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March 2013

Taste Paradise: The Undiscovered Food and Wine Trails of Far North Queensland, Cairns, Australia
By Sarah Blinco

Photo Credits: Tourism Queensland
Cairns is renowned as the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef; an area of unparalleled beauty that offers everything 'Australian' − rainforest, reef, Outback − within one easily navigated area. The region is a thriving hub for divine locally grown harvests, boutique wineries, delectable chocolate and coffee producers, and it's easy to pursue an itinerary based on such a sensory adventure. Hire a car in Cairns, take time exploring. It's an ideal way to experience the real land Down Under.

Mountains and the Tablelands
Lush pastures, dairy production, tea plantations − if cheese and Devonshire tea teamed with waterfalls and rolling green hills sound appealing, then you'll love the misty mountain trails around Millaa Millaa, Malanda, Atherton and Yungaburra. Temperatures are cooler; the hospitality is warm. About a 200 kilometre round trip from Cairns, throughout the Tablelands and back to the city.

Coral Coast
This 60 kilometre trail is for restaurant connoisseurs. Begin (and end) your culinary experience in Cairns (try along The Esplanade or throughout Spence Street) where world-class seafood is a specialty. On your way out of town, stop in at the trendy suburb of Edge Hill for a coffee, and browse the gourmet wares on display at The Edge fine food deli. Continue along the highway from Cairns, and pause overnight in the palm-fringed paradise that is Palm Cove, which boasts a sublime beachfront as well as numerous exquisite restaurants where you may dine overlooking the ocean.

From Palm Cove continue up the coast to Port Douglas − a drive highly-recommended if only for its spectacular ocean views. Idyllic Port Douglas, renowned hot-spot for holidaying celebrities, is the perfect base for exploring the region's rainforest food trail, taking in Mossman, world heritage listed Daintree Rainforest, to Cape Tribulation. Shannonvale Wines is a popular attraction, and be sure to try delicious Daintree Chocolate as well as fresh produce from road-side markets. It's 400 kilometres (round trip from Cairns) of picturesque beauty and foodie delights.

Savannah Tablelands
Nuts, sweets, coffee and wine feature, as rainforest transforms to typical 'Outback' across this 200 kilometre round trip from Cairns. It's a short, steep scenic drive from Cairns to famed Kuranda Village, where you should pause for a sweet treat − locally produced ice-cream, honey and candy. From here, head towards the country town of Mareeba, central hub of the Savannah Tablelands. Make your way towards interesting and delicious attractions including the Tichum Creek Coffee Farm, Jaques Coffee Plantation, De Brueys Boutique Wines, Golden Drop Mango Winery, Malhoberti's Coffee Plantation, Australian Coffee Centre and The Coffee Works. Fields of sugarcane and mangoes eventually unravel outside of the dusty Outback trail, and don't miss signs at Walkamin which point towards the beautiful Mount Uncle Distillery and Bridges Restaurant.

Cassowary Coast
Sugar refineries, typical Aussie pubs, banana and various tropical fruit plantations line the roads south of Cairns. This drive (300 to 400 kilometre round trip from the city) offers opportunities to live like a local, while relishing delights of attractions including Murdering Point Winery. Secluded bushland, pristine beaches and fresh, local dishes served by friendly north Queenslanders, means a driving adventure through the Cassowary Coast will be a memorable, quintessentially Australian experience.

Heading to tropical north Queensland and keen to follow these trails? There's an APP, of course. Download it when you arrive at Cairns' airport - it's aptly named, TasteParadise.

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