Travelling for Edible Native Plants and Weeds around Melbourne

Not too long ago, a lady was picking weeds out of my front garden. When I approached her, she paused and quickly backed away in embarrassment. I stopped her with a smile; encouraged her to take what she needed. In her very limited English, she pointed to a young weed and blurted: “Tea!” I had no idea that these leaves could be picked to make tea. With my encouragement, the lady continued scouring my flower beds for the best tea-brewing leaves, picked what she needed and headed for home.

Travel edible native plants weeds walking tour Melbourne Australia Victoria

I’m grateful to live in Melbourne, home to exciting restaurants and cafés that specialise in or feature amazing vegan dishes. Though, I’ve been left to wonder where I could travel to, beyond my front yard, in search of edible native plants and weeds. Here are a couple of tours that specialise in walking edible native plants and weeds tours around Melbourne for those looking at expanding their botany knowledge while getting some curious travel in at the same time.

Hello Edible Weed offers walks through Melbourne and the Yarra Valley so you can learn about which weeds you can eat. Hello Edible Weed also offers books, workshops and talks on the topic. Three-hour walks/workshops are run by author Doris Pozzi from $35 per person. It’s a great opportunity to learn about which weeds can be eaten and/or added to your cooking. Bookings can be made via the website or phone 03 5962 5982. 

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Eat That Weed is another weed walks provider, run by those who hold qualifications in horticulture and permaculture – self-confessed ‘plant nerd’ Annie Raser-Rowland and permablitz movement founder Adam Grubb. Tours are held mostly around the Brunswick East area along the Merri Creek wanderings to help you find what’s edible and what’s not.  

Walking Tours of Melbourne can take you on a personalised ‘living wild off the land’ expedition. Choose from some of the native areas of Melbourne and suburban surrounds, while learning about the native edible plants that indigenous Australians local to these areas have known about for generations. Medicinal plants, sustainable species and harvesting techniques are all covered, as well as seasonal species and traditional tools used for harvesting. Choose from former wetlands from Elster Creek to Elwood Beach, craggy beachfronts of Half Moon Bay and Black Rock, and the 500-year-old St Kilda Corroboree Tree and gathering grounds of Albert Park. Grab a group of mates, decide on what and where you want to explore and let Walking Tours Melbourne sort you out with a guided journey. Bookings are by arrangement and can be made via the website, email at or phone 03 9090 7964.

Weekend Beach Food Hangouts at Phillip Island in Victoria

Day-trippers and weekend wanderers travel to Phillip Island to get away from Melbourne for some beachside travel time. This naturally rich location on the southern coast of Victoria, easily accessible by car, offers travellers all the nature experiences one can hope for – back-beach seascapes, lush bushwalking spots and day-trips to view native koalas, little ‘fairy’ penguins and fur seals in their natural environment. Phillip Island is visited by travellers all year round, yet best experienced during the summer months from December to February. Another appeal of Phillip Island is that you can hop on and off the island by car to explore quaint townships in between. During a big day of exploring each corner of Phillip Island, you must keep your energy levels in check. Here are three beach food hangouts to fuel your day while exploring Phillip Island.        

Phillip Island Victoria Australia San Remo Cowes penguin parade food vegan travel gluten free Vegan Life magazine

Island Wholefoods for Brunch

Cowes is the main community hub on Phillip Island. Before you head out to your big beach trips for the day, a brunch stop at Island Wholefoods is my tip. This is an organic, raw and superfoods café where you can fuel up on fruit-filled acai bowls, fresh green smoothies and turmeric lattes. As much as the bowls are filling and fulfilling, their scrambled tofu on gluten-free toast and sided by a wedge of lemon is a yum-in-the-tum brunch choice.

Phillip Island Cowes San Remo Victoria Australia penguin parade weekend daytrip travel vegan food gluten free

The tofu is seasoned with turmeric, and veggies like capsicum and spinach are folded through for added nutrition. As you wait for your meal, order a turmeric latte with a dusting of cinnamon and take in the calm beachside aesthetic within this café – from the raw floorboards to the local artwork adorning the walls.     

