The best flower farms in Australia
Thanks to social media, remote farmers’ fields and outback gardens have become must-see destinations. We explore the best flower farms in Australia.
Aided by the internet’s ability to direct us anywhere at the click of an app, we’re on the hunt for flowers. Not a bouquet — a field.
Beyond every elbow of the New England Highway a new vista emerges to delight us. Green fields to infinity and lazy hills roll away amid splashes of purple Paterson’s curse, tractors, horses, cows and tiny towns that pass like a gasp. A boon of our self-guided flower trail is the joy of being out in the country, travelling someplace we’ve never been within our own vast land. There’s also the smiles our money — spent at shops, farms and on accommodation — brings to struggling towns affected by flood, drought and COVID-19 restrictions.
In January, a different type of gold is emerging, luring travellers to the small agricultural town of Quirindi. It’s deep in the heart of the Liverpool Plains, roughly four and a half hours’ drive northwest of Sydney in the foothills of the Great Dividing Range. The closest destination to Sydney for broadacre farming, it’s also a sunflower hotspot. Promoting the craze — and its associated tourism boost — Liverpool Plains council has distributed seeds to the local community. And preceding our visit, a sunflower competition was judged in the proud sunny gardens of the local towns.
With our “Sunny Side Up” map in hand (picked up at the friendly visitors’ centre), we’re off to search for the cheery yellow helianthus. Our destination on the GPS unfolds down a dirt drive into a farmer’s paddock. Pulling up amid the other cars, we’re revitalised by the glimmer of gold on the horizon. Parking, we join others stumbling excitedly over the clods of earth towards the sunflower crop.
Planted by generous farmer, Ian Carter, beside his field of sorghum, it’s a spellbinding sight worth travelling for. Hundreds of sunny faces nod atop tall sturdy stems creating a canvas of yellow heads beneath the blazing blue sky. Under the spell of their own circadian rhythms, young sunflowers follow the trek of the sun each day from sunrise to sunset. The more mature flowers face eastward to attract more pollinators. Native to North America, they thrive in the hot, dry conditions here.
Today, it’s a stinging 35 degrees Celsius. A windmill and red road scar the farmer’s flat fields. Mindful of bees, burrs and biting insects, we weave gingerly into the jungle of towering stems alongside others with their selfie sticks and cameras. We’ve timed our visit well; before cockatoos who also enjoy sunflowers!
January is also the peak season for lavender blooms, and far away at Bridestowe Lavender Estate (50 kilometres from Launceston) the fields have turned a heavenly purple. Self-proclaimed to be the world’s largest privately owned lavender farm, the property (at Nabowla) contains a staggering 650,000 or so individual lavender plants across kilometres.
We wander down earth aisles through the curved rows of purple spires. The endless space roams out into mauve hills in the distance, the clean Tassie air fresh with the disinfectant fragrance of the flowers. Flocks of tourists from far and wide drift through the purple haze, taking photos and admiring the view, one of Tasmania’s most striking and photographed sights. And with this much lavender, there’s plenty of room for everyone to enjoy their own patch of purple heaven.
Afterwards, we browse the farm’s lavender-based products — essential oils, soaps, candles, hand sanitiser, teas and more — in the on-site shop.
Bridestowe cultivates only the true variety of French lavender, Lavandula angustifolia, considered the best for perfume and cookery.
During the dour days of winter, I’m longing for the radiance of blossom. While it’s still cold in the eastern states, in the warm grasslands of the Pilbara region in WA the floral show begins early in June.
Turning out about 10 hours of sunshine a day, the Pilbara is the sunniest region in Australia (according to WA’s Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development) and one of the country’s hottest places.
The hardy natives here have evolved to survive the tough conditions. While all the states of Australia have their own wildflowers, Western Australia boasts the largest collection on earth, hosting about 12,000 different species. It’s thought 60 per cent of these are unique to the state.
In July in the Pilbara, in north of WA, I’m being introduced to purple mulla mulla and pink bachelor’s buttons on a tour of wildflowers and indigenous herbs with Josie Alec. Alec, a local traditional healer and creative, makes her own skin-care products and herbal remedies from plants native to her area.
