One of the joys of travel and visiting new places – whether that is in one’s own country or overseas – is discovering the local culinary treats and indulging in them. I have no compunction in planning my holiday destinations around culinary reputations and local foods are always my first point of call in any new place I visit – as I’ve said before, I think the best insight into a community is through their food. One of my biggest travel irritations is when I visit a spot that has an amazing reputation for a particular food and then find that I can’t actually eat it there. Lots of famous food destinations fail in this. They need to understand that they can’t just trade on the reputation of the food specialities that they export to the rest of the world – they really need to offer them to visitors to their region too. Happily, Kangaroo Island gets this in a big way and there is a magnificent food trail to follow there, where you can spend the whole time eating and drinking some splendid local delicacies. And when it comes to fresh seafood from pristine waters, they’ve got it all sewn up as far as I’m concerned.
I’ll be completely up-front here and state that Kangaroo Island Oyster Farm in American River is solely responsible for reigniting my love for fresh oysters. I had an unfortunate brush with oysters many years ago that left me unable to face them again in any meaningful way. When I visited the oyster farm and farm shop back in May I knew I’d have to get my big-girl pants back on to down a couple and I was utterly overjoyed that I did. A truly fresh oyster should be plump, glistening and taste completely of the sea – a set of criteria which these delicious mouthfuls met to perfection. Rather than just having one or two in order to look polite, I found myself greedily looking for more.
Don’t be deceived by this charmingly modest shop front (which I hope they never change) – the store behind it holds a wealth of the freshest oysters and other shellfish that you are ever likely to find. Situated directly across the road from the oyster bed – you can’t get any fresher than that – the shop sells oysters, abalone, marron and fresh fish. You can get it prepared and cooked to eat on the spot, packaged for travel or ready to take away for an amazing picnic. Amanda and her husband Ken are also smoking their own oysters. Forget the nasty little rubbery things out of cans, these taste unbelievable – and stand by for more smoked treats as they really get into the swing of it.
Once you’ve had your oyster entree, throw your budget to the wind, jump back in the car and head on into Kingscote and the wonderful Ferguson Australia factory outlet. The Ferguson family have been supplying South Australia and the world with the finest seafood for three generations and, once again, you can buy their products on site, all packaged and ready to take home or you can enjoy them almost on the spot. Ferguson’s harvest the magnificent Southern Rock Lobster from South Australia’s clean coastal waters and pride themselves on the highly regulated and sustainable fishing practices they have employed for years. A great deal of their finest catch of lobster and crab is exported, but there is still plenty to choose from at the factory outlet in Kingscote. They’ll even make up a stunning seafood platter for you to take away – a brilliant picnic to enjoy on the Kingscote foreshore, just minutes away from the store.
If fresh-water shellfish is more your thing Kangaroo Island can offer you a treat that is only found in one other place in the world. Marron is a much-prized freshwater shellfish which is only grown in Australia – on Kangaroo Island and Western Australia. They have a sweet, nutty flesh that chefs just love and are considered quite a luxury product. Andermel Marron Farm has been producing these sensitive, cold-water crayfish since the late 1990’s, supplying them to some of the finest restaurants on the mainland but, once again, you won’t have to go that far. They have a store and a fully licensed cafe on site where you can treat yourself to what is said to be one of the best meals in the island. The cafe is right next to the marron sheds so you can see where your gourmet meal is coming from, or you can take them home with you to prepare later.
Now, I expect you’re wondering whether or not you’ll be able to get a drink or two to wash down all of this fine food. Don’t worry – Kangaroo Island has that covered too. Stay tuned for even more reasons to spend some time getting to know Kangaroo Island’s fantastic food culture very soon.