Island Wholefoods 4/75 Chapel Street, Cowes Victoria 3922 Australia (no phone number)


Sweetly Sweets and Ice-cream for a Cool Summer Treat

What’s summer without an icy-cold gelato? A pretty boring one! Australia tops the list as the biggest consumers of ice-cream in the world. This means that Phillip Island has plenty on hand to meet the summer demand.

Phillip Island Cowes San Remo Victoria Australia travel food vegan gluten free daytrip weekend

Sweetly Sweets and Ice-cream is a gourmet ice-cream café that stocks up to six dairy free and vegan sorbets and coconut ice-cream, all homemade by local provider Prom Coast Ice-cream and Sorbet. My favourite flavours to try are the banana coconut cream and mixed berry. Traditional lemon is pretty good, too! Sweetly is located in San Remo, the township before you cross the bridge to get to Cowes.

Sweetly Sweets and Ice-cream, 8/157-159 Marine Parade, San Remo Victoria 3925 Australia Phone: 0418 349 489

Island Burger Bar for Dinner

A massive day at the beach calls for a just as massive meal to restore energy levels. After surfing, ocean swimming, hiking or bushwalking, the body demands a nourishing meal to satisfy the hunger. This is where Island Burger Bar at Cape Woolamai steps in. This classic strip-shop takeaway melds classic Aussie chip shop with a laid-back surfer hangout feel, all stitched together with alternative music vibrating overhead. Tummies will zone in on the big burger menu here and vegans are welcomed into this fold.

Phillip Island Cowes San Remo Cape Woolamai Victoria Australia penguin parade travel vegan gluten free food daytrip weekend
Phillip Island Cowes San Remo Cape Woolamai Victoria Australia penguin parade travel vegan gluten free food daytrip weekend
Phillip Island Cowes San Remo Cape Woolamai Victoria Australia penguin parade travel vegan gluten free food daytrip weekend

One to get the teeth into is Island Burger Bar’s homemade lentil and sweet potato burger, all layered on a fresh bun with bright salad and a smooth layer of hummus. Gluten free buns are thankfully available here, though I narrowly missed out during my dine-in visit. That’s what happens when you dine here during peak season! Still, the chilled out staff take this all in their stride to deliver a bountiful plate version – the salad acts as a side to two burgers topped in hummus. When there’s a will, there’s a way, and Island Burger Bar is happy to accommodate.

My suggestion is to order a couple of potato cakes (or sweet potato if available!) to make this burger meal even more of the holiday hunger pleaser that it is. Just be sure to pull up at a table outside to eat this tasty burger meal as the sun sets over Cape Woolamai for the day.  

Island Burger Bar, 9 Vista Place Cape Woolamai Victoria 3925 Australia. Phone: 03 5956 6552.

This post was inspired by the mouth-watering article on burgers titled 'On a Roll' found in February Issue 23 of Vegan Life Magazine.
You can check out their website for digital or print subscription details.

Vegan Life magazine vegan food travel Phillip Island Victoria Australia daytrip weekend

Disclaimer: I was supplied with a free digital copy of Issue 23 of Vegan Life Magazine. All opinions expressed in this post are mine.

What’s Gluten Free Got to Do with Fire & Tea?

On the back of tennis star Serena Williams’ win at the Australian Open in Melbourne over the weekend, I have been drawn to her sister Venus’ personal win to conquer her auto-immune disease and return to professional, top-level tennis. As Venus stood at the podium to deliver her speech as the runner-up, her words brought a tear to my eye. Both Venus and Serena are well-known vegan athletes, yet it was Venus’ story that drew me in the most.

coeliac disease gluten free vegan travel melbourne australia fire and tea

You may have noticed in recent posts that I’ve been documenting my food and travel with a sprinkling of references to gluten free. ‘Gluten free’ has launched into the blogosphere in recent times and #glutenfree is achieving an explosive presence on digital platforms worldwide thanks to the gluten intolerance movement. My choice to report from a gluten free frame of writing, alongside my vegan mission, is based on medical merit. I was diagnosed with Coeliac Disease mid-last year.

