Atherton Tablelands

Atherton Tablelands is a beautiful green plateau also called Cairns Highlands.

It is inland from the coast between Innisfail and Cairns, and west of Wooroonooran National Park.

Being up to 1000m high, it is much cooler than the coastal lowlands and there are many dairies, farms and wineries that have taken advantage of the cool climate. There are also some great drives and bushwalks, and some famous fig trees, lakes and waterfalls. From the coast, you can get here via Kuranda nort-west of Cairns, Gordonvale south of Cairns, or Palmerston Highway west of Innisfail.
atherton tablelands attractionsAtherton Tablelands by Geoff Whalan via

See Atherton Tablelands from the Air



Kuranda and Kuranda Markets

Kuranda is a former hippie village inland from Cairns. Today it is a vibrant tourist town with the famous Kuranda Markets, Kuranda Wildlife Noctarium where you can see nocturnal animals, and Birdworld with different kinds of parrots. And a bit outside the town is the Rainforestation Nature Park. But the most unique place to visit is the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary, the largest of its kind in Australia, and probably the best place in the country to get close to Australian butterflies, including the large Ulysses Butterfly and Cairns Birdwing.

Car Hire - Compare the Big Australian Companies Here

There are heaps of eateries; tours including full day and half day horse rides and ATV rides in the rainforest; and some of the places to stay are Kuranda Villas and Kuranda Resort and Spa. The best way to get here from Cairns is by the Scenic Railway that comes through some beautiful rainforest. And the best way to get back is by Skyrail that takes you back across the top of the rainforest canopy. In the other end of the Skyrail trip is the world famous Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park - a great place to experience Aboriginal culture (there are also night tours that include a big international buffet dinner).

Mareeba and Mareeba Wetlands
South-west of Kuranda and in the northern end of Atherton Tablelands is Mareeba - the centre of a rich farming area with tea, coffee, tobacco and macadamia nuts plantations, cattle stations, sugar cane farms and tropical fruit wineries. You can visit the Golden Pride Winery, Coffee Works and the Skybury Australian Coffee Centre for tours and tastings, or take a Hot Air Ballooning ride.

Campervan Hire - Compare the Big Australian Companies Here

One of Mareeba’s main attractions is Mareeba Wetlands - a 12 sq km reserve that attracts many different waterbirds including jabirus, but also some marsupials and some big reptiles. There are walking tracks and guided tours as well as accommodation in Jabiru Safari Lodge. South-west of Mareeba is the beautiful Granite Gorge, with a camping ground, some walking tracks, and some wild Mareeba Rock Wallabies.

Mareeba. by dankilometres via

Petford and Dimbulah
West of Mareeba there is an interesting side trip to the outback. Following the so called Wheelbarrow Way you pass small townships like Mutchilba and Dimbulah, then the small railway station in Petford; and the old pub in Lappa Junction, which is now a museum with all sorts of memorabilia and a public bar with corrugated iron walls.

Dimbulah. by certified su via

Chillagoe and Chillagoe Caves
Further west along the Burke Developmental Road is the small township of Almaden,  and finally, Chillagoe in the middle of some limestone country with some impressive granite boulders. The limestone was deposited here by an ancient coral reef 400 million years ago when the area was the bottom of a tropical sea. Limestone often forms caves, and there are many impressive ones in the Mungana Chillagoe Caves National Park. Another thing to see is the Old Smelters that remain from the old mining days. Some mining is still happening here, and the town's two pubs can get quite lively.

You can stay at the pubs, or in Chillagoe Tourist Village, Chillagoe Cabins, Chillagoe Creek Homestead or Chillagoe Bush Camp and Eco Lodge.

Atherton - the Largest town in Atherton Tablelands
Back on the Atherton Tablelands, south of Mareeba is the township of Atherton – a farming centre with the Hou Wang Chinese Temple and Crystal Caves – a mineralogical museum in an artificial cave. Accommodation includes hotels like the Grand Hotel and other pubs, motels like the Atherton Motel, Rainforest Motor Inn and Tablelands Motor Inn; bed and breakfast like Atherton Blue Gum B&B and The Summit B&B; caravan parks like Atherton Holiday Park, Hallorans Leisure Park and Woodlands Big4 Caravan Park; and retreats and lodges like Gumtree on Gillies, Barking Owl Retreat and Chambers Wildlife Rainforest Lodge

Atherton. by jemasmith via

Herberton and Irvinebank

South of Atherton, in the western end of the Atherton Tablelands is the small township Herberton - a historical mining town with some very nice old buildings and the famous Herberton Historical Village. Here you can stay a the Australian Hotel, Wild River Caravan Park or Green Springs Holiday Farm. Inland from Herberton is Irvinebank - another nice quiet outback town where you can stay at the Irvinebank Tavern.

Herberton. by jemasmith via

Ravenshoe - the Highest Town in Atherton Tablelands
South of Herberton, in the southern end of the Atherton Tablelands, is Ravenshoe, known as the highest town in Queensland, and also for its steam railway carriages, and its wind farm that is supposedly the largest in Australia. Some of the places to stay include Kool Moon Motel and Millstream Retreat.

