Eat your way through these 10 food festivals
Whether it’s curry, salami or chilli that takes your fancy, NSW is home to an array of fantastic festivals celebrating community, country culture and most importantly, food.
For an epic long lunch
Held on the banks of the picturesque Lachlan River in Forbes, lined with red river gums, Grazing Down the Lachlan in September is a walking long lunch celebrating the produce of the Central West region. Snack, sip and wander your way through the day – six stations are set up along a dedicated path in the reserve, each offering a dish with a matched drink (but the menu is kept secret until the day). What makes this festival special is the organiser’s commitment to delivering a no-waste, environmentally responsible event.
For smoked meat lovers
Mudgee is fast becoming one of NSW’s top wine regions to visit for those in the know. Savour the best parts of visiting the countryside in winter – cheek-flushing crisp air, crackling fire drums and delicious, hearty meals of sumptuous slow-cooked meat. Smoked meats festival Mudgeeque, held in June, has been taken over by the locals behind Smokin Bro & Co, the town’s own barbecue restaurant, and they’ve got big plans. Expect more vendors, including top-notch local wine and beers, more transport and extra space on the bucolic rural property of Evamor Valley. Spend the day listening to a banging line-up of blues and folk bands, with the aroma of sweet wood smoke to remember the day by.
For curry fans
For the last 16 years, a relaxed coastal town 550 kilometres north of Sydney transforms into a riot of colour, culture and curry for one day only in September. Woolgoolga has a large Punjab community that has its roots in blueberry farming post World War II and built the first Sikh temple in Australia. Woolgoolga Curryfest is an energetic and vibrant celebration of the multiculturalism of the town with a wide array of Indian food, dance performances, live entertainment, and a kid’s zone, and in 2022, celebrity chef Miguel Maestre will be doing cooking demonstrations.
For spice fiends
Sawtell is a picture-book pretty town of golden beaches and fish-filled creeks, which is circled by mountains just south of Coffs Harbour. For the last 22 years, the fig-lined main street has been home to the annual Sawtell Chilli Festival, a happy place for those that seek out that tongue-numbing, throat-tickling spicy sensation. From dark chilli chocolate to spicy ginger beer and everything in between (condiments, curries, hot dogs, fresh chilli plants), test your tolerance while you listen to live music – if you’re travelling with kids, there’s activities for them too.
For antipasti obsessives
Snack fiends and Italian food lovers will want to prioritise visiting the Murray River Salami Festival, a one-day event dedicated to cured meat in November. Held in Euston, a riverside town on the New South Wales-Victoria border, you’ll find salami-making demonstrations, food stalls, craft beer and wine and kid’s rides. A popular event at the festival is the salami competition, where local meat enthusiasts enter their wares to be judged by a panel of experts.
For keen cyclists
A long bike ride is all the more sweeter knowing there is a frosty can of beer waiting at the finish line. Gears and Beers takes place in Wagga Wagga in March and October, with a combination of rides catering for various age groups, distances and cycling levels. The flagship ride is the Dirty130 - 130km along a mix of road, gravel and private farms with country vistas streaming past. The festival itself is held on the Sunday, where guests can sip their way through an array of local beers and ciders (think Alpine Cider, Two Head Brewing, Batlow Cider Co, Bright Brewery and many more), coffee, excellent food and live music – non-riders are welcome too.
For hot chip fans
Although humble, the potato has endured as a primary staple in many countries around the world and you’ll be hard pressed to find an Australian who can resist a plate of hot chips after a few cold ones at the pub. Crookwell, a town in the Upper Lachlan Shire, is known for its fine wool, potato production, Irish heritage and community spirit – these qualities are celebrated in the , held in March (from 2023). Past years have seen a potato auction for charity, celebrity chef appearances, farm tours and a popular demonstration kitchen where you can learn to make dishes such as potato pies, tattie scones, curries and chowder. Future years will see a renewed focus on country heritage and culture.
For those who want a bite of every dish
If the most difficult part of planning a trip to Newcastle is choosing what restaurants to try while you’re there, best to plan a trip for April, during Newcastle Food Month. The coastal city’s dining scene will be buzzing with options: the Plate Date package means you can cross multiple venues off the list. A day could start with autumn crumpets and prosecco at Darby Street, Korean fried chicken for lunch at The Rooftop Kotara and end with prawn linguine at Callaghan. There are long lunches and restaurant collaborations aplenty, too, including a degustation with Cakeboi, with all dishes featuring beer.
For those who always pick a pie for a road trip snack
If the highlight of your road trip is the moment you get to pull over to a small-town bakery and bite into a flakey, rich pie served by a friendly local, then plan your next trip to the Southern Highlands (or Southern Pielands, as it will be known for this month) in June for Pie Time. Follow the pie trail for the ultimate road trip through the picturesque towns of the region and sample a few of the 30 pies on offer. It’s a fantastic way to get to know the region and connect with the friendly residents.
For those who love fun trivia facts
Did you know that the Granny Smith apple was first grown in Sydney? Maria Ann Smith had a farm in Eastwood with her husband, and ‘accidentally’ grew the first green apple in 1868, which is now one of Australia’s most well-known exports. To celebrate Maria's delicious namesake, the City of Ryde hosts the annual Granny Smith Festival in October – the inaugural festival was held in 1985 and it’s now one of Sydney’s biggest street festivals – a true community celebration. Spend a joyful day out watching the traditional street parade and the crowning of the Granny Smith queen, carnival rides, a huge market and international food fair.