Foodies take a deep breath and prepare your tastebuds for tantalisation. The Atherton Tablelands, almost 1,000 metres above the coastal plain, has global gourmands salivating. We’re talking the type of lusciousness that lures food fiends to the Tablelands’ rich volcanic soil, abundant sunshine and tropical rain. If you can’t sate your appetite in the highlands west of Cairns, well, you’re seriously not trying.
To call the highlands the food bowl of the Queensland is a well worn cliché. But like any cliché worth its salt (or sugarcane in this case), this one is based on fact, so let’s lay a few of them on the table.
Fact 1: Tableland cows pump out enough rich creamy milk to fill an Olympic swimming pool twenty two times (56 million litres per annum). Perhaps Cleopatra with her milk baths was on to something!
Fact 2: Tropical North Queensland’s annual poultry output is equivalent to the human population of Sweden. Which unfortunately brings us no closer to an answer to the 9 million dollar question: why did the chicken cross the road?
But enough with the facts, here’s fifteen fun ways to get your foodie fix on the Atherton Tablelands
1. Mt Uncle Distillery & Bridges Restaurant specialises in serving teas from across the world amidst a macadamia, avocado and banana plantation. But let’s face it, the real reason to visit is for a tipple of top tier spirits and liqueurs such as their Platinum White Rum
2. Go nuts (apologies for the obvious pun!) at The Peanut Place. You won’t miss the tell-tale Big Peanut on the Kennedy Highway just out of Tolga. Not just peanuts, you can bag a batch of macadamias (the area is famous for these creamy nuts), pecans and cashews too.
3. The oversized barramundi poking above green pastures on the Kennedy Highway is the first sign that you’ve reached fish-frenzied nirvana, otherwise known as Tarzali Lakes Smokehouse Café. The second is aquaculture ponds stocked with half a million fish. Catch your own barramundi or if that sounds too hard simply order the catch of the day from the cafe.
4. Chocolate lovers this one is for you. Daintree Estates audacious ambition to grow the first Australian cocoa crop ten years ago has resulted in some of Australia’s finest chocolate. It helps being surrounded by sugarcane plantations and dairy farms at the top of their game. All self-respecting stores on the Tablelands stock Daintree’s little bundles of chocolate goodness.
5. A glorious old teahouse on the banks of Lake Barrine, itself a former volcanic crater, Lake Barrine Teahouse serves up one of the best Devonshire Teas on the Tablelands. Afterwards, walk off cream-laden calories on the rainforest trail circling the lake.
6. Serving up aromatic Australian Arabica Coffee as well as bananas and papayas plucked straight from the farm, Skybury Coffee is Australia’s oldest coffee plantation. Linger over lunch or take home your preferred blend coffee capsules which are compatible with Nespresso machines.
7. Malanda Dairy Centre cleverly combines café, museum and art gallery in the heart of Malanda. Go here for fine coffee, exquisite lunches, impeccable friendly service and dinner too if you find yourself in Malanda on a Friday night.
8. Stop by Gallo Dairyland for lunch, morning or afternoon tea in a dairy farm café or take home delicious house made chocolate and cheese. Cheese addicts can linger in the Cheese Factory to check out the cheese making process.
9. Get your caffeine fix at The Coffee Works in Mareeba while learning about growing, roasting, savouring, trading and drinking the enticingly pungent brew we can’t seem to get enough of. Not into coffee? They’re pretty handy at hand-crafted chocolate too!
10. Pop into Mungalli Creek Dairy and Teahouse for bio-dynamic (as in unpasteurised) yoghurt, cheese and milk that comes with a decadent layer of cream (even the low fat variety!). Linger over lunch on the verandah overlooking implausibly green dairy pastures.
11. The Falls Teehouse is a gorgeous old Queenslander oozing high country charisma plopped on top of a hill just outside Millaa Millaa. Go here for lunch or Devonshire Teas on the way to or from the Waterfall Circuit.
12. Originally a tobacco plantation that diversified from the weed that kills to the fruit that nurtures, Golden Drop Winery was the first commercial mango winery in the world. These days they’re cultivating luscious Kensington red mangoes to produce still and sparkling wines.
13. One of Australia’s best loved tea brands, Nerada Tea plantation’s tendrils reach as far back as the 1880’s. Pop in for a factory tour before lingering over Devonshire tea – you can be sure the tea is fabulous!
14. Tolga Woodworks & Gallery Café is more gallery than café, showcasing exquisite handcrafted works loving made from local timbers. But don’t let that deter your tastebuds: art is the perfect pre-lunch appetiser.
15. With an overflowing trophy cabinet, passionate foodie, Chef and owner Liam Flynn melds the best of the Tablelands in a beguiling mix of French and northern Italian flavours at Flynns Restaurant in Yungaburra.