Backpacking as a vegan is not as hard as some might think. There are many vegan foods and snacks, both healthy and delicious, that you can pack for the road. If you are vegan backpacking Australia there’s even more great news. Australia is one of the fastest growing vegan markets in the world as demand for plant-based foods has skyrocketed in the past few years. In response, food companies have started to bring to the market lots of new vegan products such as Quorn, Frys, Linda McCartney, and Veggie Delights just to name a few.
Expect to find many vegan products in local grocery stores and supermarkets.
Moreover, in 2019, Australia topped the list as the most popular country for veganism in the world. Australia came ahead of the United Kingdom and New Zealand as one of the most vegan-friendly countries. If you plan to tour Melbourne, Adelaide or Brisbane, these cities rank among the top 20 worldwide for vegan popularity.
Veganism interest among Aussies is at an all-time high so there has never been a more exciting time to visit Australia. As a side note Thai food is extremely popular in Australia; actually Thai is the most popular international cuisine in Australia according to a new survey. But although Thai food is extremely delicious and seems vegan-friendly, seafood is often incorporated into its seasonings and sauces so be aware of that.
Vegan Backpacking Guide to Australia
What to pack for the road
As a vegan you need to carefully plan your trip. Even though Australia is extremely vegan-friendly, in remote locations you’ll find a limited vegan offering so it’s best to prepare in advance. You could pack some foods like vegan muffins, sweetbread, banana chips, dehydrated chana masala, wild rice, or vegan sandwiches, plant-based hotdogs, hamburgers, and even pizza.
Shop for foods that will last for the whole trip such as dried fruits, nuts, kale chips, quinoa chips and energy bars. Don’t forget your dark chocolate for energy.
What to buy for cooking at your destination
Wherever you stay bring along some products that are easy to prepare and that will provide you with a hot and healthy meal. Take bags of grains or lentils and you’ll have a bowl of food in no time.
Avoid refined grains as much as possible and go for whole grains instead as they are a healthier option. They contain natural fibers, protein, vitamins and minerals that are otherwise lost in the refining process. Pre-boiled brown rice, whole grain pasta, whole grain ramen or couscous are your best choice. For additional flavor pack some dehydrated vegetables, nutritional yeast, veggie bouillon, smoked salt, or smoked paprika. Smoked tofu and a few cans of beans and vegetables are also great!
For breakfast granola, chia seeds, and oats will do. You can pair them with your favoured plant-based milk and dried fruit. My favorite breakfast is avocado as you can eat it straight from the skin with a little salt and bread.
Where tourist attractions and plant-based food meet
Darwin is a backpacking heaven that offers a wide range of free activities from markets, to gardens and museums and art galleries. Near to Darwin you’ll also find the splendor of the Kakadu and Litchfield National Parks. Don’t miss Crocosaurus Cove, which is also a main attraction.
The massive red sandstone monolith Uluru, or Ayers Rock, is a living cultural landscape and a deeply important part of Aboriginal cultural identity considered sacred to indigenous Australians. Thought to have begun forming around 550 million years ago, it is also believed that the spirits of ancestral beings continue to reside in these sacred places.
Where to find vegan cafes:
- You can have lunch and dinner at Lazy Susan’s Eating House on 9/21 Cavenagh St, Darwin City. They have vegan options like DIY pancakes, Szechuan Sal & Pepper Tofu, crispy eggplant, vegetable dishes, rice and noodles that they can produce at your request.
- CHOW is a mainly Vietnamese restaurant with vegan options marked on the menu and is near a fashionable area on the water on D1 & D2/19 Kitchener Dr.
- Stop by and Eat at Martin’s a pumpkin dahl that is said to be the next level. Gluten free and vegan options are available and they will not disappoint. The dishes are said to resemble a work of art so you can admire them before devouring every piece of goodness.
- Quinoa balls with hummus and salad may catch your eye too if you pass by 6 Caryota Court, Coconut Grove.
The most beautiful region of Australia is the Kimberly zone that includes Purnululu National Park, Gibb River Road with the stunning Mitchell falls and Plateau, Tunnel Creek and a natural rock formation near Halls Creek called China Wall, which it resembles.
