Something’s wrong with David and I, either we’re disorganised, inefficient or just workaholics, but we rarely get time for a real holiday. Instead we’ve gotten into the habit of having regular B&B weekends in some of South Australia’s vastly underrated regional areas. One of our favourites is the Fleurieu Peninsula and last weekend saw us packing up the car and heading off again for a couple of days in that lovely spot. It had only been a couple of months since we were last there, when we stayed at Encounter Bay, but each time we go there’s something fresh and delightful to discover. First stop was the Willunga Farmers Market.
Willunga Farmers Market
As a recent interstate visitor told me, the farmers markets we have in South Australia surpass anything the Eastern states have to offer, both in quality and range of produce. The Willunga Farmers Market is a typical example. It was the very first to be established in SA, beginning in 2002 out of the car park of the Alma Hotel. It’s still in the same location but has long since overflowed its original boundaries and now takes up the whole of the Willunga Town Square. Every Saturday morning sees the small town of Willunga transformed, its streets and footpaths thronged with cars and purposeful shoppers.
The market operates every Saturday “come rain, hail or shine” from 8.00am to 12.30pm, but you should get there early to get the best buys.
It’s a lively, invigorating atmosphere – as much a social gathering as a place to buy the weekly provisions. What’s great about it, and typical of the best farmers markets, is that you can try before you buy. Most stall holders have tasting plates and samples laid out and are only too happy to share their wares with the passing crowd. Many locals patronise the market regularly, and according to the market’s newsletter, the Fleurieu Forager, the stallholders get the chance to nominate their favourite shopper for an award. As well, the market attracts lots of visitors and tourists, as it’s an ideal opportunity to see and taste in one place the amazing array of top quality food and wines produced by the region.
Everywhere you look there are stalls bustling with activity, which seems to continue unabated right up until closing time. We sampled a smorgasbord of delights ranging from lavender brownies from Fleurieu Lavender (delicious) to freshly steamed mussels from Kinkawooka Shellfish. The latter were tender and succulent morsels, the best mussels my husband has ever tasted according to him, and even I, the fishaphobe, enjoyed them. Kinkawooka is one of South Australia’s food producing success stories. The company is located at Port Lincoln and owned and operated by the Puglisi family, fishermen who have been in the business for around forty years. If you’re a bit ambivalent about mussels or not sure how to cook them, Kinkawooka has some tempting recipes and how to cook hints on their website. They also distribute leaflets and helpful advice at their stall.
Other attractions that caught our attention and some of our hard earned included Willunga Pasta, Kuitpo Forest Strawberries, Hart’s Vegetables, Tobalong Tomatoes, Taronga Orchards’ almonds, Willunga Olive Farm, Hillside Herbs and Najobe Park Red Angus. There is such a broad range of top quality produce at the market, you really have to go to fully appreciate it. To give you some idea, there’s a long list of producers and their profiles on the Willunga Farmers Market website.
As John, responsible for marketing at Fleurieu Milk & Yogurt Company (and an old dairying mate of my husband’s) said, the success of the market has come as somewhat of a surprise to those involved. They never expected it to become as popular as it has. While this is great for business, John said he’s glad it hasn’t lost its unique charm. Much of this can be attributed to the rural surroundings and the infectious feeling of neighbourliness that’s obvious from the moment you arrive. Stallholders and shoppers alike are clearly happy to be there, enjoying the best of what South Australia has to offer. Typical of the Fleurieu Peninsula, Willunga is the ideal venue for the market – unspoiled and understated, but brimming with the kind of country hospitality and charm you don’t often find on the tourist trail these days.
Watch out for Fleurieu Weekend Part 2 for more about where we stayed and what we ate.
by Anne Green