBanana, Banana Chocolate, Choc Orange, Olive, Hawaiian (ham, cheese and pineapple), Italian (green olives, tomato, basil), Greek (feta, kalamata olive, lamb), Herb & Garlic

 

Do you have any kooky damper flavours?

 

The Cheese Barrel - heaven!

Experience : Swan Valley Food & Wine Region

Located in the north east of Perth, the Swan Valley is Western Australia’s oldest wine region and there are more than 40 wineries, breweries, restaurants and cafes to explore.

 

Guildford

The gateway to the Swan Valley is Guildford – one of the three pioneer towns that were established when Captain James Stirling came to Western Australia.  While the other two towns – Fremantle and Perth – have evolved and developed into what they are today, Guildford has maintained its historic charm and is a wonderful example of European settlement that dates back to the 1830s.

 

The Chapel of St. Mary and St. George at Guildford Grammar School

Guildford is also the home of a number of great pubs and eateries, including Alfred’s Kitchen and the heritage-listed Rose & Crown Hotel, which is the oldest hotel in the state and the third oldest licensed hotel in Australia. While we would have loved to eat here, we thought it was a little steep to charge $35 for a chicken parmagiana so we stuck to some local beers while we enjoyed their luscious beer garden.

 

 

With a few cafes dotted along the James Street Antique Strip, we got some local advice that the best place for coffee was The Loungeroom.  The place was really warm and friendly and we ordered two long macchiatos to start.  The flavour was robust and very nutty, even more so with a sprinkle of sugar.

 

Shortly afterwards, our breakfast was served.  Dave’s BLT croissant looked amazing and had a little side of onion relish, which was very sweet.  Juz’s ‘Big Breakfast’ wasn’t as big as expected, especially after she handed her toast over to Dave, but everything was still delicious.  The poached eggs and two bacon rashers were cooked perfectly, and the two chipolatas were salty and smooth.

 

 

Accomplishing all that we wanted to do in the Swan Valley required us to employ a driver.  On the first day, our skipper was Emma and she graciously drove us around the southern part of the Swan Valley to some of the great wineries of the region like Lancaster and Houghton.  On the second day, we were chauffeured by Emma’s partner, Patrick, an Irish bloke who came to Australia 2 years ago and won’t take “I can’t drink anymore” for an answer.  If you’re interested in Swan Valley Breweries, check out our other post on the Swan Valley.

 

Margaret River Chocolate Company

It was the start of our first day and after a terribly unsuccessful coffee attempt at our first location, we fled to the establishment next door.  As usual, their car park was chock-a-block of people gagging to fill their cupped hands with chocolate pieces.

 

After getting a few chocolate treats, we ordered some coffees from the café at the rear of the shed.  They were much more to our liking – smooth and creamy without any bitterness – and we sampled some chocolate treats in the meantime.

 

The Hot Cross Easter Truffles were so cute and really yummy.  Dave said they tasted like Jesus.  A smooth ball of milk chocolate wrapped around soft praline that tasted like spiced fruit with a Brandy punch. We also got a Jamaican Rum truffle that was sweet like rum and raisin and rolled in shards of roasted almonds.  The milk chocolate Blueberry truffle was filled with a delicious fruity purple paste.

 

 

Lancaster

We loved this place – a perfectly relaxed atmosphere where you can sip some wine in the shade of the outdoor tasting shed.  During our session, we sampled cheeses from the Old Cheddar Cheese Company down near Busselton and enjoyed the cheerful and bubbly service.

 

  • 2012 Chenin Blanc – a very clear wine with lots of passionfruit and citrus.  It had a warm smell, crisp entry and founded finish full of green apples.
  • 2012 Rosé – flavours of strawberries with a smooth, mellow entry and a creamy finish.
  • Reserve Liqueur Muscat – a gorgeous chocolate caramel colour with lots of raisins and spiced fruits, it was thick like honey with a gentle spirit.

 

Houghton

Established in 1836, Houghton Winery is one of Western Australia’s oldest wineries.  Apart from their premium wine, Houghton is also famous for being the place where Moondyne Joe was discovered after two years on the run.  He had snuck into the cellar and was helping himself to the wine before the police found him.

 

The estate is quite beautiful and has a gallery, café and heaps of grassed areas for a picnic.  There was a price to taste all of their wines so we got selective and sampled a few.

 

  • Sparkling Chardonnay Pinot Noir – floral and smooth with a great, buttery smell.  A rich, crisp entry, lots of fine bubbles and a warming finish that was dry and clean.
  • Chardonnay – a pale yellow colour with a wooded and smooth entry.  There was plenty of melon and walnut with French oak and a lingering finish.

 

 

Sandalford

Another winery that was established during the colony days, Sandalford is a huge winery that has been the location of many events and concerts like A Day on the Green, Stevie Wonder, k.d lang and Crowded House.  We found a red helicopter on the grass and ran over to check it out – ‘Get to da choppa!’

 

  • 2011 Classic White – a light but smooth wine that isn’t too acidic, there was plenty of stone fruits with a touch of cream.
  • 2011 Merlot – rich garnet with a hint of magenta, there was a strong scent of cedar and aniseed.  It was a very dry wine with a velvety finish.
  • NV Founder Reserve Liqueur Port – a caramel drop with a hint of red, there was burnt fig, caramel and toffee with lots of rum and raisins and a strong, spirited kick.

 

Lilac Hill

A humble cellar door based in an old house next to the Iron Bark Brewery, we had a great tasting session

 

  • 2008 Kissing Fools Viognier – a light straw colour, creamy and smooth with fruity citrus and nectarine.  It was a fresh wine with lingering warmth.
  • 2006 Reserve Verdelho – gorgeous!  Toasty and fruity with a rounded acidity and nutty finish without the oil.
  • 2006 Vintage Port – red caramel with lots of dried figs, prunes and a spirited punch.
  • Liqueur Muscat – a very smooth entry with clean viscosity.  Sweet raisins and toffee apple.

