Wednesday, 18 September 2013

It's official - no one does markets better than the Sunshine Coast
Queensland’s Sunshine Coast region has been voted by Trip Advisor reviewers as the premier Australian region for markets, with the Noosa Farmers Market voted number one and Eumundi Market voted number four.
The Noosa Farmers Market has been running for 11 years every Sunday morning from 0700 – 1200. Over 100 stalls showcase the best of local produce and artisan products including a wide range of organics, freshly squeezed lime drinks, marinades and sauces, aromatic skin care products, nuts and seeds, olives and tasty tapenades, herbs and just-caught seafood, freshly baked bread and creamy cheeses.
The Noosa Farmer Markets offer live entertainment each Sunday and special events are held throughout the year.
I personally know the fourth-placed Eumundi Markets far better, as do millions of Australians and international visitors who’ve breathed in the exotic (and some not so exotic) scents during its 34 years in operation.
It started in 1979, when ceramic artist Christa Barton and her friend Gail Perry-Somers came up with the idea of holding a European style “artisans and farmers” market in the sleepy village of Eumundi. The area had become a haven for artists and “alternatives” who had escaped suburbia for a more community-focused, simpler way of life.
Eumundi Markets in the 1980s, budgie smugglers, dreadlocks and all
The first ‘market’ outside the Christian Woman’s Association (CWA) Hall attracted a grand total of three stalls and eight customers with a turnover of $30. But within a year it was a major success, with the Market’s focus on handmade products, and the ethos of “make it, bake it, grow it, sew it” setting it apart from rivals. By 1985, The Eumundi Markets had 97 stalls and 143,000 people for the year, and by 1990, it had grown to 203 stalls, with some 260,000 visitors for the year. Today, the Eumundi Markets is the biggest art and craft market in Australia, with 550 stalls, attracting over 1.6 million visitors annually.
The market has evolved but the philosophy of localism and hand-made remains strong, as is the aim to create a genuinely sustainable shopping experience by introducing green credentials such as creating – with Eumundi’s local school – a worm farm to process all compostable waste generated by the market and for the school to resell the organic fluids and castings to raise much-needed funds. The market is now plastic bag free and all packaging materials used are fully compostable. In the future, Eumundi markets plans to install solar power generation and water harvesting to become energy self-sufficient, with the long-term aim of exporting any surplus energy within the community.
Other popular Sunshine Coast markets include: the Peregian Beach Market, Cotton Tree Market and Markets on Bulcock in Caloundra which is always vibrant and buzzing with live music and entertainment.
More information about Sunshine Coast and its markets:
For the record, the top 10 markets in Australia according to Trip Advisor are: 1. Noosa Farmers Market – Sunshine Coast 2. Adelaide Centre Market – Adelaide 3. South Melbourne Market – Melbourne 4. Eumundi Market – Sunshine Coast 5. Prahran Market – Melbourne 6. Salamanca Market – Hobart 7. Sunday Market Port Douglas – Port Douglas 8. Queen Victoria Market – Melbourne 9. Parap Market – Darwin 10. Sydney Fish Market - Sydney

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Long time between drinks as Hunter Valley Wine Festival revived after 30 years

It’s been a long time between drinks for the Hunter Valley Wine Festival, but hotel owner and entrepreneur, Dr Jerry Schwartz, will celebrate the purchase of his first vineyard – the former McWilliams Middle Creek vineyard – by reviving the Hunter Valley Wine Festival on 12 October.
The last Festival was apparently held (well, they say, if you can remember it, you weren't there...) in 1983, at the Cessnock Showgrounds, but it ended up a rather traumatic event for organiser John Fordham, the usually indefatigable wine promoter. As he recalls: "There was an ugly drama late in the afternoon when a team of bikies descended on the venue. Brian McGuigan, for one, was the subject of threats and some pushing when he refused them service." Clearly they weren't chardonnay bikies!

That festival was largely organised by Tyrrell's, who are once again involved with the new Hunter Valley Wine Festival, along with 30 other large and boutique wineries, such as Gartelmann Wines (whose Cabernet was recently highly rated by Huon Hooke) and Macquariedale Organic Wines. Local boutique ciders and beers will also be on offer, all complemented by gourmet fresh produce and entertainment from the region.

Attendees will have the opportunity to blend their own Hunter Classic, and there will be key note speakers to add a touch of education to the day.

The difference between 1983 and 2013, is that the Festival will be held in the picturesque grounds of the Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley, and will be a very family-friendly event (executives riding their weekend Harleys will be allowed entry as long as they are accompanied by a family following in a Volvo).

The Festival comes as a result of Dr Jerry Schwartz’s passion for the Hunter Valley (he owns three hotels there) and the region’s wines.

He has just completed the purchase of the Middle Creek vineyard, which covers 71 acres, and has 55 acres of semillon and chardonnay vines dating back to 1974, that have been used in the production of McWilliams’ famous Mt Pleasant wines.  
Dr. Schwartz is planning to establish his own winery and processing facility, but until that was completed the premium grapes would be harvested and processed by Hope Estate under the new name Jade Estate Winery.

“These vintage vines have produced outstanding wines in the past and we look forward to creating a new premium wine range that shows off the best of Hunter Valley produce,” said Dr Schwartz.

“I am passionate about wine and the Hunter Valley, and we will celebrate that by holding the first Hunter Valley Wine Festival in 30 years in the grounds of the Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley. The Hunter Valley wine community has come out in force and it will be a great celebration of the region’s wine and food culture.”

The festival, which will be held on the hotel’s sprawling grassy lawns and in the stately new marquee, will also be alive with entertainment throughout the day, including guest speakers, live music and a program of family-friendly activities.

Unlike other Hunter wine events that require transport from vineyard to vineyard, the Hunter Valley Wine Festival will be held in the one place, allowing festival-goers the opportunity to relax and enjoy the day at their own pace, between 11:00am-5:00pm. For the ultimate wine festival experience, stay on-site in a deluxe room or self-contained two- or three-bedroom villa at Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley.

Hotel guests can break from the festival any time to enjoy the range of facilities around the grounds, including an 18-hole golf course, day spa, outdoor pool, tennis and basketball courts, oversized chess set, two restaurants and two bars -including Vista Lounge, renowned for having one of Australia’s largest whisky collections.

Wine lovers who don’t want to share the day with the ‘whine’ of young children can stay at the Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley and take advantage of resort’s Water Dragons Kids Club, the only complimentary fully supervised hotel kids’ club in the region.
Tickets to the festival are $30 pre-sale and $40 on the day (if available) and include 10 tastings. Children under 18 years receive free entry.

Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley is offering a special Hunter Valley Wine Festival package, including two-night stay, breakfast for two and festival tickets for two, starting from $450 per night for a deluxe room*. For more information or to make a booking, visit or call the hotel on (02) 4991 0970. *Minimum 2 nights stay. Terms and conditions apply and are subject to availability.

For more information, or to book tickets, visit

Twitter: @CrownePlazaHun