Try this one day itinerary for a taste of the best local produce in a picturesque farming community in the Mary Valley.
More than 152 years after the gold rush put Gympie on the map, the surrounding area is a patchwork of rolling green hills and country roads dotted with farm gate stalls and charming cafés serving home-made dishes bursting with fresh local produce sourced from their neighbours. Here’s how to spend a day tasting your way around the Mary Valley.
9.30am Breakfast at Kandanga Kitchen
Bec Edmonds and Trent Kirkwood serve up a seasonal menu at Kandanga Kitchen which uses chemical-free produce sourced from Kandanga Farm and farmers within a 10-kilometre radius of the café who practise ethical farming. You can taste the difference in their truffled mushrooms, crisp bacon, heirloom tomatoes and sweet potato bread. Open Thursday to Sunday, 8.30am-2.30pm.
10.30am Browsing at Kandanga Farm Store
Right next door to the café farmers Amber and Tim Scott provide an eclectic selection of goods from farm-to-fork, from a perfect mixing bowl to the fruits of their harvest including fresh vegetables, tempeh, ferments, local meat and more. Kandanga Farm Store is just a seven-minute drive from Kandanga to Amamoor Station.
11.00am Board the Mary Valley Rattler
From Amamoor Station the heritage train follows the original route taken by early settlers, farmers and gold miners and although much of the original track has been replaced, some still dates from 1914.
12noon Lunch at Number 1 Station Café
The café at historic Gympie Station is a perfect place for lunch while the train turns around for the return journey to Amamoor at 1.30pm.
3.00pm Bunya Grove Produce
Mick and Kylie Carr’s chooks live in converted caravans which are regularly moved to new pasture where the hens roam free protected by their own Maremma guard dog. The Carrs produce ethically raised food including chicken and pork, duck eggs and sweet persimmons (coming into season from late February to April), as well as jam, chutney and paste, and honey. Call Kylie from Bunya Grove Produce ahead (Tel: 0400 778 160) to arrange a time to buy direct from their farm shed (bring an esky) or find their products at Noosa Farmers Market.
4.00pm Amamoor Lodge
Time to call it a day and prepare for a sundowner on the deck at Amamoor Lodge. Owners Christine and Malcolm Buckley made their tree change to Mary Valley six years ago and welcome guests along with Chester, the DOG (Director of Greetings). Renovated workmen’s barracks and newer extensions in the heritage style make up the B&B homestead and self-catering studios on the property today and Malcolm rustles up an impressive country breakfast from locally sourced products that can be eaten on the veranda with views of the valley beyond. A great spot to plot the next day’s adventure in the Mary Valley.
All aboard the Tasting Train
Local celebrity chef Matt Golinski is a champion of the community’s producers and has created a tasting menu that is now a feature on a special journey on the Red Rocket, one of the historic trains that has been restored and clickety-clacks its way along the track from Gympie to Amamoor each week.
“This is one of the most fertile farm areas in Australia – you can grow just about everything from meat and dairy to exotic fruits, vegetables and herbs, and it is a wonderful way to experience an actual taste of the Mary Valley,” he says.
The Tasting Train departs from the restored Gympie Station every Tuesday at 11am and the journey takes about an hour to travel 20km each way in The Red Rocket. It was this railmotor model dating back to the 1920s that first became known as the ‘Mary Valley Rattlers’ which is now applied to all the services operating on the line.
On board a tasting plate is served to savour on the way with bite-size samples of the seasonal produce – including macadamia nuts, Matt’s take on a Scotch egg and relish from local Petersen’s Farm, home of the popular CC’s Kitchen gourmet products.
At Amamoor Station lunch is served buffet style with salads, bread, cold meats, frittata and fruits from the free-range farms in the region before the return journey to Gympie, arriving back at the station at 2pm.
The Mary Valley is about two hours’ drive north of Brisbane and 40 minutes inland from Sunshine Coast beaches. Find more ideas at Visit Sunshine Coast.
Mary Valley Rattler trains run Tuesday to Sunday. The Tasting Train departs every Tuesday from Gympie Station at 11am.