Welcome to the official page for Tropical North Queensland. Feel the energy of a vibrant tropical culture of Cairns brought to life with festivals, events and experiences shaped by the Great Barrier Reef and the Wet Tropics rainforest. Revel in the outdoor lifestyle and ease of an intimate cosmopolitan city that is adventurous by nature.
If you want to spend a day exploring one of the rare volcanic marvels of Australia, then a visit to the Undara Lava Tubes should be high on your list of “must do” experiences. They are one of the true wonders of Australia and reputedly the longest lava tubes in the world.
Located in the Outback four hours’ drive south-west of Cairns via the Atherton Tablelands, the Undara Experience offer a range of unusual and memorable experiences: bush walks through the tropical savannah countryside, conducted tours of the huge caverns which drop down into the lava flow tunnels, guided night-time inspections of the wildlife that lives in the caves and helicopter flights to see the dark scars across the landscape created by the lava flows.
Mix things up and time your visit with the Outback Rock and Blues Festival in April or Opera in the Outback every October, in the purpose-designed outdoor amphitheatre, Ooramin Place. And for travellers seeking their fortune, lying just to the west of Undara is Mount Surprise Gems, where you can hire equipment, learn the rudiments of gem-fossicking and lapidary, and head to O’Brien’s Creek to find your own gleaming piece of topaz or agate.
But what exactly is a lava tube? Put simply, when a volcano erupts it disgorges oceans of lava which flow across the land. If that lava flows into a valley it becomes a river of molten rock. The best way to understand this is to imagine a lava flow (which is just red-hot basalt) cooling and becoming solid on the outside while the inside is still molten and keeps flowing. The Undara Lava Tubes were created about 190,000 years ago when a staggering 23 cubic kilometres of lava flowed into a river bed and kept flowing for 160km, making it the world’s longest lava flow from a single volcano.
Huge caves, some over 21m wide and up to 10m high, have formed in places along the tubes. They are never dark because they are gaping holes which can be entered by visitors accompanied by tour guides. The experience is genuinely unforgettable.
There’s a number of different accommodation options at Undara Experience but the most popular are offered in turn-of-the-century Queensland Railways carriages. The original fittings are still intact, the bathroom is a modified version of an old railway restroom and the bed is large and comfortable.
When it comes to food and drink, Undara offers a genuine outback experience. The evening meal is either steak, fish from the Gulf of Carpentaria, sausages from Georgetown or kangaroo. There is a dessert appropriately named Chocolate Volcano. Visit the bar in a refurbished railway carriage and in the morning, the Ringers’ Camp Bush Breakfast is cooked over an open fire. Tea is boiled in a billy (a tin can) and seating is arranged so everyone sits around the fire. Many breakfast aficionados insist that the bacon, with a hint of smoke and eucalypt, is the best they’ve ever eaten.
The Undara Lava Tubes can be only be inspected on guided tours which are organised by the eco-tourism operator, Undara Experience.
Have you visited the Undara Lava Tubes? What was your favourite thing about the experience?
Riddle me this? What do Kylie Minogue, Nicole Kidman and the Wet Tropics Rainforest all have in common?
They’re all Australian, the oldest in their family and more famous than the rest of their bloodline. Yep, serious overachievers.
However, for all the trivia facts you might know about our Kylie and Nic, when it comes to the Wet Tropics, we reckon you might draw a blank if asked a question about Australia’s A-list rainforest, which grows from Townsville to Cooktown.
Get to know our famous forest, which spans 8940 square-kilometers and covers more ground than Samoa, Luxemburg and Puerto Rico, with this list of 10 things you didn’t know about the Wet Tropics.
Did you know:
1. The Wet Tropics is crawling with animals
Despite the Wet Tropics only taking up 0.2 per cent of Australia’s land mass, it’s habitat to more than a quarter of the marsupial species in the country – a factoid worthy of professor Stephen Williams labelling the Southern Atherton area “the most Biodiverse location in Australia”. More than just marsupials, The Wet Tropics has plenty of winged creatures in its habitat – in particular, 58 per cent of all Australian bat species, 58 per cent of the butterfly species and 40 per cent of bird species. The best way to spot the lot is to join a nature tour, like Alan’s Wildlife Tours led by naturist Alan Gillanders through the Atherton Tablelands.The Wet Tropics has distinct precincts
2. The Wet Tropics has distinct precincts
Considering the Wet Tropics runs for 450km, it’s no surprise to find that this mega forest is actually made up of 29 different national parks. In fact, this rainforest stops and starts along the coastline and has six different precincts, each with its own identity and microhabitat. From the Daintree in the north to Paluma Range in the south, of the entire Wet Tropics landmass, 79% is national park, making this World Heritage-listed area accessible and affordable, since all national parks are completely free to visit. All you need is a pair of boots to discover this rainforest, with roots so deep that it predates the Amazon. Choose your adventure with this guide from national parks.
