Cape York

Top 5 Things About Queensland

Birdsville

 

We crossed the border into Queensland at the beginning of September 2014, and didn’t leave the sunshine state until June 2015.  In the ten months that we spent in Queensland, we drove through the outback, went to the northern tip of Australia, spent time in the rainforests, got jobs in Cairns, watched the sugar cane whirl by, and soaked up the sun along the sandy beaches.

 

Here are our favourite things about Queensland:

 

Prehistoric Past

Queensland’s prehistoric past includes dinosaurs, volcanoes and megafauna.  During our time in the outback, we hopped on the dinosaur trail and visited the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum in Winton.  It was absolutely fascinating to learn about the dinosaurs that used to live on Australian soil – Banjo the carnivorous theropod and Matilda the sauropod.

 

Australian Age of Dinosaurs

 

Further north in Boodjamulla National Park (Lawn Hill) are the World Heritage fossils of Riversleigh, which date back 25 million years.  We got to see even more dinosaurs at the Queensland Museum in Brisbane.  They have a regular dinosaur exhibition that includes information about the dinosaur stampede at Lark Quarry.

 

Lawn Hill

 

As we headed towards the coast, we stopped at Undara Volcanic National Park and saw the incredible lava tubes that formed nearly 200,000 years ago.  We saw more evidence of volcanic activity as we travelled east.  Mount Hypipamee Crater and the Crater Lakes on the Atherton Tablelands were all created by volcanic activity, while the Glasshouse Mountains in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland are volcanic plugs of hard rock that have been exposed as the surrounding soft rock has eroded over time.

 

The Tablelands

 

 

Rainforests

The rainforests of northern Queensland are a well known paradise, the most famous being the Daintree Rainforest, which is the oldest and largest continuous rainforest in the world.  Exploring the area is easy when you base yourself at Port Douglas, and while you’re in the area, Cape Tribulation is worth a visit.

 

Cape Tribulation

 

Not far away are the rainforests of the Atherton Tablelands.  Right in the heart of the lush forest is Kuranda, which is a beautiful little village with plenty to offer, including a range of fantastic wildlife experiences.  Paronella Park is another magical gem hidden away in the green foliage.

 

Paronella Park 2015-04-25 231w

 

To the south are the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia, an amazing example of subtropical rainforest that has remained unchanged over many millennia.  Part of this world heritage area is Springbrook National Park, where the Antarctic beech trees reside and the Best of All Lookouts offer views of the valley below (but not for us).

 

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Beaches & Coastline

Known as the sunshine state, Queensland is notorious for its beaches.  Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast is a huge beach with a big surf culture.

 

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Up north on the Cape, after visiting the northernmost point of Australia, we camped at Chilli Beach. The isolation of the area and the row of leaning coconut trees along the beach make it seem like you’re on a deserted island.

 

Cape York

 

Just off the coastline of Queensland is the beautiful Great Barrier Reef.  Juz had an opportunity to go out and snorkel on the reef, swim with turtles and get severely sunburnt, but if you’re not a fan of sunburn or getting wet, you can easily see the beautiful fish and corals at Reef HQ in Townsville.

 

Great Barrier Reef - Justine snorkling

 

4WDing

There are heaps of opportunities to challenge yourself and your 4WD in Queensland.  Our first major obstacle was the Old Telegraph Track on the Cape.  This was so much fun and there were heaps of water crossings, dips and surprises that required keen navigational prowess.

 

Cape York

 

Fraser Island was another 4WDing favourite with plenty of sandy tracks to sink your tyres into and a whole highway of beach to cruise on, while Blackdown Tablelands gave us an unexpected opportunity to cross some rough terrain.

 

Fraser Coast 2015-05-13 082w

 

If you want to do nothing else but get loco on the tracks, head to Landcruiser Mountain Park.  This place is dedicated to challenging tracks of varying difficulty, from relatively easy to “ah fuck – I just broke my car”.  Plus, because the map they give you at reception is so shit, you’re bound to get lost and end up on a track that will push your limits.

 

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Freshwater Fun

Queensland isn’t all about beaches.  There are some beautiful lakes, creeks and waterfalls as well.  In the tropics, waterholes are the perfect spot to cool off and wash the film of sweat from your skin.  Josephine Falls and The Boulders are popular with locals and tourists alike, while Crystal Creek and Jarouma Falls make quite the pretty picture.

 

Crystal Creek 2015-04-28 009

 

Up in the Atherton Tablelands, the Millaa Millaa Waterfall Circuit takes you around to three waterfalls set in the rainforest, while Lake Eacham is a beautiful turquoise lake that is great for swimming and kayaking.  Another beautiful plateau is the Blackdown Tableland further south near Mackay.  There are lots of creeks surrounding the camping area but the real beauty is Guddo Gumoo, which is also known as Rainbow Waters.

