Any trip to Far North Queensland would be incomplete without paying a visit to the rainforests, waterfalls, wetlands and small friendly communities and towns that make up the Atherton Tablelands.
Rising more than 700m above sea level in some places, and home to the highest mountain in Queensland – Bartle Frere- this area of is found starting west of Cairns, and features a diverse landscape, developed from natural evolution which has seen changes from a coral reef to caves, volcanic craters and blooming lush greenery.
Given its rich and healthy environment, what surprises some visitors is the food and coffee produced in the region. Anyone from Melbourne will tell you their coffee is best in Australia, but the Atherton Tablelands is home to one of Australia’s largest coffee bean regions – so you may have to visit the Skybury Coffee plantation to try for yourself and make the call on who does it best!
If you’re more foodie than coffee connoisseur, markets are run on certain weekends in several areas of Atherton – such as the Atherton, Mareeba and Yungaburra Markets -, meaning there is usually a plethora of fresh produce and local goods to get your hands on. You can also try your hand at strawberry picking in Shaylee Strawberry Farm or visit sugar cane fields and banana farms.
There are great pubs, restaurants and cafes throughout Atherton Tablelands for you to fuel up as you go.
Australia is well known for its interesting native wildlife. Being home to everything from cute and cuddly koalas to large saltwater crocodiles, Atherton is home to a LOT of animals, so keep your eyes peeled while you’re exploring the area. Crocodile tours run regularly and offer a thrill-seeking opportunity if you want to get as close as possible to see the predators in the wild.
Looking towards the trees, avid birdwatchers will be spoilt with hundreds of bird species calling these forests home. Bright rosellas and parrots are the easiest to spot, but if you look a little harder you could spot an owl too. The large blue cassowary also patrols the forest floors, but it’s best to keep a distance from them – they are notoriously territorial.
If you’d rather some guaranteed bird-spotting, pay a visit to Kuranda Birdworld. Whilst there you can pop into Koala Gardens for a cuddle with the sleepy marsupials and see some snakes and other reptiles from a safe distance.
Rich in nature
Home to an abundant selection of flora, fauna and spectacular scenery, there are endless ways to explore the area, and often just a day is never enough!
Waterfalls – home to a 17km waterfall circuit, there are some seriously impressive falls in Atherton you won’t want to miss. The Millaa Millaa Falls are so beautiful they’ve been used in TV commercials for Qantas and Herbal Essences – so you know they’re going to be special. You should also check out Ellinjaa Falls and Zille Falls. Check for crocodile signs before jumping into any water to make sure it’s safe to swim!
Cobbold Gorge – A drive through Atherton will lead you here, to enjoy a guided boat tour through a rugged sandstone gorge, formed over millions of years of erosion.
Crystal and Chillagoe Caves – Two cave experiences, one is man-made, the other 400 million years old, both the whole family will love exploring.
Walking and cycling
A hiking or cycling lovers dream, there are enough trails here to keep you busy for days and all paths will lead you to some amazing photo opportunities.
- Atherton Rail Trail (cycling)
- Peterson Creek Wildlife and Botanical walking track
- Mt Hypipamee – A park surrounding a large volcanic crater with walking trails for best viewing spots
- Curtain Fig Tree in Yungaburra – a short walk to take in one of Australia’s biggest trees
So, when you decide it’s time to break away from the city and feel grounded once more through a visit and time in some divine nature, the Atherton Tablelands could be calling your name. Just don’t forget your camera and walking shoes!
Related article: Don’t miss these top spots in Cairns!