The Noosa International Food & Wine Festival is on again this year over five food and fun filled days from the 14th to the 17th of May. The festival had its origins back in the 1990s when the Noosa regional cooking style based on the abundant local produce – ginger and turmeric, galangal and chilli, exotic fruits and vegetables and locally produced cheeses – began to emerge and were woven together by talented local chefs to produce culinary magic.
The Hot and Spicy Food Festivals of that time went from strength to strength and in 2003 they were reinvented as the Noosa International Food & Wine Festival.
Queensland’s Sunshine Coast is a stretch of beautiful surf coastline north of Brisbane with Noosa, the jewel in the crown being only 130 kilometers, a comfortable drive of around one and a half hours north of Brisbane.
The Sunshine Coast has a laid back, village atmosphere, as it is in reality a series of ‘townships’ that starts at Caloundra in the south and finishes at Noosa in the north with the famous beach resorts of Mooloolaba, Maroochydore and Coolum along the way.
Noosa has something for everyone. If you’re after water activities there is the beautiful, sheltered north-facing beach suitable for even the youngest member of the family to enjoy. A short walk around Noosa Heads through the Noosa National Park you will find some excellent surf beaches for the more adventurous swimmer.
Then there is the Noosa River and the beautiful nearby lakes – Cootharaba, Cooroiba, Doonella and Weyba – that are just perfect for canoeing and fishing. Just up the road is the Coolola Coast, home to the famous colored sand cliffs at Rainbow Beach – the jumping off spot to Fraser Island – the largest sand island in the world. If all this is too active Noosa also has a reputation for some of the finest shopping in Australia along iconic Hastings Street where you will find fashion, jewelry, home wares, art, beauty spas and a seemingly endless number of cafés and restaurants.
Over the five days of the festival there are literally hundreds of events for you to choose from with over 200 invited chefs, producers and winemakers attending. On just one day you will have the unenviable task of having to decide between the mind-blowing numbers of events that are on offer. The following are only a tiny selection of what you could be doing over the five days of the festival.
The Seafood Trail –
This option will take you just south of Noosa to the Mooloolaba wharfs where co-hosts John Susman from Fishtales and Gary Hellmann from DeBrett Seafoods will take you through a lively discussion about safe and sustainable seafood practices while dining on the freshest imaginable seafood. John, originally from Victor Harbor in South Australia, has worked with such legends of the Australian food scene as Cheung Liew and Phillip Searle. In common with nearly every top Australian chef has spent time overseas cooking in the international fine food hubs of France and Japan. Upon his return to Australia and started the Flying Squid Brothers, the first water-to-plate seafood operation.
Local chefs – including local Noosa’s own Jiro Numata who originally hails from Japan and is a classically trained Sushi chef – will prepare lunch for you. Numata, who is head of sushi at Wasabi – Noosa’s only two hatted restaurant – will be ably assisted Zeb Gilbert, his head of kitchen, who came to Wasabi by way of the prestigious restaurant The Spirit House in nearby Yandina.
A choice that is sure to please is the Lifestyle and Guest Chef Lunch. This option sees you sitting down to a five-course lunch prepared by five outstanding chefs from southeast Queensland. The line-up includes Phillip Johnston, who originally hails from New Zealand, but was long ago adopted as an Australian, whose ‘We do as little as possible with the best ingredients available’ philosophy has ensured that his esteemed bistro e’cco in the Brisbane CBD has been operating for over 20 years.
Another well-known face joining Phillip Johnston is Alastair McLeod. A native of Belfast Ireland, McLeod found his way to Brisbane via stints cooking in the United Kingdom and France, and is another passionate proponent of ‘the fresher the better’ school of cooking. He regularly appears on television cooking show Ready, Steady, Cook and has just launched a range of top-quality products for you to use in your own cooking through his new company Al’freshco.
Ken Gargett, a Brisbane born and bred wine writer, and his colleague Tony Harper, writer and top wine judge have come together to select the wines to accompany this lunch.