3. The oldest creature you’ll find here isn’t the cassowary
Contrary to what your pub trivia team might have you believe, the oldest animal up here is not the Cassowary or the Crocodile … it’s about 400-million years more senior and looks like a cross between a worm and a crab. Introducing… the velvet worm, which measures 10cm (at best) and has more than 500 million years to its species’ name. Despite their soft and cuddly moniker- velvet worms are far from it – they’re carnivorous critters, which probably explains why they’ve done so well for themselves throughout the ages. Keep your eyes peeled on the forest floor for the chance to spot them. You’ll be looking for a small worm, not unlike a caterpillar, save for its clawed legs, an adaptation worthy of a Frankenstein movie.
4. Civilisation dates back more than 5000 years here
If ever you thought cooking practices have never been so refined, we take your molecular gastronomy and raise it an overnight stay in the Wet Tropics. Before European settlement, there were 18 different Aboriginal groups living in the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, with over 20,000 nomadic people, speaking six languages and living in its various precincts. Even more mind blowing than the number of communities, is the fact they were living among 14 different toxic plants, which they were able to eat, thanks to highly advanced cooking techniques – the kind that took western civilizations years to perfect. Evidence of leaching, fermenting, and sun drying are well documented among Aboriginal people who lived sustainably among the forest, until the early explorers disrupted their 5000 years of existence. A Dreamtime Walk at the Mossman Gorge Centre is one of the best ways to hear these ancient rainforest tales.
5. You’ll need an encyclopedia to spot all the plants
It’ll come as no surprise that the rainforests of the Wet Tropics are the most diverse in Australia if judged by plant species type and structure. As if this isn’t credential enough, it’s also home to some of the world’s most primitive flowering plants. If thinking about visiting, buy a plant book, because you’ll run out of fingers to count the 3000 vascular plant species in this forest, which is just one of the ways this rainforest contributes to the “outstanding universal value” criteria for UNESCO.
6. Some of the animals are more rare than the panda bear
Don’t be alarmed if you haven’t heard about the white lemuroid ringtail possum – it’s so rare, that its plight for survival is more damned than the panda bear. So endangered is this white and fluffy emblem of the forest, that it’s thought that there’re just four of them alive today. This endangered species is only found 1000m above sea level in the Carbine Ranges, in the Atherton Tablelands. It’s main threat to survival is global warming, as these white puffs of fluff can’t survive for more than five hours at temperatures above 30 degrees. With evolution, they’ve been climbing higher and higher to escape the heat, but once they reach the tallest branches of the forest, there will be nowhere else for them to go. While your chance of seeing them would be like spotting a needle in a haystack, you can read about them at the Malanda Visitor Information Centre.
7. Not everyone wanted it to become World Heritage Listed
The phrase ‘there are two sides to every story’ couldn’t ring more true of the Wet Tropics heritage listing in 1988. In fact, it divided the community of Ravenshoe, who built their livelihoods on logging this ancient timber. The Ravenshoe Visitor Information Centre, shares clippings from newspapers detailing the outrage, as the town’s logging history was chopped down. While the town of Ravenshoe, incidentally, Queensland’s highest town, might be a shadow of its former population because the workers had to move to greener pastures (pun intended), there’s no doubt the Wet Tropics meets the UNESCO criteria, and its listing has done great things to protect it.
8. Kangaroos actually climb trees here
Not just any kangaroo, the Lumholtz’s and Bennett’s Tree Kangaroo, are a species that’s only found in the Wet Tropics. One of our favourite quotes about these mysterious ‘roos comes from William Hann in 1872, who said “to entertain the idea that any kangaroo could climb a tree would be ridiculous.” Despite his certainty, Hann can be proven wrong quite easily with a trip to their habitat. Mupee’s as they’re known in the local indigenous dialect, live high in the rainforest canopy and are best described as a blend between the possum and the kangaroo, which evolved over 50 million years ago. Fun fact – it’s forearms, feet, claws and tail have evolved in response to the canopy – and this is the only ‘roo that can move backwards! While there are no guarantees for places to spot these wild creatures- we recommend a visit to the Nerarda Tree Plantation for a possible encounter with a Lumholtz’s and the Jindalba Boardwalk in the Daintree Rainforest to spy on a Bennett’s.