 

 

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In country Queensland, there are three locations that are simply sublime.  Our favourite was Lake Elphinstone, and we were very fortunate to be there on the night of a full moon.  For those who are travelling along the Savannah Way, Lawn Hill Gorge is a beautiful place to get your togs wet, and while we don’t recommend getting into the water at Cobbold Gorge (CROCS!), we do recommend a peaceful boat cruise through the gorge.

 

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Only 7km north of the border between Queensland and New South Wales is Natural Bridge, set amongst the Gondwana Rainforest.  Natural Bridge is a product of time, as water has washed over the rock, eroding it and creating a hole.

 

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Oodnadatta Track

Second Year On The Road

Australia Day in Darwin 
Australia Day Cane Toads! Australia Day
Wildlife in our backyard!Possum fell in the pool - nawwww!

 

Cocosaurus Cove
Crocodile snack - Crocosaurus Cove Meet the reptiles - Crocosaurus Cove

 

Litchfield National ParkTermite Mounds - Litchfield National Park

 

Kakadu National Park

Kakadu National Park

Kakadu National Park

 

Cutta Cutta CavesCutta Cutta Caves Edith FallsEdith Falls
Lorella Springs Wilderness Park

Lorella Springs Lorella Springs Lorella Springs Northern Spiny-Tailed Gecko
Caranbirini Conservation Reserve Limmen National Park

 

Devil’s Marbles
The Pebbles Devils Marbles

 

Wycliff WellWycliffe WellAileronAileron
Arltunga Historical ReserveBinns TrackTrephina Gorge Nature Park
Binns Track
Alice Springs Beanie FestivalAlice Springs Beanie Festival
Lasseter’s Camel CupLasseters Camel Cup Lasseters Camel Cup
Henley On Todd RegattaHenley On Todd
Alice Springs Reptile CentreAlice Springs Reptile Centre
Our Time In Alice SpringsHelpex Alice Springs Finke Desert RaceFinke Desert Race
Mount Sonder, West MacDonnell RangesWest MacDonnell Ranges
Palm Valley
Palm Valley
Heating up in HermannsburgHeating up in Hermannsburg
UluruUluru-Kata Tjuta
Kata-TjutaUluru-Kata Tjuta
Rainbow Valley

Rainbow Valley Oodnadatta Track
Coober PedyCoober Pedy
Lake EyreOodnadatta Track

Birdsville

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NormantonThe Big Croc, Normanton Cobbold GorgeCobbold Gorge
Undara Volanic National ParkUndaraCrystal Caves
The Crystal Caves
Mt Uncle DistilleryMt Uncle Distillery

 

Cape York
Bamaga TavernCape YorkThe Old Telegraph Track
Cape York

Chilli BeachCape YorkCape York
Zazen

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CooktownCooktown

Our Time In CairnsCairnsAustralia Day 2015 Cairns


 

 

The Big Fish, Tarzali Lakes

Big Things : The Big Fish, Tarzali Lakes QLD

The Big Fish, Tarzali Lakes

 

Between Malanda and Millaa Millaa, you’ll spot a fish out of water.  The Big Fish is located just outside the Tarzali Lakes Aquaculture Centre and is around 6 metres tall.

 

The Tarzali Lakes Aquaculture Centre is a tourism and education centre focused on fishing, aquaculture, aquafarming and fish breeding.  There is also an opportunity to see a platypus or two at the Australian Platypus Park.

 

Queensland really loves a big thing – fish, fruit, fish, animals, fish, fish and more fish.  We’ve seen big fish in Normanton and Cairns, and we anticipate seeing more down the east coast.

 

 

The Tablelands

The Tablelands – Part 3 : Yungaburra to Millaa Millaa

The Tablelands 2015-03-25 070w

 

The southern end of the Tablelands is lush and green, with rolling hills and waterfalls, and the climate is perfect for dairy farming.  To get there, head south from Cairns and turn right at Gordonvale.  Follow the winding road past Frog Rock for around 45 minutes and that will bring you to Yungaburra.  Don’t forget to enjoy the scenery and stop to check out the Cathedral Fig Tree!

 

 

Cathedral Fig Tree

Our first stop on the way to Yungaburra was the Cathedral Fig Tree, a 500 year old strangler fig located in the Danbulla State forest about 15 minutes from the main road.  It is a huge fig tree with roots that hang down and create an enclosed little area.  It is certainly beautiful and makes for a great photo opportunity.