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According to Coeliac Australia, Coeliac Disease is a heredity auto-immune disease occurring when “the immune system reacts abnormally to gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and oats), causing small bowel damage”. What I’ve come to learn is that Coeliac Disease is “one of Australia’s most commonly under-diagnosed conditions”, and affecting only 1 in 100 Australians. The common symptoms, as I’ve experienced, are fatigue, joint pain, skin rashes and severe dermatitis. The effects are debilitating, with the potential to bring daily life in general to a sudden halt. Family life, relationships, work and basic day-to-day functioning are all affected. There were times I couldn’t cook dinner, go out with friends for a meal, work at optimum level, check out bands, new restaurants and new destinations with my husband or even embark on meaningful travel in my own city. Blogging and writing stood still for a while there, too, as much as it pained me.

gluten free coeliac disease vegan travel melbourne australia fire and tea

Just as an example, my hike through the Three Capes Track in Tasmania early last year was my first multi-day hiking trip, a ‘bucket list item’ if you will. The trip was a physical struggle for which I had no explanation why at the time. , Despite extensive training, at the end of each hiking day my knees and feet were swollen and sore as I hobbled around camp and I went to bed unusually early each night so that I could keep my energy levels up for a day’s hiking by next morning. My pre-packed meals weren’t fulfilling and I was constantly hungry and losing weight. While I enjoyed the trip immensely, the excruciating pain dampened the experience for me internally; feelings I kept within myself. I hid it all, and celebrated my reaching the finish line with an exuberant, though fatigued and exhausted smile on my face as I hobbled down the last few steps into Fortescue Bay. I stayed positive though and I assured myself: ‘This is definitely not the finish line for me and hiking.’

Coeliac Disease travel gluten free vegan australia melbourne fire and tea

Since my diagnosis my food choices have whittled down dramatically, yet I have found options at every vegan establishment I have visited and reported on. The benefits heavily out-weight the new choices in food mapped out for me. I’ve built strength within myself physically and emotionally, I’ve gained control of my energy levels and the fatigue has been set to idle so that I can enjoy all the vegan food and travel I can welcome into my life. I’m now looking ahead to more trips, and my husband and I have even been invited on a tempting hike across the southern rim of my home-state, too. If we take that invitation up, it will definitely be completed without pain and fatigue, but with loads of energy fuelled by a backpack crammed with vegan, gluten free hiking foods! 

With correct diagnosis, proper management and the benefits of a vegan diet, I’ve rewarded myself with my personal gains; the gold after the personal battles I experienced. I’m well and truly back to doing everything I love – travelling, eating, writing and blogging in particular. I’ve just had to reframe the narrative a little. Change is always a good thing, one of the valuable lessons I’ve learned thanks to my travelling ambitions. I hope you continue to enjoy Fire & Tea as much as I enjoy writing and blogging it all for you.         

Finding our Travel Flow in Adelaide

My husband and I decided to travel to Adelaide for the weekend a few years back. Chris had always wanted to see his AFL football team, the Hawks, play interstate so we booked in a weekend to Adelaide to fulfill one of his travel dreams.

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On the morning of our departure, Chris realised that he had lost his wallet. “Yikes!” My mind started to spin. “How on Earth are we going to get on the plane without Chris having any ID? How are we going to hire the car waiting for us in Adelaide without a credit card? How will we be able to leave a security credit card swipe with the hotel?” Worry immediately set in. Yet, like any trip, we breathed in deep, accepted our predicament and headed for the airport to try our luck.

When we arrived at the airport, we realised that we had pre-booked our e-tickets under a carry-on luggage classification. We sped to the self-check-in stands and checked in as fast as we could. No ID needed here! We breezed through security and boarded the plane flawlessly. Phew.

Once we landed in Adelaide, we discovered that it’s a city bursting with possibilities, whether it be sport, culture or the arts. What would our possibilities be with only a limited supply of cash? Our question was answered early on when we tried to pick up the hire car. No credit card to swipe for security, no car hire we were told; company policy. We were left with no other choice but to cancel our booking and we were sent on our way with an apology. We checked my wallet and dug out a small amount of cash that was just enough to catch a taxi to our hotel in the city.