9. You can spot (and climb) Queensland’s two highest peaks
You’ll often find Queensland’s tallest mountain crop up as a pub trivia question – and while you might have known its Mt Bartle Frere (1622m), did you know it’s found here in Tropical North Queensland? You’ll find it south of Cairns on the Cassowary Coast, next to its tall cousin, Bellenden Kerr (1592m), sitting like two camel humps in the landscape. Their lofty heights bring tropical monsoon conditions to the surrounding areas and plenty of waterfalls that go with it. Experience the full force of Bartle Frere with a dip in the granite playground of Josephine Falls – or if you’re feeling full of beans, why not climb the mountain yourself? The walk can be started from Josephine Falls, near the small town of Innisfail, or from the Atherton Tablelands – both options can be reviewed and prepared for here.
10. It’s full of volcanic lakes and craters
10,000 – 20,000 years ago when Australia was a volcanic mass, Atherton Tablelands would have been a place to avoid – spewing molten lava from its highly active volcanic core. Although it’s long been dormant, you don’t need to wear your history goggles to get a real sense of what the area would have looked like. Instead, you’ll find a real life geology lesson with a visit to the Tablelands’ many craters. Make a stop at the twin volcanic crater lakes, Lake Barrine and Lake Eacham, to see examples of maars, formed by the superheating of groundwater. In each you’ll find tranquil pools of inky blue water that are fringed entirely by rainforest. Both lakes are noticeably deep (65m) to be precise, and come with their own myths and legends. You’ll want to take a tour like Tableland Adventure Guides’ kayaking tour of Lake Barrine to hear them for yourself.
Have you been to the Wet Tropics? What fun facts did you learn?
Forget flying or 4WD’ing. If you want to visit the tip of Cape York and the neighbouring Torres Strait Islands, the only way to do it is by jumping on board the MV Trinity Bay and cruising up 1000 km of coast amidst cargo shipments and supplies destined to the northern communities.
Sure, this may sound a bit, um, industrial. But fear not! The MV Trinity Bay is fully equipped with passenger cabins, a dining lounge (and THE best buffet – more on that later), an outside deck and a media room. All creature comforts are met to ensure your only worry is where to best position yourself for that epic #boatselfie.
Not convinced yet? We’ve rounded up the top reasons why you need to get your ship together and get on the MV Trinity Bay stat.
You’ll visit some amazing places
They say it’s all about the journey, not the destination. In this case, it’s just as much about the destination. After 40 hours at sea, you’ll sail through the Torres Strait and disembark on Horn Island. The next few days will be spent on land exploring the stunning beauty and rich history of Horn and Thursday Islands, learning about pearl farming on Roko Island and getting that highly coveted photo at the northernmost point on the Australian continent. If it’s in the budget, treat yourself to a helicopter flight over the tip for uninterrupted views of pristine blue waters, hidden reefs, untouched islands and remote beaches.
You’ll make new friends
The proximity to other passengers and the fact that you will be on the boat for a healthy chunk of time means that you will inevitably forge friend-ships (pun unashamedly intended) with your fellow cargo cruisers. With a relaxed vibe throughout the trip and the loveliest of crews, spirits are running high and it’s nearly impossible not to strike up a convo with the other shippers and learn a little more about each other.
Your taste buds will thank you
With industrial cargo shipping comes industrial cafeteria food, right? Oh so wrong! Chef Jason is here to dispel that misconception and ensure your stomach is brimming with gourmet food the whole journey through. You may not see him much, because he will be toiling away in the kitchen from morning to night, preparing seafood dishes, casserole feasts, salads, fresh fruit and veg, and homemade cakes and pastries for passengers to gorge on all day. With the unescapable urge to go back for seconds and thirds, it’s no surprise the ship has been dubbed the ‘5-kilo cruise’. What the crew unload in cargo, passengers will be packing on in exceptional cuisine.