 

 

Yungaburra

After a quick walk around town, we stopped for lunch at the Yungaburra Whistle Stop Café and were blown away by the great service, relaxed and familiar atmosphere, and the great value of the yummy meals.  This quaint little heritage town gets its name from the local Yidinyji language and means place of questioning.  It remains relatively unchanged since 1910 and acts as a hub to a few local attractions.

 

Curtain Fig Tree

The Curtain Fig Tree is one of the largest trees in Tropical North Queensland and is a species of tree that strangles host trees.  The way the Curtain Fig got its name is when the host tree fell over onto a neighbouring tree, the fig decided that one tree wasn’t enough and started to grow around both trees.  The result is a huge curtain of roots that are absolutely breathtaking.

 

 

Gallo Dairyland

A perfect stop for any cheese lover, Gallo Dairyland is a fairly new edition to the Tablelands, but it depends on how you look at it.  The owners bought it in 1937 as a standard rotary dairy farm, but they had the dream of turning it into an ‘integrated educational dairy farm experience’.  Seventy years later in 2007, Gallo Dairyland opened to the public and offers delicious cheeses, chocolate, ice cream, lactose free options and a cafe, as well as the opportunity to meet some animals in the nursery, see how cows are milked and how the milk is processed.

 

We sampled their range of cheeses, with our favourites being the luscious macadamia cheese and bitey ‘Gallozola’, and we also tasted a few of the gourmet chocolates – YUM!

 

 

Lake Eacham

This beautiful blue green lake is located within the Crater Lakes National Park.  It was formed around 12,000 years ago when magma from the earth’s core moved towards the crust and heated up the water table.  The resulting steam led to an explosion that created the crater.  There are no streams that feed the volcanic lake – its water comes from rain and the water level fluctuates around 4 metres during the year.

 

The Tablelands

 

It’s a great spot for locals and tourists alike – the location is ideal for swimming, canoeing and wildlife watching, and there is a large grassed area that is perfect for picnics.  Fishing and motor boats are not allowed, which gives the fish and turtles that live in the lake some peace and quiet.

 

The Tablelands

 

Malanda

This small Tableland town was first developed in the 1900s after the discovery of copper and tin at nearby Herberton.  It is known for producing dairy and their furthest milk run went as far north as Weipa and as far west as Wyndham and Kununarra in Western Australia.  That’s around 3,000 km!

 

Malanda Dairy Centre

The best place to get more info about the history of the region is the Malanda Dairy Centre. Essentially, it’s a cafe, but it also has an art gallery and museum with local history and stories from the War era.   Definitely worth a visit, if not for a slice of cake.

 

 

Malanda Falls

On the edge of town is the Malanda Falls Conservation Park.  There is a small waterfall and swimming hole there that is a great place for a picnic.

 

 The Tablelands

 

Millaa Millaa

This small town has a population of around 300 people and includes a post office, library, newsagency, pub and a cafe.  The traditional owners of the area are the Mamu people, and the words Millaa Millaa mean plenty of water.

 

Lions Park

The massive Lions Park that takes up most of the main Street is a perfect spot for picnic or BBQ. There is also a playground, a display of giant Kauri Pine logs and historical statue of the explorer Christie Palmerston and his aboriginal sidekick Pompo.  Christie (yes, girls name for a dude) was the first European to make a track from Herberton to Innisfail.  He was also the first European to climb Bartle Frere.

 

 

De Millaa’s Cafe

By the time we got to Millaa Millaa, we were starving for lunch.  We got a burger each and an iced coffee to share.  The one thing that stood out as exceptionally tasty was the bread – nice and gummy with a beautiful flavour.  We just wish they had some music playing – the tranquillity of Millaa Millaa town couldn’t compete with the sounds of us chewing our lunch.

 

Mungali Creek Dairy

A dairy producer of yoghurts, milk and cheeses, Mungali Creek is a familiar brand with their yoghurts available at most local supermarkets.  Their cheeses are also available at an outlet at Rusty’s.  They were open for tasting and also have a little cafe that overlooks the operations.

 

Millaa Millaa Waterfall Circuit

The area around Millaa Millaa is known for waterfalls, including the heritage-listed Millaa Millaa Falls.  This popular swimming spot is easily accessible and includes a lovely grassed area for sunbaking and picnicking.  The beautiful cascade of water runs over volcanic basalt that was formed around 1.5 million years ago.  As the basalt cooled, it formed cracks which have produced the columns behind the falls that you see today.

