Experience the tastes of Tropical North Queensland on this gourmet food tour from Cairns. Travel through the Atherton Tablelands in an air-conditioned minibus, stopping in at a variety of gourmet food outlets to sample their wares. Hotel pick-up and drop-off are included. Duration: 10 hours (approx.)
Please note: Food Trail Tours has recently discontinued this tour. You may like to visit the gourmet providores listed yourself, or browse all our available Cairns tours here.
As one of the most abundant ‘food bowls’ in the country, Tropical North Queensland is a burgeoning destination for foodies looking to experience its incredible seafood, locally farmed meats and dairy, coffee, chocolate, and even foraged Indigenous ingredients.
It’s wonderful to see local tour operators taking the opportunity to showcase the tastes of the tropics alongside the region’s magnificent natural attractions, and Warwick James of Food Trail Tours is aiming to do just that with his full-day Cairns gourmet food tour around the lush Atherton Tablelands.
It’s an early start at 7.30am, but on a glorious Cairns ‘winter’ morning that’s certainly no hardship. As we board the bus and meet our companions for the day (Warwick’s tours offer small group sizes and it’s just five of us today), we’re presented with a complimentary eco-bag in which to carry any food and wine purchases — a lovely touch, and very handy, as it turns out!
As we head out of Cairns and up the Gillies Range to the Tablelands, Warwick’s extensive knowledge of the region and wonderful commentary pass the journey to our first stop — Lake Barrine Teahouse — with ease. The eponymous lake occupies what was once a volcanic crater. The teahouse has achieved legendary status for its homemade scones, jam and cream, and they certainly don’t disappoint. Luckily for our waistlines, there’s a short rainforest walk planned to show us the magnificent twin kauri pines that overlook the lake.
After a relaxing and very pleasant drive through the rolling hills of the Atherton Tablelands, we arrive at the renowned Gallo Dairyland cheese factory, where, once again, Warwick’s diverse knowledge comes to the fore. After a viewing of the factory floor and a short video it’s time for the tastings. Warwick talks us through samples of several cheeses and chocolates before letting us loose to continue tasting the products and make some purchases. Oh yes — blessed are the cheesemakers.
We’ve still got one more place to visit before lunch and as a die-hard macadamia lover, it’s the one I’ve been looking forward to. Warwick has private access to the Wondaree farm and we’re treated to an agricultural lesson on macadamia growing and harvesting right at the source. After a wander through the plantation, Warwick shows us the working shed where the nuts are sorted and we’re able to taste a range of natural and flavoured nuts (the wasabi ones are the clear winner with our group).
We’re all starving by this time (not!), so it’s on to our lunch stop — the historic Tolga Hotel. Here we enjoy a fabulous meal of Spanish mackerel, juicy prawns, fresh fruit and salad (and yes, there are alternatives for those who don’t eat seafood). It’s a mini food tour of North Queensland right there on my plate!
Warwick’s commentary and good humour are intact but the group is looking decidedly sleepy and full as we trundle on to our next stop — De Brueys Boutique Wines. However, the prospect of tasting their range of exotic fruit wines, ports and liqueurs at the cellar door soon peps everyone up. After a generous tasting session (and a few more items added to the eco-bags) we’re off to our final foodie experience of the day — a coffee plantation. Ahh coffee… and perhaps cake?
On arrival at Jaques Coffee Plantation, we tour the property and learn about the production process. By this time, I’m pretty keen to test out the finished product. It’s been a long, food-filled day and sitting on the deck with a cup of coffee made from beans grown just metres away is a most satisfying end to the experience. And yes, several of the group did indulge in some of the homemade cakes — but not me. Honest.
For a VIP experience at each stop, informative commentary, lots of special touches along the way and of course — someone else to do the driving — this Cairns gourmet food tour with Food Trail Tours is a must-do.
Julietta travelled as a guest of Food Trail Tours.
Additional images: Bigstock
Julietta Henderson is a Melbourne-based travel and feature writer. Originally planning to visit London for six months, she ended up staying for ten years and now divides her time between her home in Australia and several months of the year in the UK, Italy and France. Julietta has travelled extensively through Europe, North America, Indonesia, New Zealand, Australia and Russia, and believes the keys to a great travel experience are an open heart, an open mind and an open-ended ticket.