You’ll learn a thing or two
We don’t often stop to wonder who services the northernmost communities of Australia and how supplies are delivered up to the Cape. From goldfish to portable homes, there is (almost) nothing Sea Swift will not transport, and the journey aboard the MV Trinity Bay provides fascinating and first-hand insight into the freighting business in Tropical North Queensland. With a behind-the-scenes bridge tour and countless books detailing the vast history of the region, you’re bound to end the trip with a few new nuggets of knowledge.
You’ll be completely disconnected
Does the thought of being completely free from your mobile sound like a dream but also scare you a little? The MV Trinity Bay offers the perfect digital detox, with only around 24 hours of reception blackout. That’s just enough to get into that new book you’ve been meaning to open or to enjoy the views of the north-eastern coast, but not too long that you’ll go into full-on Instagram withdrawals. Speaking of, the absence of Wi-Fi bars may be the ideal opportunity to nail that epic sunset and/or sunrise shot that you can chuck on social as soon as the 4G is back up!
You’ll be part of an exclusive crowd
The tip of Cape York and the Torres Strait Islands are already high on many people’s proverbial bucket lists, but how many can say they’ve reached that area by cargo ship? With one trip per week accommodating a maximum of 36 passengers, only a select few passengers get to experience this unique adventure every year, and you’ll be one of them!
The MV Trinity Bay departs every Tuesday from Cairns, stops on Horn and Thursday Islands on Thursdays, moors at Seisia on Fridays and departs back to Cairns that same evening for a return into the big smoke on Sundays.
There are a few ways to experience the MV Trinity Bay journey – opt for a return trip aboard the ship, or cruise one way and drive or fly the other. Flights are at your own arrangements and are available on select days through Qantas (ex. Horn Island), Skytrans and REX Airlines (ex. Bamaga). Vehicle transport must be arranged with SeaSwift prior to departure and will incur extra charges.
Prices vary depending on the time of year and level of accommodation. In low season (November-April), a 5-night round-trip for one person in ensuite facilities will set you back just over AUD $1,500.
While our southern counterparts are pulling out their winter woollies, Port Douglas is relishing in dreamy days of tropical perfection. And there’s something in the air, a palpable buzz of anticipation and hints of party prep starting to pop up as early as mid-May – the Wonderland Spiegeltent being the most obvious. Oh, and the Ferris wheel may be a little clue that something special is about to hit town.
Yup, it’s that time of year again – it’s time to party in paradise! Port Douglas Carnivale is a celebration of the laidback lifestyle in our region, of our passion for fab food and wine, of the lush scenery, sun, and sand…all while being entertained by incredible talent. And it’s set to turn the mellow, seaside destination into a rollicking, vibrant party.
While the big weekend is 26 – 28 May, events start taking place from as early as 18 May. So, with nearly 20 of them on the calendar – from family-friendly to adults only – where to start? Here’s a run-down of our top picks.
When: 19 – 28 May*
Where: Wonderland Spiegeltent, Dixie Park
How do you even begin to explain this award-winning show? Part stunt show, part saucy circus, part burlesque, it’s a mish-mash of frenzied fun that has been delighting audiences all over the world! The show is racy, but tasteful. It’s a rowdy, raucous evening, where you’ll be invited to top up your drinks at the bar if need be. The kids are best left with the babysitter for this one! It’s strictly 18+. If this sounds like your kind of show, then hop to it. Tickets are selling fast here.
As for other shows of this ilk…Carlotta, Australia’s most famous female impersonator, legend of Sydney’s Kings Cross, and one of the inspirations for the hit movie, ‘Priscilla, Queen of the Desert’, will grace the Spiegeltent stage on Friday, 26 May at 10.30pm. The next night, Carnivale Sensualé will take to the stage after La Soirée.
Asahi Super Dry Paradise on a Plate – The Longest Lunch
When: Friday, 26 May at 11.30am – 3pm
Where: Rex Smeal Park, under the palm trees
With palm trees gently swaying in the balmy breeze and waves lazily lapping at the shoreline, you’ll want to pinch yourself. Combine this with a four-course meal catered for by award-winning Ochre Restaurant, served with expertly matched wines, and a unique entertainer per course to boot, and you know you’re in for a good time. Our suggestion is to block out the rest of the afternoon and make the most of your dreamy surroundings. Get your hands on these fast-selling tickets here.
