Discover the cool Atherton Tablelands set on a rolling plateau at more than 700m (2300ft) above sea level, and less than an hour’s drive from Cairns.
The Tablelands plateau offers a diverse landscape of lush mountains, green valleys, sparkling lakes and streams, tumbling waterfalls, grassy savannah, endless plains and pockets of ancient rainforest.
Hire a car and drive the scenic Kuranda Range Road that ascends the coastal range from Cairns to the rainforest village of Kuranda.
Alternatively, try the twisty Gillies Highway from Gordonvale to Yungaburra – just perfect for adventurous drivers. Located just 35km (21mi) south of Cairns, the highway ascends via 263 corners to 800m above sea level in only 19km (11mi).
Along the way, stop off at some of the lookouts to take in the spectacular view of the valleys set deep in the Great Dividing Range.
Drive past coffee plantations, tropical fruit farms and several historic villages. On foot, follow bushwalks through rolling ranges to spectacular waterfalls.
Explore charming small townships that come alive with weekend country markets where locals share their arts, crafts, music and festivities.
Here in the Tablelands, the temperature and humidity are generally lower than on the coast. Among the rolling hills dairy cattle graze on green pastures and regional farms grow tea, coffee, nuts, corn, vegetables and flowers for local and export markets.
The Atherton Tablelands encompasses an area of around 64,000km² (25,000mi²) and forms part of Queensland's Great Dividing Range.
The main population centres are Mareeba and Atherton. Smaller towns include Tolga, Malanda, Herberton, Kuranda, Ravenshoe, Millaa Millaa, Chillagoe, Dimbulah, Mt Garnet, Mt Molloy, Tinaroo and Yungaburra.
The national parks and forests in the Atherton Tablelands offer great adventure experiences that showcase the area’s dramatic scenery and diverse landscape.
Here you may discover a huge range of activities from bushwalking, bird watching and wildlife cruises to hot air ballooning and fishing.
Bushwalk the pristine rainforest in Dinden National Park, Danbulla National Park and State Forest or Curtain Fig National Park.
Discover crystal-clear babbling brooks with calm swimming pools, forested vistas from atop easily scalable summits and cascading waterfalls while bushwalking trails in Wooroonooran National Park.
Unmissable spots include Babinda Boulders, Johnston River Lookout walk, Mamu Rainforest Canopy Walkway and Crater Lakes National Park.
Here, tranquil crater lakes – Barrine and Eacham – nestle within lush rainforest with a choice of bushwalking trails shaded by giant bull kauri pine trees.
Lake Barrine and Lake Eacham in Crater Lakes National Park are the perfect spots for kayaking, swimming, birdwatching, barbecues and picnics.
Get a birds-eye view of the rainforest on the elevated Mamu Rainforest Canopy Walkway and from the top of the tower.
Take a refreshing dip in a volcanic crater at Lake Eacham or Lake Barrine, marvel at the massive volcanic pipe (diatreme) at Mount Hypipamee National Park and unwind beneath at least one waterfall.
While you're there, search the canopy for a green possum or tree-kangaroo in the forest at Malanda Falls Conservation Park or spend some quiet time in the bird hide at Hasties Swamp National Park.
At Granite Gorge, get up close and personal and hand feed wild rock wallabies in their natural habitat, and spot platypus at Peterson Creek in Yungaburra.
Lake Tinaroo also offers camping, fishing, water-skiing and sailing year round. Explore their shorelines from a lakeside camp site on the shores of Lake Tinaroo (Danbulla National Park) or Koomboolomba Dam.
Or pedal your way around the purpose-built mountain bike trail in the Atherton Forest Mountain Bike Park. Here you may criss-cross the lower slopes of the Herberton Range on around 60km (37mi) of award-winning, purpose-built single mountain-bike trails.
Dip into rocky gullies and clear creeks, climb forest-clad valleys and ridge lines, and pause to take in awe-inspiring views of the surrounding landscape.
Atherton is also home to many grand, old trees including the Curtain Fig Tree – one of the largest in North Queensland – and the Cathedral Fig Tree, which both sit near Yungaburra.
This type of curtain fig tree is home to species of animals such as possums, tree kangaroos, doves and scrub fowls.
Another grand old tree is the Giant Red Cedar – one of the few survivors of this region's logging past – located just near Chambers Wildlife Rainforest Lodge on Winfield Road.
Try the highly recommended Waterfall Circuit, which begins near Millaa Millaa on the Palmerston Highway and continues along the scenic Theresa Creek Road to Millaa Millaa Falls – the region’s most photographed waterfall.
Don’t miss Australia’s widest waterfall, the Millstream Falls, located 5km (3mi) from Ravenshoe. Look out for tree kangaroos, spot shy platypus at Peterson Creek in Yungaburra and meet rock wallabies at Granite Gorge.