 

The Tablelands

 

Further along the circuit is Zillie Falls.  The viewing platform is located at the top of the falls, but it isn’t hard for the adventurous to locate the unkempt track that leads down to the bottom.  There is plenty of opportunity to explore the boulders and pools below, but please be careful about getting into rapid water, and of flooding during the Wet Season.

 

The Tablelands

 

The last stop along the loop is Ellinjaa Falls, a wide and irregular cascade of water over lava columns.  The pool at the bottom is fairly shallow and rumour has it that it is popular hangout for platypi and turtles.

 

The Tablelands 2015-03-25 116w

 

 

On your way to Innisfail from Millaa Millaa, you can see Queensland’s highest mountain in the distance – Bartle Frere.  Its elevation is 1,622 metres above sea level and was named after Sir Henry Bartle Frere, a British colonial administrator who was also the president of the Royal Geographical Society (NERD!).  Of course, it had a name before the British came to Australia – Chooreechillum.

 

The Tablelands

 

So there you have it – the Tablelands.  Our main highlights include Coffee Works and Mt Uncles Distillery in Mareeba, the Crystal Caves in Atherton, and Gallo Dairyland near Yungaburra.  We also loved the enormous fig trees and lush countryside, with the deep blue sky contrasting with the green hills.  After around 6 months of travelling through central Australia, it was such a relief to be out of the dry Outback and Savannah scrub.

 

The Tablelands – Part 1 : Ravenshoe to Mareeba

 

The Tablelands

Kuranda

The Tablelands – Part 2 : Kuranda

Kuranda

 

Nestled in rainforest just 25km from Cairns, Kuranda is an adorable “Village in the Rainforest” with plenty of bohemian character.  Check out the colourful craft markets, indulge in some delicious coffee at one of the many cafes, or get closer to nature by visiting the nearby waterfalls or local animals.

 

The rainforest around Kuranda was the home of the Djaybugay people for thousands of years, before the white settlers turned up in 1885.  The construction of a railway to connect Cairns with Herberton went through Kuranda in 1891 and it was around this time that the Kuranda Post office opened.  Timber was the town’s primary industry for a long time, until it turned into the tourist destination that it is today.  It uses the railway to receive thousands of tourists who travel from Cairns on the Kuranda Scenic Railway.  Other ways to get to Kuranda are by coach or the Skyrail.

 

During our stay in Cairns, we had both Juz’s mum and dad visit on separate occasions, and we took them both to Kuranda.  If you have a day to spare while you’re in the Cairns/Port Douglas region, it would be worth spending some or all of that day in Kuranda.

 

Kuranda

 

Points of Interest

Kuranda Markets

There are two markets in Kuranda.

The Heritage Market started around 20 years ago and is an undercover market nestled between the Wildlife Experience destinations.  The main things on offer are various Australiana products, like didgeridoos, vests and wallets made from kangaroo fur, handmade jewellery, crafts and leather goods.  There is also a nice cafe with a deck that overlooks lush rainforest.

 

 

The original Kuranda Market is located across the road, behind the shops and was established in 1978.  It’s laid out over a sloped landscape with little pathways winding around colourful huts that host the stalls.  This market has a very hippy, colourful, free-spirited feel to it, and the stalls vary from health smoothies and rainbow dresses to dreadlocking and a mini golf course!  The highlights of the original market are the hippy photo op and Petit Cafe…

 

Petit Café

A popular destination for locals and visitors, Petit Cafe offers an entire menu of various crepes with delicious coffee.  During busy times, you might have to wait to get a table, but it is worth it.  The kangaroo prosciutto and goats cheese crepe is heaven.  We took Juz’s mum here when she visited and we all had a savoury crepe each, and a dessert crepe to share.  Scrumptious.

 

 

Kuranda Beer

One of the cafes in Kuranda offers Kuranda Draught, a beer made by Red Dragon Brewery in Cairns.  We stopped in to sample and found that this beer was really nice.  The banana and other fruity aromas gave it a real ‘breakfast beer’ taste.  It was crisp and lightly bubbly with a delicate hops aftertaste that left a pleasant lingering bitterness and dryness in the mouth. YUMMO!

 

German Tucker

If you don’t mind a bit of sausage, these guys claim to have the best German sausages in Australia.  Yes, they’re delicious, and come with a variety of sides like caramelised onion, sauerkraut and potato salad, but surely there are other ‘best German sausages’ in Australia… right?

