Every road trip needs a tucker stop. We've tracked down Australia’s best.
New South Wales
Wildbrumby Schnapps, High Country
Where? On the Alpine Way, between Jindabyne and Thredbo.
Why stop? Is it a Continental-inspired café, sculpture garden, art gallery or schnapps distillery? Actually, Wildbrumby Schnapps is all of the above and more. Stop for a lunch of crumbed schnitzel with potatoes and salad or the hearty Austrian beef goulash. Walk it off in the sculpture garden before settling in for a schnapps and gin tasting. All schnapps are made from fruit grown locally, on the slopes of south-west New South Wales.
Don’t leave without… a bottle of Kosciuszko Vodka or Pink Lady Apple schnapps, perfect for cold nights around a mountain fire.
Holbrook Bakery, Greater Hume Shire
Where? On the Hume Highway, between Melbourne and Sydney.
Why stop? Landlocked Holbrook is known for having a submarine, the Otway, on display in the park but is perhaps even better known for its bakery. Opened in 1899, Holbrook Bakery is the busiest spot on the main street of this popular highway stop. Classic treats run to lamingtons, wagon wheels and neenish tarts, plus there are sandwiches, rolls, wraps and pies of all persuasions (including the notorious cheeseburger pie). Last year, a second outlet opened at the southern end of town with ample bus and truck parking.
Don’t leave without… asking what the daily pie special is. It could be anything from kidney to lasagne.
The Famous Berry Donut Van, Berry
There’s nothing fancy about the cinnamon doughnuts produced in this vintage caravan parked outside the Berry Service Station but no drive along the South Coast is complete without a stop here. It’s been serving sugar-dusted rings of sweetness for almost 60 years. Our advice? Eat them while they’re hot.
The Big Banana, Coffs Harbour
It’s not a real Aussie road trip without a “big thing” and The Big Banana was Australia’s first biggie. Yes, it’s a tourist trap but don’t let that stop you pulling up for a chocolate-coated frozen banana on a stick.
Parker Street Project, Southern Grampians
Where? On the Glenelg Highway in Dunkeld, between Ballarat in Victoria and Mount Gambier in South Australia.
Why stop? Parker Street Project is not your average roadhouse. It is, in fact, the public bar and rear terrace of the famed Royal Mail Hotel, home to the most awarded restaurant in Victoria’s Western District. While the fine-diner aspires to gastronomic greatness, Parker Street Project focuses on serving excellent-quality seasonal plates to those passing through the tiny but thriving village of Dunkeld. Much of the menu comes from the Royal Mail’s vast kitchen garden, with beef and lamb from the hotel’s own farm. The Royal Mail lamb with fermented carrot purée and smoked tomatoes is 100 per cent local. It’s the finest produce served in the friendliest local pub.
Don’t leave without… trying a glass of something special – the Royal Mail has one of Australia’s most phenomenal cellars.
Arthur Clive’s Family Bakehouse, Scenic Rim
Where? On the Cunningham Highway in Aratula, between Brisbane and Warwick.
Why stop? Arthur Clive’s Family Bakehouse in the small town of Aratula treads a diplomatic line between old-school (caramel slices, lamingtons) and new (sourdough, carrot bread). It’s the meat pies, though, that have truckies applying the air brakes at the town approach. The Pennell family has been baking in these parts for more than 80 years and has perfected the recipe for properly flaky pastry with slow-cooked beef browned in the Pennells’ homemade “secret recipe” Worcestershire sauce. The place sells more than 3000 pies a week, with the standards – steak, pepper steak and bacon-and-cheese – supplemented by specials such as bourbon beef and chicken mornay, all served (probably by a family member) with genuine warmth.
Don’t leave without… stocking up on regional produce at Aratula Markets a few doors down.
Retro Espresso, Fraser Coast Hinterland
Where? On the Bruce Highway in Tiaro, south of Maryborough.
Why stop? This two-pub town on the Mary River is home to arguably the best coffee on the Bruce Highway. The shop, a former bootmaker’s workshop, dates from the 1880s and is where owner Vincent Rovere now makes excellent coffee for travellers stopping to stretch their legs. Retro Espresso revels in the kitschy side of the good ol’ days, with footpath chairs fashioned from Golden Fleece oil drums and a 1960s Parker dining table, where you can sip your Number 96 coffee (house blend) among Vincent’s collection of old airline bags, Sunbeam Mixmasters and childhood board games. Food offerings are limited but sugar-dusted Greek kourabiethes, chewy Florentines and fruit-and-seed biscuits will fill the gap until your next stop.
Don’t leave without… popping into the Information Centre and Craft Cottage a couple of doors down for a bag of honey-roasted macadamias from nearby Bauple to snack on in the car.
Derwent Bridge Wilderness Hotel, Central Highlands
Where? On the Lyell Highway, between Hobart and Strahan.
Why stop? The pub at Derwent Bridge offers a taste of civilisation in the heart of Tasmania’s south-west wilderness. Run by Carol and David Fitzgibbon for almost 30 years, it’s a haven of wood-panelled interiors and warming hearths, with sweeping rainforest views. Hikers, bikers and busloads of tourists pull in to recharge while driving across the island or after exploring the World Heritage-listed forests nearby. The menu runs to pub classics such as porterhouse steak, plus local delicacies including river trout. But perhaps the surest antidote to bracing winter days in the bush is one of chef Ima De Silva’s Sri Lankan curries.
Don’t leave without… Taking the scenic 90-minute Lake Saint Clair Ferry through Narcissus Bay, Echo Point and Cynthia Bay to experience the alpine scenery.
Kate’s Berry Farm, Swansea
One of the highlights of visiting Wineglass Bay on the East Coast is stopping at Kate’s Berry Farm on Swansea’s southern outskirts for a treat at Just Desserts Café. Order tea and scones, smothered in thick homemade jam (full of strawberries, raspberries, Himalayan wild berries, youngberries or wild blackberries) and pick up a jar of jam or a bottle of strawberry wine to take away.
Balladonia Roadhouse, The Nullarbor
Where? On the Nullarbor, almost 200 kilometres east of Norseman at the Western Australian end of the 90 Mile Straight.
Why stop? It would be a stretch to call it gourmet but compared to what you’ll find at the other half-dozen or so roadhouses on the long, straight, flat road that crosses the Nullarbor (think chocolate bars, stale crisps and deep-fried everything), the café at the Balladonia Roadhouse serves a chicken parma and the coffee is quite good. If you stay overnight at the attached motel or caravan park, come back for dinner – the Balladonia beef and Guinness pot pie and the lamb shanks with mash are pretty tasty, too.
Don’t leave without… checking out the bits of NASA’S Skylab space station. It crashed to Earth nearby in 1979 – the United States President, Jimmy Carter, even rang the roadhouse to apologise for littering – and there’s a small museum at the service station detailing Balladonia’s 15 minutes of fame.
Lacepede Seafood, Limestone Coast
Where? Just off the Princes Highway in Kingston SE, between Mount Gambier and Adelaide.
Why stop? The Limestone Coast is famous for its southern rock lobster and one of the best places to try it – without paying a small fortune – is Lacepede Seafood down by the jetty in Kingston SE. Buy takeaway cooked lobster and chips then picnic in the adjacent shady park. It’s worth the short detour off the highway. Open daily during lobster season (October to May).
Don’t leave without… snapping a selfie with Larry the Lobster on the north side of town. Local legend has it that it was only meant to be 17 feet high but the builder used metres instead.