Either side of the road, seas of tough spinifex grass blanket the ochre earth beneath the searing blue sky. Here and there, red Sturt’s desert pea pokes its nose from the spiky terrain, the colours reflecting the bright, earthy hues of Aboriginal art. Alec says she continues to learn from her deceased mother, a traditional healer, whose spirit guides her to the location of the right herbs.
Back in the 4WD, we continue on, following the rust-red road and its skirt of wildflowers. Alec observes there are fewer flowers than usual, due to drier and hotter than normal conditions. The display is affected by temperature and rainfall variations, and the key time to see the wildflowers in the Pilbara is June to August, while in the state’s south the wildflower season peaks in early spring.
Excitingly, spring is about to erupt all over the nation. Next up in my diary of dates with the country is late September, the best time to see the canola of Central West NSW in bloom.
From Sydney the main artery of the Great Western Highway flows into the Mid-Western Highway and into the patchwork green and gold of canola country. Throughout the region, which lies about four hours west of Sydney, there are flowering canola fields to be seen in and between the small rural towns of Cowra, Grenfell, Canowindra, Gooloogong, Greenethorpe, Wattamondara, Morongla and Woodstock.
Cruising along — you need a car to travel through the canola country — we hunt for the best photographic opportunities. Stopping on the roadside, there’s no one here but passing trucks, a squawking frog, chorusing crickets, some chuckling kookaburras, blue wrens and other birds to disturb my view of the golden glory. I climb a fence (it’s important to respect the farmers’ land and obey any “keep out” signs) and aim my camera at the yellow shimmer clothing the hills and fields lying low beneath the sky. Before too long, I’m joined by other travellers and their sparkling smiles and cameras. The canola is a photographer’s dream, and with most of us living in cities and suburbs, it’s a novel sight.
After a few more snaps, we move on in search of more canola. Under the spell of the magical, honey-scented fields, it’s easy to lose track of time. As the day closes with a burgundy sunset, there’s the further pleasure of country accommodation, local wines and sustenance.
Rising from their winter dormancy, spring bulbs such as tulips, daffodils, bluebells and snowdrops are also among the first blooms to appear in spring. Requiring a period of chilling, most bulbs only grow in cold climates.
Travelling in the critical window for spring bulbs (late September to early October), we’re headed towards Canberra, the bulb capital. Our destination is Tulip Top Gardens, in Sutton, about 20 minutes from Canberra, but technically within NSW. There are also other temperate places to see the blooms en masse including Tasmania and Victoria.
While Floriade is considered Australia’s most iconic bulb show, Tulip Top Gardens is hardly an enigma. Today, it’s swarming with visitors.
Strolling along the paths we’re enthralled by the sight of so much bold colour. Beneath the willows and flowering cherries, tulips, daffodils and other bulbs pop in vibrant orange, pink, yellow, red and purple. Adding to the pomp are pansies, a fairy floss of ornamental fruit trees abuzz with bees and other spring shrubs and flowers in bloom. Accompanying all this beauty, an orchestra plays, the strains of violins following us down the paths. Further along, the trickle of a stream meanders through the four-hectare property, adding to the auditory show. We sit on the grass to enjoy the sounds and blossoms with a snack from the garden’s food stall. It’s a blissful day to be alive.
For the blossom-crazy, the country has yet another drawcard to offer. You’ll find it in a less thought-of place: orchards. Not all fruit trees are Insta-worthy — think mangoes for instance! The best for showy eye candy are grown in cold climates: cherry, plum, pear, apple and peach — plus almond, which thrives in hot, dry locations.
Driving out to Orange (about four hours from Sydney past the Blue Mountains) the countryside is dotted with the froth of stone fruit trees in blossom. However, the most picturesque vistas for photography lie hidden within private orchards.
Entering the winding country drive of Borrodell Vineyard for wine tasting, we don’t realise we’re in for a double treat. Along with the grapevines we pass rows and rows of cherry adrift in clouds of frosty pink. It’s a surreal sight that has me releasing orgasmic sighs of delight.
