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Food and wines are highlights of Australian vacations. Nowadays, culinary tours of Australia encompass more than dining at fresh seafood restaurants in Sydney and sipping Australian shiraz.

And Aussie food has progressed beyond the "toss another shrimp on the barbie" days. Food and wine experiences include talking face-to-face with winemakers at the cellar door and meeting olive growers at the farm gate. You will learn about innovative Australian foods such as cheeses infused with wasabi.

Australia Wine Country

"Australians have been making wine for more than 150 years," says Marnie Williamson, Wine Australia. "We're so much more than chardonnay and shiraz."

Australia has more than 60 wine regions (more than Continental Europe and the USA). Wine Australia calls Australian regional wines, like Margaret River cabernet sauvignon and Barossa Valley shiraz "regional heroes."

Wine country tours, cooking schools, wine and food pairings, farmers' markets, food and wine festivals allow participants to meet winemakers, cheese-makers, farmers and chocolate-makers.

Wine experiences

During an Australian vacation, for example, visitors to Hunter Valley NSW can fly over the harbour in a seaplane, go wine tasting, attend wine school and stay in a lodge surrounded by vineyards and wineries. They can also eat at Hunter Valley vineyard restaurants, like Roberts at Peppertree Estate.

Because Australia has more than 2,100 wineries, which make more than 6,000 wines, visitors on an Australian holiday have many wine tasting opportunities. Near Melbourne, you can ride a hot air balloon, in Yarra Valley VIC, to a private cellar door for wine tasting. In Perth, WA, you can take a wine cruise on the Swan River or ride a horse-drawn wagon through the Swan Valley vineyards.

Tasmania makes great pinot noirs and sauvignon blancs. Tasmania winery restaurants, such as Moorilla Estate, near Hobart, and Meadowbank, in the Coal River Valley, are ideal for food and wine pairings. You can fly into Hobart and go on day trips to see apple orchards, berry fields and cheeseries.

Culinary tours

Southern Ocean Lodge, on Kangaroo Island is an example of a resort where it's easy to incorporate food and wine experiences. The lodge offers Epicurean Adventures, which combine wine tasting, dining and visits to wineries, sheep dairies and seafood farms.

At Tjanabi restaurant culinary classes, in Melbourne, Chef Greg Hampton shows visitors how to cook modern Australian cuisine with bush tucker (native Australian foods). Tjanabi owner, Carolyn Briggs, senior elder of the Boon Wurrung people, the traditional landowners of Melbourne, conducts Tjanabi Walking Tours along the banks of the Yarra River to discuss Melbourne's indigenous heritage.

Gourmet dinners at Tjanabi can be combined with the twice-monthly Federation Square Wine Tasting Showcase, which features regional wines from the Victoria wine region. The Melbourne Food and Wine Festival hosts the "world's longest lunch" every March.

At the Agrarian Kitchen cooking school in Lachlan, near Hobart, Tasmania, Rodney Dunn teaches culinary classes using fresh ingredients from his own farm and local food producers. Culinary classes range from cooking a whole hog to a vegetarian feast.

Culinary trips

Australia Now features gastronomic tours in partnership with Goway, which offers culinary vacations and wine tours in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania.

Visitors planning culinary trips to Australia need not restrict themselves to the numerous food and wine experiences in the Goway website. "Whatever you want, we can arrange," says Goway president, Bruce Hodge.


Tourism Australia: www.australia.com

Wine Australia: www.wineaustralia.com

Goway Food and Wine Tours: http://goway.com

More things to see & do in Australia:

Aboriginal Tours in Australia

Tjapukai Cultural Park

Sydney Guidebook