 

 

The Cheese Barrel

On day two of our Swan Valley Tour, Juz couldn’t wait to get to this place.  They don’t make cheese, they import it from places all over the world and give you the opportunity to sample a robust Irish blue or butter French white mould that you cannot get at the local supermarket. There is a place like this back in Melbourne called the Richmond Hill Cheese Larder and it was Juz’s favourite place before she was banned because she kept spending ludicrous amounts of money on foreign cheese.

 

The Cheese Barrel

 

We perused the tasting menu and picked a cheese each, which was to be served as a 50g segment on a slate board with some crackers and fresh figs.

 

  • Juz chose the La Buche d’Affinois white mould cheese made from cow’s milk in Rhone-Alpes in France.  This was definitely a crowd pleaser – gooey, soft and silky all the way through with no chalky bits and a delicious buttery taste that was a bit sweet from a bit of overnight fermentation that turns the lactic acid into sweet butyric acid.  Juz could have commandeered the entire brick.
  • Patrick’s choice was the Cashel Ireland Blue, a blue mould cheese made from cow’s milk in Tipperary Ireland, near where his mum lives.  The cheese was gorgeous – soft, sweet and salty with mild spiciness and gentle flavours of mould that were soothed by the creaminess of the surrounding white cheese.  We even got this one paired with a delicious fortified shiraz from the cellar door adjacent to the larder and once your mouth was covered in cheesy taste sensations, a sip of the fortified transformed the flavours completely as the astringency of the cheese is neutralised by the fruity sweetness of the wine.
  • Dave’s cheese was the Piccante Gorgonzola from Lombardy, Italy.  It was another blue mould cheese made from cow’s milk, but with very different characteristics from the Cashel.  It was firm and sharp, with spicy penicillium mould that has been nourished by oxygen via holes into the cheese with steel skewers.  It would have been perfect sprinkled over fresh pasta or in a bagel with some ham and chives.

 

The Cheese Barrel - heaven!

 

The Cheese Barrel was awesome and they are really passionate about appreciating all aspects of cheese – the origin, the ingredients, the method and the flavour.  A definitely MUST if you’re out and about in the Swan Valley.

 

Olive Farm Wines

Right next door to the Cheese Barrel is Olive Farm Wines, another winery that has been around since the beginning.  It was established in 1829 by an English botanist who brought with him a few grapevine cuttings and olive trees from the UK.  The olive trees were planted first – hence the name of the estate – and before long the vines were bearing fruit perfect for winemaking.

 

  • 2012 Viognier – a fruity wine full of citrus and apricot with a smooth entry and refreshing zing but still gentle and rounded.
  • Crystal Fort – a beautiful golden amber drop with minimal spirit and tastes of toffee, honey and raisins that bloom into delicious roasted honey cashews.
  • Fortified Shiraz – this was the drop that we had with the Cashel Ireland Blue next door at the Cheese Barrel.  Rich, dark chocolate colours full of ripe cherries and prunes, deliciously sweet with a gentle spirit.

 

Twin Hill Wines

Run by the Kraljevich family for over 70 years, Twin Hill is a humble estate that makes a great selection of wines from a classic white to a sweet red and traditional fortified shiraz.

 

  • Verdelho – smooth and warming but still light and refreshing with plenty of nectarine and citrus and an almost buttery chardonnay finish.
  • Sweet Red – a light, crimson wine full of fresh berries with a sweet, silky entry that covers the mouth and finishes dry and tart with apple skins and berries.
  • Tokay – aged 22 years, we were sent through an evolution of flavours from sweet fruits and honey to a rich nutty finish.

 

The House of Honey

A great little cafe that’s about as busy as a bee!  Browse the shop and taste their selection of honeys before sitting down to Devonshire Tea – or coffee!  We took a seat outside in the floral courtyard and our treats were not far bee-hind!

 

 

The coffee was served in a huge glass mug and had a great nutty flavour without any bitterness, but the real highlight was the honey scone.  Despite a thick lick of cream and strawberry jam, the sweetness of the honey was still distinguishable and each bite was absolutely morish.

 

Illusionary Art

One of the great finds on our expedition around the Swan Valley was an art gallery that displays pieces that appear three dimensional!  Thomas Maurer spent three years perfecting his art that uses an angle grinder on an aluminium surface.  The end result is an image that plays with light to create a 3D image.  While the effect truly is amazing, our picture of his showroom does not do this artwork justice – you really do have to see it in person.

 

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Araluen Botanic Gardens

Experience : The South of Perth

We were down south twice – once on the way up from Margaret River with our mates, Kieran and Maria, and again a few weeks later to check out some more places.  On the way up, we stayed at Frank Lupino Memorial Park and had a few final drinks and silly pics before saying farewell in Perth.

 

 

Armadale

Only 30 minutes from Perth, Armadale is a regional city with a fully stocked metropolis and really pretty parks.  There are two shopping centres in the city, and one of them has the Armadale Fresh Market – the place to go for cheap vegetables and Asian groceries.

 

 

Nearby is the Churchman Brook Dam, which was built in the 1920s to provide the Perth Hills with a water supply until 1937.  There are BBQ and picnic facilities, toilets and a few walking paths to guide you around the dam.

 

Mandurah

The first busy cosmopolitan city we explored on our way to Perth, and got stuck in morning peak hour traffic.  There is a beautiful river running right through the centre of town and the lifestyle is built up around it.  Cruises on the river and Mandurah Estuary are a popular activity, as well as picnics along the foreshore.

 

 

There is a schmick new development at the mouth of the river called Dolphin Quay, with big, sterile apartment blocks and venetian-style canals surrounded by townhouses. It seemed nice, very expensive, and has the potential to be quite charming over time.