Visit Dinner Falls and peer in the Mount Hypipamee Crater at Mount Hypipamee National Park. Then cool off with a swim at Malanda Falls where the North Johnstone River runs over a wide lava flow into the year round swimming pool.
This region is also home to several species of birdlife, including twelve species of birds that are endemic to the southern mountain ranges, including the Atherton scrubwren, Bower's shrikethrush, bridled honeyeater, chowchilla, fernwren, golden bowerbird, grey-headed robin, Macleay's honeyeater, mountain thornbill, pied monarch, tooth-billed bowerbird and Victoria's riflebird.
Parks to visit in the northern region of the Atherton Tablelands include Davies Creek National Park, Dinden National Park, Bunda Bibandji (Bare Hill) Conservation Park and Dinden West Forest Reserve.
These parks straddle the Lamb Range – the string of mountains behind Cairns. Rainforest cloaks the wetter, eastern side of the range while drier forests flank the rain-shadowed western slopes. Lush ribbons of rainforest fringe the many creeks that tumble from the ranges above.
Here you may explore granite outcrops and towering forests, discover spectacular views and enjoy boulder-strewn creeks and rushing waterfalls. Southern brown bandicoots are found in these parks.
Discover clear-flowing creeks, long-lost history and towering timber giants along the Clohesy River Road in Dinden National Park.
Enjoy crystal clear water cascading over granite boulders at Davies Creek (above photo) and Emerald Creek falls. Climb up to Kalphahlim Rock in Dinden National Park and be rewarded with panoramic views.
Davies Creek and Dinden national parks, Bunda Bibandji (Bare Hill) Conservation Park and Dinden West Forest Reserve are situated between Kuranda and Mareeba on the northern Tablelands.
Top places to visit in the northern Tablelands, include…
Clohesy River Road – Explore the World Heritage-listed forests of the Shoteel Creek and Clohesy River valleys in Dinden National Park. Along the way stretch your legs on the short, 300m return boardwalk to view the impressive Clohesy River fig tree.
Davies Creek – Located in Davies Creek National Park, this short, 1km return circuit walk offers scenic views of Davies Creek valley, cascades and the spectacular falls.
The trail continues along the tranquil creek, which is lined with paperbarks, pandanus and banksias. Wander the cascades and swim in the infinity pool set atop the falls amid giant granite boulders. Allow 20 minutes walking time.
The turn off to Davies Creek Road is located around 21km (13mi) from Kuranda; the gravel road to the falls is accessible to conventional vehicles for most of the year.
Turtle Rock – Take in the panoramic views on this 8km (5mi) return circuit trail to the summit of Mount Turtle in Dinden National Park. Walk around massive boulders and climb to a height of 936m, then descend along a ridge line and across Davies Creek.
Allow three to four hours to complete the walk.
Kahlpahlim Rock – This challenging 12km (7mi) return circuit trail encompasses both the Kahlpahlim Rock and Kahlpahlim Ridge trails in Dinden National Park.
You may walk these steep trails in either direction. From the first trail head, you pass through towering rose gum, turpentine and casuarina forests, and then, following the 1km side track, climb steeply to Kahlphalim Rock, also known as Lamb’s Head.
At 1300m (4265ft) above sea level, the enormous boulders of Kahlphalim Rock are the highest point on the Lamb Range and provide scenic views over the surrounding landscape.
On the alternate return track follow old logging trails through cool rainforest and across small creeks. The distance between trail heads on Davies Creek Road is 2.3km (1.4mi). Allow six to seven hours walking time.
Kahlpahlim Rock is located near Mareeba, around one hour and 15 minutes from Cairns.
Bunda Bibandji – Follow this 1.9km (1mi) return walk in the Conservation Park to view two rock-art galleries depicting figures in red and yellow ochre created by people of the Buluwandji people, the traditional owners of this land.
Bunda Bibandji, also known as Bare Hill, is home to the largest Aboriginal rock art complex in the Cairns Hinterland region.
Emerald Creek Falls – Follow this 1.9km (1mi) return trail in Dinden West Forest Reserve to a lookout for panoramic views overlooking the falls, the valley below and across the northern tableland.
Cool down after your walk with a swim in Emerald Creek. Take care on slippery rocks in and near the creek.
Allow one hour to complete the return walk.
Davies Creek Mountain Bike Park – Explore the slopes of Lamb Range on a mountain bike in Dinden West Forest Reserve and Dinden State Forest. The park provides a network of trails, suitable for riders of all abilities.
Camp sites in the northern Atherton Tablelands, include Lower Davies Creek and Upper Davies Creek. Here, you can camp beside placid pools lined with smooth-barked watergums.
Lower Davies Creek – Camp beside the gurgling waters of Davies Creek in Davies Creek National Park. There is a short walk from the car park to the camp sites so tents are best suited to this camping area. Small camper-vans can stay overnight in the car park.
Upper Davies Creek – Camp along a stretch of Davies Creek shaded by tall forest in Dinden National Park. Toilets are shared between the two camp sites.
For most of the year the Lower Davies Creek camping area, Davies Creek Falls and Emerald Creek Falls can be reached by a conventional vehicle. You'll need a 4WD to access all other areas of these parks.
Camp sites must be booked and camping permits purchased before you arrive.
Well known as the 'Village in the Rainforest' Kuranda offers a blend of indigenous culture, arts and crafts, alternate lifestyles, walking trails and wildlife attractions.
Famous for the Kuranda Markets which have been a feature of the village for more than 30 years, you can choose to travel to Kuranda via the Kuranda Scenic Railway or Skyrail Rainforest Cableway.
From Kuranda, it’s a relatively flat 37km (23mi) drive to Mareeba, on the northern Atherton Tablelands.
As the largest town on the Atherton Tablelands, Mareeba has a reputation as a food and coffee lovers paradise. More than 90% of Australia's coffee crop is grown here.
Two of the Tableland’s major events are the annual Mareeba Rodeo held in July and the Mareeba Multicultural Festival in August.
And don't miss the Mareeba Tropical Savanna & Wetlands, located 65km (40mi) west of Cairns, just past the town of Mareeba.
Read more Mareeba Tropical Savanna…
Explore some of the more than 600 limestone caves in the Chillagoe-Mungana Karst Caves National Park, the site of an ancient coral reef that has eroded over time to reveal spectacular underground caves.
The largest cave complex has more than 11km (6mi) of passages and feature spectacular formations of stalactites and stalagmites.
The caves in the Chillagoe-Montana National Park are located a short walk from the town centre, and can only be viewed as part of a tour.
From the Chillagoe limestone caves there's a walking track to the nearby Balancing Rock formation and some Aboriginal rock art that is estimated to be around 3500 years old.
The town of Chillagoe is a mix of outback landscape, mining heritage, significant aboriginal art sites and amazing limestone caves.
Chillagoe was once a booming mining town and is now one of the favored haunts of mining buffs tracing the heady days of the 1870's to the 1920's mining boom.
Chillagoe is situated around 140km (87mi) west of Mareeba and around 215km (133mi) west of Cairns. Travel time from Mareeba is around one hour 30 minutes, and from Cairns allow two hours 30 minutes.
This richly volcanic part of the Tablelands is scattered with crater lakes, tumbling waterfalls, statuesque mountains and lush rainforest with giant kauri pines.
Top parks to visit in the central region of Atherton Tablelands, include Crater Lakes National Park, Curtain Fig National Park, Malanda Falls Conservation Park and Wooroonooran National Park.
Top places to visit include…
Atherton was the first town settled in the region, hence the name: the Atherton Tablelands.
The town sits on the side of Hallorans Hill – an extinct volcano – and is surrounded by the Seven Sisters collection of hills. Here you can stroll through endangered rainforest situated high above the surrounding landscape.
Immerse yourself in the history and culture of the area on the Wongabel Heritage walk, explore trails in the Atherton Forest Mountain Bike Park and search Hasties Swamp for some of the 220 resident and migratory bird species.
The Mount Baldy and the Herberton Range, which are cloaked in high-altitude rainforest, endangered wet sclerophyll forest and drier open forests, contain an extensive network of shared walking and mountain-bike trails with lookouts offering scenic views.
Parks to visit around Atherton include Hallorans Hill Conservation Park, Hasties Swamp National Park, Herberton Range State Forest, Baldy Mountain Forest Reserve and Wongabel State Forest.
Atherton is located around 35km (22mi) south of Mareeba, a 30-minute drive.
Main attractions in Atherton and nearby, include…
Paronella Park – Stroll around this unique attraction of heritage gardens and Spanish style ruins which sit on 13 acres of rainforest beside Mena Creek Falls.
Built in the 1930's by José Paronella from Spain, the structures were built for public enjoyment and are still open to the public.
Hou Wang Miau Chinese Temple – Take a stroll around this fascinating 1903 timber and tin temple museum, run by the National Trust.
It's all that's left to remind us of the thousands of Chinese migrants who came to the region in search of gold in the late 1800s. Admission includes a guided tour.
Hallorans Hill walking track – This short 1.4km one-way trail takes you through eucalypt forest and endangered rainforest to the summit of this volcanic cone with stunning views over the Tablelands in the Hallorans Hill Conservation Park.
If you’re quiet enough, you’ll see eastern water dragons along Priors Creek. Allow 40 minutes walking time.
Hallorans Hill is located within Atherton township. You can start your walk from the park on Louise Street and walk to the summit. Alternatively, drive to the summit and walk down from Robert Street or Dalziel Avenue.
Hasties Swamp bird hide – Enjoy the spectacle of hundreds of resident and migratory birds feeding on this scenic seasonal wetland at Hasties Swamp National Park from the comfort of this two-storey hide.
