Kuranda and Malanda – Tableland Treats

Before we left Cairns I had the pleasure of starting the day listening, as a guest, to Helena Norberg-Hodge share her Local Futures organisation and principles around sustainable local systems in the serene surroundings of the Kewarra Beach Resort. Helena’s principled work is certainly worth dipping in to, as so many locals are doing. http://www.localfutures.org is a good place to start.

A drive up the Kennedy Highway to Kuranda and the sea slips away behind you. I was still looking around the many bends for that elusive cassowary, but despite plenty of warning signs – for the safety of both humans and the birds – no sightings. Of course you can take the Skyrail air ride and/or the train ride as your means of transport, where the thrill of gliding above the treetops or seeing the magnificent Barron Falls are definitely worth it. We had chosen those means on a previous trip, so we stuck to the road this time.

Kuranda as a village is like a licorice allsort which offers a complex taste of tourist kitch, alternate lifestyle pockets and a bit of a vibe of not really knowing what it is. There are many visible attempts to appeal to all sorts. (corny groan)

Probably my pick of Kuranda was The Frog Restaurant, the history of the 1942 crash of the plane, Geronimo, the church, the quirky street art and the Ark building housing many styles of Aboriginal art.

I picked up a pair of hand painted ear rings and left with a jaunty spring in my step. They had appealed, not only because they were the work of a local artist, but because they reminded me of the beautiful book by Jeannie Barker – Where the Rainforest Meets the Sea.

There are plenty of eating places catering for the coffee and culture vultures, as well as the famous Butterfly House. A very pleasant village to stroll around or indulge in card readings, massage or op shopping.

The cool green vegetation of the Kuranda surrounds opened out to cultivated cane fields and fruit trees as we drove on towards Milanda and The Tablelands.

By this time the call of the stomach was becoming louder, and the recommendation to stop at Jacques at the Coffee Plantation was calling. Our destination along the plain was once known for its tobacco growing. Diversification had become the name of the game for the farmers when the dire effects of smoking were finally accepted by governments and smokers alike, so there are now other agricultural crops like the mangoes, and tourist offerings like the gyrocopter rides. The entrance of a termite mound terrace was fun.

The food was excellent, the cafe full of tourists and locals, and the coffee selections and gifts were plentiful. Thank you Jacques for the delicious local barramundi.

The final stop on this jaunt was Mareeba. The legacy of those migrant European tobacco growers and their traditions are proudly on display at the local deli. Filled to the brim with the Mediterranean style cheeses, meats, olives and the smells of rustic meals, this deli stands as a familar tribute in the otherwise rather nondescript country town to the hard-working new chums who came to the area for a better life after ravages of war in their home countries. I know of an avid motorbiker who regularly makes a trip from Cairns to savour those deli delights.

All good things come to an end, and so we returned via those winding, no-show cassowary bends back down to Cairns, stopping at Rex Lookout to breathe in the air and soak up the view.

6 thoughts on “Kuranda and Malanda – Tableland Treats

  1. As a motorbiker as well ~ of yesteryear,
    I happily remember and recommend the curvaceous bitumen experience of the ride up to Malanda, by way of Mareeba, from Cairns ~ a twisty trip that’s a real fun one. If one has time to burn, continuing west on the Gulf development road will eventually lead to Normanton and the Gulf of Carpentaria, via Georgetown and Croydon. The now fully sealed road eliminates the once treacherous-to-two wheelers, what seemed like never ending corregations and thick bulldust. Once again, thanks for the memory Travlyn 🙂

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  2. Hi Lyndall, We know all of these places so well. I have 4 nephews up there, 1 in Cairns, one in Trinity Beach, 1 in Kuranda and 1 in Tolga (outside Atherton). We usually go up for a week for my birthday and have been doing so for many years. Thank you for reminding me this year when we are not visiting because of the move. Many happy memories of all your Travlyn places.

    We are now moved out. Final carload today. Too exhausted to be emotional!!! The temporary accommodation fell through so we are lucky to get an apartment at Cotton Tree. Which is just lovely and for three months by the look of it.

    So pleased that you had a happy trip. Now that we have moved out we are planning a bit of Travlyn.

    Cheers Pat and Bill

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  3. This article brought back my own memories of a recent trip to Kuranda. We took both train and sky rail and loved the experience, particularly as it rekindled other memories from years ago. The natural beauties of this area are both breathtaking and therapeutic. I’m a big fan of eco therapy.
    I’m glad you found the hidden gems of Kuranda. Unfortunately the assault of gift shops selling mass-produced trinkets at the entrance of the village can be very off-putting. Yes I know some people love them – my grandson bought a plastic snow-globe type of ornament of reef fish which now sits in obscurity with other forgotten souvenirs from his travels with the grandparents.

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