Upon arriving at our hotel, we hit another snag in our course. Without a credit card, we needed to provide a $200 cash security deposit. I still had cash in my savings account and handed over my EFTPOS card. “How are we going to eat this weekend?” I started to panic. We thought quickly then made a deal with the hotel. If we pay the security upfront we can ask for $50 back after each day of our stay, so we could cover the basic expenses. They obliged willingly, given our circumstances. “Hooray! We can eat!” We checked in to our room after another sigh of relief.

We started exploring the city by foot and calculated a few things that would go our way during our weekend away. After wandering through the city’s relaxing, and free, public parklands and admiring the city’s gorgeous colonial architecture in neighbouring backstreets, we located a few spots for a cheap eat to get us through our main meals of each day. One such find was at the unassuming Adelaide Casino across the road from our hotel. For around $11 each we scored a cooked lunch that kept us going for the rest of the day. This still left us with cash leftover to take us on a tram ride to the front beaches of Glenelg. Such a lovely daytrip that was within a hop, skip and jump from our lodgings. We wandered in the sunshine along Jetty Road and learnt more about the history of this seaside suburb at the Bay Discovery Centre; a free museum for visitors to Adelaide.

We also found out that we could catch a free public bus outside our hotel on North Terrace that could take us straight to the game the next day. Luckily, we paid for our footy tickets in advance! 

travel tips travel mishaps travel blunders bad luck travel australia adelaide

By the Monday, we checked out with memories of Chris fulfilling a travel wish, despite the Hawks losing to Port Adelaide, a fun weekend away with plenty to eat and do, and enough cash leftover to get us to the airport then home.

Our little trip to this beautiful Australian city taught us a few lessons in travel. Anything can go wrong when you do travel and almost every mishap can be overcome with a little ingenuity. You just have to find your flow and accept to go with it. If the mishaps keep surfacing and you can’t overcome them, then it may be time to change course for a new destination. 

Thankfully, for us, Adelaide remained our destination for the weekend and rewarded us with more travel memories to last a lifetime. And as for Chris’ wallet? It was eventually found…under the driver’s seat in his car once we arrived home.

Have you experienced a travel mishap or some not-so-fun travel bad luck? I'd love to hear about your brush with travel bad luck and how you managed to bounce back from it.
Leave your stories and thoughts in the comments section below!

New Roads Discovered when We Compromise our Travel Plans

“I’m booking myself a one-way ticket and never coming back,” I declared. This was back in 1996 and I wasn’t really planning to leave forever. The plan was to start and finish my university degree, save enough money to keep me going and backpack around the world with no real end date planned. One of my cousins worked for Camp America at the time so it was part of the plan to go on a working holiday, too.

Me checking out the mighty expanse of The Grand Canyon in Arizona.

Me checking out the mighty expanse of The Grand Canyon in Arizona.

Within the first year of uni, I met my boyfriend at the time. This is when plans started to change. It was early months in our relationship, so we spent long hours chatting about our plans after uni. Many of these discussions revolved around travel. As much as we both dreamed about travelling the world, we clashed on how we each wanted to go about it – I wanted to work and travel indefinitely while he didn’t. After some lengthy discussions and weighing up each debate, I decided to make a compromise on my original plan.

I saw a way to reward myself

I reflected and realised that, by the time I was to graduate with a degree, I would’ve spent 16 out of my 21 years of life studying and working part time jobs to pay for it. Of course, there were domestic holidays in between and weekends away when a rostered Sunday off appeared. Yet, I couldn’t remember when I had given myself a proper break. Perhaps an extended holiday after graduation was a good idea, then?

Finding a place to rest and have lunch at a pitstop while on the road in Texas.

Finding a place to rest and have lunch at a pitstop while on the road in Texas.

A gap year between school and work had weighed on my mind

I knew that if I didn’t start and finish my degree straight out of high school, I wouldn’t go back to full-time study. Though, I needed to work out how to save for the funds needed for this epic holiday.

In order to pay for my share of the holiday, I had to start saving

My degree was essentially my timeline. I had two and a bit years left to save for this overseas holiday and I had always dreamed of heading to the U.S and Canada. Luckily, my boyfriend had similar travel aspirations. We worked out roughly how much we needed and started saving. I even took on a second part-time job as a waitress to pay for the dream.

