A Foodie’s Guide to the Atherton Tablelands
Taking a leisurely 90 minute inland drive from Cairns, the rolling hills of the Atherton Tablelands provide an overflowing bounty of tropical fruit plantations, avocado and banana farms, dairies, distilleries and wineries. Among the World Heritage rainforests, national parks, mountains, rivers, volcanic crater lakes and waterfalls of this region are some of Australia’s richest agricultural lands and its most charming small towns. With such picturesque surrounds, it’s no wonder that ‘food tourism’ has been such a growth industry over recent years.
In addition to Nerada Tea being the largest producer of Australian-grown tea in the world, the Atherton Tablelands area is also responsible for approximately 90% of Australia’s coffee production, its dairy is consistently ranked amongst the country’s best, and visitors can visit working farms to watch – then eat – the cheeses and chocolates made onsite. Did we mention there are wineries that make wines and liqueurs from tropical fruits?
The Atherton Tablelands are a blend of the best attractions of the tropics – a combination of nature and lifestyle at its finest. Make sure you leave home with an empty tummy – you’ll need it to explore this ‘food bowl of the North’.
Tea and Coffee
Nerada Tea Plantation
Nerada Tea Estate is near the dairy town of Malanda on the top of the Tablelands. Over 1,100 acres in size, the plantation typically harvests more than 6.6 million kilograms of green leaf per year, which makes about 1.6 million kilograms of black tea. That’s a lot of cuppas. From March through to January, visitors are welcome to visit the estate each weekday to discover first-hand how tea is grown and processed, purchase factory-fresh tea or a special gift, and enjoy a cuppa overlooking this very special part of the world.
Location: 933 Glen Allyn Road, Malanda
Selects and roasts Arabica coffees from the local Cairns Highlands area of Tropical North Queensland and origin beans from around the world. A unique feature of Coffee Works is Coffee World – Coffee World – an interactive all-you-can eat tasting space complete with coffee production memorabilia from yesteryear. The Coffee Works gift store is also the perfect spot to pick up locally made ‘wish you were here’ gifts. If it has anything to do with growing, roasting, serving, drinking or trading coffee, you will find it somewhere in this mammoth sensory wonderland.
Location: 136 Mason Street, Mareeba
Skybury Coffee Roastery
This award winning two-storey timber centre, overlooking an impressive granite outcrop, features a fully licensed 140 seat restaurant, bar, coffee laboratory, gift shop, and Coffee Cinema.
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. Stay for lunch or take home your preferred blend coffee, now in bio-degradable capsules that are compatible with Nespresso machines.
Location: Ivicevic Road (off Dimbulah Road), Wheelbarrow Way, Mareeba
Dairy Produce and Chocolate
Mungalli Creek Dairy
With fifty shades of lush green pastures surrounding Mungalli Creek Dairy, it’s no wonder their milks, yoghurts and cheeses are consistently winning awards – their property couldn’t be any more dairy-friendly if it was ordered that way. Full of wallabies, cassowaries and a diverse bird population that live alongside the cattle, Mungalli Creek Dairy operates exactly as a biodynamic farm should. Their onsite Out of the Whey Cheesery & Teahouse is open daily, and offers complimentary cheese and yoghurt tastings. Enjoy the magnificent views to Mt Bartle Frere as you enjoy lunch, cake or coffee.
Location: 256 Brooks Road, Mungalli Creek
Shaylee Strawberry Farm
Strawberry fields are most certainly forever at Shaylee Strawberry Farm. With strawberries as far as the eye can see, here you can buy fresh strawberries, (and pick your own in September), while sorbets and gelato are made on site from tropical fruits and nuts. Whatever you do though, don’t leave without a jar of strawberry jam – sticky, strawberry, sweetened goodness that simply tastes like North Queensland in a jar.
Location: Cnr Marks Lane & Gillies Hwy Atherton
A fully functional dairy farm that is now producing a range of gourmet dairy products and hand crafted chocolates. With a wholesome cafe featuring a range of fresh farm baked produce, informative displays, observations decks into the cheese factory and the surrounds of a working farm. And for the little people, handfeeding the alpacas, goats, pigs, calves and chicks in the Animal Nursery adds to the farm experience.
Location: Atherton-Malanda Road, Atherton
The Humpy Nutworld
Fun fact – Queensland is responsible for producing 95% of the country’s peanuts. Much like almost everything else in the region, they grow well here because of the enriched soil from volcanic activity. Located just outside Atherton in the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it town of Tolga, the Humpy is one of those iconic stops on the Tablelands route that needs a moment or two of serious hunger appreciation. Here, in addition to nuts, you can find hundreds of different varieties of freshly harvested Atherton Tablelands vegetables and tropical fruits, dried fruits and locally produced jams and sauces. You’ll even find organic produce, including gluten free and wheat free bread.
Location: 1 Kennedy Highway, Tolga
Wondaree Macadamias is a small family farm that has been producing, selling and nationally distributing Tablelands macadamias for over 25 years. Located on a beautiful spot where the right amounts of rain and sunshine produces a carpet of green that spans the countryside and blankets the encircling mountains, Wondaree macadamia nuts are famed for their creamy, delicate crunch and flavour – the hallmarks of the true Australian bushnut.
Location: 112 Banchio Rd, Tolga
Spirits, Wines and Liqueurs
Mount Uncle Distillery
Located in the foothills of a banana plantation on the Tablelands, Mt Uncle Distillery has built an impeccable and unrivalled reputation in producing award winning premium spirits and liqueurs still with a huge emphasis on using as many local and national Australian ingredients as possible. The distillery’s range includes rum, vodka, whiskey, coffee liqueur, Australia’s only marshmallow Liqueur, and a soon-to-be-released tequila made from property-grown agave. Cellar door is open every day for tastings.
Location: 1819 Chewko Rd, Walkamin
De Brueys Boutique Wines
Starting life as a mango farm, De Brueys Boutique Wines throws tradition to the wind to make wines, ports and liqueurs from a diversity of native tropical fruits, including lychee, mango, jaboticaba, bush cherry, mulberry, passionfruit and star apple. It has won numerous awards at the Australian Fruit Wine Awards including the top gong for liqueurs with its flagship liqueur, Coffee Elixir.
Location: 189 Fichera Rd, Mareeba
Golden Drop Winery
Formerly a tobacco plantation in the ‘70s, Golden Drop Winery changed tack to become now one of the largest Kensington Red mango plantations in Australia. What does one do with excess mangoes? Wine, of course. Golden Drop make a variety of mango-based still and sparkling wines, as well as citrus cellos, mango port and golden mango liqueur.
Location: 227 Bilwon Road, Biboohra