If you’re looking for turquoise postcard beaches, Fremantle is the place to go and we mean Cottesloe Beach in Perth and Rottnest Island. Home of the friendly quokka marsupial, the city port is also an historic 19th century colonial port that’s been revived in recent years by fashionable bars, boutiques, markets, and micro-breweries.
- Chic Pea Vegan Cafe on 74 South Terrace, Fremantle Market is an incredible place with delicious food including wraps, lasagna, quiches, Indian variations, salads, and desserts.
- A wide range of plant-based pizza including the famous Peace’za, and other delicious foods like wraps, savory crepes, smoky BBQ jackfruit, vanilla custard slices topped with chocolate, caramel cookie bars and many, many more can be found at Loving Hut Fremantle on 19 Blinco St.
Other places for take away and good vegan choices are:
- The Aarly (Cnr Frederick & Hamersley Sts, Broome)
- Land Of Pharaos (Carnarvon St Broome, Paspaley Plaza Broome)
- 18 Degrees (U4 63 Robinson St, Seaview Centre, Town Beach)
- The Zookeepers Store (2 Challenor Dr, Broome WA 6725).
At Cairns you can snorkel and admire the amazing Great Barrier Reef and hear stories about indigenous Aboriginals at Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park within the prehistoric Daintree National Park which spans a mountainous rainforest, gorges, and sunny beaches.
Northern Queensland – where to find vegan fod:
- You can have a late night dinner at Imm Thai Café (60 Abbott St). It’s a budget friendly Thai food restaurant where you can get vegan versions of several rice and noodle dishes.
- Get the street vibe from the Night Market on Pho Street place, where you can find tasty vegan options Vietnamese street food style. You can find it on 54/60 Abbott St (Shop 15, Night Market).
- At the Lillipad Café (72 Grafton St) many of their vegetarian menu items can be veganized with vegan cheese. Check out the tofu or tempeh burrito and veggie burger.
The Gold Coast is not just a glitzy strip of fine sand and calm water. The gorgeous hinterland of Coolangatta and Currumbin offers a lively night life and adrenaline-pumping theme parks. If you want to learn to surf, then Main Beach and Burleigh Heads is for you.
Gold Coast plant-based food:
- You’ll find a very good ramen at I Like Ramen, Australia’s first and only 100% plant-based! Run by two men with one vision and a passion for vegan food and Japanese cuisine, you’ll find it conveniently located in Nobby’s Beach, so while soaking up the Gold Coast sun you can also enjoy a cold asahi and a bowl of delicious ramen. It can be found at 2251 Gold Coast Hwy, Mermaid Beach QLD.
- Mexican food at its best is served by Goodness Gracias on Gold Coast 1A 1114 Gold Coast Highway, Palm Beach. You have 9 options of burritos and tacos to choose from plus salads. Quesadillas are also available as well as starters and sides.
- Little Vegan Elephant is a family operated Thai Restaurant at Surfers Paradise at 3113 Surfers Paradise Blvd. Come in if you’re hungry because diners say the food is tasty, fresh and comes in generous portions, so great value and highly recommended.
New South Wales
Despite being one of the most expensive cities, Sydney remains a popular destination for backpackers to check off their list as there is plenty to do. It has some of the most gorgeous and famed beaches on the planet, and you can stay on a budget at Base backpackers.
Sydney vegan cafes:
If you are lucky to find yourself in Sydney on the third Sunday of the month, head to the Entertainment Quarter at Moore Park to enjoy a plethora of vegan delights at Sydney Vegan Market.
- At other times you can pick up some things from Shift Eatery, Sydney’s first vegan deli, which has a large range of cruelty-free food and beverages including sandwiches, specialty coffee, chocolate, ice-cream, pies, cheese, milk, and “mock” meats that you can also enjoy dining on.
- After a swim at Bondi beach you can grab a pie on 2/144-148 Glenayr Ave at Funky Pies.
- Audley Dancehall & Café includes a vegan big breakfast: smashed avocado, hash browns, vegan burger and 5-grain porridge. Sounds great right? It’s located on 2 Lady Carrington Drive, Royal National Park.
- Delcolata (134 Smith St, Summer Hill) offers labelled vegan dishes throughout its menu, such as veggie vegan burger, avocado and tomato toast, bruschetta, vegetable ecstasy, vegan pesto penne, eggplant pannini, vegan soup, vegan wrap, and a range of desserts.
