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Strawberries, tomatoes, koalas and more!

October 22, 2014 - Port Macquarie

The sun rises on another beautiful, crisp Port Macquarie day and Claire and I are up, dressed and ready to hit the road. But first, we stop into The Corner Restaurant to fuel up on coffee and breakfast for the day. We’re served sweetcorn fritters, a fantastic eggs Benedict with grilled asparagus and delicious Campos coffee to get our motors running.

Our first stop for the day is Ricardoes Tomatoes. The drive from Port Macquarie’s Town Centre takes around 15 minutes and we’re there before we know it. Pulling up, we’re both surprised at how many people are there, including small tour groups and families. It’s nothing like what we had imagined!

One of the cheery koala sculptures of the Hello Koalas Sculpture Trailers, painted bright red with strawberries and flowers, greets us outside Ricardoes. We walk inside to a buzzing room of visitors happily munching on morning tea treats. The shop section of the room is stocked with jars containing yummy things like strawberry jam, tomato passionfruit jam and tomato chilli chutney.

We meet Anthony, part owner, who greets us with a warm smile and a firm handshake before kicking off a behind the scenes tour. He leads us into one of the large greenhouses where the tomatoes are grown using a high-tech hydroponic system. What strikes us most is the consideration and thought given to the entire system at Ricardoes. As Anthony explains, it is an eco-friendly setup where local, natural and sustainable resources are used to fuel the system including burning macadamia nut shells to heat water to keep the plants warm in cooler weather.

After the tour we sit with Anthony and have a cup of tea and a freshly baked scone with Ricardoes own famous strawberry jam and fresh cream, while we eat, Anthony tells stories about farm life and makes us feel welcome. Talking to him, it’s clear how much of his heart is invested in the place. We can’t help but smile when he tells us the scones we just ate were baked fresh that morning by a local retired lady. We end our time at Ricardoes by picking fresh, ripe strawberries and promptly set about eating them as soon as we are back in the car.

Later that afternoon we drive to The Koala Hospital for the daily free guided tour run by one of the passionate volunteers. We’re introduced to a number of the sick, injured or recovering koalas who have been rescued from the local area and beyond. The hospital is the only one of its kind in the world, dedicated solely to the rescue and rehabilitation of koalas.

Each of the volunteers has a big smile on their face which clearly comes from the joy the get seeing these beautiful animals released back into their natural habitat after receiving the help they so dearly need. The Koala Hospital has been operating for 41 years in Port Macquarie and is run solely on donations, so if you do get the chance to stop in (and you really should) be sure to donate to help the volunteers continue to educate locals and help koalas.

Our last stop for the day is dinner at Zebu Bar & Grill. The first thing we notice when we walk in is the upbeat vibe, there are people at most tables which gives us a good indication we’ve walked into a great place. The bar staff are friendly, helpful and quick to take our order. Before too long we’re sat at high table with bar stool, looking out the window at the water, watching the sunset with cocktails in our hands. We have heard around town that the wood fired pizzas are not to be missed and we can see why. The pizzas are fresh and delicious with a great base and plentiful, tasty toppings that make you want to go back for more!

Day two has been a success, we’ve started to get a real feel for the big hearts and friendly natures of the locals and we’re excited for more tomorrow!

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