Queensland – the Tropical North's Gourmet Tablelands

Enjoy the food of Queensland's tropical north

By Winsor Dobbin
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Skybury Coffee Plantation

Skybury Coffee Plantation

Mungalli Creek Dairy and Out of the Whey Cafe
Gallo Dairyland cheese platter
Cedar Park Rainforest Resort
Tropical wines, liqueurs and ports from de Brueys

 

Tropical North Queensland is probably better known for blue seas, scuba diving, sand and sunshine than for its cuisine, but the region actually produces a wide range of gourmet goodies; from coffee and cheeses to tropical fruits and artisan spirits.

Restaurants including Harrisons, Bistro 3 and 2 Fish in Port Douglas and Nu Nu at Palm Cove produce top-notch dishes featuring local ingredients while the Atherton Tablelands grows a plethora of fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices and nuts. No wonder the local producers’ group call itself Taste Paradise.

There are several producers of fine fruit wines, cheese makers and a boutique distillery making the tropical north a surprising gourmet destination. Each May, over two weekends, Port Douglas hosts Carnivale, a festival that highlights the region’s top chefs and best produce.

Even in winter, day time temperatures can linger in the mid to high 20s, making laidback TNQ a year-round destination.

 

Stop 1 – Breakfast at Zinc, Port Douglas

Watch the passing parade from the deck of this popular restaurant, bar and cafe, which serves breakfasts, brunches, lunches, dinners and snacks throughout the day. Cakes, desserts, coffees and teas are always available. Situated on the corner of Macrossan and Davidson streets, Port’s main intersection, this is a lively, casual spot that’s an ideal meeting place.

Open: Daily 9am-midnight
Portico Building, Cnr Macrossan and Davidson Streets, Port Douglas
Phone (07) 4099 6260

 

Stop 2 – Gourmet shopping in Port Douglas

While Port Douglas has plenty of stores selling beach wear, it also offers some excellent food shopping. Check out Blood Orange in Warner Street for fresh fruit and vegetables, exotic tropical fruits and a huge range of home-made dips sauces and condiments. Just down the road is The Seafood House, which sells an excellent selection of fresh and pre-packed seafood ideal for anyone self catering or planning a picnic.

Blood Orange
9 Warner Street, Port Douglas
Phone (07) 4099 4979

The Seafood House
11 Warner Street, Port Douglas
Phone (07) 4099 5368

 

Stop 3 – Lunch at Harrisons

This is “the” place to eat in Port Douglas with award-winning chef Spencer Patrick, one-time holder of a Michelin star, cooking up some terrific and innovative European-influenced cuisine in a smart but relaxed atmosphere. There is a menu featuring choices like twice-cooked pork belly with pineapple and white bean puree, quail egg, black pudding and honey mustard seed glaze, or roasted barramundi with olive tapenade, capsicum bavarois, ratatouille and crab vinaigrette. There’s a choice of wines by the glass from names like O’Leary Walker, Stefano Lubiana and Torbreck.

Open: Breakfast on Sundays 8am-noon. Lunch daily noon-2.30pm. Dinner daily from 6pm
22 Wharf Street, Port Douglas
Phone (07) 4099 4011

 

Stop 4 – The Australian Coffee Centre/Skybury Coffee Plantation

Learn all about how coffee is produced in Far North Queensland at this award-winning attraction, which offers tours including a walk through a coffee plantation, demonstration of the process, movie viewing and coffee tasting in the laboratory, including a cup of coffee. The Skybury plantation is the oldest in Australia and is the country’s largest coffee exporter. It is also home to a restaurant and gift shop with a range of main meals and snacks. The terrace offers cooling breezes and magnificent views.

Open: Daily 10am-4pm
Ivicevic Road, Mareeba
Phone (07) 4086 2190

 

Stop 5 – Tasting at Mt Uncle Distillery

North Queensland’s first and only distillery produces a wide range of spirits and liqueurs, including rums, vodkas and (soon) whisky. It is also home to Bridges@MtUncle, an on-site tearoom/cafe. The distillery is just 10 minutes south of Mareeba and an hour from either Port Douglas or Cairns.

You must taste: The Platinum white rum and the Anjea vodka are standouts and the mulberry liqueur is delicious, while the strikingly packaged Sexycat marshmallow liqueur is a hit with the sweeter toothed.

Open: Daily 10am-4.30pm
1819 Chewko Road, Walkamin
Phone (07) 4086 8008

 

Stop 6 – Wine tasting at de Brueys

The de Bruey family produces a range of tropical fruit wines, liqueurs and ports using local produce from Mareeba and surrounds on the Atherton Tablelands. Many of the fruits used come from their own orchard which is planted with mangoes, bush cherries and passionfruit and the wines are made using traditional techniques. The packaging is outstanding.

You must taste: The Jaboticaba wine made from a Brazilian tree grape, and the coffee elixir liqueur.

Open: Daily 10am-5pm
189 Fichera Road (off Tinaroo Creek Road), Mareeba
Phone (07) 4092 4515

 

Stop 7 – Tasting at Mungalli Creek Dairy

This biodynamic dairy and organic cafe is one of the region’s most popular stopping off points. Visitors can watch quark and yoghurts being made, along with a range of cheeses that includes Havarti, Fetta and Ricotta. There are free cheese and yoghurt tastings while the cafe serves fresh scones with rainforest jam and Jersey cream and cheesecakes made from quark. The Ploughmans lunch is perennially popular.

Open: Daily 10am-4pm
254 Brooks Road, Millaa Millaa
Phone 07 4097 2232

 

Stop 8 – Overnight at Cedar Park Rainforest Resort

Slightly offbeat but very enjoyable, Cedar Park is part gourmet retreat, part rainforest getaway and part animal sanctuary. Dine al fresco in a restaurant that overlooks rainforest and a spring-fed stream, and stay in unique accommodation with Gothic arches that are reminiscent of a European castle. The owners rescue injured wildlife, so you could be greeted by a pair of peacocks, a tame wallaby or a cockatoo. Guests can swim in a waterhole, relax in a spa pool or watch out for over 100 species of birds found on the property.

Open: Seven days
250 Cedar Park Road, Kuranda
Phone (07) 4093 7892

 

Don’t miss:

  • A tour, coffee tasting and movie presentation at Jaques Coffee Plantation
  • Dinner at Nick’s Restaurant in Yungaburra, where the eccentric chef-patron serves up some fine Swiss-Italian cuisine ranging from roesti to delicious ultra-thin pizzas
  • Visit the entertaining Coffee Works museum at Mareeba and sample a range of coffees and gourmet chocolates
  • Relax with a massage or treatment at Port Douglas Natural Therapies Centre and Spa
  • Enjoy a beer with the locals at the Court House Hotel in Port Douglas, which dates back to 1878
  • Savour an open-air dinner at the atmospheric Flames of the Forest in the Mowbray Valley behind Port Douglas
  • Buy fresh tropical fruits and other local produce at the Saturday morning market in Mossman
  • Taste and buy some local peanuts; flavoured, raw, roasted or boiled, at the Peanut Place, Tolga
  • Pop into the Golden Drop in Mareeba to sample some wines, ports and sparkling wines made from mangoes
  • Taste cheeses (the Gallozola blue is outstanding) and homemade chocolates at Gallo Dairyland outside Atherton.

 

Regions

  • Far North Queensland (QLD)

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