The Bromfield and Hasties Swamp is a mecca for birdwatchers. The Bromfield Crater is known as a breeding ground for the Sarus Cranes and is an ideal place to watch them in flight during the dry season.
Hasties Swamp is about 4km (2.5mi) south of Atherton on the Atherton-Herberton Road.
Wongabel Forest walk – Delve into the heart of endangered mabi forest in Wongabel State Forest on this short 750m return walk.
Search the treetops for Lumholtz tree kangaroos (photo) – the best way to find them is to spot their pendulous tails. Allow 15 minutes walking time.
Wongabel is 8km (5mi) south of Atherton on the Kennedy Highway.
Wongabel Heritage walk – This 2.5km (1.5mi) return walk in Wongabel State Forest leads past endangered rainforest and plantation trees. Wongabel has a rich timber history and is considered the birthplace of reforestation in Queensland. Allow one hour walking time.
Baldy Yabi circuit – This 8.4km (5.2mi) circuit walk in Baldy Mountain Forest Reserve and Herberton Range State Forest offers expansive views of Atherton and Lake Tinaroo from the summit of Mount Baldy and Yabi Mountain.
The walk is less strenuous in the clockwise direction. Allow two hours 30 minutes walking time. Dogs are permitted on this walk but they must be on a leash at all times.
Herberton Range Ridge Road – This 17.5km (10.8mi) one-way 4WD route takes you through Baldy Mountain Forest Reserve to an elevation of 1200m (3937ft).
Expect to see sun-dappled forests of bloodwoods and ironbarks, lush high-altitude rainforest and dry forests of turpentine, red mahogany and she-oak. Allow one hour and 30 minutes driving time.
The southern entrance of the Herberton Range Ridge Road is 12km (7.4mi) south of Atherton on the Atherton-Herberton Road.
Atherton Forest Mountain Bike Park – Choose from around 60km (37mi) of award-winning, purpose-built single-track bike trails to criss-cross the lower slopes of the Herberton Range.
The Atherton Forest Mountain Bike Park, Baldy Yabi circuit and the northern entrance of the Herberton Range Ridge Road are on Rifle Range Road, around 1.6km (1mi) south of Atherton on the Atherton-Herberton Road.
Tableland Express – Take a ride on this historic steam train alongside the Wild River on Queensland's steepest rail line.
Enjoy panoramic views, tunnels, waterfalls, clerophyll forest, cuttings and timber trestle bridges.
The train presently operates between Herberton Station and Historic Village Herberton every Sunday from 10am to 2pm. Tickets $5.00 return for adults and $3.00 for children.
Set aside at least a day to explore this spectacular part of the Tablelands. With forests, plantations and World Heritage-listed rainforest, this 12,000ha park stretches along the banks of picturesque Lake Tinaroo between the Tinaroo and Lamb ranges.
Located a short distance from Atherton, Lake Tinaroo was created in 1959 when the Barron River was blocked. The lake is now a great place to swim, sail, windsurf, water ski and fish.
Land-based activities include bushwalking, hiking and camping around Lake Tinaroo. Listen out for the metallic call of the golden bowerbird or the dawn chorus at the aptly named Cathedral Fig Tree.
You can also explore the cool, misty upland rainforest and towering rose gums along the Mount Edith-Kauri Creek Road circuit by 4WD.
Top places to visit include…
Platypus Rock – Climb the steps onto a huge granite boulder for a unique view of the plantation and forest canopy. Dogs on a leash are allowed on this walk.
Regeneration walk – This 2.3km (1.5mi) one-way trail winds through land used for dairy farming before the dam was built. The land was then planted with pines, or left to naturally regenerate. Allow one hour to walk.
Jungaljungal walk – Explore the rainforest along the remains of old forestry roads on this sometimes steep 8.2km (5mi) return trail.
Look out for the colourful but well-camouflaged Boyd’s forest dragon.
Be prepared for wet feet on the creek crossings. Allow three hours 30 minutes to walk the circuit trail.
Lake Euramoo lookout – This 500m circuit trail winds through shadowy rainforest with occasional glimpses of the dumbbell shaped lake seen through the trees. Allow 10 minutes to walk the circuit trail.
Mobo Creek Crater – The 630m circuit walk takes you to the Mobo Creek Crater, the geology of which has perplexed scientists for many years. Draw your own conclusions as you walk through upland rainforest to the crater. Allow 15 minutes to walk the circuit trail.
Mount Edith and Kauri Creek – Drive a 4WD or cycle a mountain bike through the varied vegetation of the rugged Lamb Range on the Mount Edith and Kauri Creek roads, that wind through everchanging forests and alongside serene mountain streams in Danbulla National Park.
The 43km (27mi) return route takes around two hours to drive and between three to six hours to cycle.
Gillies lookout – You’ll need a high clearance 4WD vehicle to tackle this unsealed road through farmland to this lookout which offers spectacular views. Allow 45 minutes driving time for the 8km return drive.
Yungaburra is a small country town which has remained largely unchanged since 1910. With 18 heritage-listed buildings, it is the largest National Trust village in Queensland.
Take a stroll around the township to discover charming cafés, historic shop fronts, arts and crafts galleries, restaurants and country cottages.
The renowned Yungaburra Markets takes place on the fourth Saturday of each month and is the largest of all country markets. Nearly all the products sold are locally made or grown.
Yungaburra is located around 12km (7mi) east of Atherton.
Lake Eacham was created around 12,000 years ago when magma rose to the surface of the water table and over the next hundreds of years created a huge lake which is fed by a constant underground stream.
It's the perfect spot to stop off and picnic, relax in the sun and enjoy water-sports on the lake or bushwalking through the surrounding rainforest.
Lake circuit trail – Follow the 3km (1.8mi) forest-fringed lake circuit trail around the crater for views of the lake and into the rainforest. Look out for small, musky rat-kangaroos. Allow one hour to complete this walk.
Lake Eacham sits within the Crater Lakes National Park in the eastern Atherton Tableland, and is easily accessible from the Gillies Range Road or Lake Barrine-Malanda Road.
Lake Eacham is around 6.8km (4.2mi) from Yungaburra and around 20km (12mi) from Atherton.
Lake Barrine – a deep water lake surrounded by dense rainforest – was formed in a similar way to Lake Eacham.
Enjoy a relaxing boat cruise around this high altitude lake, followed by a meal or snack at The Tea House, a popular lake shore eatery since the 1930s.
Lake Barrine is located in the eastern Atherton Tableland around 12km (7.4mi) east of Yungaburra. The lake is easily accessible from Gillies Range Road in Crater Lakes National Park.
Twin kauris walk – The twin kauris walk follows a 160m return trail to two bull kauri pine trees that tower 45m (147ft) over the forest. They are thought to be more than 1000 years old. Allow 10 minutes walking time.
Rainforest walk – This 1.2km return trail winds through the rainforest. Here you can see epiphyte-laden branches while looking out for musky rat-kangaroos in the undergrowth and listening to chowchillas foraging on the forest floor. Allow 30 minutes to complete the return walk.
Lake circuit track – Explore lush rainforest on this 5km (3mi) circuit trail that circumnavigates Lake Barrine. Allow two hours walking time.
Curtain Fig Tree – Follow the elevated 180m return boardwalk that encircles this unique strangler fig, decorated with epiphytic ferns, amid endangered mabi forest in Curtain Fig National Park.
The Fig tree is thought to be nearly 50m (164ft) tall, with a trunk circumference of 39m (128ft), and is estimated to be over 500 years old. Its extensive aerial roots drop 15m (49ft) to the forest floor creating an enormous 'curtain'.
Over hundreds of years these roots have strangled the host causing it to fall into a neighbouring tree – a stage unique to the development of this fig. Vertical fig roots then formed a curtain-like appearance and the host trees rotted away, leaving the free-standing fig tree.
Search the reaching branches for Lumholtz tree-kangaroos, green possums and birds of all species from the elevated boardwalk. A wheelchair-accessible boardwalk runs around the tree. Allow 10 minutes walking time.
Curtain Fig Tree is located around 2km (1.2mi) from Yungaburra.
Explore the scenic beauty of Wooroonooran National Park.
Encompassing an area of 798km² (308mi²), the park covers most of Bellenden Ker Range and includes Queensland's two highest mountains, Mount Bartle Frere and Mount Bellenden Ker.
The park offers numerous opportunities for hiking, canoeing, and mountain biking in the Goldsborough Valley, while Josephine Falls (photo) features a cascading waterfall and the beginning of the trail up Queensland’s highest peak – Bartle Frere.
Palmerston is renowned for beautiful rainforest, wild rivers, steep gorges, cascading waterfalls and the Mamu Rainforest Canopy Walkway.
Walshs Pyramid at 922m (3024ft) in height, is located just south of Gordonvale and is one of the highest free-standing natural pyramids in the world.
The park has two sections: the Palmerston and the Josephine sections. Both the North and South branches of the Johnstone River flow through the Palmerston section.
Camping is permitted in a campground along Henrietta Creek. Bush camping is allowed along the Mount Bartle Frere Trail but no facilities are provided. Permits are required.
Goldfield trail – This 19km (11mi) historic trail winds through the lush, heritage-listed rainforest of Wooroonooran National Park.
The trail crosses numerous scenic crystal-clear creeks fringed with moss-covered boulders and emerald-green tree ferns. The walk takes you over a low saddle between Bartle Frere and Bellenden Ker – Queensland’s two highest peaks.
The Goldfields trail starts near Babinda Boulders and ends at Kearney’s Falls, 800m from Goldsborough Valley Campground. The walk can also be done in reverse, starting from Goldsborough Valley Campground, but the Babinda end is regarded as the most scenic.
The entire length of the Goldfields Track should only be tackled by people with a high fitness level, and can be undertaken as a return walk by following the same route back.
The Goldfields Trail sits between Babinda and Goldsborough Valley. The north-west section of the trail is located around 23km (15mi) south of Cairns.
The Goldsborough Valley Campground is around 55km (34mi) east of Yungaburra.
Mount Bartle Frere trail – Climb to the summit of Mount Bartle Frere, 1622m (5321ft) above sea level. This challenging hike in Wooroonooran National Park leads to the summit of Queensland’s highest peak, with panoramic views on a clear day.
Mount Bellenden Ker sits at 1593m (5226ft) above sea level and stands adjacent to Mount Bartle Frere. You can also explore this mountain and visit Josephine Falls and the several cascading rivers that descend the mountain.
Along the way, follow trails through the rainforest of the Bellenden Ker Range. The eastern end of the trail can be accessed at Josephine Falls, around 75km (46mi) south of Cairns. The western end of trail is 35km (21mi) from Atherton.
Mamu Rainforest Canopy Walkway – Take a stroll through the rainforest canopy on the Mamu Rainforest Canopy Walkway.
This 350m (1149ft) long elevated walkway through the canopy provides a 37m (120ft) high observation tower and more than 1.2km of walking tracks.
The cantilever provides outstanding views overlooking the North Johnstone river gorge, while the observation tower emerges high above the canopy, offering sweeping views over a pristine rainforest-clad mountainous landscape.
The Mamu Rainforest Canopy Walkway is located within Wooroonooran National Park, around 28km (17mi) west of Innisfail.
Malanda is a quiet town located about 25km (15mi) south-east of Atherton. The township is the centre of the dairy industry featuring one of the world's largest dairy factories supported by over 190 local dairy farmers.
Malanda Falls – The shady, croc-free Malanda Falls is a safe and easily accessible spot for swimming.
Located on the outskirts of Malanda, the falls flow all year round and its brook meanders through rainforest providing a home to many turtles and platypus.
Two short trails allow you to explore the Malanda Falls Conservation Park.
Red tulip oak walk – This short 1km return walk meanders through the Malanda Falls rainforest, with viewing areas overlooking the North Johnstone River in Malanda Falls Conservation Park.
Trackside signs offer information about the Ngadjon-Jii culture and lifestyle. Allow 35 minutes walking time.
Rainforest walk – This short 1.5km (1mi) return walk follows the North Johnstone River before turning back through the forest to its starting point. Many of the towering rainforest trees are labelled. Allow 45 minutes walking time.
Malanda Falls Conservation Park is home to an astonishing range of birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians. During the day, look out for birds in the forest canopy and floor.
Lumholtz tree-kangaroos and green possums can sometimes be seen snoozing on branches during the day. Keep an eye out for platypus in the river, especially at dawn and dusk.
Choose from six lakeside camping areas in Danbulla National Park, including Platypus day-use area, Downfall Creek, Kauri Creek, School Point, Fong-On Bay and Curri Curri.
Camp fires are allowed at all camping areas and, except for Curri Curri, all camping areas have shower cubicles. Camp sites must be booked and permits purchased before arrival.
You can reach all of the camping areas and the Platypus day-use area by boat. The nearest boat ramps are in Tinaroo township.
Platypus camping area – Set up camp under a towering hoop pine plantation. This camping area is popular with water skiers and fishers.
Downfall Creek camping area – This popular area has open, grassy sites with uninterrupted water views and is popular for boating.
Kauri Creek camping area – Located on the edge of an inlet, this camping area is perfect for canoeing, kayaking and swimming.
School Point camping area – This peaceful campsite with expansive views sits on the grounds of the former Euramoo State School, which stood here until 1958.
Fong-On Bay camping area – This large and open camping area is popular with water skiers and can accommodate large groups.
Curri Curri camping area – Separate camp sites, with no facilities apart from fire rings.
The southern region of the Atherton Tablelands is the best place to see tumbling waterfalls of every size and shape, set amid a kaleidoscope of ancient geological features and lush rainforest.
Here you can discover a scenic, cloud-swathed landscape where the interlaced drives, walks, lookouts and camping areas will leave you awestruck by this corner of the world. This is one of the wettest regions of Queensland.
Explore a deep volcanic pipe, ancient lava flows and wide variety of forest types, which protect endemic birds including Victoria’s riflebird, bridled honeyeater and golden and tooth-billed bowerbirds.
National parks to visit in the southern region of the Atherton Tablelands, include Mount Hypipamee National Park, Herberton Range Conservation Park, Tumoulin State Forest and Forest Reserve and Millstream Falls National Park.
Further south, the Tully Gorge National Park, Tully Falls National Park and the Koombooloomba National Park and Conservation Park are the heart of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area.
The Tully River captures the headwaters of several creeks and rivers, harnessing their power and combining with an ancient fault line to create the deep Tully Gorge.
