Australia – Wild and wine can be combined

Your guide to Australia's best national parks

By Charles Lewis
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Yarra Ranges National Park in Victoria

Yarra Ranges National Park in Victoria [©Visions of Victoria]

Tea Tree Bay, Noosa National Park, Sunshine Coast
Great Otway National Park, Victoria

 

Australia has one of the largest and most comprehensive national parks networks in the world, from cool temperate rainforests to tropical wetlands and everything in between.

Generally, however, vineyards and food producers are located in agricultural areas, and national parks were historically created in areas considered unsuitable for crops, sheep and cattle. But in some places around Australia the two are nearby, and it’s possible to combine both wild and wine in one holiday.

Australia’s Best National Parks, A Visitor’s Guide written by Lee Atkinson lists State by State information on all the main national parks in Australia, including how to get there, when to go, ‘top tracks and trails’, best picnic spots, camping and caravanning options and contact information. It’s a great little guide to fit in the backpack or glovebox.

If that’s not enough incentive to get your camping gear out and check your tent for holes, then we’ve done a bit of digging through Atkinson’s book to bring you some holiday ideas that combine wine, food and nature.

National parks worthy of consideration when on a wine and food lover’s holiday include:

 

Tasmania

The island state has, due to its relatively small size and philosophy of conservation, an abundance of parks and places for nature lovers to visit, relatively close to wine and food producing areas.

These include Freycinet National Park with its world famous one hour climb to the lookout above Wineglass Bay – what better spot for wine lovers to visit? En route you can drop in at Freycinet Vineyard, or stop at Trellis in Bicheno for some more local wine tasting of the fruits of Spring Vale Vineyard.

Other national parks worthy of consideration include Mt William National Park and Bay of Fires in North East Tasmania, Douglas Apsley National Park on the east coast near Bicheno – with a glass of Apsley Gorge pinot noir in hand, of course - Cradle Mountain National Park and Mole Creek Karst National Park in North West Tasmania – stop at Lake Barrington Vineyard to sample their bubbly - Tasman National Park in south-east Tasmania and Bruny Island in the south.

All are close to fabulous provedores, cheese and chocolate makers and other artisan producers, so once you’ve stocked up with goodies you can walk off the extra joules in pristine park surrounds.

 

NSW

Here Yengo and Wollomi National Parks are located near the famous wine region of the Hunter Valley, and the Blue Mountains National Park is only two hours drive west of Sydney, with its famous views of the Three Sisters and other attractions at Katoomba.

The Blue Mountains has become a gourmet retreat for Sydneysiders and visitors alike, with some fabulous restaurants and provedores, and spas for post-walk relaxation.

 

Queensland

Queensland’s vineyard areas are mainly located in the elevated, cooler, southern areas of state, many in an area know as the Granite Belt which is not surprisingly known for its spectacular granite outcrops. While Atkinson does not list any national parks in this area, there are plenty of natural areas to explore and combine with your vineyard tours, and heaps of wildlife and native flora to enjoy.

National parks near in the south-east of Queensland include Lamington National Park is 115km south of Brisbane, plus Springbrook and Tamborine National Parks, and to the north Noosa National Park – close to the Sunshine Coast Hinterland’s wine trail along with the spectacular Glass House Mountains National Park. Both areas are known for their sub-tropical food production also, and local farmers’ markets.

 

Victoria

Victoria’s parks near to wine and food producing areas include the Dandenong Ranges 35km east of Melbourne – on the way to the iconic Yarra Valley - and Grampians National Park located out past the Great Western shiraz producing country. This park is accessed from Halls Gap, a village which is home to Four Sisters’ wine tasting centre and some great foodie outlets.

At the southern end of this beautiful park lies Dunkeld, where chef Dan Hunter cooks up a storm at the Royal Mail Hotel – also know for its extensive wine list - and if you want to enjoy your wild places in 5-star style, the fabulous Boroka Downs luxury accommodation, which backs onto the park boundary not far from Hall’s Gap.

There is also the Cape Otway National Park on the Great Ocean Road, the Mornington Peninsula National Park at the tip of this famous wine region home to over 60 cellar doors, and Wilsons Promontory National Park in the up-and-coming foodie area of Gippsland in the south-east of the state.

 

South Australia

The ‘crow eaters’ wash down their fine fare with an excellent range of wine. Coffin Bay National Park is adjacent the oyster-producing waters of the same name. This is the most productive Pacific oyster area in Australia and invites visitors every summer to sample its laid-back delights.

Flinders Chase National Park and Seal Bay Conservation Park are located on Kangaroo Island which is also becoming a well known foodie destination. Again, if you want to experience wild and wine in style, try a VisitVineyards.com Flying Food Safari with Outback Encounter to this fabulous island. However campers are more than welcome, too.

South Australia’s only World Heritage Site is the Naracoorte Caves National Park located just north of the Coonawarra wine region. On days when it’s too hot or cold to visit wineries or you just feel like a change of pace, drop in (literally) to see half a million years’ worth of fossilised animals, skeletons of megafauna and even the remains of the Tasmanian tiger, which once roamed far beyond the island state. It’s only a small park but well worth the visit, especially if you have kids (or significant others) who are bored with cellar doors.

 

Western Australia

Western Australia in contrast to Tasmania is large – many times bigger than Texas – usually with big distances between natural features. Parks to consider while visiting wine and food producing areas in the West include Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park, located south of Margaret River. VisitVineyards.com Members get a discount on entry to the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse, which stands at the point where the Indian and Southern Oceans meet.

Once you’ve ‘done’ Margaret River (if that is ever possible, with its large number of vineyards and wineries, beaches, restaurants and attractions) head east for a few more days of exploring through some flora-rich forests (south west WA is one of the most botanically rich areas on earth) to Gloucester National Park near Pemberton, where you can climb the famous Gloucester Tree, at 60 m tall the largest karri eucalypt in the world.

You can sit in what was once the fire lookout tower, and treat yourself to a glass or two of local wine on your descent.Pemberton has been scoring some wine goals lately and its pinot noirs and chardonnays are increasing in national prominence.

So, this summer, or indeed at any time of year, combine a bit of nature with your grape, and enjoy the best of both worlds in whatever State you live or are visiting, with a copy of Atkinson’s guide in your hand.

 

Australia’s Best National Parks – A Visitor’s Guide by Lee Atkinson (sc, New Holland Sydney 2009) retails for RRP A$29.95. It is available in all good bookstores.

VisitVineyards.com and Winepros Archive subscribers and Members can purchase Australia’s Best National Parks – A Visitor’s Guide at a 12.5% discount from our book partners Seekbooks (postage extra).

 

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December 08th, 2009
 
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