Seeking sun and scenery in Australia, Anita Peach finds much more than she bargained for in the Atherton Tableland, Tropical North Queensland
There I was driving through the green rolling hills and mountains that form the basis of the Tablelands; a lush region, with lakes and waterfalls set in rainforest. Quaint villages and countless farms dot this amazing landscape. As I neared the Millaa Millaa township, I stumbled upon the Falls Teahouse; a converted country-style farmhouse serving magnificent food, with guest accommodation available too. The house was traditional looking, in crisp black and white mock-tudor style. However, this was no ordinary farmhouse – the inside was literally covered from floor to ceiling in patchworks. The place was like finding a gemstone in a goldmine. I truly thought I’d died and gone to heaven!
Almost a century old, this picturesque farmhouse was converted to a teahouse and then to a B&B just a few years ago, when David and Neradeene McKendry purchased the long-standing derelict building. Today, it serves as a wonderful home for the McKendrys plus three beautiful guest bedrooms, decorated with some unusual period furniture and, best of all, a large patchwork quilt which takes the centre stage of each bedroom. Beautifully hand-stitched by David’s mother, Margaret, the quilts are all different in their style and colour. In one of the bedrooms, a blue nine-patch quilt makes for a very calming tone, while another room has a lovely hexagonal patchwork spread in multicolour, giving the room a childlike essence of fun. The bedrooms all lead onto a private and peaceful reading room which has magnificent country views. Here, patchwork throws, cushions and wall-hangings all add to the charming personality of the house. The place is packed full of character. A wonderful claw-footed bath makes a great centrepiece in the bathroom, as well as a real statement about the house: a little relaxation and indulgence is the order of the day!
The large dining area is perfect for afternoon tea, while the wooden veranda at the back of the house is host to some spectacular views of the Tablelands, providing a great backdrop for my hearty breakfast of freshly baked muffins and bread, and cereal or fruit, with yogurt straight from the dairy farm just down the road. At night, while those Friesian cows can be heard roaming the fields next door, much wildlife also comes to life, making a stay at the house a really unusual experience. Despite the strangeness of the noises outside, I slept like a koala (Well, maybe not for quite as a long as a koala, who averages something like 21 hours a day!).
However there’s far more to do in the Tablelands than just sleeping and relaxing. The charming teahouse is actually set on the ‘waterfalls circuit’, which includes Mungalli Falls, Millaa Millaa Falls, Zillie Falls and Ellinjaa Falls, to name a few. The town’s name, Millaa Millaa, is the aboriginal word for ‘plenty of water’ and in turn the landscape is filled with green grass, rainforest, and tropical plants as far as the eye can see. It’s a true beauty spot. The Millaa Millaa Falls themselves have been featured in Qantas airline advertisements and are even reported by locals to be the place where the classic Timotei shampoo advert was recorded; the one where the Scandinavian woman washes her really long, beautiful blonde hair under the waterfall.
Both the teahouse and the waterfall circuit attract guests from across the globe. Visitors can expect to see beautiful country views, with a range of bird life and local fauna; enjoy misty morning walks to the falls and rainforest; visit the neighbouring dairy to watch the milking and even feed the calves. All this from the comfort of a fabulous house offering some of the finest home-made cooking I’ve ever tasted. The owner David is also the head chef, and he recently ventured to Tuscany for a touch of fine food inspiration – his dishes certainly have an air of Italian sophistication to them. David even bakes his own bread, muffins and scones, ensuring that anyone who stops for a spot of afternoon cream tea would not be disappointed, while those who stay for the night are in for a double tasty treat for dinner and breakfast.
Food is big business in Millaa Millaa. The tiny village is also equipped with a bakery, convenience store and a cheese shop. It once supported the thriving local dairy industry. Sadly only the Mungali Falls diary still exists, but it produces the most extraordinary mango yogurt, capable of tantalising even the poorest of palates. In all, Millaa Millaa is simply a wonderful experience for all your senses
The Tablelands are set off the beaten tourist track of East Coast Australia, but they are more than worth taking some time out to visit. The area is a popular weekend escape for residents from the city of Cairns, and a great holiday destination for anyone interested in stunning scenery and the chance to unwind with nature. Located just 60km southwest of Cairns, the Tablelands are positioned on a plateau (hence the name Tableland), ranging from 600 to 1100 metres above sea level. It is a very unique landscape, often missed by the hordes of tourists travelling down the coast. And to complete your visit to the Tablelands, some of Margaret McKendry’s Australian patchwork wall-hangings are available for sale near the entrance to the farmhouse, at more than modest prices.
Qantas Airline flies direct from London airports to Cairns. The Atherton Tablelands and Millaa Millaa falls are 11⁄2 hours drive from Cairns. For more information on the area visit www.tablelands.org
Hosts: David & Neradeene McKendry, Palmerston Highway Millaa Millaa Qld 4886 firstname.lastname@example.org
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