A recent trend in fine cooking and dining is the concept of paddock-to-plate – where the chef knows the provenance every piece of food on every step it takes before ending up on your plate. You will experience all of this as you head into the nearby Mary Valley on The Hinterland Trail to visit the Walker Family farm. Here you will sample delicious fare and meet the farmers who made it all possible – eggs from truly free-range, pasture-raised chickens, and a range of poultry, beef and cheeses from the Walker family and other Mary Valley producers.
A hearty lunch is served in the paddock prepared by another team of chefs including Martin Boetz from the Cooks Co-Op. Also cooking on this line up is Alex Herbert from Bird Cow Fish in Sydney. Alex started her career at the famous Berowra Waters Inn in Sydney – possibly the only restaurant in the world where you have to leave your car and the world behind as it is only accessible by water or by air.
She has worked with leading Australian chefs such as Maggie Beer and David Thompson and has a range of products for sale at the Sydney Eveleigh Markets. Martin and Alex are joined in the kitchen by Cameron Matthews from the two hat ranked The Long Apron at Montville, a hinterland town just to the south of Noosa.
For an authentic Australian bistro experience it’s impossible to pass up the opportunity to experience the Noosa Boathouse Beef and Reef lunch. Shane Bailey, the chef at the Noosa Boathouse Bistro and Bar will serve up a hearty lunch of local beef and seafood with a complimented by premium wines and handcrafted beers. To really set the scene and get everyone in the beach and beer atmosphere, there is complimentary boat transfer to the Boat House.
There are so many events on offer over the five days that it’s impossible to list them all here but you could take part in any or all of the following:
- The Asian Food Trail
- Top Tastes of Queensland
- A Visit to the Mediterranean
- A beach front BBQ lunch
- Master classes in olive oil, tea, coffee, wine, champagne and sake appreciation
- A wild food dinner on the beach
- Celebrity chef cooking demonstrations
- An American style cookout by the river
- A high tea by the river
- Champagne breakfasts on the beach
- A seventies Beach Party BBQ and Clambake
- Product and appliance displays
- Cook books for sale, and
- Food kiosks from some of the Sunshine Coast’s top restaurants.
There is a full program of live entertainment throughout the festival. Another highlight of the program is that a number of local restaurateurs will wine and dine you with specially created for the festival menus in their restaurants. One of the highlight of this part of the program would be a visit to internationally known chef Peter Kuruvita’s the Noosa Beach House.
Getting to see all your choices at the festival is easily arranged with a number of entry options ranging from the Weekend Gold Pass, to daily sessions. Check the website for full details of ticketing and the complete program of events.
Noosa Villa 5508
Just south of Noosa on Sunshine Beach is Villa 5508. This luxurious Noosa villa rambles over three levels, and is decorated throughout in a restful, sophisticated neutral palette and complimentary elegant, but relaxed furnishings.
This is the perfect villa for the family with older children as it has as its centerpiece an indoor lap pool on the ground floor.
On the top level is the private master suite – complete with a spa set into conservatory style windows overlooking the ocean, it is a light and bright space fitted out with plantation shutters to add to the luxury sub-tropical holiday feel of the suite. To house the rest of your party, there are four bedrooms in total, with three bathrooms. All the bedrooms are similarly decorated in what is best described as a ‘beach cool’ vibe. The villa can sleep 10 easily.
The most breathtaking feature of Villa 5508 is the front veranda that has uninterrupted 180 degree views along Sunshine Beach from Noosa Heads in the north all the way down to Mooloolaba in the south. Drink in these views from the entertainment deck or from indoors in front of the floor to ceiling picture windows in the seriously stylish entertaining area that looks out over the beach to the horizon.
To take full advantage of the huge gourmet kitchen, fitted out with Miele appliances and black granite worktops, you must take a trip to the Noosa Farmer’s Market. The market is held every Sunday morning from 6am at the Australian Rules Football ground on Weyba Road. Arrive as early as you can to get the best of the huge range of exotic, locally grown fresh fruit and vegetables that you won’t find in the average supermarket.
For a getaway afternoon in nature away from the hustle and bustle of the festival you could take a walk through the well-known Noosa National Park, but if you really want to get into nature and right off the beaten track try the relatively easy hike to the observation lookout at the top of the hill in the nearby Tewantin National Park and enjoy the stunning views over the beach, river and the hinterland.