 

Kuranda

 

Kuranda Wildlife Experience

If you have at least 6 hours to spare, we highly recommend treating yourself to the Kuranda Wildlife Experience.  This package includes three destinations – the Kuranda Koala Gardens, Birdworld Kuranda and the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary.  You’ll get to meet a whole range of animals, from koalas, wallabies and gliders to lizards, turtles and cheeky parrots.  Check out our post about the Kuranda Wildlife Experience here…

 

 

Barron River Falls

The best time to visit the Barron Falls is once the Wet Season has started (around January), because at this time, the torrent of white water that falls over the Barron Falls Weir is more fierce and really impressive. We visited just before the wet and while we weren’t expecting much, it was still a pretty sight.

 

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The Tablelands

Big Things : The Big Peanut, Tolga QLD

The Tablelands

 

On the drive between Atherton and Mareeba in the Tablelands, you’ll see an enormous knob holding his enormous balls, but don’t be alarmed!  It’s just the Big Peanut!

 

The Big Peanut is the landmark that welcomes visitors to The Peanut Place, an outlet in the Tablelands that showcases locally grown peanuts.  What’s special about these peanuts is that they are hi oleic, which means that they are high in ‘good’ monounsaturated fats, like the fats in olive oil.  Oleic fatty acids are also less susceptible to oxidation, which means they don’t get rancid as fast as polyunsaturated fats and they have a longer shelf life.

 

The Tablelands

The Tablelands

The Tablelands – Part 1 : Ravenshoe to Mareeba

The Tablelands

 

We were absolutely thrilled when we hit the Tablelands.  The contrast in scenery from the dry, dusty outback to moist, green rolling hills was refreshing to our eyes, but also sparked nostalgia for the Victorian countryside.  Known as the ‘food bowl of the tropics’, the Tablelands has the perfect environment for dairy farming and growing crops like tropical fruit and coffee, so the gourmet food and wine trails are fantastic.  The natural beauty of the region is also undeniable and includes waterfall circuits, stunning rainforests, craters, lakes and unique wildlife.

 

The Tablelands was immediately put on our list of favourite places in Australia, and as we planned our travels, we were happy to realise that we’d be passing through the region twice!  This is our first instalment of the Tablelands, starting from Ravenshoe, and following the road north through Atherton and Mareeba.  Our next instalment will include Kuranda, Yungaburra, Malanda and Milla Milla – stay tuned.

 

Ravenshoe

It was too early in the morning for us to go exploring Ravenshoe, but we were still stoked about being in the highest town in Queensland.  This cute, little town sits at an altitude of 920m above sea level and is surrounded by World Heritage listed rainforest.  On our way out, we passed the highest pub in Queensland, and lamented that it was too early in the day for a bevy.

 

The Tablelands

 

Millstream Falls

This was our first stop from the west, and as we walked down the winding path to the falls, we sucked in the delicious forest air.  Millstream Falls is the widest single drop waterfall in the world.

 

Mount Hypipamee National Park

On the way to Atherton, we stopped in at Mount Hypipamee National Park to check out the crater of the same name, and Dinner Falls.  We were surrounded by lush foliage, bush turkeys scratching around in the undergrowth and the soothing scents of the forest.

 

The Tablelands

 

The Mount Hypipamee Crater was very deep, with a manky, green pool at the bottom.  This crater is actually a diatreme, which is a volcanic pipe that was created by a gaseous explosion.  Dinner Falls was also a treat to see, and once we got back to the Troopy, it was time for breakfast.

 

The Tablelands

 

Atherton

Atherton is a great little town that was named after a bloke called John Atherton, who settled in the area in the 1870s.  It’s the ‘capital’ of the Tablelands and the population sits at around 7000 people.  There are two major supermarkets, a few parks that are perfect for picnics, and a central visitor information centre staffed by helpful locals. There are also several attractions in and around town that are definitely worth checking out.

 

The Crystal Caves and Fascinating Facets

An award-winning tourist attraction and we could see why.  The Crystal Caves are a fantasy wonderland located right on the main street of Atherton and would make any fossil fanatic or gemstone buff squeal with delight.  Fascinating Facets is almost like a museum on its own with a fabulous display of fossils, gemstones and jewellery, and you just have to try the chocolate – YUM!

 

The Crystal Caves

 

The Peanut Place

Queensland produces 95% of Australia’s peanuts, and considering that it’s the main ingredient n peanut butter, one of Juz’s favourite things, we had to check out the Peanut Place.

 

Despite the suspiciously shaped mascot standing at the front of the store, which also happens to be the Big Peanut, we found their variety of peanut products to be very impressive – sweet nuts, savoury nuts, nut butter, nut ice cream, boiled nuts, roasted, salted, the list goes on.  They were featured on the front cover of the local newspaper for their delicious chocolate peanut butter spread, and we also sampled the peanut ice cream.  As you can imagine, nearly everything they sell has peanuts in them so anaphylactics can wait in the car.

