• Solomon Islands!

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    This Melanesian country is best known for its many islands and beaches... and this natural landscape (pictured) is why most people go. Don't miss out on the unique Melanesian culture and foods though! Begin Your Journey!

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    The heart of Polynesian culture is rooted in Tonga, but most visitors just come for the natural beauty. Explore Tonga!

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    Picturesque serenity is a good way to describe Vanuatu, but the culture offers much more, including the inspiration for bungee jumping, which remains a rite of passage for young men. Explore Vanuatu!

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Food, Dining, & Drinks in Australia

Historic Diet

Australian Food - Bacon & cheese steak pie
Bacon & cheese steak pie

The indigenous people of Australia lived off the land for tens of thousands of years as they hunted, gathered, and fished. Although not always the most fertile lands, the people survived by learning about the native plants and animals as the historic diet varied from region to region based upon what was locally available.

The people living in the deserts moved often as they survived primarily off of grubs, berries, and small animals. In other areas the plant life was much more varied and easily accessible. Among the most common foods in the historic diet were raspberries, munthari berries, illawarras (plums), riberries, wattleseed, and quandogs (peaches) among others.

The people also used the native animals in Australia for food, including many land animals. Kangaroo, wallaby, and emu were all eaten, but in some areas, especially the desert the animal life was more limited so additional animals were used for food. Moths, lizards, and snakes were eaten by people everywhere those animals lived, but these were much more common in the deserts. As many people lived in the southern part of the country where rivers, lakes, and oceanic coastline were accessible, sea food was a very important part of the diet to those who had access to the water. The oceanic rock lobster, prawns, tuna, salmon, abalone, crab, and yabby were all common then and today. The rivers and lakes have fewer animals, but in the north the barramundi was and still is a commonly eaten fish.

Culinary Influences

Australian Food - Seafood

The traditional diet of the aboriginal people of Australia lasted for thousands of years with very few changes. Over time some foods arrived to the continent, primarily from the northern island of New Guinea and the islands of Indonesia and the introduction of these foods were the greatest changes to the diet. Among these early foods to arrive to Australia were coconuts, taro, breadfruit, bananas, yams, arrowroot, lemons, and sugarcane among others.

Over time the aboriginal people changed their cooking methods while also altering how they got food as many people shifted from gathering to farming as they became settled. This primarily took place in the south where the lands were fertile enough to maintain sustainable crops; in the many parts of the continent the lands were too dry for sustainable agriculture and the people remained semi-nomadic.

The next great change to the cuisine in Australia arrived with the Europeans, who began settling the lands in the 1700s. These early settlers preferred eating their traditional foods from home rather than adopting the local cuisine, but most of these foods were absent in Australia at the time. This led to them eating the few foods that could be easily transported to the island, primarily breads, cured meats, and other goods that lasted longer. They also ate some local foods, particularly birds and fish that they were familiar with.

Over time the Europeans introduced many foods that they consumed in Europe and this began with cattle, sheep, pigs, and chickens. They also brought in numerous plants, such as wheat, apples, oranges, mangoes, pears, plums, apricots, papaya, pineapples, passion fruit, strawberries, raspberries, and grapes, which have led to a large and successful wine industry. The British also brought in many of dishes from Europe and even today many of these foods remain popular, such as fish and chips (French fries).

The cuisine slowly changed and evolved over time until 1800s when the technology from the Industrial Revolution reached the country's shores and the way foods were prepared, stored, and transported vastly changed. Improved transportation and storage methods allowed for greater importation of foreign foods as these new technologies also expanded the shelf life of foods.

In the 1900s and 2000s the immigrants to Australia have primarily been from Asia's Far East and the foods in Australia have changed to reflect this. Korean, Chinese, Japanese, and other Asian foods all became popular in Australia and remain so today. These foods have also greatly inspired the cuisine as fusion foods have become common in Australia today.

Also during this time fast foods have become popular as have processed and manufactured foods. Although these trends remain common in Australia, there is a growing trend for local foods, organic foods, and fusion foods created by local restaurateurs.

When & Where to Eat

Many Australians start the day with breakfast, but what this meal consists of varies quite substantially as some people only grab coffee or tea in the morning while others have a full meal of eggs, breads or pastries, fruits, potatoes, sausage, bacon, etc.

Lunch also tends to be a smaller meal for most Australians as they eat from about noon to 2:00 pm. If working this meal is generally simple as they take food from home, grab take out, or eat at a quick service restaurant. Again the food varies greatly from person to person, but it tends to be a single course meal, although a side snack or small dessert may also be eaten.