 

If you go for a short drive south of Mandurah, you’ll find the Lake Clifton Thrombolites, living fossils that are significant markers of the Earth’s natural history.  There’s a boardwalk that leads out over the lake with information panels about the thrombolites, which are basically single-celled bacteria that accumulate layers calcium and silt over time and turn into these rounded rock.  Scientists reckon they’re about 350 million years old.

 

 

Rockingham

A beachside city with a big Kiwi presence and plenty of Italian spirit.  All of the action was down on the beach and in the fish and chips shops.

 

 

The War Memorial behind the information centre was cool but the lady inside the information was thoroughly unhelpful and could only recommend one attraction for Rockingham – Penguin Island.

 

Araluen Botanic Park

This place was absolutely beautiful – a heaven in the hills!  As we walked around the gardens, we imagined family picnics on the grasses, outdoor performances in the amphitheatre or wedding ceremonies in the Margaret Simmons Pergola.  They are perfectly happy to hire out the park for events and they even hold their own bush dances and holiday activities.

 

 

The gardens are filled with native and exotic plants that are tended by staff and volunteers. Entry is $4 per adult or $10 for a family

 

 

Borrello Cheese Factory

A simple outlet for delicious cheese, Borrello Cheese is a family business that has been running for about 10 years and is quite well known throughout Western Australia.  They purchase the milk, then pasteurise it to make savoury Romano varieties, Provoletta, firm, nutty Pecorino or bold feta cheese, and with the whey by-product, they make ricotta.  We sampled their Chilli Romano and plain Pecorino, walking away with 1kg of luscious ricotta and a wedge of Pecorino.

 

Serpentine Falls

Located in the Serpentine National Park, the waterfall is a short walk from the car park and picnic area.  The water is a mysterious emerald and it is all set up for swimming and cooling off in the summer sun, but if you’re the daredevil type, you can climb the granite walls and take the plunge.

 

 

The Bunbury Lighthouse from the Marlston Hill Lookout Tower

City Profile : Bunbury

In 1803, French explorer Captain de Freycinet sailed past the area but it wasn’t until the 1830s that Governor James Stirling led an expedition from the Collie River to the Darling Range and properly explored the area.  He set up camp at Port Leschenault, which was renamed Bunbury in 1836, and the first European settlers arrived in 1838.

 

Initially, Bunbury grew full of convicts that created a workforce to expand the economy.  By 1900, the timber industry was strong, cutting wood for railways and the gold rush in Donnybrook, and Bunbury soon developed into a town.  The Port of Bunbury became busy with exports of wool, timber and grain, and other industries such as whaling, farming and mining.

 

In the 1980s, the direction of Bunbury shifted to relocate the industry away from the CBD and build a beautiful city around the natural waterways.  The railway was considered an eyesore, so they built a new train station 4km south of town and the old railway station is now the city’s visitor centre and major bus terminal.


The Bunbury Lighthouse started with humble beginnings in 1841 as a storm lantern erected on a wooden keg.  Thirty years later, a square, wooden lighthouse was built but was replaced in 1903 by a steel structure about 9 metres tall.  In 1959, they extended the lighthouse by another 6 metres before adding a flashing light at the top four years later.  It wasn’t until 1971 that the current lighthouse replaced the old structure.  It stands 27.4 metres and has a great black and white chequered pattern to make it highly visible for kilometres.

 

We got a great view of it from the Marlston Hill Lookout Tower that is accessible via a spiral staircase.  The lookout provides 360 degree views of Bunbury, the marina, Leschenault Inlet, the Indian Ocean and Koombana Bay.

 

Koombana Bay Beach

 

Koombana Bay is a great place to spend the day with family and friends.  It has a great beach with safe, calm waters, BBQ facilities and a kiosk.  It’s also a quick 10 minute walk to the Marlston Waterfront, which is a mini version of Melbourne’s Docklands.  There’s a brewery, taffy factory, café and a few restaurants where you can enjoy a nice dinner while overlooking the bay.

 

While we were in Bunbury, we stopped at Cafe 140 for a coffee.  It was a really colourful place, vibrant, dynamic and BUSY!  There was a queue to order but they smashed out the coffees and before we knew it, we had a latte in hand with a little almond biscuit on top.

 

Nearby, there are two cheese factories, and because Juz simply cannot help herself, we visited them both.

 

The Old Cheddar Cheese Company

About 30km south of Bunbury is Ludlow and The Old Cheddar Cheese Company.  They specialise in making rich, creamy cheddar cheese and add different herbs and spices to make a great variety of flavours.  The award winner is the Original Creamy Cheddar, a full flavoured, tangy cheese that’s super creamy and delicious.  The flavoured varieties include garlic and chives, cracked black pepper and chilli.

 

 

Ha Ve Cheese

About 30km north of Bunbury is a small town called Harvey, and at Ha Ve Cheese, they made a whole bunch of different sorts, like soft while mould cheeses, Romano, fetta, blue vein and flavoured savoury cheeses.  All cheeses are suitable for vegetarians and are Halal certified and free cheese tastings are available.

 

  • OMG Triple Cream Brie – gooey and creamy with a hint of chalk in the centre, it was tart and creamy with a wonderful salty tang.
  • Haloumi – squeaky and firm, we got some for our BBQ lunch the next day.
  • Natural Savoury – firm and full of flavour, like a fetta.
  • Romano – creamy, salty, full flavoured and very mature!
  • Harvey Blue – briney and soft with a gently spicy mould.

 

They also offer ice cream, local produce like sauces, pickles and preserves, and if you truly love cheese, you can enrol in their cheese making course.  After our cheese tasting, we went outside to meet their camels.  Juz got a little bit too friendly with one of them.