Wonders of the Reef Street Parade
When: Friday, 26 May at 5pm
Where: Macrossan Street, Port Douglas
It won’t feel like the party has really started though until the street parade. Drawing thousands of spectators, this lively procession down Macrossan Street is one the locals and tourists love. The fun community floats are complemented by talented street performers, live music, market stalls, and amusement rides for the kids. Why not book a table at one of the restaurants on Macrossan Street and see the action unfold while dining? The fun always continues into the night at the bars lining the main street, so you’ll be in the right spot to kick on.
Estrella Port on a Fork – Food, Music & Wine
When: Saturday, 27 May at 5pm – 11pm
Where: Rex Smeal Park
This isn’t your ordinary food and wine festival. There’ll be fire-twirling, pop-up burlesque acts, DJs, and plenty of dancing under the stars as the night progresses. Surrounded by palm trees and the ocean, you couldn’t be in a more perfect setting to taste the abundance of dishes that’ll be on offer. Created by local chefs from the region’s freshest produce – from the Atherton Tablelands, to the Daintree Rainforest, and the Coral Sea – you’ll need to purchase tokens prior to visiting the food stalls. You’ll have a choice of wine, beer, and even cocktails to pair with your taste sensations – also to be purchased with tokens.
And with award-winning musician Ben Lee as the headline act, you know you’re in for an evening of serious talent. A little tip: Mr Lee will hit the stage nice and early at 6pm, so make sure you’re all set up at this point.
Ticket options include general admission, reserved seating, and group bookings for eight people or more. You can also purchase tokens prior to the event. Another tip: while there will be chairs and tables at the event, it’s a first-come-first-served basis for these. So, feel free to BYO picnic rugs and chairs. Tickets can be purchased online here.
Family Beach Day
When: Saturday, 27 May at 11am – 3pm
Where: Four Mile Beach
Whether you were raised in the country, or by the sea, days at the beach are synonymous with growing up in Australia. And with giant, colourful kites flying overhead, a sand castle sculpting competition, roving entertainment, face painting, market stalls – you name it – you’ll need to make sure everyone has lathered on the sunscreen, because the kids won’t want to leave.
And there’s more! Incorporate a little Carnivale into your daily activities and catch the Bally Hooley train from the Reef Marina. This historic little steam engine was originally used to haul sugar cane from the fields to Mossman Mill and on select days (details here) during Carnivale it’ll turn into a moving stage alive with entertainment and comedy, all while educating the audience on the area as they chug along, highlighting some of the Tropical North’s colourful characters, flora and fauna. The last stop is at Choo Choo’s at St Crispin’s station, a quaint little café serving up delish breakfasts, lunches, cakes, and coffees.
Fisherman’s Village Music Festival
When: Sunday, 28 May at 10am – 6pm
Where: Rex Smeal Park
The beach day isn’t the only family-friendly event taking place. On Sunday, the Fisherman’s Village – filled with fairy floss, a Ferris wheel, popcorn, a pop-up milk bar, circus workshops, and art activities – will keep the whole family content, and that’s not even the half of it! Admission to the Fisherman’s Village also includes entry to the Children’s Spiegel Big Top Program from 10am-1pm, so definitely take advantage of this. The shows include the ABC’s Lah Lah Big Live Band and the hilarious, high-calibre acrobatic act titled Children are Stinky; guaranteed to hook parents in with its 90s jokes and mash-ups. There’s non-stop entertainment, including a guest appearance from Ben Lee. Plus, the usual Port Douglas Markets will be on.
Same deal goes with seating at the park. Feel free to bring along a picnic rug, picnic chairs, and even a hamper, but remember there’ll be food trucks and stalls selling seafood, so no family member will go hungry! The BYO option, however, does not extend to booze, as it’s a licensed event.
Phew, after that run down of what’s on, there is bound to be something that’ll suit you and your better half, the family, or your group of mates. But if something doesn’t quite take your fancy, be sure to check out this helpful site, because there is just SO much on, and it wouldn’t be a party without you.
Are you going to Carnivale this year? What’s your must-do event?
‘Just lie back and think of England’. It’s not often you hear that while tied and suspended by ropes in a rainforest canopy. Calm down, kids – it’s not that kind of story.
The rainforest canopy we speak of is the Daintree Rainforest in Cape Tribulation, 2 hours and 40 minutes north of Cairns, and the rope suspension is a little more 50 shades of green, thanks to Jungle Surfing Canopy tours, an adventure activity ziplining through the oldest rainforest in the world, overlooking the edge of the Great Barrier Reef – two dueling UNESCO sites, where the rainforest meets the sea.
