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Once simply market staples, food trucks have shifted up a gear – now offering bespoke cocktails, traditional eats, and twists on sweet treats. And they are more than just meals on wheels – the carts, vans and trucks are often lovingly converted from anything that can be towed, from horse floats to vintage Kombis.

By Josie Sargent

Golden Virtues, Kingscliff

It was magic, says Skye Staniford, that brought Golden Virtues to life. Following a rough period of grief and Covid border hopping, Skye stopped in at a coffee cart and fell in love. “I honestly took a photo of it, stuck it on my wall and I just thought, ‘I don’t know how, but this has to happen in my life’,” Skye says. “A few weeks later, a girlfriend of mine had been talking to this fella at a barbeque and he was looking for someone to run a cart. It was actually crazy magic.”

Now single-handedly serving CWA-inspired sweet treats (including the mandatory scones, of course), topped toast and smoothies, along with coffees, Skye has plans to host regular music and market nights and expand the al fresco garden.

Find them: 122 Marine Parade, Kingscliff

Insta: @goldenvirtues_cafe_cart

The Gin Experience, Murwillumbah

“It’s hard to get people into a brick-and-mortar bar,” says Seth Baker, director of the Gin Experience. “If they aren’t going to come to us, we’ll go to them.”

The idea of the Gin Experience came from his uncle, Kent Williams, who was looking for a post-Army career. “He thought, ‘How nice would it be to just have a lovely gin by the ocean – why isn’t that happening?’” The spark was there, and Seth, who had always loved working in hospitality, signed up.

Originally born in Newcastle, the converted horse float migrated north about a year ago, and now travels to parties and festivals shaking up bespoke gin cocktails.

“When you can get people together with food and drink it’s a beautiful thing,” Seth says.

But… why gin? “Gin is getting huge, there are so many more distilleries going on, it really is the talk of the town,” says Seth. “We try to utilise local small-batch distillers – including cordials, liqueurs and gins – to make delicious, fun drinks and bring a light-hearted experience.”

The Gin Experience have now teamed up with a chef to offer a food option, from street eats to open-flame feasts.

Find them: Mobile

Insta: @theginexperience_

Kombi Kollective, Byron Bay

Rita, Ella, and Amy are a bevvy of beauties – lovingly converted VW Kombi vans that are ready to party! They are part of the Kombi Kollective’s fleet of vintage, customised vans that specialise in taking events to the next level, through serving up cocktails and drinks, snacks through to sit down meals and even pumping out tunes thanks to the onboard DJ. They are available for private and public events.

Find them: Mobile

Insta: @the_kombi_kollective

Mamacitas, Gold Coast

It was a love story that started in California – and would lead to a traditional taco truck Down Under. Aussie surfer Marty Allen fell in love with Californian Trish and after a decade on the road, they bought a 1980 P30 Chevrolet Grumann Olsen step van, which once spent its life travelling around to feed the homeless. These days, she wanders far and wide from markets to music festivals, serving up a farm-to-truck menu including tacos, burritos, nachos and quesadillas, all complimented with Trish’s handmade sauces and salsas.

Find them: Mobile

Insta: @foodtrucksenoritas

The Lotus, Pottsville / Ocean Shores

Donna Shannon and Amanda Veltri are old colleagues turned friends turned business partners. Donna owned The Shop (South Golden’s old general store), and Amanda was her chef, until life took them both in new directions.

Keeping in touch, it was the discovery of a food van for sale that sparked a new business idea. “I’m a single mum” says Amanda. “I loved food and cooking but working restaurant hours was tricky.” Enter The Lotus Van – a transportable, flexible way of delivering delicious Asian-inspired meals to Northern Rivers locals.

Serving up a fusion of flavours – including Vietnamese and Indian to Thai – The Lotus ladies pride themselves on making everything from scratch (from curry paste to chilli sauce) and using only the freshest, locally grown, spray-free produce. The loyal gathering locals speak for itself. Music plays, the festoon lights sparkle, and the atmosphere around the van is relaxed and joyful. “We love that families – from babies to grandparents - come with their rugs and we can feed them good-quality but affordable, fresh food” says Donna.

Find them: Pottsville – Weds; Ocean Shores – Thurs; Available for functions, events and weekend bookings

Insta: @thelotus.van

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