 

 

Information & Accommodation

Bunbury Visitor Centre – The Old Station, Carmody Place

Dolphin Retreat YHA – 14 Wellington Street, 08 9792 4690

 

 

Vasse Felix

Margaret River Food & Wine Region

Vasse Felix

We were really looking forward to exploring one of Australia’s most notorious wine regions, but our first 24 hours in the region wasn’t too pleasant. We got to Augusta first and found it to be a chronic retirement town where you are hated if you are younger than 40.  We went to the Information Centre in down and the lady behind the counter was very rude and dismissive!  With such a cold reception, we blew that joint faster than Cheech and Chong.

 

One of the most disappointing things we learnt in Augusta was that the tours to visit the beautiful caves in the region were ridiculously expensive!  We were really looking forward to seeing the longest straw formation in Jewel Lake, but not for $22 each!  That’s almost a week’s worth of food!  We cut our losses and sought out a spot to stay for the night, but found out that the region did not offer any free camping.  You have to camp either in a caravan park or national park.  We chose the national park option on the first night and stayed at Chapman Pool in Blackwood National Park for $7 each.

 

 

In the morning, we woke at dawn and drove into Margaret River to wait for the supermarket to open.  While we were in the car park, a council worker aggressively called out that we were assholes and that her town wasn’t a caravan park.  It must have looked like we had stayed the night in the car park, but considering that we hadn’t, it was quite rude and presumptuous of her to swear and badmouth us.

 

Thankfully, that was the last dose of bad taste that we received, because at about 8am, our mates who had been living in the UK for the last two years cheekily appeared at Troopy’s window and we were reunited for a brief four days to sip and taste the goods of Margaret River and beyond!

 

Margaret River is a young wine region that started when the soil was dubbed good for growing grapes in the 1960s.  Cardiologist Tom Cullity capitalised on this information and planted the first vines on his property in 1967.  He named his land Vasse Felix after a sailor named Vasse who was lost overboard from the Naturaliste in 1801; ‘Felix’ is Latin for happy.  Since then, the Margaret River has grown to have over 140 wineries.

 

 

The area gets the best of all worlds, from the coast and surf culture to the beautiful, lush forests, and with so many wineries, breweries and gourmet food outlets around, it’s no wonder that the region is full of resorts, hotels and units to accommodate all the visitors.  We knew we were in for an amazing time, and as we prepared for the next two days, we promised ourselves that this would be our last wine region.

 

The Berry Farm

The first place on our list of places to visit – the Berry Farm was originally a group settlers home in 1925. In 1984 the Lindsay Family purchased the property and since then, they’ve been producing delicious fruit wines and fortifieds, as well as yummy preserves, jams and dressings like nectarine chutney, chilli jam, eggplant relish, mango macadamia jam and 3 citrus marmalade.

 

When we arrived, we were greeted by the most awesome chick you could meet behind the counter of a cellar door, and after a flavour sensation session of tastings, we roamed around the store and sampled the gourmet delights on offer.

 

  • Club House Dark Plum – a rich, dark caramel liquid made with Satsuma plums, it was light and fruity with a spiced fruit finish.
  • Club House Boysenberry – pink and crimson with a musty sweetness, it was a little tart but smooth and fruity.
  • Limoncello Liqueur – green and gold, thick and viscous with a punch of bitter lemon.
  • Hazelnut Liqueur – a gorgeous, luscious drop very similar to Frangelico, but thicker!

 

Vasse Felix

The first winery in the Margaret River region, established by Dr Tom Cullity. The estate is absolutely beautiful, with a long driveway passing rows of vines drooping with plump grapes. Also onsite is an archive wine museum, a restaurant, an art gallery and of course the cellar door.

 

 

We had a wonderful picnic lunch amongst the artistic outdoor sculptures before heading inside for a tasting session.

 

  • 2011 Chardonnay – pale with a hint of green, it was warm and creamy with a gentle, wooded smell and oily palate full of nut and apricot.
  • 2011 Heytesbury Chardonnay – butter and peaches, citrus and apricot, it had a gentle spice bloom before a creamy, rounded finish.
  • 2011 Cane Cut Semillon – a light golden colour full of floral scents and honey.  It was mouth-watering with explosions of apricot and sweet raisins but still vibrant and crisp.

 

Killerby

While the location is one of Margaret River’s newest cellar doors, Killerby started way back when Benjamin George Lee Killerby immigrated to Margaret River from the UK in the 1930s.  He opened a general store that supplied the pioneers in the south west of WA, and 40 years later, it was Ben’s grandson, Benjamin Barry that planted the first grapes that established the winery in 1973.  In 2008, Ferngrove, a winery located at the Frankland River in the Great Southern, purchased Killerby Wines and relaunched the label in 2010.

 

The new cellar door is absolutely beautiful and the design was inspired by Killerby’s general store origins.  It shares the site with Cheeky Monkey Brewery.  Apart from yummy wine tastings, you can also purchase gourmet produce like Italian pasta, cheese, coffee, jams, olive oil, dukkah and chocolate!

 

  • 2008 Pinot Noir Chardonnay Sparkling – champagne yellow with a creamy citrus scent, it was rounded and refreshing, mildly acidic with fine bubbles and a sweet, warm finish.
  • 2012 Sauvignon Blanc – a fumé style pale yellow wine with peaches and other tropical fruits, it was sweet and smooth with warm, wooded characteristics amongst the passionfruit and peach. Delicious!
  • 2010 Chardonnay – light straw colour with a hint of yellow, it was warm, oily and sweet with a slightly dry, peppery entry that rounded off with a buttery finish fully of succulent apricot.

 

 

 

Howling Wolves

The Howling Wolves winery was built in 1998 and covers 17 hectares in Wilyabrup.  They have a few ranges, including The Claw Range, Eight Vineyards and Small Batch, and of the few wines that we did taste, the 2009 Small Batch Chardonnay stood out the most!