 

The Tablelands

 

Tinaroo Lake

This man-made dam is a great place for a family picnic.  There are picnic benches, shady trees, BBQs and a big playground, and you can even hire a boat for a paddle on the lake.

 

Mareeba

Another cute town in the Tablelands, they say that Mareeba is where the rainforest meets the outback.  The area is occupied by a variety of crops, such as mangoes, sugarcane, avocadoes, exotic fruits, as well as coffee plantations. There is also a fantastic Heritage Museum at the Visitor Centre that sheds light on the local tobacco and mining industries, aboriginal culture and pioneer history, with lots of historical memorabilia on display.  Entry is by gold coin donation – and it’s well worth it.

 

The Tablelands

 

Our day was to include a visit to Coffee Works, Mount Uncle Distillery and de Brueys Wines so we prepared for the day by visiting Curcio’s Drive-Thru Bakery to break the fast with chunky curry pies, and bacon–infused sausage rolls at very reasonable prices.

 

The Tablelands

 

Coffee Works

You could easily spend the whole day at Coffee Works.  While there is a colourful gift shop and café onsite, entry to Coffee World will take you on the ultimate coffee-lovers adventure.  Not only will you have unlimited access to their variety of coffees, teas, chocolate and liqueurs, but you will discover things about coffee that you never dreamed of in the museum.  Their collection of coffee paraphernalia is biggest in the world, with many being either one of a kind, or the last one remaining in the world.  Amazing…

 

Coffee Works

 

Mount Uncle’s Distillery

For those why love a bit of spirit, you can’t go past Mount Uncle’s Distillery.  Their vodka is pristine, their gin is sublime, and regardless of whether you’re a rum gulper or a whiskey sipper, you’ll enjoy the Iridium Gold Rum.

 

Mt Uncle Distillery

 

De Brueys Boutique Wines

Usually, wine and grapes go hand in hand but not at De Brueys.  Their wines, ports and liqueurs don’t contain grapes; instead they’re made from exotic fruits like mango, lychee and bush cherry.  They even have a wine made from jaboticaba, a cauliflora fruit from Brazil.  If you like Irish Cream, then you’ll love their Temptation Range.  While we really enjoyed Envy with its delicious honeydew melon flavour, the Coffee Temptation was our clear winner and we left with a bottle.

 

The Tablelands

 

As we made our way to camp, the sun was setting over the distant hills, and we drove past the Mareeba Wetlands just in time for the sky to burst with the colours of mangoes and bananas.

 

Information & Accommodation

The Atherton Information Centre is located on the corner of Main & Silo Rd Atherton.  They are open daily from 9am to 5pm.  For more information, visit www.athertoninformationcentre.com.au

The Mareeba Heritage Museum & Tourist Information Centre is open daily from 8am to 4pm and is at 345 Byrnes Street, Mareeba.  To find out more, visit www.mareebaheritagecentre.com.au

 

Rifle Creek Rest Area

Just south of Mount Molloy is a spacious rest area.  Cold showers and toilets are provided, a small donation for the convenience is appreciated.

 

Rocky Creek Memorial Park

A few clicks north of Tolga, this war memorial park is right next door to a rest area that can get rather busy during peak season.  Phone reception and clean toilets are on offer, as well as the opportunity to give a small donation for the convenience.

 

The Tablelands

 

Stay tuned for The Tablelands – Part 2, which will include Kuranda, Yungaburra, Malanda and Millaa Millaa.

 

Coffee Works

Experience : The Coffee Works, Mareeba

Coffeeworks

 

Coffee-lovers and connoisseurs rejoice!  We have found the perfect place where you can get your gourmet caffeine and chocolate fix and immerse yourself in the fascinating history of coffee.

 

The Coffee Works is owned by Annie and Rob Webber, boutique roasters and chocolatiers who started off running a small market stall in 1988.  Nearly three decades later, the Coffee Works has exploded to include a café, colourful gift shop and the Coffee World Experience – the ultimate coffee extravaganza.  A ticket into Coffee World gives you unlimited all day tasting of various blends and single origin coffee, tea, decadent chocolates and liqueurs, as well as entry into the museum, where you can spend hours browsing through the massive collection of coffee history and paraphernalia.

 

Coffeeworks

 

The Museum

The Coffee World Museum displays over 2,000 items that were collected by Rob and Annie or purchased in 2005 from Ian Bernsten, an Aussie entrepreneur, writer and inventor with a serious passion for coffee.  The items on display include items that are one of a kind, the last of its kind or seriously rare stuff, making it the biggest and most significant collection in the world.

