If you’re over 60, you’ll remember what it was like to run around with your shoes off, eat fruit or veggies straight from the tree or ground and maybe even get up close to some of the livestock that we rely on for our dinners.
Those experiences aren’t as easy to come by for today’s children, though, unless you help them visit the very farms that fill our plates. It’s a chance for your grandkids not just to live for a little while with the freedom you did as a child, but to see with their own eyes how Queensland’s food producers care for our amazing country.
There are farms, food producers and farmers’ markets right up the Queensland coast that welcome visitors so to help you plan a visit, we’ve picked out 10 that are well worth a visit and would value your support as they get back to business after Covid-19.
Just remember that these are working farms so it’s important to check their individual opening hours and days – you can do so by clicking the links we’ve included below. Then all that’s left to do is pack up the car for a day or a stay and next thing you know, you’ll have the earth beneath your feet, the winter sun on your face and a smile on your dial as you watch the little ones in your family make the most of the great outdoors.
Less than 90 minutes from Hervey Bay and just 20 minutes from Bundaberg, Tinaberries in Woongarra is a strawberry-lover’s dream destination. Pick your own punnet (or several!) seven days a week from June to October every year. And no matter the weather, you can enjoy one of Tinaberries’ real strawberry ice-creams, available from Wednesdays to Sundays out of season, and learn how owners Tina and Bruce McPherson operate their sustainable farm.
A visit to Macadamias Australia’s Goodwood Road Farm Gate, a second-generation family owned farm in Bundaberg, is a true lesson in Queenslanders’ dedication to the land. Hear from the Steinhardt family, which has been producing food in the area since 1958, how they grow and harvest their 130,000 macadamia trees to supply premium macadamias around the world. Masterchef star and chef Gary Mehigan even showed off Macadamias Australia’s nuts at a food showcase in South Africa, that’s how good they are! Sample and buy products direct from the Farm Gate so you’ve got a delicious road-trip snack for your onward journey. You can find opening times and other information at Macadamias Australia’s website.
Get a taste of life on a working farm when you visit 9Dorf Farms in Lilydale, about 90 minutes from the Brisbane CBD in the lush Lockyer Valley. The Neuendorf family have been farming in the area for four generations but it was David and Bronwyn Neuendorf and their son Brenton who pioneered the family’s focus on sustainable farming practices, whether it’s their native Australian fish, their cattle or poultry they’re working with. Tour the fish shed at feeding time, feed poddy calves in the nursery or collect freshly laid eggs out in the paddock – the kids will love the hands-on experience! Ring ahead to book a tour and pack an empty Esky to bring home some super-fresh, local produce.
Set up camp (or, if a rustic experience doesn’t appeal, book into the glamping tents) at Splitters Farm, a 160-acre property in Sharon, just 10 minutes from Bundaberg, that offers intrepid explorers a chance to stay on a farm that offers a little bit more – not only is it a working property, it’s also a sanctuary for rescued farm animals and is home to a range of native Australian animals, including Queensland’s famous lungfish and 150 species of birds. An overnight visit allows you time to make the most of the walking farm tours, creek fishing, kayaking and ‘cinema under the stars’ activities. Don’t forget, though, that bookings for tours and accommodation are essential.
Little kids (and big ones) who can’t get enough of the joys of Christmas have to put the Granite Belt Christmas Farm at Applethorpe on their must-do list. That’s because it’s the festive season all year round at this Christmas tree farm, which is about 2.5 hours drive from Brisbane. Enjoy a bite to eat at Mrs Claus’ Cafe or a sweet treat from Rudolph’s Ice Cream Bar before saying hello to Santa’s animals, including donkeys, reindeer, lambs and ducks. The farm is open seven days a week and from November 27 to December 23, you can harvest your own tree, then choose your new decorations in the on-site shop.
Just over 30 minutes from Mackay or just under two hours from Airlie Beach, you’ll find Freckle Farm at Brightly. This family farm operates according to the mantra ‘real food, nature’s way’ under owners, husband-and-wife team Rob Bauman and Deb McLucas, both of whom are fourth-generation farmers. Bordering the picturesque Ben Mohr State Forest, Freckle Farm contributes to a sustainable, local food culture with its award-winning pork, bacon and eggs, as well as its beef. Time your trip to join one of the farm tours Freckle Farm offers three times a year – check the farm website for dates – or buy some of the farm’s fabulous produce from the Greater Whitsunday Farmers’ Market in Mackay to make the freshest cooked breakfast you’re ever likely to experience!
This may be the one farm at which you don’t want the kids to get up close and personal with the livestock! Koorana Crocodile Farm in Coowonga, 36 kilometres from Rockhampton, was established as a commercial crocodile farm in 1981 by owners John and Lillian Lever and now has more than 5,000 crocs, ranging from a one tonne behemoth to tiny hatchlings. Hatching season is usually from February to April but the farm runs 1.5-hour tours twice a day throughout the year where you can hold one of the baby reptiles – if you dare! There’s also a cafe that serves croc-based meals. Tour bookings are essential so make sure you plan ahead for your visit.
Alkoomi at Marmor, a 30-minute drive from Rockhampton in the heart of beef country, is designed to let visitors ‘collect moments, not things’. This is a brilliant spot to let the kids experience life outdoors, with activities including horse riding, motorbike riding, kayaking and swimming in the lake, bushwalking, livestock feeding and so much more available to everyone who stays overnight on the property, either in a tent or one of the dongas. Wood-fired barbecues are laid on for your use and children can have fun on the free sulky rides, while you enjoy the vista on the chuck wagon sunset tour. Alkoomi also welcomes day visitors, who can make use of the free kayaks, camp kitchen and barbecue area. Bookings are essential for both visits and stays.
This is your chance to check out Australia’s only miniature working sugar mill and distillery. The award-winning Sarina Sugar Shed, near Mackay in the heart of Queensland’s sugar cane country, offers guided tours that showcase the journey from sugar cane to your table. Nibble on raw sugar cane and sip freshly-squeeze cane juice before picking which of the Chefs’ Gusto gourmet condiments you’ll take home. Tours run daily and bookings are essential.
Nestled in the Sandstone Wonders Region at Baralaba, and only a 90-minute drive from Rockhampton, Myella Farm Stay offers family-friendly retreats on an authentic working farm. Run by Lyn and Carl, whose family have more than 100 years of farming experience in the region, the award-winning Myella Farm houses a genuine cattle station stretching across 1,140 hectares. Choose between two and three-night packages to get hands-on experience in animal feeding, cow milking, egg collecting, lassoing and horseback riding. Myella Farm offers guests the luxury of choosing which activities they sign up for, so if you’re craving a more relaxing retreat, opt to spend the afternoon cooling off by the swimming pool, enjoy a casual sunset walk or unwind by the open fireplace in the evening with toasted marshmallows. If you’re pressed for time and unable to spend the night, Myella Farm Stay also offers a variety of short day tours.
These 10 destinations are just a glimpse into the wonderful food and farm experiences available in rural and regional Queensland, which are being showcased by the Queensland Government as the state’s farmers and food producers recover from not just Covid-19 but natural disasters and drought. For even more inspiration and information on places to visit, go to Taste Farm Life.
And don’t forget to hashtag the pictures of your adventures with #tastefarmlife when you post them on social media – who knows, you might inspire another family to get back to how it used to be with a day on the land!
With some of Queensland’s best weather ahead of us, get off the beaten track and taste farm life at a Queensland farm. From farm gate sales, food and wine sampling, farmers' markets, pick-your-own fruit and veg, farm animals, farm stays, and food festivals, there’s something for everyone.