 

Pale straw with hints of green, it had French oak, cream and apricot on the nose with a crisp entry that smoothed out into a marvellous creamy nut finish with lemon zest.  Quite possibly one of the most delicious chardonnays we have tasted.

 

Treeton Estate

Treeton Estate is a small family-owned vineyard located in the ‘cool heart of Margaret River’ with higher ground and a cooler climate.  The vineyard had a very relaxed atmosphere, with lots of rustic, woody furniture underneath the shade of overhead vines.

 

  • 2011 Chardonnay – very pale with a rich, buttery scent, slightly acidic entry and warm finish full of melon and walnut oil.
  • 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon – light ruby colour with plenty of purple hues, it was oaky with sweet currants, juicy but dry palate and a fruity oak finish.  It needs a bit more time to age but once it’s ready, it’ll be marvellous!

 

Marri Wood Park

We were invited to Marri Wood Park to meet some fellow travellers – Mark and Alexis – who are also travelling around Australia.  They have been following our adventures online and we were stoked to meet these great people who were actively participating on our journey. We sat down and shared stories over a few glasses of fruity and delicious 2007 Guinea Run Shiraz Merlot Cabernet.

 

Marri Wood Park winery is based on bio-dynamic farming, so instead of using chemicals to ensure a healthy crop, they work with nature to maintain a sustainable balance with the plants and the soil.    The cellar door of is located in a tin-roofed shed and while we only tasted two wines, we spend quite a bit of time at the vineyard, soaking up the vibrant, glowing atmosphere and giggling at the chickens and ducks.

 

 

The environment at Marri Wood Park is further enhanced by the contributions of some of the seasonal workers that have passed through to help out on the winery. They’re encouraged to let their artistic juices flow and some of the real stand outs were the wine-barrel tables and rocking chairs.

 

Blackwood Meadery

To the south is a small boutique winery that specialises in mead – honey wine.  It is considered to be the oldest fermented beverage, dating back to 2000BC and was regarded in some cultures as the giver of life or nectar of the gods.  In Pagan times, mead was consumed for a full month after a wedding (hence the honeymoon), and due to the health benefits of honey, the ancient Romans thought that mead could prolong life and heal.

 

Blackwood Meadery is a humble winery with a wonderful selection of meads and liqueurs, as well as their own honey brew and variety of floral honeys.

 

  • Dry – golden yellow with fruity, floral scents including melon and honey.  It was crisp, refreshing and dry with a warm bloom of raw honey that stretched through into the nose with a rich, long finish.
  • Medium Dry – pale yellow with a tangy jalapeño freshness with just the right amount of chilli and honey and a delicate finish.
  • Sweet – golden liquid with a green tinge, there was plenty of honey on the nose.  A sweet and smooth entry finished with a citrus tang and a rich, full-flavoured honey finish that just kept going.
  • Traditional Mead Liqueur – a rich yellow colour with the scent of dusty honey, it had a smooth entry with a blossom of spirit and a long lasting honey flavour.
  • Honey Brew – massive head atop a pale yellow liquid.  It was yeasty and herby, very light and refreshing with fine bubbles, a sweet tang and clean finish.  We couldn’t leave without buying a bottle for later.
  • Honey Blueberry Dry Red – crimson and pink, it was dry and warm with plenty of fruity characteristics like candied berries, honey and caramel.
  • Blackberry Nip – pink caramel colours with a spirited brandy scent mixed with stewed fruits.  It was wonderfully warm and spirited with a fruity finish rife with honey.
  • Honey Plum Liqueur – rich red caramel with lots of ripe fruits, spirit, spice and a sweet plummy finish.
  • Boysenberry Liqueur – beautiful crimson and ruby with sweetness, spirit, warmth – plenty of honey and berries. This is the one we took away with us.

 

Margaret River Chocolate Factory

OMG – this place was so busy!  The car park was choc-a-block and inside was even more hectic.  It seems that people can’t help but go loopy for this incredible brown bean.

 

 

Chocolate has been around for thousands of years and started off in Central and South America.   It was consumed as a raw, bitter drink that was consumed for vitality and was considered the food of the gods.  Eventually, cacao beans became so valuable, they were used as currency.  Chocolate was shipped to Europe in the 16th century and they couldn’t deal with the bitterness so they added sugar. By the 1800s, it was common to add sugar to chocolate to make it more palatable, and these days, you can expect your chocolate bar to be around 50% sugar.

 

The Margaret River Chocolate Factory offered tastings in the form of three huge bowls, each piled high with droplets of white, milk or dark chocolate.  You could even help yourself, and go back for seconds, or thirds.  If you wanted, you could put a spoonful of all three in your hand and you didn’t feel awkward going back for more.

 

Yahava Koffee Works

We were stoked to hear about a coffee roaster in the area and made sure that our visit was perfectly timed for a perk up.  Yahava Koffee offers coffee tastings before you can purchase the beans or a brew in the café.

 

 

You can pick three varieties from light to strong and sample them plunger style.  The

skilled coffee guy showed us how to plunge coffee the right way – by stirring the coffee before plunging and how to pour it so that you get a layer of crema in your cup.

 

  • Outback – a light variety that has won a silver medal.  It is made with 100% Australian Arabica beans from Queensland. Medium roasted bean with a thin and young flavour that was smoothed out by milk.
  • X-Rated – another silver medal winner consisting of Arabica beans from Ethiopia, Brazil, India and PNG.  It was warm and sweet but robust and smoky with the full flavour hitting the front of the palate.  Milk mellowed it out and spread the flavour more evenly throughout the mouth.
  • Espresso – an Italian style coffee made with Colombian, PNG and Ethiopian beans, it had lots of body with a well-rounded finish.