- O’Uchi at 80 Clarence St is a Japanese restaurant offering vegan ramen, rice bowls, curry, tofu dishes, and more. It has great reviews so you definitely need to pay a visit!
Byron Bay vegan cafes:
Although Byron Bay is now the home of the rich and famous, it remains a popular choice for backpackers and a favorite pit stop on the well-worn East Coast route between Sydney and Cairns. It is also said to be the vegan idea of heaven!
- Manna Haven at 97 Jonson St has excellent reviews with healthy delicious food and great service.
- Elixiba (10 Feros Arcade, 23 Jonson St) is a plant-based restaurant and alchemy bar with dishes made from scratch. It has a great atmosphere and unique décor, offers organic wines, botanical beers, and awesome cocktails.
- The Beet (90/96 Jonson St) is one of the top places for a hearty vegan meal and has won the hearts and taste buds of locals for their use of beautiful, fresh ingredients. Menu sneak peek: house-made mushroom tortellini, steamed broccoli salad with capsicum, roasted pine nuts with mango dressing, sweet potato fries with house-made aioli, and open burrito with polenta chips.
- Try a Turmeric Latte at Curly Kale (12/74 Centennial Ct) alongside other tasty vegan dishes like the in-house baked goods, smoothies, coffee, chai tea, acai bowls, snacks, and all-day brunch.
The Great Ocean Road in Victoria is one of the finest stretches of coastline concrete in the world – every road trip enthusiast’s dream! The 244km drive is an amazing two-day road trip that takes you passed Split Point Lighthouse, a real icon, and whale-watching at Warrnambool.
- Feeling hungry? Look for Graze Urban Café & Delicatessen (52a Kepler St) or Day Kitty (52b Kepler St) which both have amazing vegan options. And while you’re there you can have a picnic and watch the wildlife at an inactive volcano site in Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve.
- Port Campbell is a good stop as you can visit some of the popular tourist attractions: Twelve Apostles, a collection of limestone stacks off the shore of Port Campbell National Park, London Arch, The Gibson Steps and Loch Ard Gorge. After all that sightseeing it’s probably time to have a bite and Alcove Café (34 Lord St) and Nico’s Restaurant (25 Lord Street) have great vegan options, including a vegan breakfast, and vegetarian pizza and pasta that can be veganized by omitting the cheese.
Melbourne vegan cafes:
In Melbourne you’ll find Cook’s Cottage, a reconstructed cottage originally built in 1755 by the family of Captain Cook, war memorials, Aboriginal heritage and gardens at Kings Domain, the Sea Life Aquarium, Puffing Billy Railway, Queen Victoria Market, and more.
- After an exhausting but thrilling walk, grab a slice of pizza at Red Sparrow Pizza at 406 Smith St, Collingwood. They have a good variety to choose from and even have a sweet Nutella pizza for dessert topped with chocolate hazelnut spread, banana, toasted coconut, and dairy free vanilla ice cream.
- Lentils As Anything is a unique community restaurant that operates on a “pay-as-you-feel” basis, ensuring all sections of the community can come. It can be found in both Sydney and Melbourne and it’s entirely vegan. Locations in Melbourne: 1/3 St Heliers St, Abbotsford, 562-564 High St, Thornbury, and 41 Blessington St, St Kilda.
Welcome to the wine capital of Australia and home to Adelaide, known as the “City of Churches”. But despite its nickname, it’s a forward thinking and eclectic city that hosts Australia’s largest vegan festival.
Close to 20,000 people attended this year’s vegan festival, which helped Adelaide rank 12th as the most popular city for veganism in the world.
Adelaide is truly a vegan heaven as, besides its vegan festival, there are lots of places where you can enjoy delicious plant-based dishes all year-round.
- Allegra Dining Room (L1 125 Gilles St)
- Joy Of Flora (10 Rosetta St, West Croydon on Port Rd)
- Pure Vegetarian – Total Vegetarian (Shop 8, Market Plaza Food Court, Moonta St in Chinatown)
- The Lost Deli (38 Charles St, Norwood).
Author: Adina Serban is a writer for Chef’s Pencil, a food website founded by Sydney-based chef Paul Hegeman. Adina has a passion for healthy living and exercise. She has a certificate in plant-based nutrition from eCornell and loves nature. She also loves reading, good coffee and exploring new places.