On the tablelands: Eating our way through Tropical North Queensland

After leaving the Daintree Rainforest we charted a sluggish course south in our campervan towards Cairns. From Port Douglas we meandered down through the Atherton Tablelands, eating and drinking everything in sight like a slow-moving pac man.

Ellis Beach, Palm Cove, Cairns, Queensland
Palm Cove – Ugly place isn’t it?
Eating paella in Port Douglas

In Port Douglas, we celebrated our Daintree survival mission in style, with a delicious Spanish meal at Seabean Tapas Bar Restaurant (hereafter known as Sean Bean for obvious lols). We had scallops with pork belly and mushy peas, sangria and a tasty paella Valencia, but the best part was the dessert. We have no pictures, but trust us when we say it would be a heinous, heinous crime to visit Port Douglas without trying Sean Bean’s Creme Catalanes. This is a coconut creme brulee served in a half-coconut, so as you scoop through the brulee to the bottom you pick up bits of coconut flesh as well. Amazing – there’s a pic on their website if you’re into delayed gratification.

As we walked back to our caravan park we met a couple of boozy grey nomads who convinced us that there was a 95% chance we’d be attacked by brown snakes on the way home. Mate, we’ve just been camping in the rainforest with snakes and other deadly creatures. We’ll manage.

House, Port Douglas, Queensland
Fancy digs in Port Douglas – probably Sean Bean’s house
Driving around the winding roads of the Atherton Tablelands we ended up at a great free camp in Kauki, near Lake Tinaroo. Sitting in an old blokes’ pub across the road, we struck up a conversation with the only other couple in there and became fast friends, shooting the shit for hours about blockchain and Berlin. People say you make friends easily when travelling, but these two were the most promising people we’d met in almost three months.

Drinking rum at Mount Uncle

The next day we decided to visit the Mount Uncle rum distillery together, which sits on a banana plantation in Walkamin. The rum is made with the local sugar cane the region is famous for, and the gin is created with Australian native botanicals. The FNQ Iridium Gold Rum was the real winner. We grabbed a bottle and prayed it would survive the rest of our campervan journey.

Lake Tinaroo, Queensland
A sad day for trees in Lake Tinaroo

Cane train bridge, Atherton, Queensland
Cane train bridge

Cane train carriages, Atherton, Queensland
Cane train carriages

Mount Uncle Rum Distillery, Walkamin, Queensland
All of the medals
Finding figs in Yungaburra

We checked out the heritage-listed Curtain Fig Tree at Yungaburra, because looking at big trees is one of the central tenets of our travel philosophy. It sure was interesting (and difficult to photograph) as the curtain of vines that grow down dangle for 15 metres.

Curtain Fig Tree, Atherton Tablelands, Queensland
Look at this figgy beast

Curtain Fig Tree, Atherton Tablelands, Queensland
Tree pose number 22

Checking out the Crater Lakes 

About an hour before Cairns is Crater Lakes National Park, which covers both Lake Barrine and Lake Eachem. These crater lakes or ‘volcanic maars’ are very deep and clear. You can swim in them, and it’s a great croc-free place to cool off. We got a bit of a shock when we walked to the edge of Lake Eachem and saw some divers pop up in front of us.


Lake Eachem, Atherton, Queensland
Beautiful Lake Eachem
Lake Barrine has a rainforest ruled by two huge kauri pine trees that are estimated to be over 1,000 years old. You can check them out on the 5km walking path around the lake, or take a 45-minute lake cruise. We were feeling a bit lazy so we paid our respects by partaking in locally-sourced Devonshire tea at the lake’s charming teahouse.

Devonshire tea, Lake Barrine, Atherton, Queensland
So much cream in the beard
Next stop Cairns

Our Atherton Tablelands adventure is really just an interlude to the main Cairns event –  learning to scuba dive on a liveaboard on the Great Barrier Reef! Gareth already has his advanced ticket but Shelley is a novice. For her, watching those divers surface at Lake Eachem was equal parts excitement and dread. Oh well, Onwards and downwards!

Highs: Making friends the old-fashioned way – no swiping required

Lows: Realising our new friends were higher on the hippy spectrum of vanlife than us – they had homemade juggling balls


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