Food and Wine

Food on the Spirit of Queensland

What’s the food like on long-distance rail journeys?

Pumpkin and Spinach Filo served with seasonal salad and Balsamic Dressing along with Caramel Mousse for dessert – I’ve never tasted railway food this good!

I’d boarded the Spirit of Queensland at Maryborough West the evening before bound for North Queensland and barely had time to settle when staff delivered Beef Medallion with roasted potato and veggies for dinner, directly to my seat.  

On picking up the cutlery, I was transported back more than 40 years to when I used a small pocket knife to cut a fruit cake to share with my travelling friend Rose.

Rose and I were the only passengers on the old wooden freight train running between Barcaldine and Rockhampton in Central Queensland.

Both daughters of railway workers, we were looking for adventure and chose familiar transport. The fruit cake we brought with us was our only food.

Since then I’ve enjoyed many rail journeys, among them on Queensland’s Tilt Train, Spirit of the Outback, and Tasmania’s West Coast Wilderness Railway between Queenstown and Strahan.

However, before this month’s 17-hour trip from Maryborough to Tully, I’d never experienced long-distance rail travel in Business Class. I’ve always taken Economy seats or, on overnight journeys, bunked in Sleeper Cabins.

This time I was keen to try one of the new RailBeds I’d seen on Queensland Rail’s website. Basically, a RailBed is a large set by day that converts to a flatbed by night.

They’re placed three abreast, two on one side of the aisle and one on the other. 

The RailBed Car had an airline feel to it with a trolley service for meals and a complimentary drink upon arrival. A Club Car was nearby to purchase other drinks and snacks.  

I could watch movies on an individual screen and there was even a 24-Volt PowerPoint on my chair armrests to recharge my mobile phone.

Pressing an orange button above my seat alerted staff that I was ready for bed. They flipped the seat to convert it to a mattress and even made my bed.

A shower pack and towel was provided if I wanted to freshen up before turning in for the night. As with airlines, the Car’s lights were dimmed and curtains closed.

In the morning, I only had to press the orange button again and staff converted my bed back to a seat.

While the seat was quite firm and the footrest too far away for my short legs to reach, overall my first RailBed experience was comfortable, the service was awesome and the food absolutely terrific. All meals were included in the package price. 

For anyone travelling from Brisbane to Cairns and/or return, if you can spare a day to sit back and relax, choosing a Spirit of Queensland RailBed is an excellent alternative to an air flight.


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A tipple or three kick-starts Relish Festival

“You’ll be taking your life into your own hands,” joked Jenny as I arrived at this year’s Relish Fraser Coast food and wine festival in Maryborough.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“At the free wine tasting stalls, people are lined up six deep and it’s each for their own!”

Jenny waived her free wine glass above her head and stood on tiptoes, showing how she finally drew a stall tender’s attention for a small taste of handcrafted wine from the South Burnett.

Relish visitors are a thirsty and hungry lot when it comes to sampling the wide variety of medal-winning wines and exquisite food from the Fraser Coast Hinterland regions.

Growers and makers from Childers to Kingaroy come together just once a year to showcase their varietals, blends, sparking and fortified wines. The mouth-watering foods include a wide variety of delights from sea scallops to macadamia nuts.

Held each June on the ground where sly grog running was rife and opium was a legal import in the early days of European settlement, Maryborough Portside is now where visitors meet local growers and makers who love to share the fruits of their work.

Waiting 12 months for the region’s food and wines to come together in one place again is a long time for some locals and the temptation to sample as much as possible as soon as the gate opens is huge.

Jenny excitedly gave me a run-down on all she had savoured in her first hour at Relish Fraser Coast, counting on all her fingers and toes (hic!) so she didn’t forget anything.

Soon my friends and I were heading over to the wine stalls in Queen’s Park to kick-start our day. The early rush had tapered off and we filled our day leisurely meeting chefs and wine makers, listening to amazing musicians and visiting Gatakers Artspace.  

Next June’s Relish Fraser Coast isn’t that far away, is it?

Once I’d entered Relish’s gate for just $10, there were plenty of things to do from food lovers’ sessions to entertainment galore without spending much more.

Opportunities to splash out a few more dollars on a Mary River cruise, workshops, or an event session such as Hill of Promise Food and Wine Matching, are also plentiful.

So if treating yourself to an amazing day out appeals, why not start your own Relish fund and pop your spare change into a special jar throughout the year to make the most of this annual opportunity? 

Relish Fraser Coast

Discovering Mead

blackwood meadery

Mead’s the buzz at Margaret River

Friar Tuck was on to a good thing and he knew it. Overindulgent perhaps but the taste of his favourite beverage, mead, is one for which I could easily develop.

While driving through the Margaret River region of Western Australia, hubby and I was faced with the difficult task of choosing which of the 100 or so wineries we would visit. Decisions, decisions!

Around almost every corner another winery beckoned but we couldn’t visit them all.

The long list of unfamiliar names on a tourist brochure offered no clues as to the best; however, one name, being a meadery rather than winery, stood out from the rest.

“What’s a meadery?” I asked. Hubby was more informed. He recalled a black and white television series from the mid-1960s called Robin Hood, in which a good friar indulged heavily in the honey wine. Not a bad pick up for a lad of about 10 years of age.

Blackwood Meadery, located in Karridale 25km south of Margaret River, was modest in size compared to surrounding wineries but very welcoming with sweet aromas drifting from the gardens.

For just $2 each, we could taste a variety of dry to sweet meads, as the host filled in the blank details on the beverage.

Mead is a wine made from honey rather than grapes and can be traced back at least 5000 years to Nordic legends. During these times the bee was held in high regard as honey was considered the giver of life, courage, strength and wisdom.

One legend claims that mead was the reason behind the word “honeymoon”. Supposedly, a Northern European tradition says a bride and groom were to drink mead every day for one month after their wedding, which was intended to increase virility and fertility.

Moving on to Hamelin Bay Wines and Briarose Estate we found a convenient way to stock the wine racks at home with Margaret River wines and meads was to buy cartons of 12 bottles, which were usually discounted and free of freight charges for bulk purchases.

For extra variety, we could also buy one bottle at each of 12 different wineries and ask the final winery of our choice to freight the carton home to Maryborough, Qld … where a bottle of 2005 Blackwood Mead is waiting to be opened on Christmas Day.

Find out where else can you buy mead at

Margaret River blog collage