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 tropics while sampling local produce on this three day Cairns food trail.
Arrival into Cairns
Cairns may be famous for the Great Barrier Reef and the Wet Tropics World Heritage Rainforest, but its unique local produce, stylish bar scene and al fresco restaurant culture is putting it on the map for foodies. Knock off early from work on Friday or visit mid-week to eat your way through Tropical North Queensland on this Cairns food trail.
Check into the Shangri-La
Stay close to all the foodie action and check into Shangri-La The Marina. Located on one of the city’s main dining precincts, this resort offers ample facilities – including a resort pool and stunning balconies – for relaxing in between dining.
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.
Dessert on the Espanade
Take your sweet tooth down to the Cairns Esplanade and choose from a range of tasty treats.
The iconic Churro Time is a hit with the locals. Opt for a classic cinnamon coating or mix it up with a white chocolate coated churro sundae washed down with a bubble tea.
Screaming for ice cream? The esplanade can seriously give Italy a run for its money when it comes to ice cream and gelato. The Dairy offers ice cream and yoghurt made at local Mungalli Creek Dairy on the Atherton Tablelands, whilst Gelocchio offers 100% natural ice cream and sorbet on a stick.
Cocktails at Salt House
With your accommodation a mere two minutes walk away from the Salt House, it would be rude not to pop in for a cocktail (or three)! Sip on delights such as The Cheeky Dutchman or Barrel Aged Negroni, both of which utilise locally-distilled alcohol.
If the night is still young, head on over to one of Cairns’ other fantastic bars and breweries to sample more tongue-tingling beverages. Climb a few stories to Oak and Vine or Crystalbrook Rocco to pair your tipple with top views, or cosy up in a laneway bar at Three Wolves or Wolf Lane Distillery.
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.
Dinner at Ochre
Head back “down the hill” to the city and finish your day with dinner a few footsteps from your hotel and enjoy modern Australian cuisine at Ochre. The highly awarded restaurant offers culinary delights for every tastebud, including tempura gulf bugs and char grilled kangaroo sirloin.
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.
Taste the tropics
Eat the rainbow at Rusty’s Markets
Start the day in the most colourful way and head to the iconic Rusty’s Markets. Get your caffeine fix at Annee’s Caphe Sua Da, which serves up traditional Vietnamese iced coffee and is a hit with a locals – one look at the queue makes that obvious! Choose from an array of locally made treats for brekkie, including pastries from the French Patisserie or a fresh fruit bowl served in a coconut from the Grateful Coconut.
Browse a myriad of local stalls and pick up exotic fruits you may never have even heard of! Or if you prefer to taste something typically tropical, locally grown mangoes, lychees or dragonfruit are sure to impress.
Live the beach life
Head north to the stunning seaside village of Palm Cove for some vitamin sea and even more tasty treats. After an ample amount of time has been spent sinking your toes into the sand (let’s be real, no amount of time is enough), wander along William’s Esplanade and see which of the many cafes or restaurants tickles your fancy.
For a laid back lunch with dreamy sea views, head to Chill Cafe and munch on classic brunch goodies. Or if you’re feeling boujee, dine under the palms at the iconic NuNu and treat yourself to culinary delights such as wok fried North Queensland mudcrab or chilli salt pork ribs.
Leave Tropical North Queensland feeling full and content, knowing you’ll be back again in the near future to treat your tastebuds to round two.
Sink your teeth into dining the tropical way, from seafood, local produce and great coffee.
Food trail highlights on the Atherton Tablelands
Foodies take a deep breath and prepare your tastebuds for tantalisation. Here’s how to get your foodie fix on the Atherton Tablelands.
Seafood lovers’ guide to Cairns
As the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, Cairns is teeming with an abundance of restaurants offering fresh, local catches and exceptional seafood. Find the stand-out seafood dishes in Cairns below.
Eat your way through these Palm Cove Restaurants
Taste the flavours of the north in the seaside village of Palm Cove, where restaurants take pride in local produce, fresh flavours and providing a warm tropical welcome served with an icy-cold drink.
Flavour on the menu
From exotic fruits to craft beers, homegrown chocolate to spectacular seafood, Tropical North Queensland is a food lover’s paradise.
10 Cafes in Cairns for great coffee
With such a vibrant foodie culture, finding the best cafes in Cairns can be overwhelming. Fuel your caffeine addiction with these local favourites for a guaranteed quality cup of coffee.
Celebrated Palm Cove chef Nick Holloway adores iconic Rusty’s Markets in Cairns. Kerry Heaney joined him for a tour of the stalls.
Top spots to picnic around Cairns and the tropics
Dining al-fresco is a way of life up here in the tropics and with a plethora of picture-perfect spots in our backyard, there’s no need to book into a swanky restaurant. Pack a blanket and hamper and head to one of these picnic spots in Cairns and Tropical North Queensland.
A guide to Port Douglas restaurants
Eat your way around Port Douglas as local food blogger Foodvixen shares the ultimate guide to Port Douglas restaurants.
Your guide to vegetarian & vegan friendly restaurants in Cairns
You’ll find most cafes and restaurants around Cairns include quality meat-free dishes. The following eateries however, hero plant-based food. Here’s where to eat vegan and vegetarian food in Cairns.