Paddock to Plate: A Foodie Tour of the Atherton Tablelands

food trail tours atherton tablelands
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Foodie tours are the ‘in thing’ to do these days and since the Atherton Tablelands is the food bowl of the North, this is definitely the place to visit if you love all things gourmet.

gillies highway lookoutFor many travellers, tasting the local food and wines is an important part of their trip and guided food tours are a great way for food lovers to meet local farmers and sample some of the region’s local produce with the help of a knowledgeable tour guide.

Warwick James, owner of Food Trail Tours, has been running foodie tours for 13 years so he knows the best places to visit and has a wealth of stories to tell about the region as you eat and drink your way around the Tablelands.

Here’s a rundown of the day we spent on his tour:

tea for two

lake barrine teahouseThe day starts fairly early in the morning as Warwick picks up guests from their hotels and drives the hour or up to the Tablelands.

Our first stop of the day was for morning tea at the tea rooms at Lake Barrine.

Overlooking the beautiful volcanic lake, we were treated to a very generous Devonshire Tea of fresh scones with jam and cream and a cup of tea or coffee (this is why you should only have a light breakfast!).

Warwick then took us on a short walk along the rainforest path to work off some calories and show us the huge majestic Kauri trees. We were also lucky enough to spot a Boyd’s Forest Dragon.

big ol’ tree

curtain fig treeSince the lake is very close to the Curtain Fig Tree we also made a stop to see this huge giant strangler fig tree, which is an amazing sight and part of an endangered pocket of rare rainforest.

You can get a really good look at its root system thanks to a wooden boardwalk built all the way around. This is definitely one of the main tourist attractions in the Tablelands to tick off your list.

cheese and chocolate

cheese tasting gallo dairylandI absolutely love cheese so the next stop at Gallo Dairyland was one of my favourite stops of the day.

We learned how cheese is made, were able to view the process from a viewing room and we discovered how Gallo Dairy makes the different kinds of cheeses they sell.

Then, importantly, we got to sample a range of their delicious cheeses, including camembert, a macadamia nut cheese and an amazing blue vein called Gallozola.

gallo dairyland chocolateGallo Dairyland also make chocolate (did we mention that?) so we got to finish off the tasting with a sample of their gourmet chocolates. Yum.

For those of us who bought a few goodies to take home Warwick keeps an esky on the bus to keep them chilled so you don’t need to worry about things melting.

going nutty

macadamia farm queenslandMacadamia nuts are endemic to Australia and since they are so delicious I was particularly looking forward to a visit to Wondaree Macadamia Farm.

Farmer John McAdam is a very entertaining speaker and gave us a great overview of the process of farming macadamia’s as we toured around his 3,000 tree orchard.

He told us that cracked nuts are sold to Nestle and Cadbury for their chocolate bars and the shells are used either to make biofuel or are crushed to make mdf board.

And, of course, we finished off by sampling his range of yummy flavoured macadamia nuts (smoky flavour, wasabi and several others) before adding more goodies into our shopping bags.

lunch

By the time lunch came around we were all pretty stuffed but since this is a food tour you’ve got to keep on going!

Warwick took us to a pub in Tolga where we got the chance to mingle with our fellow tourists over a seafood lunch (crumbed fish and prawns).

tropical wines

de brueys winesAfter lunch our first stop was de Brueys Boutique Wine who produce a range of tropical fruit wines, liqueurs and ports made from locally grown fruits.

They have a surprisingly extensive list of products to sample so this is where it comes in handy to have a tour guide driving you home!

We tried wines made from mangoes, passionfruit, bush cherry and jaboticaba.

The dry wines got a mixed reaction but once we moved on to ports and liqueurs the ohhs and ahhhs started to kick in.

The coffee, coconut and strawberry liqueurs proved to be a big hit.

coffee hit

coffeepickingWarwick’s last stop of the day was to Jacques Coffee Plantation.

The Jaques family were originally from Africa and their story of triumph over adversity, which is told through a video presentation, is really fascinating.

We then took a short tour around the plantation to see the coffee bushes before relaxing with a cup of Jacques coffee on their newly built veranda overlooking the gardens.

travel nq fast facts:

  • Food Trail Tours run on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays
  • Tours depart Cairns at 7.30am and return approximately 5.30pm
  • Take a hat, sunscreen and camera along
  • Have a light breakfast before you leave to leave plenty of room for all the tastings
  • To book visit www.foodtrailtours.com.au or call (07) 4041-1522

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