A Local’s guide to Food & drink on the Northern Beaches
Meet Chris Fraser – Head Distiller at Critters Distillery Woolgoolga, north of Coffs Harbour. Following an 18-year-long passion, Chris opened Critters Distillery in 2020, with the aim of producing world-class spirits inspired by Australia’s rich marine environment.
A small-batch distillery of artisan-made spirits crafted from locally sourced native Australian ingredients including Davidson Plum, Finger Lime, Lemon & Aniseed Myrtle, Rosella flower and an organic Juniper. Critters is one of the newest boutique distillers on the Coffs Coast.
Award-winning spirits inspired by Australia’s marine life
Since its inception in January 2020, Critters has fast become known for crafting award-winning spirits, with both their gin and vodka taking out wins on the world stage – including the coveted Best Australian Pure Neutral Vodka at the World Vodka Awards 2022.
The Coffs Coast’s thriving craft beer & spirits scene
The Coffs Coast has a thriving local craft brewing and distilling community with Woolgoolga Brewing Co around the corner from Critters Distillery in Woolgoolga (or Woopi as it is affectionately known to the locals) to King Tide Brewing in the heart of Coffs Harbour. In fact, a specialised tour of the craft drinks scene is a popular way to spend an afternoon relaxing on the Coast. Check out The Barrel Run Custom Tours for more details.
This craft drinks scene is supported by an amazing cafe culture, spanning Sawtell to Woolgoolga on the Northern beaches and beyond. We asked Chris for some of his top recommendations for visitors to Woolgoolga and the Northern Beaches.
How to spend the perfect day in the Northern Beaches
After catching an early morning wave, a fave place of Chris’ to start the day is BeachHouse Cafe in Woopi, where the Big Brekkie features the best local produce and the coffee hits all the right spots.
For lunch, Rattle on the beachfront at Emerald Beach, just 15 mins south of Woolgoolga is a great spot for top food with a warm vibe. A walk around the Look at Me Now Headland or Woolgoolga Headland is not to be missed.
One of the most popular local spots for land-based whale watching during May-November. Woolgoolga Headland is an amazing spot to take in the Solitary Islands marine park, kick back and enjoy the sunrise or sunset. The headland itself offers a range of walks and is part of the longer Solitary Islands Way. No visit to Woolgoolga and the Northern Beaches is complete without it.
For a place to rest your legs after a headland walk, Chris recommends a stop at the distillery to enjoy an Aussie artisan tasting plate, while sipping on Chris’s personal drink of choice; Critters Native Gin with Long Rays Pacific Tonic.
For dinner, La Hacienda 101, offering authentic Mexican food inspired by the owners’ multiple trips to areas all over Mexico, offers a deliciously tempting menu with a cocktail list to match. A bright, fun and taste-tingling place to end the day, loved by visitors and locals alike.
What’s on at Critters Distillery
From gin to vodka, Critters Distillery offers a range of high-quality boutique spirits. The cellar door is open to the public, offering opportunities to sample the spirits alongside artisan tasting plates, making a great way to spend an afternoon.
The distillery is open Wednesday to Friday 10am – 2pm and Weekends 12pm-5pm.
The distillery also hosts a wide range of events from cocktail masterclasses run by highly qualified mixologists through to paint and sketch & sip sessions, where you can enjoy a tipple while creating your own masterpiece. The distillery welcomes visitors to learn about the process behind crafting award-winning artisan spirits, to come and enjoy the ambience, meet the team, have a drink at the bar and sample a cocktail or two.
Where you’ll find Chris
A Coffs Coast local for the past 15 years, Chris can be found brunching at the local cafes, in the surf at Woopi Back Beach or sneaking in an afternoon bevvie at Critters. Make sure to stop by for a spirit tasting with Chris when you are next in Woolgoolga.
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