Atherton Tabelelands

The Atherton Tablelands, about 90km south west of Cairns, were probably our best-loved destination in 2020. Lush and green and, as they are at a high altitude, they provide Queenslanders in the tropics with a cool destination for steamy summers.

On our way inland from Ingham, we stopped at the Hinchinbrook Lookout which was pretty impressive. Hinchinbrook Island is huge and the waterways snake through the outlets and past the mainland prettily.

Hinchinbrook Island, part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park

Hinchinbrook is the largest island national park in Australia and we noticed some unusual conservation practices in the area, like this over bridge, below, designed to give creatues like koalas a way over the highway and there was an underpass for those unable or unwilling to use the bridge.

overpass/underpass for animals

Our lunch stop was the Tully train station, developed in about 1926 and with all the charm of an old Queenslander.

pineapples, sugar cane, avocados, mangoes and the sugar cane burners

The way from here was winding but so varied that it was very interesting. Banana plantations joined sugar cane and avocadoes are appearing now, with the occasional mango. The Bonadio RV and Nature park (situated on a farm) was well-signed and the hardest part was finding and fitting in to a powered site. It was packed. They’ve set up an area where they feed the wildlife and we saw paddy melon kangaroos (see video below), brush turkeys, birdlife and possums. We went for a walk beside the creek, which is well worn, and enjoyed the cool breeze and platypus sightings. The stone curlews let out their baby-like wails at night.

stone curlews
pademelon

There are so many things to see in Atherton and we packed it in so that we were out each day by 8 and returned about 4. I’ll give a quick photo summary of what we did/saw. Feel free to post any questions.

cathederal fig tree
Mobo Creek Crater Walk
Josephine Falls
roadside cassowary – you have to be on the lookout
curtain fig tree in a mabi forest
Yungaburra
Lake Barrine and bull kauris
Malanda Falls – a good waterhole if it’s hot
Ellinjaa Falls
Zillie Falls
Windy Hill, first wind farm constructed in Queensland
Millstream Falls
Mount Hypipamee Crater
Dinner Falls

The Nerada Tea Company, making Australia’s only tea, has excellent devonshire tea, views of Mt. Bartle Frere (Queensland’s highest mountain) and well-known for easy sightings of tree kangaroos (they’re not everywhere, you know).

There are so many things to see and do and plenty of caravan parks, towns and free/cheap camping, but remember to check if there are conditions such as having your own ensuite, to qualify. The actual town of Atherton is quite large and we were able to get groceries, carparts, camping things, etc., there. We were near Yungaburra, which is a charming town with a supermarket, butcher, cafes, knick-knacks, etc. and many farms sell their goods at the roadside, with an honesty system (you put the money in a tin and they’ll collect it sometime in the day).

It wasn’t until our way out that we stopped at the Mareeba Information Centre and it had good historical displays, cafe and information.

The Mareeba Coffee Works, visited on our return loop, is a must-see and they deliver coffee anywhere in Australia for free. I can’t believe I didn’t take any photos as the place is quirky and delicious.

Undara Lava Tubes are not too far, but we saw them later, too, so you’ll have to wait for my post on that.

We would go to Atherton again, for sure. There were plenty of places we didn’t see or would see again. During late August the days were warm (not quite suitable for shorts) and the nights cold (had the quilt out).

Safe travels! Take hats, water and sunscreen.