 

Learn about the discovery of coffee and how it evolved to become a beverage, the origins of percolators, plungers and espresso machines, and how coffee spread around the world to become one of the most favourite and influential beverages ever.

 

Coffeeworks

 

The Coffee

We had a big day ahead of us and were glad to have a huge variety of coffees on tap.  We started off with Coffee Work’s Aussie selection, from mildest to boldest, and then moved along to their Single Origins, blends and flavoured coffees.

 

Our favourites included Black Mountain, their smooth signature blend with lush chocolate flavours and a full mouth feel, as well as Annies blend, because of it’s delicious sweet smell and silky chocolate flavours.

 

We also sampled the coffee and chocolate liqueur.  All three flavours were lusciously sweet and perfect for drizzling over ice cream or cake.

 

Coffee Works

 

The Chocolate

Coffee Works caters to the chocolate freaks as well with an awesome range of yummy chocolates.  All of the flavours are gluten free and the dark varieties are dairy free as well.  You can even watch the chocolatiers in action.  What a sweet job!

 

Our favourites were the Caffeinator chocolate bark encrusted with coffee beans, the lemon myrtle flavoured chocolate for its fresh but mellow tang, the coconut bark for its textured sweetness and the lime and pepper chocolate for its balance of sweet, savoury and peppery smack.

 

Coffeeworks

 

The Essentials

Coffee Works is located at 136 Mason Street in Mareeba, but you can also find them at Rusty’s Market in Cairns, as well as the Yungaburra Markets and Port Douglas Markets.  If you can’t make it to those destinations, no matter – Coffee Works will roast and post to any destination in Australia, and the world!

 

www.coffeeworks.com.au

1800 355 526

 

Coffeeworks

 

 

The Crystal Caves

Experience : The Crystal Caves, Atherton

The Crystal Caves

 

We have never seen anything like it.

 

Imagine that you are a miner or a fossicker and you have just stumbled across a cave filled with treasures so numerous and valuable, that it’s as if you have fallen into a fantastical dream.  As you travel through this whimsical cave, you are surrounded by sparkling shapes and iridescent colours, long lost treasures and objects of unspeakable beauty.  Well, you don’t need to imagine any longer because this wonderland has been created for you by one man – dreamer and visionary, René Boissevain.

 

René began collecting after a stint in Queensland, when he found a beautiful agate boulder while fossicking at Agate Creek in 1963.  This spurred him to travel the world and find more extraordinary specimens and by 1969, he had established a museum in Holland called De Oude Aarde, meaning The Old Earth.

 

A few years later, he and his wife migrated to Australia, and after a lot of hard work and using only René’s imagination as blueprints, The Crystal Caves opened in 1986.  René believed that it was the very best way to display his amazing collection of crystals. Eventually, as René’s collection grew, the Crystal Caves grew, and it is still growing today.

 

The Crystal Caves

Safety first! Before entering the cave, equip yourself with a hardhat and head-torch – you’re gonna need it!  The self-guided tour takes you through many dimly lit caverns and grottos with low hanging stalactites and archways, all encrusted with crystals from all over the world.

 

The Crystal Caves

 

It’s ok, you’re allowed to touch.  Run your fingers over the reticulated crystals, or try to pick up a piece of Galena.  The Crystal Caves is not only an intriguing fantasy but also an interactive adventure!  Traverse the Winding Walkway, stroll through the Fossil Gallery and marvel at the glowing rocks in the Magic Temple.  Gaze in awe at the enormous Empress of Uruguay, the largest amethyst geode in the world.  The beauty is 130 million years old, 3.27m tall and weighs 2.5 tonnes.  If you think that’s heavy, the nearby Crystal Fountain is made from over 4 tonnes of rose quartz, the ‘stone of love’.

 

The Crystal Caves

 

Learn stuff!  This might not be the primary reason why you’d visit the Crystal Caves but you will certainly walk away with more knowledge than you had before.  As you travel through the caves, you will come across over 600 specimens of gemstones, rock formations and fossils as well as their origins and even how they were formed.  For example, the very cool pyrite cubes are of higher quality when their edges are closer to a right angle, while the beautiful sculpture carved of lapis lazuli is from the Chinese Qing dynasty of 1644-1912.

 

The Crystal Caves

 

The Fascnating Facets

Once you’re done exploring the caves, check out the incredible gallery, rock shop and jewellery that is Fascinating Facets.  Browse through beautiful necklaces, rings and bracelets, various gemstones and more.

 

The Crystal Caves

 

Crack A Geode

While you’re at Crystal Caves, why not crack your own geode!  The word geode meads ‘of the earth’ and describes a hollow rock full of crystals.

