With an abundance of sunshine, rainfall, rich soil types, rolling pastureland and pristine fishing grounds, Queensland offers visitors access to a veritable cornucopia of fresh produce and gourmet delights.
From the state’s tip to its toe, there’s always something fabulous ripening in a field or orchard nearby, and you could easily travel for 12 months of the year and never run out of tasty treats to sample.
Most of us don’t have that luxury, so depending on your tastes, here’s a quick guide to the best seasonal produce on offer across Queensland, to complement a family holiday to the Sunshine State.
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Pineapples from the Sunshine Coast
Harvest time: February to April and September to November
While many debate the rights and wrongs of putting it on a pizza, we Aussies do love our pineapples. In fact, according to the Australian Pineapple Industry, we work our way through about $60 million worth of the spikey, skittle-shaped beauties every year – in both fresh and canned forms. And nowhere is more synonymous with pineapple production than Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. It’s long been home to one of the country’s most iconic tourist attractions. Heritage-listed and fronted by its 16-metre-high fibreglass namesake, The Big Pineapple’s fortunes have ebbed and flowed over the decades. However, it’s back, and – dare we say it – bigger and better than ever, with an adventure climbing and zipline course, zoo, annual music festival, and more innovations to be announced. And no one can deny the magic of riding the historic Pineapple Train through the fields of this spikey fruity fav.
Need a place to stay? Enjoy a dash of understated luxury at Breeze Mooloolaba, Ascend Hotel Collection. It’s right opposite the beach and close to a plethora of dining options.
Truffles from the Granite Belt
Harvest time: Winter months
There’s plenty on the menu in Queensland’s glorious cool climate Southern Downs and Granite Belt. The region produces apples, stone fruit, capsicums, tomatoes, greens, strawberries and raspberries, but the crop that may have you uttering ‘ooh la la’ is that of the French black truffle. Few places in Queensland are suitable for truffle production and even the industry here in the Granite Belt is small scale. However, when this fancy fungi can fetch up to $2,000 a kilo, you can understand why producers are willing to give it a go. To learn more, head for the Truffle Discovery Centre at Stanthorpe (open Wednesdays and weekends) and enjoy free tastings and informative displays. You can also shop for truffle-infused products, including cheese, butter and honey.
Need a place to stay? Comfort Inn Warwick encompasses a century-old sandstone homestead (known as La Mascotte) and a modern wing of contemporary rooms. Enjoy the surrounding gardens, the guest BBQ facilities and outdoor pool. Learn More About Warwick
Sugar from Mackay
Harvest time: May to November
As the southern gateway to the Queensland Whitsundays, and with gorgeous beaches and a swag of natural attractions within easy reach, Mackay is already the sweet spot for many visitors to the Sunshine State. And life gets even sweeter throughout winter and spring as the sugarcane harvest gets into full swing. This is the heart of Queensland’s sugar country, and jaunty cane trains chug across the landscape en route to the region’s sugar mills to drop off their cargo for processing. Located in the town of Sarina, roughly 30 minutes’ drive south of Mackay, the Sarina Sugar Shed is a must-visit for foodies. You’ll learn how sugar is harvested and processed, and get to taste-test a range or locally-produced preserves, liqueurs and schnapps.
Need a place to stay? Comfort Resort Blue Pacific is located in Mackay’s Northern Beaches, which is handy for those planning to head out to stunning Cape Hillsborough National Park. Econo Lodge Beachside is comfortable, contemporary and within easy reach of the CBD and airport.
Strawberries from Redland Bay
Harvest time: June to November
Besides being just too blooming delicious, the health benefits of eating strawberries are many. These luscious, juicy, vitamin B-rich berries are grown across much of southern Oz, and are in season for most of the year. Production in Queensland mainly takes place in the state’s south-east corner, and one spot that’s particularly famous for its strawberries is the Redlands – situated on the Brisbane bayside. They don’t call it ‘the Redlands’ for nothing; the red soil here is among the most fertile in the country. In recent years, building houses on it has taken precedence over growing things in it, but there are still pockets of strawberry production dotted across the region and opportunities to fill your own punnets. The Redfest Strawberry Festival takes place in September and has been around in one form or another since the 1950s. The strawberries-and-cream eating competition generally has no trouble attracting participants and remains a hotly contested highlight of the event.
Need a place to stay?
Comfort Hotel Pacific Cleveland is situated in the Redlands suburb of Cleveland, and offers a good selection of roomy accommodation options.
Mangoes from the Atherton Tables and Cairns
Harvest time: November
What could be better on a hot Aussie summer’s day than to peel back the skin of a cold mango and tuck into the sweet orange flesh within? These power packs of nutritional goodness also go well in salads, smoothies and desserts, and can even be turned into wine. Versatile! Plan a visit to the Golden Drop Winery, located in the Atherton Tablelands east of Cairns. The farm itself has more than 17,000 trees, making it one of the largest mango plantations in the country. It produces mango wines, sparklings, ports, and liqueurs, and operates cellar doors in Biboohra and Kuranda. The Tablelands are actually home to myriad gourmet food producers. Follow the Taste Paradise Food Trail and visit the likes of Gallo Dairyland and Jacques Coffee.
Need a place to stay? Comfort Inn Cairns City offers affordable accommodation on the edge of the CBD, just a short walk from the Esplanade, Cairns Aquarium and cafes and restaurants. Located right in the heart of the CBD, the boutique Benson Hotel features double and king rooms, along with a range of suites.
Macadamias from Bundaberg
Harvest time: March to the end of August
Australia is one of the world’s major producers of macadamia nuts, with an estimated six million trees nationally. Bundaberg in Queensland’s Wide Bay-Burnett region is raising the nut bar on agri-tourism attractions with the opening of the brand new Macadamias Australia Visitor Centre in mid 2021. It will offer a farm-to-plate experience for guests, including a pick-your-own orchard tour and access to an interactive interpretive centre. The on-site café will showcase the many flavoursome facets of this much-loved native foodstuff.
Need a place to stay? Bundaberg’s Econo Lodge Park Lane offers a variety of good value room types, an onsite eatery and a refreshing tropical pool.
If there was ever a suitable spot to throw a ‘shrimp’ on the barbie, it would have to be Queensland. The state produces a whopping 95% of the prawns harvested in Australia. According to Queensland Fisheries, wild banana prawns are most plentiful in April and May and are fished right up and down the Queensland coast. Wild tiger prawns are caught in large numbers from March to July and mainly inhabit the waters of the Great Barrier Reef. They go out of season completely across the summer months. Farmed prawns of both varieties are available all year round.
About the writer
Adam Ford is editor of The Big Bus tour and travel guide and a travel TV presenter, writer, blogger and photographer. He has previously had the opportunity to travel the world as host of the TV series Tour the World on Network Ten.
Cover image: Enjoy fresh pineapples from Queensland. Image via Getty Images.