  • Romeo No.5 – this is the bean that they were using in the café portion of the roasting house.  We ordered lattes and they nailed it – smooth and creamy without any bitterness and plenty of rounded, chocolate tones.

 

 

We also got to try Bitterboy Spiced Apple Iced Tea, the only carbonated iced tea available anywhere!  It was a little like ginger beer with apple, cinnamon, cloves, vanilla and the slight bitterness of tea.

 

MARGARET RIVER CHEESE FACTORY

The Margaret River Dairy Company produces premium quality cheeses and yoghurts. From silky smooth camemberts and bries to distinctive cheddars, smooth style fetas, baked ricottas and creamy pot set yoghurts.

 

Located in the beautiful Margaret River region, the pure and unpolluted rain and fertile fields combine to create lush green pastures that are perfect for dairy grazing. Using traditional handcrafted techniques, the rich creamy milk is transformed into a variety of cheeses which are complex in both taste and textures.

 

Their expert cheese and yoghurt makers are committed to producing finest quality dairy products which consistently win awards in dairy competitions throughout Australia.

 

  • Club Cheddar Port – rich, full flavoured and super creamy.  It had a wonderful, savoury tang and melt in your mouth softness.
  • Dutch Edam – sweet and tangy with flavours spreading throughout the mouth and into the nose
  • Marinated Feta – smooth and busy with flavours, tang and spice.

 

 

Horseshoe Bay with Port Elliot Jetty

Town Profiles on the Fleurieu Peninsula

The Fleurieu Peninsula was named by the French explorer Nicolas Baudin, who dedicated his finding to another French explorer called Charles Pierre Claret de Fleurieu.  This beautiful region south east of Adelaide is the perfect getaway from the rush and fury of the city.

 

All the towns on the Peninsula are easy-going and friendly, with a fully stocked pub and reliable bakery.  The south coast is popular all year round, with turquoise beaches to enjoy during summer and whale watching during the winter months.  The western coast is extremely scenic and is lined with rugged cliffs, rocky coves and walking trails with breath-taking views.

 

The food and wine culture is imminent, with lots of quality restaurants, cafés, cheeseries, wineries and other gourmet delights.  Make sure you check out the McLaren Vale wine region for some excellent cellar doors and the odd brewery or three!

 

We were more than happy to spend two weeks lazing about in Port Elliot while we gave the Troopy a rest and alternator replacement, but we did make time to check out the surrounding towns, like Victor Harbor, Goolwa and overindulged on schnitzel night at the Middleton Tavern.

 

Points of Interest

Deep Creek Conservation Park

Deep Creek Conservation Park is the largest portion of natural vegetation on the Fleurieu Peninsula, with rocky cliffs, dense forest and excellent ocean views.

 

Check out our post on camping in Deep Creek Conservation Park.

 

Alexandrina Cheese Company

Awarded Best Overall Tourism Attraction 2010, this fantastic location offers cheese tasting and sales, as well as their very own Alexandrinashire Tea, which includes a slice of baked cheesecake and your choice of coffee or milkshake.

 

Be sure to stop by and grab some creamy Mount Magnificent Gouda.  Check out our post on the Alexandrina Cheese Company, or visit their website.

 

McLaren Vale

This wine region is only 35km south of Adelaide and is renowned for its Shiraz varieties.  The land was initially used for growing cereal crops but in 1838, two fellows planted grape vines and the rest is history.

 

Check out our post on the McLaren Vale Wine Region.

 

Kangaroo Island

A bit too pricey for us to visit but we hear it’s great over there… it better be for the ferry price!  We had a perfectly adequate view of the island from Deep Creek Conservation Park and felt no great need to visit the island and sully its ecosystem with our presence.

 

Port Elliot

This is the place where we hung out the most… partially because the Troopy wasn’t feeling well, but mainly because it was such a beautiful town.

 

 

The main street had everything you need – a grocery store, fresh produce outlet, a pub, bakery, café, a fish and chip shop and charcoal chicken that smelt incredible – but the beaches were the main drawcard.

 

 

We hung out at the Port Elliot Beach House YHA, which overlooked Horseshoe bay and it was only 5 minutes from town by foot.

 

Horseshoe Bay

The main attraction – beautiful clean sand with crystal blue water that dolphins often visit to find a fishy snack.  There is a jetty to the side that the kids jump off into the water, or you can try your luck with fishing. There are about 38 shipwrecks in the bay, all of which occurred when Port Elliot was a trading port before their figured out that it was too precarious and made Victor Harbor the main port.

 

 

Ladies Bay & Green Bay

Ladies Bay is a secluded beach on the side of Horseshoe Bay and is right next to the breakwater, so you can either snorkel on the inside of the breakwater or try your luck with abalone on the ocean side.  We spent most of our beach time here.

 

Green Bay is a beautiful location hidden amongst rocky cliffs and while the waves crash over the nearby rocks, it’s a great place to lie in the sun and read a book before having a quick dip to cool off.  It is also an awesome place to spend New Years Eve.

 

Victor Harbor

Victor Harbor Visitor Information Centre – The Causeway, 08 8551 0777

 

The host of SA’s Schoolies week in November, this is the largest and only city on the Peninsula.  Originally called Port Victor, the name of the town was changed in 1921 because there was another location on the Eyre Peninsula called Port Victoria, and this caused confusion and almost resulted in a shipwreck. When the name was in the process of being changed, a spelling error by the Surveyor General of South Australia caused Victor Harbor to be spelt without the U, where as Victor Harbour railway station is spelt with the U.

 

 

The bay where the city sits was first explored by Matthew Flinders in 1802.  He bumped into French explorer Nicolas Baudin, and after exchanging notes on the area, Flinders named the bay Encounter Bay.

