Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Play. @ Sunny Ridge Strawberry Farm (a bit of Eat. & Shop. as well!)

244 Shands Road, Main Ridge VIC 3928 ph : (03) 5989 4500
Nov - April (strawberry season), daily 9am-5pm, May - Oct, weekends 11am-4pm

I love the strawberry farm!  From when I was little and used to go with my parents, to when I was holidaying with friends while I was at Uni (yes, very healthy recreations!), and now that I'm a parent with little ones, a trip to the strawberry farm is always fun and something I eagerly look forward to!

The drive down to Sunny Ridge has been made a lot more pleasant for us since Eastlink opened.  The kids are kept busy on the look out for the "art" along the side of the highway, and by the time we hit Frankston (and the holiday traffic usually draws us to a slow crawl), they are asleep. 

You can chose what you like to do once you get there.  The star attraction during strawberry season is of course the U-Pick fields where for $8/adult and $4/child, you get to pick your own strawberries off the plants to fill a 500g/250g punnet.  (Note that you can't go into the fields just to "supervise", if you go in, you'll have to pay, but you'll get your 500g quota!)  If you're there at the right time, you will find the freshest, juiciest and best strawberries you'll taste this side of town,  and the price is often not any more than what you would pay for lower quality berries at the supermarket. 

There's quite a large area for strawberry picking

We were there on a pretty hot day, and some of the strawberries were being scorched by the black plastic ground cover, so the trick was to find the nicest, ripe strawberries that were hanging and not touching the ground! 

My packed box of strawberries!

After the "hard labour" of picking strawberries (it was for us anyway, with 3 kids in toll!)  it was great to sit down to some delicious strawberry treats.  The kids of course went straight for a scoop of ice-cream. 

I love a good devonshire tea and they make a good one here, with their delicious strawberry jam.

We also got a kids Strawberry Knickerbocker, which was ice-cream piled on top of fresh strawberries covered in strawberry sauce and chocolate topping.

Sunny Ridge also produces a whole lot of other berries which they use for jams.  A bit of shopping after all that is inevitable, especially after we cleaned up the strawberry jam that came with the devonshire tea....!!!

Jam Glorious Jam, and sauces and coulis and even alcohol!

There's also a great range of local produce for sale.

If you can't be bothered working in the fields, you can
always just grab a pack to take home!

We've been here during public holidays in the summer and the farm can be hectic, filled with locals and overseas visitors alike.  My tip is to try to come during a week day if you can.  The other tip is to throw some gumboots into your car boot.  The aisles between the strawberry plants can be deceptively muddy.  I was so glad my kids had their gumboots, even though it was hot and sunny on the day we were there, the ground was really muddy due to the recent rain.  We were given plastic bags to wrap around our feet (yes, height of fashion!) but mine ripped and I am not the sort of person to enjoy mud between my toes. 

These NQR strawberries for jam look nicer than most of the ones
at the supermarket and greengrocers!

Eat. Play. Shop. Recommends : Head down the peninsula and make a day of it! There are lots of attractions in the area, like Arthur's Seat (it's closed but the view is spectacular and the maze there is pretty cool), the beaches in Rye, Blairgowrie and Sorrento, Red Hill Market, cherry picking, Portsea Pub and so on.  Oh, and bring an esky to transport your strawberries back home without making strawberry jam or wine on the way!
Give it a miss : on public holidays, and make sure you come during strawberry season if you want to pick the berries.  You can still shop and eat at the cafe during the off season.  Check here for updates on how the strawberry season is going, and it's not a bad idea to ring them to check whether U-Pick is open before you head down for the day.
And finally, an amusing sight of a row of what appears to be "workers in asian hats"
picking strawberries for the farm in the restricted acess area.

Toilets - they have a row of semi-porta loo type toilets, and also a disabled toilet which has change facilites for babies.

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