Apollo Bay Seafood Festival is more than just fish and chips

The Apollo Bay Seafood Festival is preparing for a weekend of pop up restaurants, fresh seafood markets, discussion talks, art exhibitions, kids activities and music. 

This is all set against the divinely quaint scenery of the town’s historic harbour. 

‘‘If you are lucky enough to have a ticket, don’t miss our Friday night gala seafood feast ‘Down The Hatch’ – it’s going to be amazing,’’ suggests festival director Bill Hurley Fraser. Expect to see talented chefs preparing delicious food, each displaying their unique style, flare and flavours. ‘‘I’ve learnt to let chefs do what they do best – use local produce in a creative way and it naturally falls into place within the program and it’s so great to have chefs like Nick Mahlook (The Atlantic) and Jo Ward (Om Nom Kitchen) coming down as well.’’ 

From Friday to Saturday, the festival’s Harbour Day will see the ‘Off The Boat’ seafood market kick things off. ‘‘Punters can expect to find plenty of local, live rock lobster, blue eye trevalla and gummy shark. Make sure to bring along an empty stomach to try the delicious seafood dishes on offer and you certainly won’t be getting anything fresher than straight off the boat.’’

Aside from the food, the festival showcases a variety of Australian artists with the lineup encompassing a sound and philosophy that seeks to complement its atmosphere and ideals. ‘‘I’ve tried to stick to a coastal theme. It’s challenging curating a lineup for a food festival compared to a typical music/arts festival; you have to choose artists that people can listen to and enjoy, but also be good background music for people eating, drinking and talking amongst themselves.’’ 

Headline act Forever Son is the project of Anglesea-hailing Jack Robbins, who fuses indie rock with roots. ‘‘It’s funny – I’ve never seen him play, but I’ve always been a big fan of his recorded material, he brings in some really catchy, beautiful songwriting.’’ 

There are many other acts that are stirring up excitement, with Hurley Fraser particularly looking forward to performances from the younger generation such as The Fillmore Brothers, Bad Bangs, Nick Barker and Dean Kruger. 

‘‘The younger generation in the bay grew up listening to Salmon Guts at the Apollo Bay Music Festival ten to fifteen years ago. Everyone kind of knows each other down here. So now you’ve got local guys like Jack and Seamus (The Fillmore Brothers) coming through who are kind of connected to that scene, so hopefully we can see some collaborations on the day.’’ 

Apollo Bay has a long-standing fishing history, with the town’s past and the industry’s contemporary use of the harbour enabling a distinctive program to be created, as it also seeks to support the ocean, ethical and sustainable fishing practices and its local community. ‘‘There is so much of the fishing industry people don’t see. Being in the thick of an operational harbour gives people a chance to get a first-hand insight of the day-to-day life of commercial fishermen,” Hurley Fraser says.

“Professional fishers in Apollo Bay have been using local materials for over 100 years. This festival is a celebration of those artisan skills, the families and extended community who still make their living from the sea and, of course, the delicious seafood we all get to enjoy as a result of all this.’’ 

A significant aspect of the festival that supports this is Sunday’s conversation event. ‘‘Our ‘Conversation in the Littoral’ event will be a thought-provoking and fascinating exploration and discussion about sustainable produce, people’s connection with the land and sea and how learning from the past can inform a better future for us all.’’ 

For Hurley Fraser, directing the festival is ultimately about the experience that people can take home with them. ‘‘We want people to have a great time, build new connections and gain knowledge of our fishing community, try something new and, most importantly, want to come along next year to do it all again.’’ 

Apollo Bay Seafood Festival comes to the Great Ocean Road from Friday February 15 to Sunday February 17. Head to the website for tickets and more information on the program.