The gourmet island, Tasmania
The southeastern corner of Australia is home to some of the country’s best cheese experiences. The southern island state of Tasmania, with its rich dairy-farming history, certainly punches above its weight when it comes to quality artisan cheese production.
The small farming community of Pyengana, in the northeast of the state, is home to Australia’s oldest cheese producer, Pyengana Dairy Company (pyenganadairy.com.au), which has made cloth-bound cheddar for four generations. There are a variety of aged cheddars to choose from, from a mild cheddar, aged for between four and six weeks, to a delicious, rich tasty cheddar, aged for over two years. The onsite Holy Cow café offers a peaceful and very photogenic outlook onto the farm and its bovine inhabitants, and serves up plenty of dairy treats such as milkshakes and cheddar-cheese toasties.
Forty-five minutes south of Hobart in Birchs Bay you’ll find Grandvewe Cheeses (grandvewe.com.au), a tranquil sheep farm, which makes a delicious array of cheeses including the spreadable Grandvewe Fresh, the White Pearl Persian-style feta, and its own haloumi, a cheese not often produced in Australia. Its pinot paste, served alongside the cheese, makes an excellent addition to your picnic basket, while the vanilla whey liqueur is a unique and delicious tipple made from the milk whey. The farm also holds sheep-milking demonstrations open to the public at 3pm daily between October and March.
Just north of Grandvewe is the small town of Kettering, which acts as the departure point for the Bruny Island ferry. The island is home to the Bruny Island Cheese Company (brunyislandcheese.com.au), which is famous for producing one of just two Australian raw-milk cheeses, known as C2. The company’s founder, Nick Haddow, has spent time working with some of Australia’s most renowned producers, as well as a stint working in London’s temple of cheese, Neal’s Yard Dairy. At the company’s cellar door you’ll be invited to sample some of Australia’s most interesting cheeses: the simple Tom variety, a hard cheese made in the tradition of French Tomme cheeses; the Otto, a fresh cow’s milk wrapped in prosciutto and served hot; or the Oen, a washed-rind cheese washed in pinot, and left to mature wrapped in vine leaves.
Victoria's foodie regions
Back on the mainland, Victoria has some outstanding cheese experiences worthy of a pit stop. Perhaps the most well known is the Milawa Cheese Company (milawacheese.com.au), located around two and a half hours northeast of Melbourne. The company makes cow and goat cheeses using non-animal rennet, included the award-winning washed-rind King River Gold, and its deliciously stinky sibling, Milawa Gold. If you’re up for some more indulgence, the area is home to a number of wineries, including the King Valley ‘Prosecco Road’ (winesofthekingvalley.com.au), part of the Milawa Gourmet Region, which raises a glass to northeast Victoria’s post-WWII Italian history – salute!
Southwest Victoria is known for its lush farmland and rolling green hills, perfectly suited to dairy production. The 12 Apostles Gourmet Trail (visit12apostles.com.au) makes for a worthy detour from travelling the world-famous Great Ocean Road, and highlights the area’s rich produce bounty, which includes cheese from Apostle Whey Cheese (apostlewheycheese.com.au), which produces a range of Danish-style Havarti varieties, a camembert-style cheese whimsically named Loch Ard Gorgeous, after one of the area’s key tourist attractions and a blue-vein named after another local landmark, the Bay of Martyrs.
Just up the road is L’Artisan Cheese Timboon (lartisancheese.com.au) and an adjoining cafe, Timboon Cheesery (www.facebook.com/timbooncheesery). A must-try is the incredibly rich – and aptly named – triple-cream Extravagant – probably one of the most indulgent cheeses we’ve ever tasted (and that’s saying something!)!
Cheese tasting experiences in the city
Still not cheesed out? Try these inner-city cheese sanctuaries
Sydney has recently seen the opening of Stinking Bishops (thestinkingbishops.com) a ‘boutique cheese bar’ in the inner west suburb of Newtown. It has an onsite fromagarie and wine bar, which offers a fromage-oriented menu: think cheese and meat boards, ploughman’s lunches, mac ‘n’ cheese, and, naturally, cheesecake for dessert.
In Melbourne, the renowned Richmond Hill Café & Larder (rhcl.com.au) is the place to get your cheese fix. Opened by Australian culinary icon Stephanie Alexander and cheese expert Will Studd (of Cheese Slices cheeseslices.com fame) in 1997, this Melbourne institution has an onsite cheese room, which features a huge array both from Australia and around the world, including a great selection of French and Italian cheeses. Also worth a visit is St Kilda’s Milk the Cow (milkthecow.com.au) which bills itself as Melbourne’s first late-night licensed cheese shop, features cheeses and drinks from around the world.
Can I take my cheese home?
Although Australia has strict quarantine measures regarding bringing food into the country, if you just can’t get enough of the delicious fromage you’ve sampled during your trip you should be able to take it out of Australia. However, it is always worth checking with the customs agency of your next destination as to whether they allow visitors to bring food in.
Here are some more of our favourite Australian cheeses to look out for in supermarkets, delis and specialty stores: