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Behind the fame of The Great Barrier Reef and The Daintree Rainforest is arguably the most spectacular destination of them all - The Atherton Tablelands.
With enough activities and attractions to last you a lifetime, it's hard to know where to begin when planning a trip out to this beautiful region. So to make it slightly easier on you, we've listed our favourite things to do in the Tablelands (in no particular order)!
Formed by massive volcanic explosions, these crater lakes are extremely deep and calm due to their enclosed locations. Whilst both lakes are wonderful, if you're planning on swimming, we'd recommend Lake Eacham, as it has more facilities for those taking a plunge! Lake Barrine has a beautiful 5km walking circuit, where you'll see amazing bushland, wildlife and the Twin Kauris (both pines are over 45m tall). Keep your eyes peeled at both lakes for the infamously hard-to-spot, Lumholtz's Tree-kangaroo, as they are more commonly spotted around this area than anywhere else in the region. The Lake Barrine Teahouse is the perfect place for a rest after the long walk, or to simply relax for the day overlooking the tranquil lake - with some incredible scones and Devonshire Tea.
Located just a short drive out of the Yungaburra Town Centre, you'll find the 500-year-old Curtain Fig Tree! The unique strangler fig boasts aerial roots that drop 15m to the forest floor, creating a natural curtain - hence the name. There's a small boardwalk around the bases perfect for viewing the tree, which is wheelchair accessible.
Stock up on fresh produce at the monthly Yunaburra Markets. Enjoy the incredible flavours, quality and artistry of over 250 local growers and artisans! The markets start at 7.30am and finish up at 12.30pm, on the last Saturday of each month (3rd Sunday in December).
On the edge of Lake Tinaroo, on Tinaburra Drive, you'll find the Afghanistan Avenue of Honour. A beautiful living memorial that is dedicated to remembering those that served in Afghanistan and made the ultimate sacrifice in defence of freedom and liberty.
This big lake has a bit of everything! For those that want a relaxing afternoon, you can chill out with a picnic, cool off with a swim or go for a leisurely walk along the jetty to see the dam spillway. Alternatively, if you're seeking some excitement, there's sailing, jet-skiing, fishing (permit required) and skiing available as well! A day out at Lake Tinaroo is the perfect way to take a step back and catch your breath in between all your Tropical North Queensland exploring!
There are plenty of animals to see in the Tablelands region, with rock wallabies, northern bettongs, platypuses, bandicoots, sugar gliders, cassowaries, tree kangaroos and more, all frequenting certain areas. If you're strapped for time and want to see some of these Aussie critters, there are a few most-do facilities and tours where you are guaranteed to interact or learn about these animals:
If you have a bit more time to spend in the Tablelands, there are plenty of great places where you have the best chance of spotting these animals in the wild:
For more information on the area's wildlife and where you have the best chance of spotting specific animals, check out the Atherton Tablelands Website.
Packed with some of the best waterfalls in Queensland, you'll be spoilt for choice in the Atherton Tablelands!
Made up of three incredibly beautiful cascading waterfalls, Millaa Millaa Falls, Ellinjaa Falls and Zillie Falls. These waterfalls are regarded as the most photographed in Queensland, which speaks volumes about their beauty! Hopping between all three makes for the perfect day out. Cool off with a nice swim at Ellinjaa or Millaa Millaa. Plus, the circuit will provide a good chance at seeing some incredible Australian wildlife, from platypuses to flying foxes.
THE must-see waterfall in the region. The falls are often alive with chaos as a huge cloud of mist fills the air accompanied by a thunderous sound as the water crashes on the rocks below. We highly recommend taking the 1.2km lookout trail to get the best view of the falls and surrounding canopies. Wheelchair access is available to the lookout.
Arguably one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the whole FNQ region. Douglas Creek forms into a narrow and uninterrupted 50m drop via a basalt parapet, making for an amazing spectacle. The round trip to and from the falls will take around 2-3 hours depending on what route you take. However, it's well worth the journey, as even the walk is spectacular, with smaller falls and incredible scenery in abundance. Nandroya Falls is a great spot to cool down with a swim as well, with a great little sandbank on the left of the waterfall, which is perfect for pictures.
Experience the full beauty of the region, with one of the many hiking or walking trails. They will give you more unique and expansive views of the incredible landscapes of the Atherton Tablelands. If you aren't the most experienced hiker, don't worry as there's a trail for everyone! Check out our top pick for each level of experience below:
The perfect track for all skill levels with views that match the best trails in the region. It'll give you a unique perspective, walking amongst the treetops with incredible views of World Heritage Rainforests below. The Skywalk is wheelchair-accessible, stroller friendly and contains audible and braille signage.
Hike to the top of the falls for the best sunset lookout and to see a natural infinity pool like no other. The trail itself has a round trip of 11km, taking around 2.5 - 3 hours and is considered a moderate difficulty. Be careful at the top of the climb as the rocks surrounding the creek and falls are quite slippery.
One of the best hikes in Queensland, providing vast views of the whole Tablelands region. Whilst the trail does result in a picturesque finish, it is quite a challenge and suitable for more experienced hikers. The round trip can take anywhere between 4 - 6 hours, depending on your fitness level and how much you stop to admire the scenery!
The historical village of Herberton is the perfect day trip for a family exploring the Tablelands regions. The town's founder, Harry Skennar, has preserved a little corner of history through the collection of vehicles, houses, equipment, knick-knacks and more, which reflect everyday life in North Queensland as it was from the 1880s onward.
The tin mining town has shops, a pub, a garage and more, with a total of 50 restored buildings. Spend the day appreciating genuine antiques, collectables, machinery and vehicles from the past. Check out the activity timetable to see what's on each day!
Important Herberton visitor information:
10am - 4pm | 11th October to 24th December
9am - 5pm | 1st April to 10th October & 26th December to 26th January (current)
The best way to get to Kuranda from Cairns is via the Scenic Railway. This 2-hour journey will take you along dense rainforests, steep ravines and the unforgettable Barron Falls! The train departs from the Cairns Railway Station (a 15-minute walk from Pacific Hotel Cairns) at 8.30am and 9.30am daily. The Kuranda Scenic Railway also offers two return journeys, departing at 2.00pm and 3.30pm.
Each train service has a carriage with accessible facilities. As this is a heritage-style service the platform heights at different stations on the journey differ along with varying accessible station facilities. Please note, the Barron Falls stop is only accessible via stairs.
The market in the rainforest has been established for over 30 years, to become a must-visit destination. With fresh local produce like seasonal tropical fruits, spices, handmade sauces/jams along with wonderful crafts, jewellery, art and so much more! It's the perfect place to have a leisurely stroll and refuel with a delicious meal or a coffee.
Return to Cairns with a sky-high journey on the famous Kuranda Skyrail. The cableway takes you on a 7.5km (1.5 hours) scenic, birds-eye route from Kuranda to The Smithfield Terminal. The gondola offers a unique opportunity to glide above ancient rainforests and the Barron Gorge.
All images supplied by Tourism Tropical North Queensland
Located on the Esplanade, just 2 minutes on foot from the Reef Fleet Terminal and a short walk from the Kuranda Scenic Railway, you'll have the perfect balance of luxury and location at Pacific Hotel Cairns!
Plus, on your doorstep is Cairns' world-famous Brazilian Churrasco Restaurant - Bushfire Flame Grill.
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