 

Large geodes, like the Empress of Uruguay, are inspected before they are dug out of the ground.  A small hole is drilled into the geode and a tiny camera is inserted to see whether the geode is worth excavating.  This process also helps to determine the best way to cut the geode.

 

Amethyst geodes, like the Empress of Uruguay, are formed in volcanic rock inside the bubbles that were trapped in cooling lava.  Over millions of years, water that is saturated with minerals seeps in and reacts with chemicals within the pocket of air.  A combination of minerals, pressure, water and time results in the beautiful crystals that are found within geodes.  Amethyst geodes get their gorgeous purple colour from manganese and iron.

 

The Crystal Caves

 

The Essentials

The Crystal Caves is located at 69 Main Street, Atherton and is open 7 days a week – except for good Friday, Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Years Day.  Fascinating Facets is the adjacent gallery, rock shop and jeweller where you can purchase a variety of collectables from semi-precious stones, fossil specimens and beautiful jewellery.

 

For more information, contact the Crystal Cave on 07 4091 2365 or check out their website at www.crystalcaves.com.au.

 

The Crystal Caves

 

Mt Uncle Distillery

Taste : Mt Uncle Distillery

Mt Uncle Distillery

 

Located in the heart of the Atherton Tablelands, Mt Uncle Distillery is North Queensland’s first and oldest distillery.  Their delicious liqueurs & spirits are made with locally sourced ingredients and are fermented and distilled on site.

 

The Distillery

The distillery opened in 2004 and is located on what used to be a cattle property that adjoins Mt Uncle, hence the name.  The logo comes from the old cattle brand that they would burn onto the cows’ butts. The owner and master distiller, Mark Watkins was available to show us around the distillery and walk us through the process of making his award-winning products.

 

Mt Uncle Distillery

 

The distillery includes a 12,000 litre jacketed fermenter that ferments the wash with a naturally occurring yeast to about 10% alcohol over 2 weeks.  The wash is then transferred to a 1,500 litre copper pot still – aka the Mothership.  The distillation process produces three products – the head comes first and contains all the bad alcohol (acetone), the heart is the good stuff at between 68% and 90% alcohol, and the tails is everything under 68%.  The tails smell like wet dog, but is reused in the next batch so the alcohol content doesn’t go to waste.

 

After the distillation, the spirits travel on different paths.  Clear spirits like the gin and vodka are chill-filtered at -6°C while the rum and whiskey get barrelled.  The Barrelling Room – aka the Crypt – was perfumed with Angels Share and stacked to the ceiling with barrels.  The whiskey is aged in hybrid barrels with a French oak body and American oak head for 5 years while the rum is aged in American oak.

 

Mt Uncle Distillery

 

The Spirits

After our tour of the distillery, we took a seat at the bar in anticipation of the tasting.  Mark introduced us to Fruitcake, his super cute pet rainbow lorikeet, who then proceeded to trash the tasting area and terrorise the till, squawking at anyone who came close to his precious coins.  With the till draw shut (with Fruitcake inside), we commenced the tasting:

 

  • Anjea Vodka – made from local Ironbark honey and local sugarcane, it was very smooth and sophisticated.
  • Botanic Australis Gin – Using a 300 year old London dry recipe, Mark added 14 Aussie botanicals to give this gin a truly unique flavour. While it smells like orange cake, the flavours were full of lilli pilli and strawberry gum, citrus from the lemon scented gum and lemon myrtle.  This is a very special gin.
  • Platinum White Rum – sweet and smooth with a lovely malty scent.
  • Iridium Gold Rum – Despite the whiskey scent, it was all rum with a sweet, smooth entry. Perfect for both rum and whiskey drinkers.
  • Big Black Cock (BBC) Whiskey – this single malt whiskey was smooth with a burst of spirit.
  • SexyCat Marshmallow Liqueur – bring on the musk lollies! A wonderfully sweet liqueur with a gorgeous rose pink colour. Perfect for 21st birthdays, hens nights, or a big gay fiesta, Sexycat is the first and only marshmallow liqueur in the world and it’s Mt Uncle’s best seller.

 

Mt Uncle Distillery

 

The Essentials

Mt Uncle Distillery is open 7 days from 10am to 4:30pm and the address is 1819 Chewko Road, Walkamin QLD. Lunchtime is the best time to visit Mt Uncle Distillery – after your tasting, have lunch at Bridges Café and sample their huge selection of teas from around the world.

 

For more information, contact Mt Uncle Distillery on 07 486 8008 or email them at info@mtuncle.com.  Mt Uncle’s also do weddings and events – to enquire, email events@mtuncle.com.

 

Mt Uncle Distillery