Take it easy and taste the tropics on a Cairns Tablelands Food Tour. Go to Tropical North Queensland for the rainforests and reef, warm weather, and the beach vibes, but don’t miss the food. A tour will show you the amazing Atherton Tablelands tastes where you’ll find exotic fruits to high altitude coffee and tea. This is a region where your taste buds will dance with the flavours.
It can be a big day out if you are exploring the Atherton Tablelands from Cairns, and I would certainly recommend a tour for that trip. I’ve travelled around this part of Queensland extensively, but I still chose to go with a local because they always have the best tips and know the new places to see.
Kerry Heaney from Eat drink and be Kerry samples a native fruits-inspired morning tea.
This story includes
- 1 Explore with a Cairns Tablelands Food Tour
- 2 Explore more local produce
- 3 Take a Port Douglas food trail or a Cairns food tour
- 4 More ways to explore Tropical North Queensland
- 5 Great places to stay in Cairns and Port Douglas
Explore with a Cairns Tablelands Food Tour
Discover the flavours of Tropical North Queensland with a full-day Cairns Tablelands Tasting Tour with No Limit Adventures. This is a guided, boutique tour exploring the Atherton Tablelands, seeing the contrasting landscape and tasting native, tropical fruits, organic wines, small-batch spirits, high-altitude Tablelands coffee, dairy product and craft beer.
Konrad Borowiecki was our Tablelands Tasting Tour guide on this 11-hour trip into the Hinterland. The tour runs for 2 to 10 people, and with such a big day out, it’s great to have Konrad at the wheel. We start our tour at 7.30 am after a quick breakfast at Crystalbrook Flynn (I love this hotel), heading south towards Ingham to get the long drive over first.
Tablelands Tasting Tour guide Konrad Borowiecki
Rainforest Heart is the first stop on the Cairns Tablelands Food Tour where we spend an hour and a half at the farm talking to the owners and walking around the established orchards of tropical fruit trees. They use the produce to make spices, teas, dukka, wines and more. Their driveway takes us 200 metres down into the valley to a 100-year-old farmhouse. Cleared in the 1920s for a dairy, this 400-acre property became a banana farm in the 1930s. It is set 400 metres below the Atherton Tableland in a unique coastal microclimate. The orchards are filled with Lemon Aspen, Lilly Pillies, Native Lychees, Native Raspberries, Finger Limes, Cinnamon Myrtle, Aniseed Myrtle, and more exotic varieties. Last year they harvested 2 tonnes of Davidson Plum.
The Tablelands tasting tour included a tasting of their products, and I couldn’t resist purchasing one of everything so I could play with the flavours at home. So far, I have used the spice mixes to season meats and loved the results. You can purchase their products online at Rainforest Heart.
As we were leaving, a female Hercules moth dropped in for a visit. Unfortunately, they only live one or two days at this end of their reproduction stage.
Kerry Heaney tries some Davidson Plum fruit straight from the tree
Below – Peter wears a female Hercules moth
Mungalli Biodynamic Dairy
The next stop on this Cairns Tablelands food tour is the award-winning, family-owned Mungalli Creek Dairy Café, where Michelle Bell-Turner takes us through a tasting platter that showcases their paddock to plate products infused with the flavours of the region. There’s thick, creamy yoghurt flavoured with bush honey, local mangoes and passionfruit, ricotta made using Lirah vinegar from Stanthorpe, and quark flavoured with lemon aspen or their own house-made chilli sauce.
Mungo is their new cheese release, and they have just started making ice cream. It’s available at their own store in Sheilds Street, Cairns and also selected outlets. So, keep an eye out for it. Mungalli Dairy organic ice cream is extraordinary. They make it the old-fashioned way using biodynamic Jersey milk and cream processed on their farm and add eggs to create a cream Anglaise which becomes the ice cream. Look out for mozzarella and butter in the future.
Mungalli Biodynamic Dairy is an excellent stop for morning tea or lunch. You can pop in here at any time as it is open to the public.
The tasting platter at Mungalli Dairy
Above – Lunch at Mungalli Dairy and their new ice cream range.
Crater Mountain Coffee
It’s a picturesque drive through rolling hills covered with thick green grass to reach the next stop on the Atherton Tablelands tasting tour, Crater Mountain Coffee. Lucy Stocker and James Masterman have created the highest coffee plantation in Australia at 1040 metres above sea level. It’s just a spit from the source of Barron River in the misty environment of a property at the peak of the Atherton Tablelands. They searched all over Australia to find this small pocket.
We stop on the Cairns Tablelands food tour to look at a paddock with 7,000 dwarf coffee trees. There are 25,000 in other paddocks, and they handpick all the trees! The coffee beans here grow on the tree from flower to prime cherry for an average of 9-10 months, giving them more flavour.
Lucy and James are both engineers with a mining industry background which helped when they designed their processing plant. Tasting in the packing shed reveals coffee that is fruity and lively. It’s a lovely drop, and I’m going to be purchasing this online to enjoy at home. Lucy makes her coffee with the filter method using a ratio of 1 gm to 160 ml water. If that’s too weak, try 1 gram to 150 ml of water. You can order Lucy’s coffee online via her Facebook page.
Below: Lucy Stocker at Crater Mountain Coffee and coffee beans growing on the tree.
