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.

 

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