 

The Horse Drawn Tram to Granite Island

The Granite Island Recreation and Nature Park is located off the coast of Victor Harbor and offers a few walking trails to explore the island.  While it used to be home to little penguins, tourism has caused their numbers to dwindle, so we decided to keep off the island and play our small, possibly insignificant part in conserving the wild life.

 

In 1867, the Causeway to Granite Island was built so people could walk to the island, and as its popularity rose, they decided to use an unused double ended, double deck tram to transport people to the island.  In 1894, the first load of people was carted to the island and these days, it’s a popular attraction to see a big double-decker tram dragged by a huge Clydesdale horse.

 

 

Each tram weighs about 4.8 tonne and uses roller bearings to minimise the effort required to pull them along.  The ones used today were built in 1986 to include extra windows and headroom.  The horses work three 3 hour shifts a week and are considered to be part of the team – each one has a profile picture on the website.

 

It costs $6 per adult to get to the island, or you can buy a return ticket for $8.  It takes about 20 minutes to get to the island on the tram and they depart the mainland every hour between 10:30am and 3:30pm.

 

Cockle Train

After we paid $6.50 each for our one-stop ticket, we waited at the station for the historic Cockle Train to roll in.  We thought this would be an old steam engine train with the round face and chimney that went TOOT TOOT but what arrived looked like all the other trains that you can find in cities.  These railcars were actually restored passenger cars from the 1960s, but they were definitely no Cockle Train, which should have been operating due to the school holiday period. Regardless, the coastal scenery was nice, the train still went TOOT TOOT and took us home so we can’t complain too much.

 

The railway runs from Goolwa to Victor Harbor and dates back to 1854.  The railway was constructed to connect the Murray trade with the coast and originally stopped at Port Elliot.  After a few shipwrecks, it was decided that Port Elliot was a terrible place to set up a port so they extended the line to Victor Harbor, which was opened for business in 1864.  Horse-drawn trams were used at this time and records show that there were 29 horses working the tracks in 1875.  Horses were replaced with steam in 1884, the same year that the railway was connected to Adelaide via Strathalbyn.

 

Urimbirra Wildlife Park

Wow – what an awesome and interactive place!  They have heaps of native Australian animals that you can feed, they hold crocodile feeding shows, koala petting and snake handling.

 

Check out our post on Urimbirra Wildlife Park.

 

Goolwa

Goolwa Visitor Information Centre – LOT 4 Goolwa Terrace, 1300466 592

 

Located at the mouth of the Murray River, it was originally surveyed to be the state’s capital but due to the treachery of the Murray Mouth, it would have made shipping very difficult.  Goolwa means ‘elbow’ in Ngarrindjeri, the local Aboriginal language, and while it’s a small town, there are lots of historical buildings, colourful art installations and a great bakery with award winning pies that is open daily from 6am.

 

 

 

If you like fishing, Goolwa is the best place to go cockling.  Drive out onto Goolwa Beach, dig in the sand and grab your fishing bait.  Don’t forget that cockles need to be 3.5cm long. Check out our post on cockling in Goolwa.

 

 

Steam Exchange Brewery

 

This is the oldest full grain brewery on the Fleurieu Peninsula and since becoming the Steam Exchange Brewery in 2006, it has won over 25 medals for their beer.  We thought it was worth a try and purchased four tasters at $3 each, despite the brewery lacking atmosphere and giving the impression of being a little snobby and antisocial.

 

  • Steam Ale – a litghter yellow than the IPA, fizzy and fresh with a bitter aftertaste.
  • IPA – a rich colour of golden syrup, this beer was thick and fruity with a bitter, hoppy taste that was almost burnt from the roasted malt.
  • Stout – a very dark beer with no head, it had a hint of coffee and butter and reminded Dave of a Black Russian.
  • Truffles – a dessert beer, it was dark with a good, frothy head that started off sweet and creamy but mellowed out into a rich cappuccino finish with a gentle fizz.

 

Middleton

In between Goolwa and Port Elliot, Middleton is the ‘middle’ town between Goolwa and Victor Harbor and is only 4km from Port Elliot.  It’s a small town with a bakery and a few bed and breakfast places, and is another spot to sight whales during the winter months.

 

 

It has a great pub – the Middleton Tavern – that does $11.90 Schnitzels on Thursday night.  The price includes a choice of four toppings for your schnitzel and unlimited access to the salad bar.   We fed ourselves to the point of discomfort and left the establishment with a hint of regret but a whole lotta schnitzel and salad in our belly!

 

Strathalbyn

Strathalbyn Visitor Information Centre – 20 South Terrace, 1300 007 842

 

This little town was established by rich people from Scotland who came to Australia in 1839.  The best land in the Angas Valley was purchased and the town was plotted out and blocks of land were prepared for sale.  The town grew as people passed through, heading for the Victorian goldfields, and later on to catch the horse-drawn trams to Victor Harbor.

 

 

 

Information on historic walking trails are available from the Visitor Centre and guide you past churches, banks, bakeries and other old buildings.

 

Langhorne Creek

This small town is in the middle of a wine region and has the oldest recorded Cabernet Sauvignon vines in the world!  Unfortunately, we didn’t get the opportunity to take advantage of this premium SA wine region (due to Troopy troubles)…

 

Wilunga

This little town on the edge of Mount Compass is lined with creative shops, galleries, cafés, wholefood outlets and colourful art, with the town benches comprising of twisted pieces of wood.  The main attraction are the three pubs:

 

  • The Old Bush Pub is considered to be the top pub and is apparently good for atmosphere.
  • The Wilunga Pub in the centre of town is the middle pub and a young bloke from the Goodieson Brewery said they do the best Parmi.
  • The Alma Hotel is the bottom pub.  It has a great beer garden so we stopped for a pint and it was here that we chose to have dinner – purely because of their cheap $11.90 schnitzel night.  They also do curry nights, steak nights and seafood nights.