Mt Uncle Distillery
We are on the Cairns Tablelands food tour home straight when we head towards Mt Uncle Distillery. Mark Watkins makes gin, vodka and award-winning rum at Mt Uncle, the oldest distillery in the region. He has put a Far North Queensland thumbprint on their spirits by using local botanicals such as mango leaf, bunya nut and cinnamon myrtle in their distilling process. Even a bushfire was turned to their advantage with fire-ravaged botanicals to create an aromatic Bushfire Smoked Gin. It has proved so popular they had to simulate the next batch with a fire in their shed. There’s also a gin made with Davidson Plum, which gives it a rich deep red colour. Pop in here and try their tasters for $5 single, or four tastes for $10. This is where you’ll really appreciate having Konrad at the wheel. You can buy from the Mt Uncle cellar door online.
Below: The barrel and tasting rooms at Mt Uncle.
Macalister Brewing Co
The last stop on this epic Cairns Tablelands food tour is at a highly successful local brewery. With a classic NQ view over bright green canefields, Macalister Brewing Co is not only a spot to try a tasty beer but also a classic drinking venue for laid back locals and visitors who want to experience the real Cairns. It’s located at the base of the Macalister Range, about 20 minutes drive north of Cairns at Smithfield, and the view is spectacular when they burn off the cane.
The brewery was launched in 2017 by former schoolteacher / industrial chemist Rob. He grew up in Leeds, England, discovered Cairns on holiday and couldn’t wait to return. When he started winning awards for his homebrew, Rob studied brewing then sold his house to finance his brewery. Rob says this is a local’s hangout that has become very community-focused. “We run it like a UK pub where you sit down and get to know the patrons,” Rob says.
You’ll find five standard beers on tap plus seasonal variations. Food trucks keep patrons fed, with Rob’s pick of the 10 best food trucks in Cairns serving on a rotating basis. Macalister Brewing Co beers also are on tap at 20 venues around Cairns.
Cairns Tablelands Food Tour
It’s a big day out, but you won’t regret this Cairns Tablelands Tasting Tour, which is a memorable combination of scenic views, outstanding flavours and the unique personalities of the Atherton Tableland. Konrad is the ultimate host. This 11-hour Cairns day tour costs from $249.
Below: A tasting paddle at Macalister Brewing and Rob pulls a beer.
Explore more local produce
These are some of the places and products to add to your Cairns food tour.
Try a cop of their aromatic Australian Arabica Coffee and ta bananas and papayas plucked straight from the farm at Skybury Coffee. is Australia’s oldest coffee plantation. You can linger over lunch, then take home your preferred blend coffee capsules, all compatible with Nespresso machines.
If you think chocolate and cheese are life’s best indulgences, so a stop at Gallo Dairyland in the Atherton Tablelands is a must. You’ll taste hand-crafted chocolates and see the ins and outs of cheese making in the cheese factory. Stay on and enjoy lunch, morning or afternoon tea at the dairy farm café.
Enjoy a caffeine fix at Coffee Works in Mareeba while learning about growing, roasting, savouring, trading and drinking our favourite enticingly pungent brew is a real treat. This boutique family business has been dedicated to bringing coffee to the region for the past 30 years. It can be found in several locations such as Cairns, Port Douglas and Rusty’s Markets.
Nestled in the heart of the Atherton Tablelands, Rainforest Bounty has used a passion for regenerative agriculture to work crafting a range of chutneys, gourmet sauces, curry bases, vinegar, conserves, syrups, and fruit paste using the native fruits of the forest.
Hop on a Cairns food tour to visit Charley’s Chocolate at Mission Beach and see how the farm’s cacao is transformed into chocolate. There is an excellent range of Charley’s Chocolate at Cairns Airport, and I also saw it at Scomazzons.
Broken Nose Vanilla
Another spot to add to your Cairns food tour is Broken Nose Vanilla. They have a farm gate shop in Mirriwinni where you can enjoy the heady scent of vanilla and products such as caramelised balsamic vinegar.
If you thought the colours of the landscape in FNQ were bold and bright, wait until you view the region’s local produce at Rusty’s Markets. Operating for more than 30 years, packing over 180 stalls into one city block, Rusty’s has everything from sarongs to Vietnamese coffee. Fresh produce is the star attraction here, drawing some of Tropical North Queensland’s most acclaimed chefs to collect their supplies.
I love wandering through the fresh fruit stalls and also admiring the tropical flowers. They are so cheap to buy here and will last up to two weeks if you get the right variety. I’ve taken them home on the plane.
Take a tour through Rusty’s Market with me.
Take a Port Douglas food trail or a Cairns food tour
Whether your Cairns food tour is an Atherton Tablelands tasting tour or a Port Douglas food trail with Port on a Plate, you will be amazed by the tastes you discover. Join a tour or grab a car and drive but just do it!
More ways to explore Tropical North Queensland
Great places to stay in Cairns and Port Douglas
I stayed at three hotels during my week-long visit. In Cairns, I stayed at Crystalbrook Flynn which was centrally located on the esplanade with expansive views over the water.
In Palm Cove, I had a room with a balcony entrance to a private pool (bliss) at Peppers Palm Cove.
At Port Douglas, I stayed at Sheraton Grant Mirage Resort Port Douglas in a swim-up room that opened up onto the sandy lagoon pool. It was like being right beside the beach with Four Mile Beach just beyond the palm trees.