There’s something special about this region of Australia. Rivers run to meet the sea, produce grows abundantly, the sun shines when rain is forecast, and when the rains do come they only make the land richer and greener.
An increasingly popular destination for city slickers from Sydney and Brisbane, when holiday makers aren’t hitting the beach they’re exploring the quaint towns dotted along the hinterland without forgoing the diverse dining options of the city.
In fact, the local restaurants are a destination in themselves with the number of Hatted establishments in the region on the rise.
Bryon Bay, Bangalow, Newrybar, Cabarita and Lindendale are just some of the dining hotspots in the region; although, as the locals would say, it’s hard not to find a good meal, made from fresh local produce when in the Northern Rivers.
Tucked away in Newrybar, Harvest dominates the small main street of this historic town with its cafe, bakehouse and deli.
Locally owned and operated, Harvest takes pride in showcasing the region’s fresh seasonal local produce in a relaxed country setting while offering a sophisticated dining experience.
The service is impeccable and you’ll be forever raving about the food to friends. Enjoy a leisurely breakfast, lunch or dinner on the breezy veranda as you smell fresh bread baking in the 101 year old historic wood fire oven next door.
Harvest is open seven days for breakfast and lunch, and open for dinner on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings. Bookings are highly recommended.
Town is the kind of place you only find out about through word-of-mouth, and consider yourself privileged to be in on the recommendation.
I was lucky enough to have my waiter at Harvest not only recommend Town to me when asking for a local dinner recommendation, but also calling on my behalf to see if a last minute booking could be arranged for that evening. Again, another reason the service at Harvest is so remarkable.
UpTown, a set six-course degustation dinner menu is served Thursday through Saturday only. The chefs, husband and wife duo Karl and Katrina Kanetani, draw on years of experience in kitchens around the world.
Karl’s Japanese-Hawaiian background adds a certain exotic Japanese delicateness to the menu, and the night I attended, this was reflected in the salmon with shun giki and miso and the lamb with umeboshi.
A little further north: Six Ways To Taste Life In Queensland
Or head south instead: South Austrlaia's 6 Best Winery Experiences
Inside Cabarita’s new white washed luxury boutique hotel Halycon House you’ll find the Hamptons-esque Paper Daisy restaurant. It’s not a prerequisite to be a hotel guest to dine here, but a booking is strongly encouraged. Although, the staff with do their best to seat at the bar if there’s room.
Headed up by former Esquire (Brisbane) chef Ben Devlin, who has also worked at Rene Redzepi's Noma restaurant in Copenhagen, you can expect a fresh, colourful and innovative menu.
Seafood stands out on the menu, as you can almost hear the waves crash at nearby Cabarita beach; however, what Paper Daisy is all about is unique and local ingredients including excellent cuts of beef and native herbs.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner is served seven days.
Three Blue Ducks
Taking up residence at The Farm at Byron Bay, Three Blue Ducks hails from Sydney where it’s award-winning sister restaurant resides in Bronte.
In Byron, the team offer the same honest, sustainably sourced fare. Situated on an 86-acre working farm, they don’t have to go too far to achieve a quality paddock-to-plate experience.
Serving breakfast, lunch and everything in between seven days, and dinner Friday to Sunday, you can sit down and enjoy the relaxed dining or purchase a picnic hamper, find a nearby patch of grass to lay your own picnic rug out on and enjoy a curated gourmet feast.
The Spotted Pig
If you’re on a Sunday drive winding along the country roads not far from Lismore, its well worth planning a detour to The Spotted Pig for breakfast or lunch.
This former country church chapel is now a fun dining spot with a focus on locally sourced produce, excellent coffee and, if the occasion calls for it, an impressive Bloody Mary. Open Wednesday to Sunday 7am-2.30pm