We won’t lie, it’ll be tough covering all the wonders of Tropical North Queensland’s Atherton Highlands in just 48 hours. Embarking on a tasting trail alone – of the plentiful aromatic fruits, the creamiest dairy goods, chocolates, coffee, and fruit wines – could take a good couple of days; and that’s just the food! Then there are the waterfalls of the famous circuit; the hot air balloon rides above the picturesque landscape; the national parks and stunning lakes; and camping lakeside, under the stars.
While we’ll give it a good go with this itinerary, we’re sure you’ll find another reason – or five – to come back to this special part of our region.
A pioneer in the Australian coffee industry, it’s not just about the bean at this establishment. You’ll find more than 50 flavours of fine, handcrafted chocolates for sale, some with a tropical twist; think dried mango and pineapple dipped in dark or milk chocolate. With all-day tastings of coffee, tea, chocolate, and liqueur, as well as a chance to browse the gift store, see the chocolate being made, and having a bite to eat at the café, you could spend hours here without realising it.
The Tolga Woodworks Gallery & Café is a gorgeously sophisticated roadside stop. Take the time to admire how artists skilfully mastered the grain of the wood to create stingrays and platypuses which look like they could wriggle away at any moment. There are also impressive works created from steel, clay, precious metal, and fabrics.
An entire village of more than 60 beautifully restored buildings, within the old tin mining town of Herberton, is an incredible tribute to Australia’s past; the Historic Village Herberton. To enter the ‘village’ there’s a small fee. Once in, allow plenty of time to marvel at the incredible detail of this outdoor museum as you wander through the restored schoolhouse, bank, toy shop, and chemist. But first, settle in for lunch at the Bakerville Tearooms. Expect fine china, polished silverware, and wide verandahs overlooking the village grounds on one side and the river on the other side.
Set on a 40-acre property on the outskirts of Yungaburra, Gumtree on Gillies Bed & Breakfast boasts four uniquely themed, luxurious guest rooms set amongst native Australian bush. Enjoy first class facilities including a large saltwater swimming pool and spa nestled amongst the picturesque manicured gardens. All guest suites feature an open brick wood burning fireplace and a deluxe double spa bath, perfect for a romantic getaway. Three guest suites feature air conditioning throughout – great for the warmer months, or simply enjoy cool fresh breezes that float through the large open windows.
Your stay also includes a sumptuous home-cooked breakfast each morning, and complimentary chocolates and smooth Australian port. Situated just 10 minutes' walk from Yungaburra, it’s only a short stroll to dinner.
Before feasting on fine food, head to the platypus viewing platform at Peterson’s Creek, located just off the main road in as you enter Yungaburra Heritage Village. Dusk and dawn are the best times to spot this shy creature. Aim for 5.15pm in winter and later in the height of summer, say 6.15pm. Venture along the waterway to see if you have more luck but try to keep as quiet as possible, and be patient. It also might be an idea to spray yourself with insect repellent before heading down.
This restaurant has earned a reputation for producing high-quality food with warm, yet professional service. Flynn’s offers up simple, honest French and Italian cuisine, such as duck confit and Osso Bucco. This place is popular, so book a table.
You’ll most likely wake up to a chorus of birdsong. And after your day of exploring, you would’ve slept soundly, so you’ll be ready to break the fast. This homely, family-owned café is a favourite; well known for its beautiful cakes and slices. It serves a range of breakfast options, including the classic eggs benedict, and iced coffee with all the trimmings.
More than 500 years old, and only a short drive from Yungaburra, the curtain tree fig is a fascinating display of nature. The boardwalk around its base allows you to take in the 50m-tall tree, with its 15m aerial roots, from all angles, as well as appreciate the surrounding national park.
Only a short walk from the visitor centre – which is well worth checking out to learn about the geological history and Indigenous culture of the area – this cascade waterfall is nestled among lush rainforest. Take a dip in its cool waters or venture along one of the nearby walking tracks; look up and you may see a Lumholtz tree kangaroo.
At an impressive 18m tall you’ll see why this waterfall has been chosen as a backdrop for well-known advertisements. It’s probably the most Instagrammed waterfall of the famous circuit. We love it because it’s a great swimming spot and there’s plenty of surrounding grass to settle in for a picnic. Or simply lie back and watch the clouds drift across the blue, Tropical North Queensland sky.
As you head down the road towards this family-run dairy through rolling, green hills, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’re driving through the English countryside. The cows and chickens graze on organic pastures year-round resulting in certified biodynamic produce. If you need something a bit more substantial than a cheese plate, the ‘Out of the Whey Cheesery and Teahouse’ serves up a great ploughman’s lunch and a range of delicious homemade pies. Leave room for a slice of cheesecake. It’d be rude not to.
At Mt Uncle Distillery you’ll wander the grounds with the resident, free-roaming peacocks among the banana, avocado and macadamia trees. Be sure to say hello to the alpacas, donkeys, and goats too. Then relax with a bite to eat in the air-conditioning of Bridges Bar & Restaurant, gazing at the gardens through the picture windows. But it’s the award-winning spirits and liqueurs of the Far North’s only distillery that are the real draw card. While its gins are probably the most well-known of the range, Mt Uncle also produces rum, sugar cane spirit, and the world’s only marshmallow liqueur; visit the cellar door for a little taste.
Oh, and while you’re venturing, be sure to visit the well-stocked roadside stalls. Depending on the time of year, you could be picking up the freshest pineapples, bananas, or pumpkins.
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