If you need even more time in nature to soothe the spirit after the jam-packed events of the Food and Wine Festival book in for a trail ride with Equathon Horse Riding. Lead by triple Olympian Alex Watson you will be mounted on beautifully presented and trained Australian stock horses and taken on one of a number of rides on the beach or through the hinterland.
If art and culture is more your style, then a visit to the Noosa Regional Gallery in Tewantin ought to be on your list of things to do. One of the current exhibitions is Noosa Skyscapes, by Judith Ahern, a series of stunning nature photographs of the Noosa area.
Another exhibition on show at the gallery celebrates the 100 year old, iconic Australian story The Sentimental Bloke by CJ Dennis and is an assemblage of photographs that underscores the centenary of Australia’s ANZAC story.
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Noosa Villa 5290
The unassuming front entrance belies the stunning interior waiting for you at Villa 5290. This is a traditional mid-20th century beach shack that has been given a stunning contemporary make over. The villa sits high on the hill nestled into the lower slopes below the has stunning views back over Noosa beach, Hastings Street the Noosa River and the hinterland.
The villa has four bedrooms and three bathrooms and sleeps eight in comfort. Throughout the mid-century modern décor compliments the architecture with the piece de resistance being the fieldstone wall in living area that houses the open fireplace.
The open plan living is accentuated with gleaming polished floors that flow through to the outdoor deck, pool and barbeque area – this is Queensland veranda living at its best.
Be sure to book a few days either side of the festival to take advantage of all the Noosa has to offer. After all the excitement of the festival, you couldn’t do better than to book yourself in for a full day of pampering and spa treatments at Ikatan.
Ikatan takes advantage of Noosa’s sub-tropical climate and has been designed with Bali architecture and gardens as its inspiration. It is a private spa oasis – not part of a hotel or chain – and has four times been nominated best destination spa in Australia.
The Noosa region is rightly known for its beautiful beaches, but just a little way inland on the Noosa River is a stunning network of everglades and lakes ready to be explored. Take a Discovery Tour cruise up the Noosa River to the lakes and into the heart of the 56,000-hectare Great Sandy National Park. Here you will cruise in the splendor of the rich diversity of animal and bird life and you may also be lucky enough to see sea turtles, dugong and dolphins.
But the Noosa district has even more to offer – it is not just all about the beach, the river and the festival. Hire a car and set off for a day’s sightseeing in the luxuriant, green hinterland. There are many quaint towns to visit nearby by such as Cooroy where you can visit the renovated Butter Factory that is now a gallery displaying goods from local artisans.
Another town nearby is Pomona, the home of the historic Majestic Theatre – the only place in the world that has continuously run silent films.
Another fine place to visit is Yandina, home of the Buderim Ginger Factory, and also nearby, but a little further afield south of Noosa, are the beautiful towns of Kenilworth, Montville, and Maleny where you will find no shortage of beautiful views and excellent dining.
But there is still so much more on offer at Noosa! If you can spare some time after the Food and Wine festival to stay on, the very next weekend Noosa hosts the Noosa Ultimate Sports Festival on 23-24 May. Swim, cycle, or run – or do all three over a variety of distances to suit all levels and ages. There are a number of ocean swims ranging over 3.8 kilometres to 500 metres, a 160 or 85km ride, and a half marathon, 10k or 5k run or walk.
This event brought together three former events the Noosa Blue Water Swim, the Century Bike Ride and the Noosa Running Festival over one action and fun packed weekend.
In past years there have been more than 5000 participants and over 15,000 spectators all taking advantage of everything Noosa has to offer during this amazing sports festival that also offers live bands, entertainment, food and a wide program of other activities.
As you can see – just five days is not nearly enough time to take in everything Noosa has to offer. Come for the Food Festival, stay on if you can for the Ultimate Sports Festival and spend some time exploring everything Noosa and the Sunshine Coast have to offer. It’s practically guaranteed that you will fall in love with the area so much that you’ll be back.
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