Discover our local backyard – The Atherton Tablelands

Winding up the Gilles Range Highway from coastal Cairns towards the Atherton Tablelands, there is a subtle change in the landscape from tropical palm trees and cane fields to rich green, rolling hills. Driving along country roads surrounded by lush farmlands, past sheep and cattle with the clouds enveloping the top of Queensland’s highest peak, Mt Bartle Frere, in the distance, it’s easy to feel your mood lift as the humidity drops.

Welcome to the Atherton Tablelands, where food provenance distance is measured in steps, not miles, a place where ‘paddock to plate’ intertwines the modern ideals of sustainability, local economy and a good ol’ fashioned way of life. The Atherton Tablelands is considered the ‘food bowl of the North’, thanks to an abundance of local artisan growers and producers who can be found at the Yungaburra Markets on the fourth Saturday every month.

While white tablecloths are a rarity, farmhouse cafes and roadside honesty boxes are peppered along country roads; neighbouring dairy farms churn out award-winning cheese, handmade chocolates provide much happiness, and coffee plantations and local distilleries round out life’s essentials. It’s a unique part of the world with its rich volcanic soils and high altitude, vastly different to its coastal counterpart, making for a memorable trip with a foodie focus.

This beautiful landscape is our Queensland home. Nerada Tea Estate is near the dairy town of Malanda on the top of the Tablelands. It’s a unique part of the world, vastly different to its coastal counterpart and very different to any other tea growing region in the world. Rising more than 700m above sea level, the winning combination of rich volcanic soils, high altitude and ample rainfall provide the perfect conditions for growing black tea. Unlike many other tea brands, Nerada is an unblended, single origin tea.

From March through to January, visitors are welcome to visit our estate each weekday to discover first-hand how tea is grown and processed, purchase factory-fresh tea maybe you’ll be lucky enough to spot one of our resident Lumholtz tree-kangaroos who live in the trees outside the Visitor Centre. Sit back and enjoy a Devonshire tea and scone with jam whilst taking in this very special part of the world.

There’s also plenty of other great local businesses that are worth adding to your itinerary whilst you’re in the region. Here’s some of our most popular insider tips of places to explore.

Must visit foodie destinations on the Atherton Tablelands

Gallo Dairyland
Located just outside the Tableland town of Atherton, Gallo Dairyland is a perfect spot to start a Tableland tour. This 1000 -acre working dairy farm, with its almost 500 milking cows, geese, ducks, alpacas and baby animal nursery is a perfect place for children to get up close and personal with farmyard critters, while the grownups delight in a stash of local tea, coffee, honey and jam alongside award-winning cheeses and handmade chocolates. Turning over 500kg of cheese each week, the creamy Gallozola Blue or the spring onion Rainforest soft cheese are house specialities, using traditional European cheese-making techniques with the best dairy produce the region has to offer. Visit the website →

Tarzali Lakes Smokehouse
After stocking up on cheese and chocolate, it’s time to hit the big smoke. The smokehouse, that is. Tarzali Lakes Smokehouse is a smallgoods producer located in the village of Tarzali, on route to the famous waterfall circuit of the Tablelands. Producing smoked bacon, sausages, chicken breasts, mackerel and even crocodile, Tarzali has been smoking meats for 20 years. The meat is locally sourced, seasoned with native ingredients and supplied on site in their open-air café or distributed to local traders. Tarzali Lakes Smokehouse is also home to several super-shy platypus, as it shares its property with the Australian Platypus Park. Visit the website →

Mt Uncle Distillery
Located in the foothills of a banana plantation in Walkamin, Mt Uncle Distillery has built an impeccable and unrivalled reputation in producing award winning premium spirits and liqueurs using as many local and national Australian ingredients as possible. Recently awarded the Australian Whiskey Distillery of the Year, head distiller and owner Mark Watkins has come a long way since making bootleg vodka in the back shed as a kid. Indulge in a tasting paddle at the cellar door: The Sexy Cat liqueur, a liqueur made on rosewater, vodka, raspberry and liquid marshmallow is one not to miss, but it’s their TBCC Whiskey and Botanic Australis Gin that you’ll be wanting to pack into hand luggage for the trip home. Visit the website →

Coffee Works
Needing an afternoon pick-me-up? After you’ve enjoyed a cup of Nerada Tea make your way down the road to the Wet Savannah lands of Mareeba where you’ll find the aptly-named Coffee Works. What began as a single market stall at Cairns’ Rusty’s Markets in in late 1980s is now a world class coffee experience with 43 rich and delicious coffees, a large range of fine handcrafted chocolates from local cocoa growers, liqueurs and 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. Visit the website →

Emerald Creek Ice Creamery
Finally, what better way than to complete a road trip than on a sweet note. Located on the Kennedy Highway smack bang in the middle of all roads leading in and out of the Tablelands, Emerald Creek Ice Creamery is a perfect way to bookend an Atherton Tablelands tasting journey. Established out of a love for local fruits and creamy treats, this boutique ice creamery makes 45 flavours of gelato and sorbet using local ingredients such as rambutan, dragon fruit and wattle seed.

The Atherton Tablelands is located approximately 90 minutes north west of Cairns. Although perfectly do-able for a day-trip, it’s recommended to savour the time with a stay in nearby towns Atherton or Yungaburra. Visit the website →

Image courtesy of Absolutely Australia