Thankfully, to quell all fear of heights, I find myself in the very capable hands of our Jungle Surfing tour guides Ashton ‘Astro’ Wenham and his mates McFlurry and Jordan, who fit the perfect image of what you’d expect from off-duty-surfers-come-adventure-warriors. Having lived to tell the tale of swinging from great heights, I got the down low (up high..?) with Astro on what it’s like to live the tropical adventure dream of a Jungle Surfer.
Ashton ‘Astro’ Wenham and his mates McFlurry and Jordan
How does one get to write ‘Jungle Surfer’ on their CV?
About 4 – 5 years ago, I had a semi-corporate job working for the government behind a desk. An epiphany one day made me realise that that lifestyle really just wasn’t for me, so I packed up, moved to Alice Springs to became an eco-tourism guide, and I’ve been following that gypsy life ever since. Every role I hold is an adventure and comes on the recommendation of someone. I pinch myself every day knowing I have the luckiest lifestyle in the world. Anytime I worry, I think back to that office job and realise this is exactly where I want to be.
What’s the best part about living in the world’s oldest rainforest?
The Tropical North and the Territory are almost polar extremes apart, but similar in so many ways also. My favourite part is definitely the disconnection. Both are perfectly off the grid – no mobile phone reception, most of us don’t have internet in our houses, so we leave notes for each other. Not everyone has phones, so it’s very personal. You actually go to people’s houses when you want to speak with them. In disconnection, everything here is connected. The sounds of the rainforest are always in the background. There’s a lot of really amazing people here, all with extraordinary stories. Every day I think about how lucky I am to be here.
What does a ‘normal’ day look like for you?
Get up at about 4am, 10KM run along the beach, wrestle and catch a crocodile, crocodile steak for breakky, zip lining through the rainforest for about 10 hours, then head home to do it all again the next day. Tropical paradise, indeed.
What song best describes your day at work?
I actually sing a lot when on canopy tour! The song that most resonates at the moment is ‘Total Eclipse of The Heart’. Every time I get someone onto the platform before I connect them to the tree, I have to tell them to ‘…turn around…’
When it’s time to say goodbye to Cape Tribulation, what’s the best memory you’ll take away?
Definitely the vibe of the village and of the Jungle Surfing crew – it’s like a family here at Jungle Surfing. Depending on the time of the year, there are about 12 guides and another 6 in the office, so small but large enough to always have someone around.
The stunning setting of the rainforest and its energy is unmatchable, but to be honest, I’ll mostly miss the crispy chicken wrap from Turtle Rock Café. That’s the standout.
Travel the world without even leaving Cairns… Here’s how!
(Caution: visiting establishments below may result in a tighter-than-usual waistband and newfound love handles – eat at your own risk! #eatyourheartout #sorrynotsorry).
Helga’s Pancake House
Open: Monday – Sunday 7:30am-3:00pm
Hello thick yummy pancakes, if you’re in need of a pancake fix Helga’s has you covered. Located on the corner of Grafton & Spence street it is the perfect spot to people watch with your plate full of pancakes.
Waffle On has been waffling up a storm in the city on Shield Street. It is your one-stop shop for insanely delicious waffles. Cookies and cream, Nutella, white chocolate, strawberries, banana, brownies – you name it, they got it. Even the ordering bit is fun with all the quirky names they’ve bestowed upon their waffles – like the mouth-watering ‘Robert Brownie Jnr’ waffle, below.
Open: Monday to Thursday 12:30pm-10:00pm, Friday to Saturday 12:30pm-11:00pm, Sunday 12:30pm-10:00pm
Science nerds rejoice! Nitrolato is a unique ice cream shop that crafts its gelato with liquid nitrogen. Ice cream is made fresh and delivers an experience for all the senses, with the gelato-making process turning into a full-blown scientific experiment, complete with flashing lights and staff dressed in lab coats! Far from your boring high school chem class!
Voulez-vous manger avec moi? Stumble upon Petit Cafe on Grafton Street beside the graffiti alleyway (79 Lake street) and travel straight to the streets of Paris with their mouth-watering sweet and savoury crepes for between $10-$17. And if you’re, gasp, gluten-free, they have buckwheat to accommodate for preferences! They’ve also a cafe in Kuranda, for twice the deliciousness. Trust us, you’ll want to go back for seconds!
