TUCKED away on the back roads of the Mackay region is an array of delicious delights waiting patiently to be discovered.

Down a bumpy dirt road or hidden behind a wall of trees on the way to another tourist hot-spot, the hidden gems were waiting for their time in the spotlight.

Or at least they were, until the Greater Whitsunday Food Network thrust them into the path of tourists.

Wendy Cato and Helen Virgo were on the Greater Whitsunday Food Network tour.
Wendy Cato and Helen Virgo were on the Greater Whitsunday Food Network tour. Caitlan Charles

The Mackay and Whitsunday regions have a lot to offer, but not many people realise how much wonderful food there is on offer ... unless you look in the right place.

From Ballantyne's Strawberry Farm to the small operation at Mary and Ken Ede's Longmile Mangoes, the region's farms have plenty on offer.

 

The Mackay Fruits of the Region Farm and Tasting Tour is one of the Food Network's latest additions.

The limited tour takes an intimate group of food-loving locals and tourists to farms and businesses that champion what the food the region has on offer.

Run with the help of Sarina Sugar Shed, the tour begins at Ballantyne's Strawberry Farm at Camerons Pocket.

Known for the 'pick a punnet in the pocket', this stop on the back roads of Calen gets you up close and personal with the juiciest of strawberries.

Every person on the tour gets the chance to pick a punnet, all included in the cost, and enjoy homemade scones with homemade strawberry jam.

While you sit in the shade overlooking the farm, you can take in the beauty of the tall mountains that surround the pocket full of strawberries.

Hidden in the valley, away from the hustle and bustle of Mackay, it's a treat to enjoy the silence with your succulent strawberries.

Ballantyne's Strawberry Farm.
Ballantyne's Strawberry Farm. Caitlan Charles

After the spot of morning tea, the tour moves from the valleys of the region and a little closer to the sea.

At the Cape Hillsborough Old Station Tea House, guests will be treated to a two-course lunch that champions local producers.

With overgrown plants and large canopy trees, the tea house is home to the former Marian Station House.

Now very much a part of the landscape, the station house is a picturesque spot to stop and enjoy a peaceful lunch.

The furnishings and decorations promise to take you a step back in time.

 

Food offered at the Old Station Tea House at Cape Hillsborough.
Food offered at the Old Station Tea House at Cape Hillsborough. Caitlan Charles

Owner Michelle Shea sources her ingredients as locally as she can. Ms Shea visits farmers' markets across the region for fresh produce for the tea house and told guests a bag of lettuce from the market could last two weeks longer than one from a supermarket.

On the first of the tours, guests were served an array of beautiful salads made from local vegetables and meat from a local farm.

To top it all off, desert was a scrumptious and creamy white chocolate panna cotta made from Whitsunday Dairy Fresh products.

From there, the tour heads deep into the canefields of Mount Ossa and to the home of Mary and Ken Ede.

The two run the farm with a little help, producing mouth-watering mangoes in an environmentally friendly and sustainable way.

From picking to packing, the Longmile Mango Farm is a welcoming look behind the veil into where food comes from.

The hosts who invite you to look out over the valley and the ocean from their deck and enjoy a vast range of treats - all with a hint of mango.

 

Mary Ede from Longmile Magoes.
Mary Ede from Longmile Magoes. Caitlan Charles

Mrs Ede makes jams, chutneys, dried fruit and preserves from the fruit deemed unfit (but in truth, just a little bruised or brown) which can be purchased as you enjoy a cup of tea and a friendly chat.

The Mackay Fruits of the Region Farm and Tasting Tour brings you one step closer to understanding the vast food options in the region.

Tour guide Betty Burrow, from the Sarina Sugar Shed, said she had no idea just how many food producers there were in the region until she went to the markets.

She said the tours hoped to show tourists and locals the vibrant food culture on offer in the region.

 

"I think (the farmers and businesses involved in this tour) are all passionate about what they are doing," Ms Burrows said.

For more information on Greater Whitsunday Food Network tours, visit https://sarinasugarshed.com.au/farm-food-flavours-tour/

Mackay Fruits of the Region Farm and Tasting Tour

Cost $143 for an adult. The next tour is on August 20.

Tours leave the MECC at 8am and will return at the latest 4.30pm.

   

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