Food & Wine Trails Day Tour

ATHERTON TABLELANDS 

FOOD, WINE & RAINFOREST TOUR

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well if one has not dined well” – Virginia Wolf

For someone who loves the quote “I love to cook with wine, sometimes I even put it in the food.” It seemed appropriate I started this blog with food & wine quotes! I love food. I love wine. My idea of heaven is going on a wine tour and eating cheese all day. Wait a minute… my dream came true! I joined the FOOD TRAIL TOURS last week to sample what’s on offer from our lovely Tablelands region.

I cleared my schedule and skipped breakfast ready for a day of food. I was to be collected from a hotel in Cairns CBD at 7.30am. Normally you would get picked up in a small bus however numbers were low on this day so we got the VIP treatment in a comfortable car.

Dave was our driver/guide for the day. Once we were in the car we were on our way southbound to take the Gillies Highway up over the Great Dividing Range. The Great Dividing Range is the 3rd longest mountain range in the world running almost the entire east coast of Australia. In the Cairns region it is close to the coast and the plateau at the top of the range is called The Atherton Tablelands. The Tablelands are diverse and complex comprising of many different landscapes from farmland, tropical rainforest, Savannah lands & Woodlands.It also was once a hive of volcanic activity thousands of years ago so the soils are rich volcanic soils perfect for growing crops. The climate is also cooler than that of the Cairns coast so crops that don’t grow in the humid heat of the tropics can grow up there. This rich in minerals soil also makes for nice grass for cattle to eat producing beautiful dairy products.

So with all of these elements combined it is the perfect place to sample local produce! After a stop at a lookout over the Goldsborough valley we arrived at the volcanic crater Lake Barrine

We went for a little rainforest walk to check out the massive Kauri Pine trees before taking a seat on the deck of the tea house for morning tea. The included morning tea are the Lake Barrine’s Tea House speciality and are famous in the region. Freshly baked each morning with local jam, local cream and local tea or coffee. You can smell them baking from miles away.

Lake Barrine Tea House

Twin Kauri Pines Walk

Included devonshire tea, award winning scones. Local Ulysses coffee.

The beautiful setting to take your tea

Next up on this day we visited the famous Curtain Fig Tree, a strangler fig tree over 500 years old for a little rainforest walk.

Dave in action telling us all about the Strangler Fig Tree.

With morning tea already a distant memory it was time to get back amongst the food, this time at Gallo Dairyland. It was time to talk cheese ,my kind of language!

Gallo opened it’s doors in 2007 to visitors so they could gain an educational experience as well as purchase the Gallo products. Gallo is locally run by the Italian family (Giovanni Gallo immigrated from Italy in 1927 and currently son Frank runs the business) survived tough times such as the depression and war to become a local success story.

You can spy into their cheese factory as well as enjoy an educational movie on how cheese is made. The chocolate kitchen was going full throttle making chocolates for Valentines Day, you could press your nose up against the glass almost smelling the chocolate. Following the factory viewings we tasted 3 different cheeses and sampled more if we wished to make a purchase. I also got to munch on a couple of chocolates. I eventually decided  to purchase Gallo’s SILK cheese (Haloumi) to grill for dinner.This is a cheese perfect for BBQing as it keeps it’s shape and holds an excellent flavour when cooked. You don’t have to worry about how your purchases can stay cool for the duration of the day. Dave had an esky (cool box) in the car so your purchases won’t melt in our tropical heat.

Many delicious varieties to choose from.

Tantalising chocolates.

After visiting some animals to say hello we headed north to a Macadamia Nut plantation just outside the town of Tolga. This was a private farm, not set up for the tourists called Wondaree. Dave gave us a private tour of the Wondaree plantations and we learnt everything that is involved from planting, harvesting to shelling and distribution. Most people don’t know this but this nut is a true blue Aussie, a native plant to Australia! We were able to sample different flavours the farm produces and can purchase small or large bags to gobble all on our own.

 

After the farm we stopped at a traditional Queensland country pub for lunch. Served was a plated meal of lightly crumbed Spanish Mackerel, local prawns, salad and tropical fruits. Any booze you wish to consume is at your own expense. It’s a lovely chance to sit down and get to know  the other passengers on your tour and have a chat. The meal was super yummy also!

The included lunch at Tolga Pub.

As we were all in a food/wine coma after lunch a little pick me up was needed. Perfectly timed, we pulled up at Skybury Coffee Plantation. Throughout most of the year this tour will stop at a larger, more commercial Coffee plantation which was closed the month I went on this tour as it is the off season. This didn’t make a difference to the tour, I really enjoyed my time at Skybury. We could order whatever coffee we wanted! After been shown the machinery and videos on the harvesting process we took our coffees out on their large deck with stunning views out over this part of the Tablelands. Magical!We were also treated to fresh paw paw, Skybury produce Paw Paw’s and when I make my favourite Thai Paw Paw salad at home… it’s a Skybury one!

As far as the eye can see, a beautiful view.

Skybury produce.

Coffee beans on the plant.

After our pick-me-up we were fortunate enough to witness how they roast their coffee beans.

Coffee ready for roasting.

The Turkish coffee roasting machine.

All Done! Roasted coffee.

As we neared the end of the tour our last place to visit on the Food Trail was a winery. It was definately wine o’clock when we arrived at De Bruey’s winery. Again, this is not a mass tourist place with only a small handfull of visitors there. We were to sample 12 (yes 12!) fruit wines. The Tablelands climate and soil is not suitable for growing regular grapes for making red or white wine. These were all made from  the many tropical fruits that grow under the tropical sun from Mango and Passionfruit to Bush Cherry.I enjoyed the drier Jaboticaba, a Brazilian grape as it tasted closest to regular red wine. The further down the tasting list we went, the stickier and sweeter the wines got. If you love your dessert wines or your Baileys on ice after a meal in the evenings then the De Brueys range of wines will suit you to a T.

Sadly, the time had come to make our way back to Cairns, this time driving down the Kuranda Range. We made one last stop at a lookout before getting dropped back at our accommodation.

What a great way to see the Tropical Tablelands! Dave was such a chilled out legend… I am in awe of how much knowledge these driver/guides retain. If you love food and are interested in how they get the items from paddock or farm to plate then this tour is for you!

Even if you are vacationing here, picture yourself seated on your hotel balcony at the end of the day with a local cheese platter with a sprinkle of macadamia nuts with a local glass of fruit wine in your hand. Perfect way to end your day!!!