The idea for the Sarina Sugar Shed was first developed in 2003 when the local sugar cane mills, including the Plane Creek Mill behind the Sugar Shed site, ceased doing tours due to increasing safety compliance and rising insurance costs. A group of citizens and mill workers, together with support from the then-Sarina Shire Council, conceived an idea to develop a replica of the mill on council-owned land which was originally identified as a potential location for a butterfly farm!
The land on which the Sugar Shed now sits started to be developed in 2004 with building works commencing in 2005. Mill equipment began being collected and refurbished by local mill workers, with the main mill - now named Bill the Mill – sourced from the Australian Sugar Institute.
Sarina Sugar Shed was opened in September 2006, with one full-time staff member as the coordinator and many enthusiastic locals volunteering as tour guides, gardeners and retail staff. The first liqueurs were also produced in 2006.
The facility won the first of many awards in 2007, including a finalist at the Queensland Tourism Awards for ‘New Tourism Development’ and winner of the Australian Local Government Awards ‘Most Innovative Council under 15,000’.
2008 saw ownership of the Sarina Sugar Shed transferred to Mackay Regional Council after local government amalgamations, while the first range of chutneys, sauces and relishes under the Chefs’ Gusto label were produced. Due to its production and visitation growth, the facility expanded in 2009 with the addition of new sheds for storage and machinery housing.
Mooscoop ice-cream was first churned onsite in 2013, while 2014 saw the release of the first small-batch of Sugar Shed rum.
2015 was a milestone year for the Sarina Sugar Shed, wining multiple local and state tourism awards, 2 Bronze awards at the Australian Distilled Spirit Awards, launching the Lime NOI (Nice Over Ice) which still remains as one of the best-selling products, and achieving over 10,000 visitors. More awards were won in 2016, including a Silver for Food Tourism at the Australian Tourism Awards, as the 10th anniversary Celebration Rum Liqueur was launched.
In recent years, the Sarina Sugar Shed has continued to evolve with new branding, more awards, expanded experiences and a team of over 10 paid employees, cementing itself as one of the premier food tourism experiences in Queensland.