Each summer, thousands of people flock to the Bundaberg region to see the turtles emerge from the waters at Mon Repos. However, a spectacle of another kind is also emerging as a drawcard to the area. Due to rich volcanic soils, Bundaberg is one of Australia’s most vibrant food bowls, producing some of the tastiest and freshest food on offer.
The region’s chefs and foodies are in the enviable position of having some of the country’s most sought after produce available at their back door.
Macadamia nuts are one of the region’s star attractions. Although relatively new to growing the crop (the region began production in 2003), Bundaberg currently wears the crown of Australia’s largest producer of the nuts. No matter how you travel to Bundaberg - whether you fly, drive or take the train - you will see patchwork fields of small crops and farmland framed by orchard upon orchard of macadamia nut trees.
Cafes and restaurants present this important local ingredient in a variety of delicious ways. From a salted caramel macadamia nut with your morning coffee to a raw macadamia dressing in a nourishing bounty bowl for lunch. There’s also locally-made ice-cream with locally-grown fig, vanilla bean and macadamias. Bundaberg has a truly amazing variety and depth of produce to tempt your tastebuds!
Alongside the decadent macadamia, Bundaberg grows an A-B-C of fruit, vegetables and protein to send to the rest of Australia including blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, sweet potato, beans, broccoli, watermelon, potato, sweet potato, chickpeas, lemon, mango, avocado, lime, oranges, tomato, eggplant and prawns.
A great way to discover and meet local farmers is with Suzie Clarke of Bundy Food Tours. Suzie offers three types of hosted tours around Bundaberg. Because there are so many producers in the region, the line up changes weekly and seasonally. Some of the region’s biggest macadamia producers, Pacific Gold and Macadamias Australia, can be found on her schedule.
There are plenty of options in the emerging al fresco and restaurant dining scene. Bourbong Street is the main thoroughfare through the town, and Bundaberg is lucky to have retained a very vibrant CBD with an exciting array of cafes, speciality shops and services.
Nourish Cafe (Shop 5, 176 Bourbong St) inspires people to eat more naturally with their extensive, wholefood menu. Huge supporters of local produce, and organic where possible, this cafe has an interesting drinks menu with house-made almond and coconut milks, butter coffees, golden lattes and salted caramel steamers to tempt you. Nuts are a staple in nearly everything - walnut mince, cashew sour cream, cashew-coconut cream. Of course, macadamias are also found, featuring in their delicious organic chicken and roasted macadamia salad and choc hazelnut macadamia cookies. They can even pack special picnics for visitors to the region.
Cha Cha Chocolate (23 Targo St) is a handmade confectionery shop newly opened by second-generation confectioner Melanice Zielke (or ‘Mellywonker’ as she is affectionately known by locals). They stock Water St Kitchen salted caramel macadamia nuts, alongside Mel’s own moreish macadamia creations, like caramel macadamia fudge and dark chocolate covered macadamia clusters.
Indulge (80 Bourbong St) are pioneers in using fresh-from-the-farm produce on a seasonally driven menu. Here you can opt for a super luxe macadamia milk coffee or find the local nuts in their gorgeous selection of pastries and cakes. Macadamias are featured throughout an extensive gourmet breakfast and lunch menu - including macadamia dukkah alongside pumpkin hummus and eggs, or cumin-fried macadamias with smoked chicken.
Outside of Bourbong Street throughout Bundaberg, your tastebuds can go on an exploratory journey down backstreets, out to farms and by the seaside.
At Nana’s Pantry (38 Electra St) self-styled gelato queen Lizzie Dern makes all her gelato on site. Macadamia and ginger is a favourite, and can be found alongside other tantalising creations like blue cheese, bacon and maple or Bundaberg ginger beer. Nana’s is also a stockist of raw local macadamia products and nuts.
The Pocket Storehouse (Cnr Quay and Scotland St, East Bundaberg) is a wholesale micro-bakery specialising in sourdough and organic baked goods. Accountant-turned-baker Rick Nelson opens to the public on Saturday mornings from 7am until sold out - and he very often sells out! The Pocket Storehouse is a must-do Saturday morning ritual for coffee and delights like macadamia and cinnamon shortbread, liqueur-soaked fruit and macadamia sourdough, macadamia and dark chocolate meringues or macadamia croissants.
Water St Kitchen (85 Water St, Walkervale) is a welcoming, warm and sophisticated space for coffee dates, long lunches and special occasion fare. Their handcrafted granola (vegan, paleo and gluten-free) features huge chunks of roasted macadamias, cashews, pepitas and coconut and is available to take away or to eat in. The coffee is delightful. Each cup is accompanied by a special salted caramel macadamia nut. Made with their secret house recipe, these treats are so sought after they are now sold by the jar!
Alloway Farm Market (1 Alloway Siding Road, Alloway) have grown from a small farm gate shop to a gourmet hotspot. You can find local coffee roaster Tom from Barking Dog on site to serve and talk coffee. There are tasty treats and farm fresh produce on offer too. Locally grown vanilla beans and figs are a speciality from Red Ridge Farms. Mango and macadamia ice cream, macadamia brittle, macadamia and white chocolate cookies and local macadamia oil can all be found here.
Macadamias Australia (4625 Goodwood Rd, Goodwood) offer some delicious treats at their farm gate, including macadamia oil and raw, salted or chocolate covered nuts. The success of their farm gate has led to plans to create a more permanent macadamia processing plant and retail store. So watch this space.
For those that like to forage for themselves, the farm gate touring guide is a great starting point. The Winterfeast Festival, which takes over taste buds each July, is also a great way to get a taste of the Bundaberg’s burgeoning food scene.
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NB: The cafes and food options mentioned were available at the time of writing and may change seasonally.