The evening meal, often referred to as "tea" (or dinner) tends to be the largest meal of the day for the Australians and this is usually eaten in the home, although many people try to eat in a restaurant on occasion, especially on weekends. People have this meal any time from about 5:00-9:00 pm depending on the person's schedule and it is usually eaten with the family or friends.

Staple Foods

Bread: a common side dish with meals or a part of the meal
Dairy: dairy products, including cheeses and milk are very popular and found with many meals
Potatoes: the most common starch, cooked in numerous ways

Regional Variations, Specialties, & Unique Dishes

Meat pie: this quick service food consists of ground beef (minced meat), gravy, and any number of other ingredients enclosed in a pastry
Queensland & New South Wales: these states, like much of the country is heavily influenced by the United Kingdom and its cuisine represents this
Pavlova: this cake is made with meringue and considered an iconic food in Australia
Roast lamb: this meal, simply roasted lamb, is a favorite in Australia
Victoria & South Australia: these states have strong German influence from meat preparation to desserts; they are also known for their wines, which are commonly served with meals

Dining Etiquette

The formality of dining and the rules associated with each level of formality vary greatly in Australia depending on the company and the setting. Eating in a nice restaurant with business associates means you must follow many of the common international dining etiquette rules, while if invited to an Australian's house for a "barbie" (or barbeque) the biggest concern might be making sure there's enough beer or wine.

No matter the setting, try to arrive to any dining event with the Australians on time or even a few minutes early. If you're invited to eat at their home be sure to bring a gift, a drink to share, or even a dish to pass. Ask the host in advance if there is anything you can bring, if they say no bring a bottle of wine, some chocolates, or flowers anyway as a thank you for dinner. If attending a "barbie" the host will likely ask you to bring wine or beer for yourself or to share, although on very informal occasions they may even ask you to bring your own meat. If dining in a local's home, be sure to offer to assist with preparation or clean-up.

When it comes to seating, let your host seat you no matter the setting. On many occasions they will simply tell you to sit anywhere, but in more formal settings the host may have an arranged seating chart so let them direct you. Often the host will sit at the head of the table. If eating in a restaurant, you may be asked to join a table with other people; politely ignore these people, but it's not completely uncommon to join in conversation with others at the table either.

As you settle in to eat, there are a few rules to follow when dining in Australia no matter the setting. The Australians eat in the continental style, meaning the knife is in the right hand and the fork remains in the left. Also keep your hands within sight at all times by resting your wrists on the edge of the table. Avoid sensitive subjects, such as politics, religion, money, or even business, as most business meals are for getting to know each other, not for talking business. Although you should avoid these subjects, the Australians can be very relaxed and may bring these subjects up, in which case feel free to join in.

Let your host indicate when you may begin eating and drinking. Sometimes people just begin, but it is best to watch your host and wait for his or her indication to start. Often times the first drink will be accompanied by a toast, like "cheers," or something else short. Either way, wait for others to begin before you do, for both drinks and food.

When you finish eating, place your fork and knife together, handles facing to the right, pointing at the 11:00 position. If eating soup, slightly push your spoon away from you to indicate you are finished. There are no taboos on leaving food on your plate or eating it all, so simply do what makes you most comfortable or eat until you've eaten enough. If you eat too much, don't say "I'm stuffed," as this indicates you're pregnant and there's probably a better time to make such an announcement.

If eating at a restaurant in a formal situation the host is expected to pay for everyone present, but everyone should make an effort to help pay. In more informal settings the bill may be split so everyone pays their share or the bill is evenly divided. If you do pay most restaurant bills include a service charge so no tip is needed. Even if no service charge is included there is debate on whether or not to tip. Most Australians don't tip and don't think foreigners should either, but in restaurants catering to foreign guests most servers expect a tip. Ultimately if you tip is at your decision, but never tip more than 10% for excellent service if no service charge is included.


Australia has nearly every popular international drink available, but on the non-alcoholic side they are best known for their coffee and coffee culture. Among these coffees, Italian-influenced drinks are the most popular including espresso to latte as coffee shops are found in every city and town. Of course juices, soft drinks, and tea are also common, especially in the home.

When it comes to alcoholic beverages Australia is gaining a better reputation for their wines with each passing year. Although numerous varietals are grown and produced, the country is best known for their Shiraz. Beers and breweries are also common in the country as there are numerous local and regional breweries. Although "Fosters" is well known outside of Australia, most locals prefer "Victoria Bitter" and the small breweries, which there are many. Australia isn't known for their liquors although they produce a large number of liquors; they also have all the popular international imported liquors. Perhaps the most popular hard liquor in Australia is rum.

Generally speaking, the tap water is safe to drink in Australia, but check with locals for any particular regional differences. Also, many people may have troubles adjusting to the local tap water as it will most certainly be different from what your system is used to.

This page was last updated: April, 2013