Open: Monday to Thursday 11:00am-10:00pm, Friday to Saturday 11:00am-11:00pm, Sunday 11:00am-10:00pm
Entering this shop may cause unexpected drooling! With ice cream, fondants, waffles, pancakes, shortbread, fondue, macaroons, swiss rolls (and the list goes on!) on the menu, Mövenpick on the Cairns Esplanade has your next cheat meal sorted!
The owner is Italian so it must be good, he surely knows how to make ice cream and sorbet. All natural ingredients and an abundance of flavours, you can even customise your treat by adding toasted nuts or dipping in chocolate. The only problem you will have is choosing a flavour.
Located at the Cairns Night Markets, this shop has delicious Churros (Spanish Donuts) if you don’t know what they are it is basically fried dough covered in sugar or cinnamon, to make it even better you can dip your Churros in custard, caramel, chocolate, or my favourite nutella.
The final dessert place I will mention from the Cairns Night Markets is the famous crepe shop. If you have ever been to Harajuku in Japan this might bring back memories, the plastic displays themselves even look appetising. Fruit and fresh cream rolled up in a crepe, you might have to do a few laps of the markets afterwards.
Mr Ciao is a Italian restaurant in the Cairns CDB located 39 Lake street. Try their wood fired pizzas filled with Nutella and topped with even more Nutella and strawberries to make your pizza dreams come true.
From the green pastures of the Atherton Tablelands, churning out creamy dairy goods and aromatic fruits, to the freshest daily catch off the coast, Tropical North Queensland is diverse both in its landscape and resulting culinary offerings. So, it’s no wonder foodies and chefs across Australia are singing its praises as the go-to place for some of the best produce in the country. And that’s before we even mention the coffee plantations, nut farms, wineries, and the only distillery north of Bundaberg.
More and more travellers to the region are scheduling their getaways around our food festivals, guaranteed to deliver equal measures of fun and foodie passion, set against a backdrop of paradise. Are your taste buds screaming ‘FOMO’? Then put these events on your culinary calendar; you (and your taste buds) are in for a treat!
Feast of the Senses, Innisfail When: 23 – 28 March, 2017
Held over six days, this festival is a true homage to local farmers who put their soul, year after year, into harvesting the bounties of the tropics. Book a spot on one of the four food trails, where you’ll visit producers on their properties and hear about the farming process and the challenges they face. The food trails include Tully and its surrounds, where you’ll learn about rare fruits, the Atherton Tablelands, Mena Creek Way, plus a tour of the Mirriwinni-Innisfail area. Keep an eye on the festival events page for updates.
On Saturday, 25 March, an attempt will be made to create the world’s longest banana split using 40,000 locally grown bananas and lots of ice-cream, resulting in an 8,000-metre-long dessert. Fun for the whole family, each team will make five banana splits, which you’ll eventually be able to tuck into as a reward.The next day the main event of the Market Day Extravaganza will kick off from 9.00am. Held in Innisfail’s CBD you can expect around 100 stalls, showcasing a range of exotic fruits, a celebrity cook-off, a community cooking competition, plus plenty of activities to keep the kids happy.
Shopping for tropical fruits. Photo by Cassowary Coast Camera Club.
Port Douglas Carnivale
When: 26 – 28 May, 2017
Late May is when it’s time to kick up your heels in Port Douglas because the party is coming to town, and it all starts on Friday, 26 May at 5pm with a lively parade down Macrossan Street. Featuring community floats, performers, and live music, it’s a night the locals and visitors look forward to. The amusement rides are bound to keep the kids entertained until the fireworks start at 9pm. The food stalls mean you’ll be able to grab a bite to eat along the way.
But the serious foodie side of things commences earlier that day, with Paradise on a Plate setting the tone with the Asahi Longest Lunch to be had in the picturesque setting of palm-tree-fringed Rex Smeal Park. Each of the four courses is accompanied by matching wines and an entertainer – that’s right, this lunch comes with a unique act per course! Speaking of unique acts, LA SOIREE will be performing at Carnivale between 19 – 28 May. This theatrical act has gained worldwide recognition, but it’s way more than just a night at the theatre. Part burlesque, and part cabaret, with lashings of a circus sideshow, it’s an evening of entertainment you won’t forget. Best to leave the kids at home for this one.