Ravenshoe. by RaeAllen via

Misty Mountains
South of Ravenshoe are Misty Mountains – a huge bushwalking area which is reached from Ravenshoe, Millaa Millaa and Palmerston Highway in the north, and also from Tully in the east on the coast north of Townsville. There are 130km of long bushwalking tracks in Misty Mountains through some beautiful rainforest containing rare mammals like coppery brushtail possums, lemuroid possums, striped possums and Herbert River ringtail possums. But if you are not a keen bushwalker, you can just drive in along Tully Falls Road and visit the Tully Falls Lookout and the Koombooloomba Dam. Along the road, you'll pass by some entrances to the bushwalking tracks, parts of which follow traditional pathways of Aboriginal people.

millstream falls
Millstream Falls. by Matthew Kenwrick via
Millaa Millaa and the Waterfalls
North-east of Ravenshoe is Millaa Millaa, a small township in the south-eastern Atherton Tablelands that got a fair bit of damage from Cyclone Larry in March 2006, despite being so far inland. Milaa Millaa is mostly known for the beautiful waterfalls that surround it – you can drive the Waterfalls Circuit where after visiting Millaa Millaa Falls, Zillie Falls, Ellinjaa Falls, Mungalli Falls, Millstream Falls, Souita Falls and Pepina Falls, even the keenest waterfall fanatics should be satisfied for the day!

Malanda and Bromfield Swamp
North of Millaa Millaa is Malanda – a quiet township known for Malanda Falls, Malanda Dairy Centre and the old Majestic Theatre with its original canvas seats. Bromfield Swamp west of the town has some good birdlife and the visitors centre runs rainforest walking tours. You can stay at Malanda Hotel (the town’s pub), Malanda Falls Caravan Park, or Malanda Lodge Motel.

Malanda. by Peter & Francesca via

Yungaburra and Curtain Fig Tree
North of Malanda is Yungaburra, known for its historical town centre, some good Austrian and Swiss-Italian restaurants, and its once-mounthly Saturday Markets, held on the fourth Saturday every month. It is also known as a good place to spot platypus and tree kangaroos, which is best done along a creek track that starts from the Platypus Viewing Platform. Places to stay include Allumbah Pocket Cottages, Curtain Fig Motel, Eden House Retreat, Kookaburra Lodge, Williams Lodge and Yungaburra Park Motel. Outside the town is the famous Curtain Fig Tree.

Yungaburra. by certified su via

Lake Barrine and Lake Eacham

East of Yungaburra is the Crater Lakes National Park with two beautiful crater lakes – Lake Barrine and Lake Eacham. Both have a rainforest walking track around it, and the one at Lake Barrine goes past two huge 1000-years-old kauri pines. Lake Eacham is quieter while at Lake Barrine there is the Lake Barrine Rainforest Cruise & Tea House that serves meals and runs cruises on the lake. Camping is not allowed around either of the lakes, but you can stay at Lake Eacham Tourist Park or Crater Lakes Rainforest Cottages.

lake eacham
Lake Eacham. by descon7 via

Cathedral Fig Tree
North of the Crater Lakes National Park is Atherton Tablelands' another fig tree – Cathedral Fig Tree. Both are appropriately named - the Curtain Fig Tree looks like a curtain, while the Catherdral Fig Tree has a hollow between the roots, where you can go in, like a in cathedral. Both are very large examples of strangler figs - a parasitic tree that starts growing up on a branch of the host tree, where a bird has dropped its seed. It gets all the nutrients from the host tree and so gradually kills it while it grows bigger and hangs its roots down towards the ground. By the time they reach the ground, the host tree is usually dead and the fig keeps using its trunk to lean on. Now that its roots reach the ground, it can get its own nutrients from the soil.

Lake Tinaroo and Danbulla Forest Drive
The Catherdral Fig Tree is on the Danbulla Forest Drive, which goes around Lake Tinaroo in the north-eastern Atherton Tablelands, which is famous for its freshwater barramundi fishing but also a nice place to camp and relax. After the Cathedral Fig, there are volcanic craters at Mobo Creek and Lake Euramo. Further along the drive are some camping grounds and bushwalking tracks with views before you come to Kauri Creek, Platypus Creek, Tinaroo Falls Dam and finally the township of Tinaroo Falls, where you can stay at Lake Tinaroo Holiday Park or Tinaroo Haven Holiday Lodge. From here, the Gillies Highway goes across the Gillies Range to the east coast, to Gordonvale just south of Cairns.

Here is a map of Atherton Tablelands, where I have tagged the places that I mentioned on this web page. You can click on the tags to see what places they are, and double-click anywhere on the map to zoom it in and see the places closer. Drag the map to move around, and if you want to see the satellite image with Google Earth, click on "Sat" in the top right hand corner.

View Larger Map

Been to Atherton Tablelands?

Been to Atherton Tablelands?

Share your story!!!

We all love to read about other travellers' experiences - good or bad!

Tell us where you went and what you enjoyed. Or if there was anything you didn't enjoy.

Living there? Enjoying it? Why?

You will create YOUR own page on Gondwananet!

Make it nice - you can also submit up to four photos :-)

[ ? ]

Upload 1-4 Pictures or Graphics (optional)[ ? ]


Click here to upload more images (optional)

Author Information (optional)

To receive credit as the author, enter your information below.

(first or full name)

(e.g., City, State, Country)

Submit Your Contribution

  •  submission guidelines.

(You can preview and edit on the next page)

What Other Visitors Have Said

Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page...

Chillagoe is fantastic Not rated yet
It's a small outback community the smelters are very interestng and there is some interesting mining history.

We Loved the Waterfalls Not rated yet
One of the best attractions on the tablelands are all the beautiful waterfalls!!!

Click here to write your own.

You Are Secure!

Bookmark and Share

[?] Subscribe To This Site

follow us in feedly
Add to My Yahoo!
Add to My MSN
Subscribe with Bloglines