Queen’s Birthday Weekend 2017 was spent a little differently for me, testing the waters for a Food and Wine Tour from Adelaide to Perth with Great Southern Rail… I know what you’re thinking – Food and Wine… does it get any better?
Once we arrived in the Beautiful Adelaide, which reminded me very much of Christchurch, we were assisted by Steve from JC Mini Buses who transported us to the enthusiastic team waiting to greet us at the Crown Plaza. With such a great location it is within easy walking distance to great shopping, restaurants, and activities.
After a bit of free time to explore, as a group we went with Monique from Great Southern Rail to take a grand tour and quick history lesson of the Adelaide Oval. From seeing where players get amped and ready for the impending match and then where they celebrate afterwards. To where some get a different view of the pitch whilst running the original score board entirely by hand. Then upwards to the beautifully assembled lounges and into the hub of the reporter’s area.
After this we took a short wander down to the Boathouse where we were waited on hand and foot by the amazing staff. The food, drink and atmosphere was absolute bliss. All of us definitely had to waddle back to the Crown Plaza.
The following day we met up with Dave, also with Great Southern Rail, in the lobby and we headed to the South Australian Museum. Here we got the VIP service, escorted through the amazing history and artifacts on display from throughout Australia. Even getting to meet the man behind the apron who creates all the delicious treats for the groups coming through. Everything in that building was fascinating and I could see myself spending a lot more time browsing through all the displays. Unfortunately we had a schedule to keep!
After dropping our bags at the Adelaide Parklands Terminal we journeyed up to sample the produce of Mt Lofty Ranges Vineyard. This boutique vineyard is nestled high in the Adelaide hills. With half the property still retained as natural bushland, it didn’t take long for us to settle into a slower pace and indulge in their wines. These all had such distinctive fruit flavours, that we were told is thanks to the minimal intervention in both the grape-growing and wine-making process.
Then it was back on the bus and on to award winning Woodside Cheese Wrights for and authentic rural experience, which would remind any Otago Kiwi of home. We were guided, by Kris Lloyd the founder and award winning cheese maker in her own right, through the process from milk to cheese and every step in between including the sampling at the end!
Following our hands-on day in the Adelaide Hills, we had definitely worked up an appetite. We enjoyed a three course menu of local produce that cleverly complemented the award-winning wines at The Lane Vineyard. Where from our seat in the dining room we had a spectacular view of the surrounding vineyards… Well we were assured we would have if it wasn’t pitch black!!
From here it was back to the Adelaide Parklands Terminal to climb aboard and settle into our cabins for the night. I wondered how I would go on the train – motion sickness and all that, well I needn’t have worried, I drifted off to a gentle rocking with a background noise that was like a lullaby, basically as soon as my head hit the pillow I was out like a light!
All the meals included in our journey were divine and could easily have been mistaken for the likes of Oliver’s in Clyde. The staff were absolutely fantastic, it really was first class service at every turn, remembering all the guests on board even some of their likes and dislikes - they really blew me away and made it an unforgettable experience.
Over the course of the next few of days we partook in various activities on board, as well as having couple of stops along the way. These activities, for me, started with a dangerous introduction to Sarina Waterman and Alison Peck – the ladies behind Chocolate No. 5. Who let us in on the secret of traditional methods of chocolate making… YUM!
We made a quick stop in Cook which although based on first impressions looked like a ghost town. Is actually home to 4 people. The town was created in 1917 when the railway was built. It depended on the Tea and Sugar Train for the delivery of supplies, and is on the longest stretch of straight railway in the world. The town was effectively closed in 1997 when the railways were privatised and the new owners did not need a support town there, although the diesel refuelling facilities remain, and there is overnight accommodation for train drivers. When the town was active, water was pumped from an underground artesian aquifer but now, all water is carried in by train.
Next up we tried our hands at blending our own gin with the guidance of Sacha La Forgia, a gin-making expert from Adelaide Hills Distillery, which is home to the world’s best gin as recently announced at the American Distilling Institute Awards. I was amazed at the small amount of flavour needed to completely change the entire taste of the gin!
Later that evening we got a taste of Australia’s authentic Outback. Disembarking at Rawlinna on the Nullarbor Plain, we got an amazing bonfire experience while the stars lit up the night sky. We even had some live music which went down a treat for those of us up for a boogie!
The following day our taste buds were put to the test with Mark Olive. Mark is a Bundjalung man who has a real passion in fusing native food and culture with contemporary lifestyle cooking. His enthusiasm sparked my curiosity to try Emu, Crocodile and Kangaroo meat… and I have to admit I was very surprised at the flavours of each. Also that it wasn’t bad!! The only downside was that his cook book I won had amazing recipes made up of ingredients that are basically impossible to source in little old Alexandra. *sigh*
Arriving in Perth, this bought us to the bitter sweet end of our journey on-board the Indian Pacific. However the trip didn’t end there. We were then whisked away on Hughes Coaches to our accommodation for the night, Pan Pacific Perth. This is located in East Perth within walking distance to the Swan River waterfront and Elizabeth Quay precinct.
Our last day in Perth was spent ferrying over to Rottnest Island to jump on Discovery Bus Tour – This 90-minute road trip took us to some of Rottnest’s most spectacular locations, where we were able to experience the island's diverse flora, fauna, history and culture. The Discover Rottnest tour stops at key vantage points around the island, where we could hop off the coach and stretch our legs as we enjoyed some of Rottnest's world-famous views. Hotel Rottnest, once the Quokka Arms Hotel, is a real must if you visit this island with SUPERB food and great atmosphere - largely made up of the staff who were great!
This was our last stop before heading to the Airport on our home journey. The bus ride was pretty quiet, reflecting on such a great experience, all the things we learned, the great new friends we made also slightly dreading going back to the cold New Zealand winter and trying to fit back into my jeans!!!