John Lennon was right with one word. Taken in Strawberry Fields in Central Park, New York.

John Lennon was right with one word. Taken in Strawberry Fields in Central Park, New York.

I put in the time, hard work and effort

Having a second part-time job did take its toll. I was studying 30 contact hours at uni and working up to 30 hours in between. It was common for me to start at uni weekdays at 8am, drive straight to work and arrive home any time after 11pm. Weekends were loaded back-to-back shifts and I missed out on friends’ birthday parties or nights out. Any rare spare time I had to myself was used completing assignments and studying for exams. I was still young; with energy to spare. I wish I had that sleepless, 20-something energy now!

I decided on a balance of independent and tour-style travel

Wanderlust can transport you to wild and wonderful places, but the reality set in when travel times were calculated. Why spend 20 hours on a flight from Melbourne, only to come home again in a couple of weeks without ticking off everything you wanted to do? My boyfriend and I wrote a wishlist and mapped out our journey across two-and-a-half months, breaking up any big tours with DIY stops in between. We saw ourselves traversing the southern and northern U.S states, east and west coasts of Canada, sandwiched by mini-stays in L.A, San Francisco and New York. A sneaky stop in Hawaii on the way home made it on the list, too.

Catching a bit of 'shut-eye' during a long road journey across America with CD player, too!

Catching a bit of 'shut-eye' during a long road journey across America with CD player, too!

Travel agents didn’t take 20-somethings seriously back then

With our epic journey mapped out, along with the time and money involved, we discovered that travel agents didn’t take us seriously. Remember, online bookings weren’t the “done thing” back in 1999. We went old school – heading to a travel agent to gather quotes and make our bookings. Some agents didn’t even believe we had the money to do it. Trust me, those agents missed out big time! We eventually found one agent who believed in us. She worked after hours to prepare our quote and hand-delivered it to us at my boyfriend’s home. Our planning was such a lesson in travel – it takes faith and trust from others, as well as believing in yourself, to ensure dreams and goals are achieved.

Returning home translated to a huge bout of post-travel depression

By the time we returned home in the middle of a frosty-cold Melbourne winter, we had covered over 40 U.S states and both of Canada’s coasts. We bussed, flew, walked, kayaked, speed-jetted and hiked through national parks, ice glaciers, soaring skylines and arid deserts. We saw the Yankees play at Yankee Stadium, wandered Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, stepped within the gates of Alcatraz, played the slots in Las Vegas, had a beer at the iconic Cheers bar in Boston, grooved our way to Blues along Bourbon Street in New Orleans, paid our respects at the spots where Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy were assassinated, visited Washington D.C on Memorial Day, awed over The Badlands and The Grand Canyon, attended music festivals, ate loads of American food and discovered countless record stores.

Reaching the Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota.

Reaching the Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota.

By the time we returned home, we fell into a bout of post-travel depression and it wasn’t long before the travel bug bit me again. I also needed to break into the inevitable world of full-time work. I was lucky enough to start working at a small publishing house as a receptionist which eventually led me into working on trade exhibitions; some of which were overseas. I also worked for a manager who understood the value of travel and allowed me one full day off on each work trip to go out and experience my surroundings. I was lucky to travel to Singapore, Thailand and within Australia, too. I was able to satisfy my initial desire of working overseas.

I found snow in Canada! This pic was taken on the road heading to Lake Louise in Alberta.

I found snow in Canada! This pic was taken on the road heading to Lake Louise in Alberta.

My boyfriend and I still kept travelling together and ended up getting married as well. We eventually made our way to New Zealand, later marrying in Victoria’s Yarra Valley winery region then honeymooning on Hamilton Island. Later, we travelled more through China, South East Asia and the Middle East. Plus, there have been many little domestic trips in between.   

Sometimes, our dreams in life don’t always go to according to the coordinates we set ourselves. Despite this, we almost always achieve our dreams if it means taking new turns or backstreets. A road less travelled, or not travelled at all, may then just be the solution. Compromise may be the new map you need when life presents a new direction. I’m thankful that travel is in my life to teach me this.