 

Once we ordered, the grub came out quick – a freshly cooked schnitzel with a jug of coagulated onion gravy, chicken-salted chips and plain lettuce.  We did have unlimited access to the salad bar, which included potato salad, spinach, pumpkin and quinoa salad, antipasto and bread.

 

 

We had a massive feed and were particularly impressed with the crispy crust and juicy centre of the schnitzel.

 

Accommodation on the Fleurieu Peninsula

Port Elliot Beach House YHA – 13 The Strand, 08 8554 1885

This place was awesome – so close to the beach and town, it has all the facilities you need in a beautifully spacious and historic building. The ace thing is that you can hire the whole place out – group holidays, christmas parties, fundraisers, bucks and hens weekends, birthdays…

 

Check out our post on the Port Elliot Beach House YHA.

 

YUM! Baked ricotta cheesecake - Alexandrinashire Tea at the Alexandrina Cheese Company

Alexandrina Cheese Company

The cow at Alexandrina Cheese Company

The Alexandrina Cheese Company is located on the Fleurieu Peninsula of South Australia, about 15km north of Victor Harbor.  The McCaul Family started cheese making in 2001 but the family have been cheese-making dairy farmers since 1902.  The family is currently in their third generation and are still using traditional methods to produce quality cheeses.

 

They have only 71 Jersey cows that feed on the green clover pastures on the family’s farm, as well as the odd grain and grass snack, allowing for a variation of cheese flavours that change with the seasons.  They’re milked twice a day and produce rich, creamy milk with a high protein and butterfat content.  Their milk is pasteurised but not homogenised so that the fat globules can still produce a lush, creamy cheese.  The Company uses all of the milk to make a range of cheeses and dairy products, from the simple cheddars and spiced Gouda to creamy ricotta and pure cream.

 

Their cheeses are award-winning, having received their 3rd consecutive Gold Medal at the World Jersey Cheese Awards of 2012 for their Alexandrina Vintage Cheddar.  The cheese makers, Dan and Krystyna McCaul have also accepted The Alexandrina Council’s Farmer of the Year award in September 2012. They recently celebrated their 11th birthday on the 1st of January 2013.

 

Alexandrina Cheese Company - cheese tasting...

 

The Cheeses

Using old-fashioned methods that date back almost 100 years, the cheeses are made with love and care.  Their famous cheddar cheeses are turned in open vats and the curd is stretched for several hours to allow the cultures to work for longer and to change the composition of the cheese.  The only preservative they use in their cheese is sea salt and the Company use their own special cultures and rennet.

 

They had most of their range available for tasting.  Here are our notes:

  • Encounter Bay Edam – savoury and smooth with a sweet and clean finish.
  • Mount Magnificent Gouda with caraway seeds – gorgeous! Really creamy and buttery and totally melt-in-the-mouth heaven.
  • Cheddar curd – this is the first stage of the cheese making process where the protein, fat, water and lactose have coagulated.  It had a briny film with a firm haloumi texture.
  • Mount Jagged Mature cheddar – served in a red wax, this English-style cheese is medium bodied with a nutty finish but not as biting as expected, considering the yellow colour.  It was aged 12 months.
  • Alexandrina Vintage cheddar – presented in black wax, the vintage is rich and creamy and full of earthy flavours and a tangy aftertaste.  Aged 18 months but paler than the mature cheddar.  This is because of the seasons.  Lush grass produces a yellower cheese with more nutrients, instead of dry grass.   This is their award winning cheese which has characteristics of both cloth-bound maturation and wax maturation.
  • Finniss River Romano – crumbly due to the smaller granules of curd, this Italian-style hard cheese is wet and briny, making it nice and salty and great for grating over your lasagne.  Aged 12-15 months, it is made with reduced fat cheese.
  • James Flat Pepato – great for cooking!  Give your pasta sauces an extra kick or stir up a ripper béchamel.  With whole peppercorns embedded in the cheese, there are small explosions of flavour.  Aged for 12 months.
  • Fleurieu Feta – the texture is a combination of crumbly Aussie feta and smooth Bulgarian feta, with a pleasant, mild flavour.  Stick it in your salads with some olives and onion.
  • Ricotta – beautifully smooth and sweet and leaves a slippery film on your lips.  Perfect with honey and roasted hazelnuts to stuff into crepes – YUM!
  • Honey yoghurt – these guys only use three ingredients for their yoghurt – milk, cultures, and honey.  If you want to get even simpler, they have plain yoghurt without the honey.
  • Pure Jersey Cream – OMG so firm, rich and thick!  Perfect to stir into pasta or on top of hot apple pie. Wow!

 

Alexandrinashire Tea

For only $7.70, you get a coffee or one of their milkshakes, with a slice of baked ricotta cheesecake topped with pure jersey cream.

 

We opted for the coffee and it arrived with the most unusual layering we have ever seen!  White milk topped with rich coffee and a cap of froth.  Once you stir it up, the layers combine to give you that beautiful tanned colour and the coffee was smooth without any bitterness whatsoever.

 

 

 

The cheesecake was dense and delicious with a hint of lemon and raisins.  It was topped with pure jersey cream which was absolutely luxuriant and gave the cake an additional lick of moisture. YUM!

 

The Essentials

The Alexandrina Cheese Company is open weekdays from 12pm to 5pm and on weekends and public holidays from 10am.  They are closed three days of the year – Good Friday, Anzac Day and Christmas Day, and gift hampers are available to order online for folks within South Australia.

 

The team at the Company also participate in community events and have raised money for the Relay for Life, an overnight relay-style walk or run that raises funds for the Cancer Council.

 

Phone: 08 8554 9666

Email: info@alexandrinacheese.com.au

Website: www.alexandrinacheese.com.au

 

A great photo opportunity at the Alexandrina Cheese Company