EVERY FRIDAY afternoon, a neon thread of red tail lights traces the highway north from Brisbane as weekenders head for their favourite retreats on Queensland 's Sunshine Coast.
Noosa is one of them - sought after not just for its temperate climate, luxurious lifestyle and beautiful beaches (recently voted by TripAdvisor as among the best in the world) but because it also well regarded as a food lovers paradise.
Like cruising along the serpentine Noosa River, a surf lesson on Main Beach, or designer shopping along Hastings Street, dining out here has become an experience often to write home about.
Some of the biggest names in the Australian restaurant industry have chosen to set up shop here including, most recently, Peter Kuruvita of Sydney's Flying Fish fame, who opened up The Beach House, just across from the golden sands, as part of the Sheraton's multi-million dollar makeover in 2013. Year after year, restaurants like Rickys, Sails, Wasabi and Embassy XO at nearby Sunshine Beach, continue to rate highly in the country's top food guides.
If you have a healthy appetite one of the best times to visit Noosa is May. Not only is the water still warm enough for swimming, but this is when Australia's best chefs join the region's most celebrated, to reveal their trade secrets at the Noosa Food & Wine festival.
Promoting the best in regional and seasonal produce and staged in various venues along the sun-drenched coast, the event been a popular annual attraction since it was first imagined by local restaurateurs Jim Berado and Greg O'Brien in 2003. Financial troubles in recent years have not failed to curb the enthusiasm of local business and tourism supporters either. Saved by a change of ownership and new sponsorship in 2016, the event continues to attract the best in the business.
More than 30 individual events are planned for the revamped festival across the weekend of May 20-22. Visiting chefs include Pete Evans, who will be spruiking his controversial Paleo lifestyle, as well Ben O'Donoghue, Luke Mangan, Cory Campbell, Massimo Mele and Matt Golinski.
Ticketed events kick off with a cocktail party under a tipi along Noosa's Main Beach. One of the festival's most popular events, the Noosa Street Feast Long Lunch on Hastings Street is back. Visitors can also enjoy wine master classes and tastings at the Sheraton Noosa Resort & Spa and join guest chefs at some of Noosa's best restaurants including Arcuri, Season, Embassy XO, Gaston Noosa, Locale, Noosa Beach House, Miss Moneypenny's, Noosa Boathouse and Rickys riverfront bar and restaurant, to name just a few.
A Slow Food Noosa Safari featuring a three-course bush tucker-themed lunch, promises to be a true paddock to plate experience highlighting the best produce the region has to offer - with visits to one of Stefanie Alexander's school kitchen garden projects, Cooloola Berries and Eumundi Beef.
Golf lovers can combine their love of the sport with a gastronomic experience at Noosa Springs' 9-hole 'Courses On Course' ambrose event where players will be tempted onto the green with four individually-themed food holes and five beverage stations showcasing top wines and craft beers.
Other highlights include a BBQ breakfast and surf-off between Australian surfing royalty and chefs in a competition to support SurfAid and a seafood trail at Makepeace Island, the luxurious island home of Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson. The finale happens under a full moon on the beach with an Asian Hawker-style feast.
The champagne is already on ice, so what are you waiting for. Details and tickets are available online at www.noosafoodwinefestival.com.au
Debbie Hunter 30/3/16