After wine tasting and purchasing delicious cherry port (produced from the farm’s own cherries), we stroll back down to the orchard with our cameras. A well-kept secret, there is no one else here but some shy kangaroos.
With flowers only in bloom for a short spell at specific points in the year, it’s important to be strategic and plan any trip in advance. Here are some links and info to get you started.
See the sunflowers
The best time for viewing sunflowers is January and March (for crops planted September and December).
Sign up to the Liverpool Plains Sunflower alert at visitliverpoolplains.com.au/sunflower-alert
Other sunflower hotspots include Nobby, Allora and Willowvale in the fertile Southern Downs region of South East Queensland, two hours’ drive from Brisbane.
Visit the lavender
Peak season is mid-December to mid-January, but blooms can be seen through to early February, depending on seasonal conditions.
- Bridestowe Lavender Estate, Tas: bridestowelavender.com.au
- Port Arthur Lavender Farm, Tas: portarthurlavender.com.au
- Warratina Lavender Farm, Yarra Valley, Vic: warratinalavender.com.au
- Red Hill Lavender Farm & Distillery, Mornington Peninsula, Vic: redhilllavender.com.au/lavender-fields
- Lavandula Swiss Italian Farm, Shepherds Flat, Daylesford, Vic: lavandula.com.au
- Lyndoch Lavender Farm, Lyndoch, Barossa, SA: lyndochlavenderfarm.com.au
- Emu Bay Lavender Farm, Wisanger, SA: emubaylavenderfarm.com
- Kooroomba Vineyards and Lavender Farm, Mt Alford, Qld: kooroomba.com.au
- Pottique Lavender Farm, Kingaroy, QLD: lavenderfarm.net.au
- Yanchep Lavender, 272 Old Yanchep Road Carabooda WA: yancheplavender.com.au
- Nannup Lavender Farm, Carlotta, WA: nannuplavenderfarm.com
Find the canola
In Australia canola flowers from September until early October (it’s harvested after the end of flowering). The nation produces an average of three million metric tonnes of canola a year from southwest Western Australia through to southeast Australia and up along northern NSW in the grain belt.
- Cowra Canola, NSW: visitcowra.com.au/canola
- Riverina Canola Trail, NSW: canolatrail.com.au
- Clare Valley, SA: clarevalley.com.au
- PetTeet Park, WA: petteetpark.com.au
- York Canola fields, WA: visit.york.wa.gov.au
- In Victoria, canola can be seen in and around the towns of Ballarat, Shepparton, Windermere and Lexton, in the Bellarine Peninsula and elsewhere in the state.
Get your bulb fix
- Tulip Top Gardens, NSW: tuliptopgardens.com.au
- Tesselaar Tulip Festival, Dandenong Ranges, Vic: tulipfestival.com.au
- Table Cape Tulip Farm, Tas: tablecapetulipfarm.com.au
Roam the orchards
Orchard experiences open to the public where you can see fruit trees bloom en masse in early spring.
- Roth Family Orchard in Mudgee, NSW, takes free cherry blossom bookings in spring: roth.net.au
- Cherry Hill Orchards Wandin East, Yarra Valley, Vic is home to over 13,000 cherry trees: cherryhill.com.au
- Rayner’s Orchard, Yarra Valley Vic — take a tractor tour: raynersorchard.com.au
- Willunga Almond Blossom Trail, Willunga, SA: almondblossomfestival.com.au
Where the wildflowers are
- Join a tour, or use the WA Visitor Centre’s Wildflower Tracker: wavisitorcentre.com.au/wildflowers
- Download the free WA wildflower guide: westernaustralia.com/wildflowers
Even more ideas
- Other flower extravaganzas worth exploring across the country include purple jacaranda-lined streets and water lily gardens.
- Grafton Jacaranda Festival (Friday 29 October to Sunday 7 November, 2021): jacarandafestival.com
- Blue Lotus Water Garden, Yarra Valley, Vic: bluelotusfarm.com.au