Back to the serious business of food. Estrella Port on a Fork – Food, Music & Wine is another must-attend event. With award-winning musician Ben Lee headlining, you know you’re guaranteed an evening of top talent, and we haven’t even started on the nosh. There’ll be plenty of stalls serving signature dishes created by local chefs and inspired by the region’s fresh produce. With fire twirlers, DJs, and live burlesque acts, Rex Smeal Park will transform from a peaceful park to a vibrant, thriving festival. So, select a delectable dish, settle in for sunset, sip on a glass or two of chilled vino, and then party in paradise. Tickets for all events can be purchased here.
The Asahi Longest Lunch in full swing.
Taste Port Douglas When: 11 – 13 August, 2017
This three-day foodie gathering has a big celebrity chef backing. You’ll see them on stage presenting cooking demonstrations, they’ll cater for the Big Taste dinner series, and you’ll see them milling about, getting involved in pretty much everything. This is an indication of the calibre of event Taste Port Douglas is and that’s why it continues to attract more visitors every year.
The main event of the weekend is the two-day food and wine festival, where both take centre stage. This isn’t just about stalls serving up irresistible morsels, showcasing the best of our region’s produce, though. There’ll be wine, spirit, and craft beer tastings. There’ll be informative workshops held by industry influencers. Think cocktail-making, fruit-carving, salt sessions, and more. The details of the workshops are yet to be released, so keep a lookout on the webpage, or sign up to the newsletter from the homepage, so you’re among the first to hear the updates. One change we can fill you in on is that entry into the Festival Village is free this year.
Perhaps consider a longer stay in Port Douglas for this one. The sheer number of eating opportunities demands it. And then you’ll have time to explore the World Heritage listed sites of the Great Barrier Reef or the Daintree Rainforest. #winning.
Celebrity chefs descend on Port Douglas for this event.
Reef Feast Palm Cove
When: 5 – 8 October, 2017
This four-day annual shindig sees Palm Cove’s Williams Esplanade momentarily drop its relaxed, easy vibe as it transforms into a lively, tropical party, where food takes centre stage.
Stalls will sell a sumptuous selection of dishes inspired by fresh produce from across the region, and the live music will kick off from Friday night at the jetty.
This year you’ll see a slight change with the Big Brunch replacing the Longest Lunch on the Saturday. It’ll start from about 10 or 11am, with local restaurants still catering, of course. Sip mimosas, while taking in the balmy breezes, swaying palm trees, and Coral Sea views. Later in the day is when the stages come alive with top music talent, and the stalls will be set up selling everything from small plates to deli wares such as balsamic vinegar with mango.
Stay tuned for further details on this four-day annual event.
Night markets at Reef Feast Palm Cove. Photo by Lovegreen Photography
Babinda Harvest Festival
When: Saturday, 7 October, 2017
This year will mark 55 years since this event was first held in 1962 to celebrate the start of the sugarcane harvest. Since then it’s grown into a family-friendly festival offering great food, fun, and entertainment. The kids will be entertained with the rides and face painting, while the older members of the clan will have plenty to keep them occupied with the food stalls, live entertainment and the display of local art in the pavilion. The grand parade starts at 3.30pm, where you’ll see vintage cane-farming machinery driven down the street, alongside colourful floats from schools, local businesses and community organisations. Once the parade ends the gates will open to Bill Wakeham Park, the official festival grounds, at around 4.30pm. This year will see more food stalls than ever, too. Expect wood-fired pizza, cannoli, and ice cream vans serving up delights made with fresh, local produce. Lovingly homemade jams, spreads and cakes will also be on offer. The 9pm fireworks display is when everything will start drawing to a close – and by then, you’ll most likely be feeling a little weary after the food and fun that’s been had.
Babinda Harvest Festival from a different perspective.
Tastes of the Tablelands When: Sunday, 15 October, 2017
From locally grown and roasted coffee, to tropical boutique wines, fragrant fruits, crisp vegetables, and ice cream bursting with local flavours, this is the festival that shows off so much of what the Atherton Tablelands offers. Known as the food bowl of the tropics, you could be mistaken for thinking you’re driving through the cooler regions of the south. Its rolling green hills, waterfalls, and lush vegetation make it a popular destination for tourists and locals seeking a weekend away. But foodies are also flocking to the area, embarking on the many food trails. This festival is the prime opportunity for you to sample amazing produce, within one setting. So grab a shady spot, take in the live music playing throughout the day, and taste to your heart’s content.
Revel in the bounty of the Atherton Tablelands.
Which foodie event has got YOUR taste buds salivating?