Forget brunch – these days the in-crowd kicks off the weekend at the local farmers’ market, bacon-and-egg roll in hand. Larissa Dubecki has scoured the countryside to find Australia’s best bunch of stalls – the kind of places where you can have a yarn with the grower, try wines bottled down the road and buy pickles and preserves made by someone’s nan.
Talbot Farmers’ Market
With a population of just 273, Talbot in the Central Goldfields is an unlikely home for the state’s best food markets. But on the third Sunday of the month, the population explodes, with hundreds of people from surrounding areas and Melbourne descending upon this charming gold-rush town.
Held in Talbot’s historic centre, amid the 19th-century streetscape, the markets feature more than 80 stalls with regional produce running the gamut of seasonal fruit and vegetables, freshly baked bread, gourmet cheese and meats, local wines, organic oils and artisan delicacies. Plus, you can grab pot plants and some chickens for the backyard.
Do look out for the bright-purple wheelbarrow full of products donated by each of the stallholders. The winner of the famous Barrow Raffle gets to take home its entire contents (gather outside London House at midday, when the raffle is drawn).
When Third Sunday of the month, 9am to 1pm
Where Scandinavian Crescent and Camp Street, Talbot
Collingwood Children’s Farm Farmers’ Market
The bucolic riverside setting, tucked into a natural amphitheatre with gum-blanketed cliffs looming overhead, makes this cluster of stalls feel like a true country market. That’s why it may come as a surprise that it’s actually only four kilometres from Melbourne’s CBD. Held in the property’s back paddock, there’s a host of friendly farmyard animals that will delight the youngsters.
A pioneer of the local market scene, the Collingwood Children’s Farm markets began in 2002 and are accredited by the Victorian Farmers’ Markets Association, meaning the 60 to 70 stallholders grow and make the wares they sell.
Come for the enormous array of fresh produce – much of it organic – along with flowers, honey, nuts, dried fruits, meat, free-range eggs, smallgoods and baked treats; stay for the venison burgers, great coffee and live music. Entry is $2 for adults and free for children.
When Second Saturday of the month, 8am to 1pm
Where 18 St Heliers Street, Abbotsford
Noosa Farmers’ Market
You’d expect chi-chi Noosa – spiritual home of the well-heeled sunseeker – to host a market that’s a cut above the everyday. And it does, with locally made organic moisturisers, rabbit rillettes and Swiss-style artisan cheeses among the huge number of items on offer. But Noosa Farmers’ Market also keeps its feet planted firmly on the ground. Perhaps it’s the grassy gumtree-strewn setting near a serpentine curve of the Noosa River or the laid-back Queensland characters manning the stalls. Most certainly it’s thanks to the abundance of top-quality produce from the Sunshine Coast’s waters and hinterland.
It’s hard to beat the locally caught prawns and spanner crabs taken straight off the trawlers, hand-pressed olive oils, just-baked grain-free bread with almonds and chia seeds and organic pesto made from raw activated cashews and Brazil nuts. And it wouldn’t be the Sunshine State without a bunch of spiky pineapples just waiting to be cut into juicy chunks or punnets of sweet strawberries bursting with flavour.
With so much choice, here’s our pro tip: pick up all the things you need for a picnic then head to the beach for a DIY lunch of distinction.
When Sundays, 6am to noon
Where Weyba Road, Noosaville
Farm Gate Market
Inner Hobart isn’t exactly rural. But the city’s Farm Gate Market, operating since 2009, has the relaxed feel and charm of a country market. Do as the locals do and wait until Sunday morning to fill up the fridge and pantry.
Bustling Salamanca Market, held nearby on Saturdays, is a tourist hotspot but Farm Gate is the real deal. Located on a closed-off street, it’s a hangout for the food-obsessed, where seasonality is the name of the game and a commitment to provenance means everything is grown in Tasmania and sold by the producers themselves.
Be there at 8.30am for the ceremonial ringing of the farm bell that heralds the market’s opening. Then chat away to producers selling plaits of purple garlic, fragrant basil to plant in your garden, blooming bunches of peonies, Bruny Island oysters and green goodies galore. Baristas and buskers only add to the experience.
When Sundays, 8.30am to 1pm
Where Bathurst Street (between Murray and Elizabeth streets), Hobart
Margaret River Farmers’ Market
Already on the map for its cracking surf and premium wines, Margaret River also boasts a charmingly grassroots farmers’ market that runs a very close third for reasons to take the three-hour drive from Perth.
This avowedly local market is restricted to producers from the state’s South West, with about 50 stalls selling free-range eggs, olive oil, charcuterie, nougat, artisan chocolate and a beautiful cornucopia of fruit and veg – sold directly by the growers and makers.
Throw in an entrepreneurial spirit (the markets double as a business incubator, with producers using them as a testing ground for new products and enterprises), plus a charitable bent (non-profits, schools and sporting groups run a breakfast bar to raise funds for their cause) then add the frisson of live music, food vans and a carnival atmosphere and you have a great day out as well as a brilliant grocery stop.