Top places to visit include…
Mt Hypipamee National Park – Discover the park's main attraction – the eerie Mt Hypipamee Crater is an unplumbed volcanic pipe more than 80m (262ft) deep, with sheer granite walls that plunge 138m (452ft) to its moss-covered waters.
Wildlife usually found here includes long-nosed bandicoots, ringtail possums and rare Lumholtz’s tree-kangaroos.
Mt Hypipamee National Park sits between Herberton and Malanda, around 24km (15mi) south of Atherton.
Mount Hypipamee Crater track – Follow this 1.6km (1mi) return trail from the parking and picnic area through high-altitude rainforest to emerge at the amazing volcanic pipe (diatreme) in Mount Hypipamee National Park.
Allow 30 minutes walking time. You may return along the same track or follow the Dinner Falls track.
Dinner Falls track – Follow the 1.2km return trail to view the waterfalls at Dinner Falls in Herberton Range Conservation Park. Allow one hour walking time.
From these humble beginnings, the Barron River picks up speed and size as it flows to Lake Tinaroo, along the way passing through the hydroelectric station at Kuranda, over the Barron Falls and to the coast just north of Cairns.
Halls Falls track – Take this 520m return walk under a forest of brushbox to view the cool, clear water of Halls Falls tumble gently over polished granite walls. Allow 15 minutes walking time.
Drovers lookout track – This 250m return trail leads to an amazing lookout with sprawling easterly views over the southern Tablelands and beyond. Allow 10 minutes walking time.
McKenzie Falls track – This 600m return trail leads to the Millstream River where the river cascades over McKenzie Falls to the valley beyond.
Look out for the delicate fringe lilies hidden among the grey-green grasses. Allow 15 minutes walking time on this track located in Tumoulin State Forest Reserve.
This 17km (10.5mi) circuit takes you past three of the Atherton Tablelands prettiest falls and is one of the best reasons to visit the Tablelands.
The circuit route starts near Millaa Millaa, just off Palmerston Highway, and includes Millaa Millaa, Zillie and Ellinjaa falls.
Surrounded by lush green rainforest, each waterfall is spectacular in its own unique way. Millaa Millaa Falls (photo) is one of the most photographed in Australia, with its 18m (59ft) high waterfall cascading into a pristine waterhole.
Of the three falls, Millaa Millaa Falls is the only waterhole where you can jump in and enjoy a refreshing dip in the cool waters.
Barbecue and picnic facilities are available, so it's the perfect spot for a picnic lunch. While there, see if you can also spot a platypus or the iridescent blue Ulysses butterfly.
Zillie Falls provides a viewing platform at the base of the falls where you can watch the cascading water and rapids.
There's no swimming at this waterfall but you can take a short walk through the surrounding forest to a viewing are where you can get a great idea idea of the rapids and top of the falls.
Finish off with some afternoon tea at the grassed picnic spot at Ellinjaa Falls, which cascade over a series of lava columns.
Millaa Millaa Falls is located around 42km (26mi) south of Herberton.
Located just an hour and half away from Cairns, Millstream Falls National Park boasts the widest single drop falls in Australia.
You can view the Big Millstream Falls from the walking track and lookout. The national park was the site of an army training camp in World War II.
The park is made up of two sections: Big Millstream Falls and Little Millstream Falls. The Big Falls are reputedly Australia's widest single-drop waterfalls. The Little Falls are a series of slender cascades cutting through huge boulders; a 700m trail provides access.
Swimming is forbidden, but two hiking trails provide access to see the falls. The two park entrances are within 4.5km (2.8mi) of Ravenshoe.
Big Millstream Falls lookout – Follow the sealed 680m return track through a forest of pink-trunked, lemon-scented gums to the lookout over Millstream Falls — reputedly the widest, single-drop waterfall in Australia.
Rock seats are provided along the track and at the lookout. Allow 15 minutes walking time.
World War II Heritage track – This easy 1km return trail takes you through an area used by the 2/14th and 2/28th Battalions of the Australian Army during WWII. Informative signs tell of the conditions at the time and show how the soldiers lived, worked and played.
View the remains of tent sites, corduroy roads, training and parade grounds, trenches and other reminders of the time when up to 100,000 Australian troops trained here in the early 1940s. Allow 45 minutes walking time.
Little Millstream Falls track – Follow this steep and narrow 700m track to the base of Little Millstream Falls. Enjoy views of the falls from numerous points along the track, and look for platypus in the pool at its base. Allow 25 minutes walking time.
You can ride trail-bikes and drive four-wheel-drives through Millstream Falls National Park on the internal roads and fire breaks. Riders and drivers must be licensed and trail-bikes and vehicles must be registered. Expect to share the roads with pedestrians, cyclists and other vehicles.
You should stay on formed roads — trail-bikes and vehicles are not permitted off-road, including on walking tracks and boardwalks.
