Craving fresh air away from city life? Savour a weekend escape to tropical Cairns and the hinterland food bowl that is the Atherton Tablelands.
Taste the flavours of the north while sampling local produce on a scenic road trip through undulating hills, World Heritage rainforest. Finish with an indulgent heli-picnic to a private sand cay on the Great Barrier Reef.
Arrival into Cairns
Cairns is labelled the gateway to the tropics for a reason; from the breathtaking Great Barrier Reef to the ancient Wet Tropics Rainforest, this regional city is literally sandwiched between two World Heritage listed sites. Knock off early from work on Friday or visit mid-week to experience the natural beauty of Tropical North Queensland on this short-stay itinerary.
Responsible luxury at Riley
Indulge in luxury with a clean conscious at Cairns’ first five-star hotel in over 20 years at Riley, a Crystalbrook Collection Resort. From the paperless check-in, recycled wooden room key and absence of plastic drinking bottles and straws at the resort’s three on-site restaurants, the subtle touch points of sustainability woven through the property is refreshing.
Spend the afternoon lounging in a cabana by the pool, sip on one of their signature cocktails overlooking the ocean at rooftop bar, Rocco, or book in for some me-time at Eléme Spa.
Sunset at Prawn Star
They say good things come in threes and Prawn Star has the winning combo; incredible fresh seafood, a priceless location at the Marina and a laid-back atmosphere encapsulating the region’s charming tropical vibes.
Dangle your feet over the side of the docked fishing trawler as you wash down fresh prawns and oysters with a cold glass of wine or beer at only $5 a pop.
Allow yourself to slowly unwind as the boat gently sways with the ocean and watch the golden sun dip behind the grand mountains.
Dine at Salt House
You may have heard that Cairns comes to life after dark, which is definitely the case, but that doesn’t mean you need to be out until the early hours of the morning to experience its magic.
Next door to Prawn Star is what’s considered an institution in the region. No trip to Cairns is complete without truly tasting the tropics at the Salt House.
With one good-looking menu, dominated by local and seasonal product, expect a dining experience to treat your taste buds before you move to the bar or back to your luxe hotel room.
Atherton Tablelands food bowl
Pick up a hire car and head up the Palmerston Highway, a gentle road winding through the rainforest and farmlands to the Atherton Tablelands. Make a pitstop at Nucifora Tea picking up a bag of tea from their honesty box and snapping a few photos of the perfectly groomed tea fields.
Mungalli Creek Dairy
Situated in the heart of Mungalli Creek Dairy sits the original farmhouse, restored into a must-visit cafe for many travelling along the Tablelands foodie trail. The Farmhouse offers expansive views over the rainforest, Johnston River Gorge and Queensland’s highest peak, Mount Bartle Frere.
Sample a range of Mungalli’s biodynamic, gourmet cheeses or sweet treats while peeking through the windows of the production line – the food doesn’t have to travel far to get from paddock to plate here. Stock up on local jams, chutneys and chocolate before hitting the road again.
Millaa Millaa Lookout
Rain, hail or sunshine, one of the most superb vistas in the Atherton Tablelands unfolds from Millaa Millaa Lookout. To find this vantage point, continue up the Palmerston Highway before turning onto East Evelyn Road.
A picture perfect place to enjoy a picnic, take some happy snaps and soak in the 180-degree views over the region’s undulating hills and paddocks.
Indulge in local produce
If your morning tea at Mungalli Creek Dairy is starting to wear off, pop Yungaburra into your Google Maps and enjoy a scenic detour. Rich in wartime and pioneering history, Yungaburra is also home to arguably the most famous monthly market on the local circuit. Grab a table at the popular Whistlestop Cafe and enjoy their relaxed menu or wander to the heritage-listed Yungaburra Pub for something more casual.
This foodie reconnaissance of the Atherton Tablelands isn’t complete without a quick stop at The Humpy. Stock up and sample fresh local goods including native produce, exotic fruits and hot roasted nuts. Sauces, jams and marinades from across the region line the walls, enticing you to purchase extra luggage allowance on the way home.
Mt Uncle Distillery
The Atherton Tablelands is unique with its foodie offerings. Meet quirky Mt. Uncle Distillery, an award-winning boutique distillery set on a banana plantation with resident alpacas, donkeys, goats and free-roaming peacocks.
Quench your thirst with a tasting paddle of handcrafted liqueurs and spirits at their Cellardoor before playing meet and greet with the farm animals.
Jaques Coffee Plantation
Set on a plantation of 85,000 coffee trees, there’s no one more qualified to serve a cup of steaming brew than Jaques Coffee Plantation. Sit on their timber deck surrounded by tropical gardens, refuelling your energy supply before hitting the road again.
If time allows, join a guided coffee tour around the farm which includes a coffee liqueur tasting and roasted coffee to take home. The last tour departs daily at 3pm.
Beachfront degustation at Nu Nu
Finish your day at the laid back village of Palm Cove after driving down the rainforest clad Kennedy Highway, more commonly referred to as the Kuranda Range.
Considered the ultimate beachfront restaurant in Tropical North Queensland, Nu Nu is a favourite, and a top culinary experience in Australia.
Let the ocean breeze, tropical vibes and mouthwatering flavours take over for your final food foray for the day before retreating to Alamanda Palm Cove for the night.
Optional Detour – Davies Creek Falls
Before departing the Tablelands take a short detour off the beaten track to the impressive Davies Creek Falls cascading over giant granite boulders. Atop of this natural masterpiece is a calm pool where the waters tumble over an infinity edge overlooking the forest and creek below.
The cool water against your skin on a warm tropical afternoon is a truly grounding experience. Listen to the trickle of the water, the sounds of the birds and on a rainy afternoon breath in deeply for the scent of eucalyptus infusing the air.
Take to the sky
Heli picnic at Vlasoff Cay
Take to the sky this morning on a scenic helicopter ride to remember. Soar over the world’s largest coral reef before descending onto your own private sand cay for a couple of blissful hours.
Let GBR Helicopters take you to Vlasoff Cay to graze on a gourmet picnic, lounge on deck chairs, swim in azure blue waters and stroll across the white powder sand.
Champagne breakfast anyone?
Lunch at Hemingway’s
Stomach rumbling? Enjoy a casual lunch at the heritage listed Hemingway’s Brewery Cairns Wharf, soaking in the ocean views from the old Cruise Liner Terminal and sampling locally brewed beers and ciders.
Unwind at Vie Spa
End your getaway on a high note, drifting over the clouds with a dreamy spa treatment that is out of this world at Vie Spa, Pullman Cairns International.
After a calming relaxing massage or revitalising facial, tuck into a refreshment plate including a cup of tea, icy water and scoop of sweet sorbet.
Leave Tropical North Queensland feeling revived, grounded with your belt a notch looser, before returning home and planning your next trip to the tropics.
Sink your teeth into dining the tropical way, from seafood, local produce and great coffee.
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Flavour on the menu
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