When Saturdays, 8am to noon (April to end of October); 7.30am to 11.30am (November to end of March)
Where Margaret River Education Campus, Lot 272 Bussell Highway, Margaret River
Capital Region Farmers’ Market
It’s a locavore thing. Almost all of the produce displayed at the Capital Region Farmers’ Market comes from less than 300 kilometres away – and to double down on the authenticity factor, the website shows the exact distance travelled by each stallholder.
It’s one of many factors that make this community event such a winner. More than 100 sellers bring their freshly grown, picked and produced goodies to the market. It runs most Saturdays throughout the year (except during events such as Summernats and the Royal Canberra Show) and the undercover venue means you can shop local come rain, hail or shine.
Hit the potato and pumpkin specialist, grab a tray of stone fruit or go upmarket with free-range chicken pâté. For an extra feel-good factor, all profits from stallholders’ fees are fed back into regional communities and projects chosen by the Rotary Club of Hall, which founded the market in 2004. More than $2 million has been donated to charity since then.
When Saturdays, 7.30am to 11.30am
Where Exhibition Park in Canberra, Flemington Road and Northbourne Avenue, Mitchell
Carriageworks Farmers’ Market
Urban setting, country heart. Founded by chef Mike McEnearney (of Kitchen by Mike and No. 1 Bent Street fame), these markets in Sydney’s Inner West certainly have their credentials in order. An exponent of the paddock-to-plate philosophy, Mike ensures all goods are local (translation: from NSW and the ACT), sustainable and sold by people with a connection to the product.
“I want to reacquaint people with the idea of seasons,” he writes in his market manifesto. “A peach eaten in the depths of winter is pretty ordinary compared with a peach eaten warm and ripe and soft in the summer.” Amen to that.
The markets are held in the upcycled Eveleigh rail yards – a destination in its own right, worth a look for the architecture alone. The regeneration of a 19th-century railway carriage and blacksmith workshops is an arresting backdrop to the vibrant displays of in-season fruit and veg, butter, eggs, smallgoods and all the edible things that make life worth living.
The food you can eat in situ is also topnotch – don’t miss the stall run by Kylie Kwong’s restaurant, Billy Kwong, which dishes up her rightfully renowned dumplings and fluffy pork buns with chilli sauce. Stay tuned for the introduction of cooking demonstrations by chefs such as Monty Koludrovic from Icebergs Dining Room and Bar, and Alessandro Pavoni of Ormeggio at The Spit and Sotto Sopra.
When Saturdays, 8am to 1pm
Where 245 Wilson Street, Eveleigh
Lismore Produce Market
The hub of north-east NSW, Lismore acts as the big smoke for a network of Northern Rivers towns such as Byron Bay, Ballina and Mullumbimby. The weekly produce market – operating for the past six years – fuels the region’s love of all things organic.
Held in the CBD, this supremely laid-back market has 20 or so stalls selling locally grown and produced goods, from heirloom seeds to vanilla slices. It’s a go-to if bush foods are your thing; a number of stallholders utilise native ingredients, including lemon myrtle and Davidson’s plum, in ice-cream, cheese and gourmet home-cooked treats.
The organic ethos isn’t just about the edibles; it extends to handmade cosmetics, candles, cleaning products, seedlings and much more. Meanwhile, the soundtrack to market life is provided by a colourful roster of buskers.
When Thursdays, 2.30pm to 6.30pm
Where Magellan Street, Lismore
Barossa Farmers’ Market
The Barossa is synonymous with South Australia’s agricultural riches and these markets – now in their 15th year – are ground zero for experiencing the region’s best under one roof. Head to Angaston, about an hour from Adelaide, where the historic Vintners Sheds provide a character-filled setting for a proudly parochial food-only market (farmers from further afield are welcome so long as they set up shop outside the shed).
The market serves as a cellar door for gourmands, with the likes of Wiech’s egg noodles showcasing the district’s German history, corn-fed chicken from Saskia Beer (daughter of Maggie) and gin from the Barossa Distilling Company. As for the bacon-and-egg rolls made with local heritage-breed pork and free-range egg, well, it’s practically a local ordinance that you can’t leave without trying one.
When Saturdays, 7.30am to 11.30am
Where Vintners Sheds, corner of Stockwell and Angaston roads, Angaston
In Darwin, they keep it seasonal as a matter of necessity – it wouldn’t do to have your stallholders and shoppers washed away in the wet season. But if you’re around during the dry, stop in at Malak Marketplace.
The tastes of the Top End come alive at the twilight open-air market, where stalls display a Frond Rating to indicate their commitment to sustainable and organic practices.
Aside from fresh produce and local crafts, the sizzling street food is the major drawcard. The central gathering area, with plenty of table seating and brightly coloured umbrellas, is the place to sample fare from Indonesia, Thailand, France, Argentina, Syria and beyond. Visit the website for news of market tours, yoga sessions and cookery classes.
When Saturdays, 4pm to 9pm (28 April to 27 October)
Where Chambers Crescent car park, Malak
Top image: Capital Region Farmers’ Market