Ravenshoe is the highest town in Queensland at 930m (3051ft) above sea level. The town was founded as a timber town and is now a popular base to tour the Atherton Tablelands natural and historical landmarks.
Ravenshoe is located around 50km (31mi) from Atherton, and 147km (91mi) from Cairns via the Gillies Highway.
The region offers spectacular and diverse scenery with a mixture of dense rainforest, sub-tropical flora and rolling mountain pastures. However the most popular attraction by far is the ultra-modern wind turbines which generates enough electricity to supply approximately 3,500 homes.
Situated on the extinct Windy Hill volcano, its 20 wind turbines take advantage of the consistent winds on the volcano's slopes.
The Tully Gorge National Park is a terrific place for camping, bushwalking and picnicking by the Tully River.
The park is also one of the wettest placed in all of Queensland and is a popular destination for white-water rafters.
White-water raft the might Tully River or take in the majestic views of the gorge from several lookout points, including the Tully Falls lookout.
The Tully Gorge is around 25km (15mi) south of Ravenshoe on a 4WD track off Tully Falls Road or on a sealed highway via Tully around 128km (80mi) south of Ravenshoe.
Wabunga Wayemba rainforest track – This 5.5km (3.4mi) return walk through rainforest in Tully Falls National Park leads to a waterfall where clear mountain water flows over moss-coated rocks and collects in a shallow pool.
Keep an eye out for cassowaries and look for huge tadpoles and tiny crayfish in the pools. Allow two hours 30 minutes walking time.
The Wabunga Wayemba walk has two trail heads on Tully Falls Road: the first is 11.5km (7mi) from Ravenshoe and the second is a further 1.7km (1mi) along the road.
Misty Mountains wilderness tracks – Explore 130km (80mi) of shared roads and trails on foot or mountain bike as you journey through lush high-altitude rainforest, alongside clear mountain streams to thundering waterfalls, with endless views and secluded camping areas.
Be aware that fallen trees can obstruct roads and tracks in this region of Tully Gorge National Park.
Tully Gorge lookout – This 100m return walk to the top of the gorge offers sprawling views over the falls and the carved valley below.
The dam upstream usually restricts the water to just a trickle, but during the wet season the entire system floods creating a thundering spectacle in the falls. Allow five minutes walking time.
River walk – This 1.3km return trail follows the Tully River upstream through open woodland and upland rainforest. Allow 45 minutes walking time.
Both the Tully Gorge lookout and river walk are around 25km (15mi) south of Ravenshoe on Tully Falls Road.
Places to camp in the southern Atherton Tablelands include a camp site nestled among shady trees on the shoreline of Koombooloomba Dam in Koombooloomba National Park, and at Koombooloomba Conservation Park. The latter is set back from the dam on a large, open and flat camping area which has separate sites lining what used to be the town’s cricket oval.
You can also find bush camping at several private sites along Nitchaga Creek and Wall Creek roads.
There’s no mobile service at Koombooloomba so make sure you book and pay for your camp site before you leave home.
Koombooloomba is located 31km (19mi) south of Ravenshoe on Tully Falls Road and 8km (5mi) from the Tully Gorge lookout. You can get there in a conventional vehicle with high clearance. The Nitchaga Creek and Wall Creek roads can only be accessed by 4WD.
This region of Queensland enjoys cooler and less humid weather thanks to the elevation of the Tablelands, from 500m (1640ft) to 1200m (3937ft). Temperatures in the Atherton Tableland rarely exceeds 30°C (86°F). ￼
Summer days can be hot but temperatures cool significantly in the evenings. During summer, from October to March, day-time temperatures range between 25°C (77°F) and 31°C (87°F).
It can get surprisingly cold in winter, especially at night, with frosts in open areas. From April to September, winter day-time temperatures can range from a comfortable 20°C (68°F) to 25°C (77°F).
Rainfall is seasonal, with most falling between December and April.
The Atherton Tablelands is around 90km (56mi) southwest of Cairns.
From Cairns, you have a choice of two main routes to the Tablelands, either via the Kuranda Range or via the Gillies Highway.
From the northern end of Cairns, the scenic Kuranda Highway takes you into the highlands past attractions around Mareeba and through towns like Tolga, Atherton and onto Lake Tinaroo. This scenic drive offers great views from the road of the rainforest and sea.
At Smithfield, 14km (8.6mi) north of Cairns, turn west onto the Kennedy Highway and drive the winding 11.5km route up the coastal range to Kuranda. From here, it’s a relatively flat 37km (23mi) trip to Mareeba, on the northern Tablelands.
The Gillies Highway winds its way up into the mountains from Gordonvale in the south. This route takes you past sights including Lake Barrine and Lake Eacham.
At Gordonvale, 35km (21mi) south of Cairns, take the Gillies Range Road west to the historic township of Yungaburra, on the eastern Tablelands.
Latest update: Atherton Tablelands: 19 January, 2021
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