How It All Began

How it all began

Cape Trib Farm has been pioneering tropical and exotic fruits in Australia for the past 40 years.

During the 1970’s Colin and Dawn Gray began their quest to seek out little known exotic tropical fruits and propagate them commercially in Far North Queensland. Their quest saw them identifying and purchasing suitable land at Cape Tribulation to plant tropical fruit orchards (coastal fringing rainforest), travelling extensively throughout South East Asia, importing quality seeds and plant material whilst navigating strict Australian quarantine restrictions, and experimenting with a range of grafting and propagation techniques.

The farm at Cape Trib was bought as a disused cattle property. It was tough starting out. Guinea grass was 6 foot high and paddocks were littered with rusty barbed wire fences and abandoned squatter camps. Preparing the paddocks for planting was an arduous and painstaking task. Colin, Dawn and their four children began the regeneration process and experimented with an array of rare tropical fruit trees.

Their quest was hampered by natural disasters such as direct hits from cyclones, phytophthora, and pests, as well as the hardships of developing a commercial orchard in an area with no services (eg no power, water or telecommunications). Power came from a trusty Lister generator which thumped away for three hours each night, after which lighting was limited to kerosene lamps and candles; one read books or played games for entertainment as there was no TV (perhaps this part was no hardship!); house water came from a spring, the intake of which often had to be cleared to ensure supply.

From just before the Daintree Ferry through to Cape Trib the unsealed road was extremely rough, with just one bridge between the ferry and the farm; wet seasons brought landslides on the ranges and uncrossable flooded creeks, making access impossible for weeks at a time. Communication with the outside world only occurred through the Royal Flying Doctor radio at Mason’s Shop and the weekly mail service.

Then once fully established, the most notable event of all was Cyclone Rona in February 1999 which went straight through the property and decimated the orchard. Colin’s paddock of 500 beloved durians was 90% destroyed, large swathes of rambutans trees lay twisted amongst a carpet of unripe fruit rotting on the ground, soursops were bowled over from the roots – it made a sad sight.

Down but not out, the Grays rebuilt the orchard over following years, with a major push into developing rambutan, mangosteen and breadfruit crops, complemented by a diversification into tourism accommodation and the building of five cabins set amongst the orchard.

In an early diversification enterprise, the Gray family ran the original Fruit Tastings from the early 1980s through to the 1990s as a means of imparting their knowledge and educating travellers on the exciting fruit available in the tropics; however, they took a breather when the commercial crops began to demand more of their time. For a period of 20 or so years, near neighbours Digby and Alison Gotts took up the fruit tasting mantel. When the Gotts sold their property in 2014, Cape Trib Farm resumed Fruit Tasting tours in early 2015.

Cape Trib Farm Today

Cape Trib Farm Today

Today, Cape Trib Farm retains its heritage, with an ever increasing variety of fruits being grown.

We now grow over 60 different varieties of fruit on the property, with specialties including Durian, Mangosteen, Rambutan, Chempadek, Soursop, Mamey Sapote, Black Sapote, Abiu, Pitaya, Maprang and the infamous Miracle Fruit. What started as a hobby, with some varieties only having one or two individual specimens on the property, has translated into a commercial orchard. Major crops currently include Mangosteen, Rambutan and Breadfruit which are wholesaled into Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane city markets. We also send Durian, Duku/ Langsat and Chempadek to the southern markets in smaller volumes.

Some of the pioneering challenges remain, though mitigated by advances in technology: power is generated by over 40 solar panels on the shed roof, supplemented by generator power when demand requires; bulk water is sourced from a freshwater bore; landlines are (generally) reliable; and internet is available, albeit sometimes slow and restricted in bandwidth. And the road is fully sealed from the ferry with most creek crossings having bridges or raised concrete culverts, meaning road closures are minimal.

Colin and Dawn’s daughter, Merran, and her husband Jeremy, and grandsons Samuel and Jordan, have joined Cape Trib Farm to continue on the development of fruit varieties and run Fruit Tasting. Colin and Dawn (now in their 70s fast approaching their 80s) are still actively involved in the farm. Depending on the time of year, you will find us packing tonnes of fruit in the packing shed, grafting and pruning trees, trialling new ways of growing tropical fruit, sharing what we know during our Fruit Tasting tours, having a chat with our farm stay guests or having a cuppa under the gazebo (which would you believe it …..always includes fruit!). We are still learning new things about tropical fruit after all these years. We are passionate about what we do and sharing this knowledge with others.

We invite you to join us at Cape Trib Farm. Tantalise your taste buds on a Fruit Tasting tour around the world of tropical and exotic fruits. Stay with us in one of our cabins and experience three generations of hospitality. Meander through our orchards and learn about growing exotic tropical fruit, grafting and propagating. One thing is for sure – you’ll enjoy a platter of exotic fruit like you’ve never seen or touched or tasted before.

Cape Trib Farm – Taste, Touch, Stay. Enjoy!

Contact us on +617 4098 0042 for more information and bookings.