Atherton Tablelands Visitor Information
The Atherton Tablelands is situated 1-2 hours from Cairns and is a combination of lush wet tropical rainforests, sweeping Savannah Lands and vast outback desert.
The area encompasses more than 20,000 sq. km of stunning natural beauty with an altitude ranging from 600m to 1100m where the air is cool and fresh. The Atherton Tablelands really is Australian countryside at its very best.
The World Heritage-listed rainforest situated amongst the Atherton Tablelands is home to an abundance of unique flora and fauna, picturesque rivers, lakes and waterfalls.
The Atherton Tablelands is included in the 1988 World Heritage Listing because of its natural beauty and fragile ecosystem.
Atherton Tablelands Overview
This incredible symphony of plants and animals makes the Atherton Tablelands prime territory for bird watching and ecological activities. The diversity of plant form throughout the Atherton Tablelands is very noticeable — the ecosystem can change from rainforest to dry scrub in the space of a few kilometres.
The Atherton Tablelands is an excellent place for wildlife lovers. View kangaroos, wallabies and platypuses during the day and fall asleep to the enchanting sounds of bandicoots, possums, sugar gliders, frogs and insects by night. The Tablelands are home to:
- 18% of Australian bird species
- 62% of Australian butterfly species
- 30% of Australian frog species
- 23% of Australian reptile species
- 39% of Australian marsupial species
- 60% of Australian bat species
- 25% of Australian plant genera
- 65% of Australian fern species
The Tablelands are one of Australia’s most thriving agricultural areas; the farming and grazing lands of the region are often called "the fruit bowl" of far North Queensland — yielding a constant supply of fruit, vegetables and grains that will tantalise your taste buds!
Whether you are an avid hiker, mountain biker, nature lover or just looking for a place to escape the hustle and bustle of life, the Atherton Tablelands has something for everyone. Explore one of the many beautiful hikes such as the Tinaroo Dam Hike, Lake Eacham Walk, Lake Barrine Walk and Kauri Creek Walk. Take a dip in Lake Barrine or Lake Eacham, two pristine volcanic crater lakes situated on the Tablelands. If water sports are your thing, take a water-ski lesson or rent a houseboat or tinny on Lake Tinaroo. View the spectacular valleys and hills on a hot air balloon or helicopter. Go on a waterfall drive and view some of the world’s most fascinating waterfalls. Check out local artisans, temples and markets and enjoy some of the exotic flavors that are unique to this region. The Tablelands is the ideal destination for relaxation, renewal and escape. You are sure to fall in love with this captivating area.
Atherton and Tolga
Atherton is a medium size town surrounded by lush green valleys and beautiful rolling hills. It was the first town to be settled in the area which is why the region is called ‘The Atherton Tablelands.’ The town of Atherton has been built on top of Hallorans Hill, an extinct volcano. See the Seven Sisters, the remnants of smaller extinct volcanoes that adds to the unique splendor of the region. In Atherton you will find picnic areas and playgrounds with barbecues — a perfect way to spend the day with the family. Visitors can experience the rare Mabi forest and take walks through the ancient volcanic craters of the region. Atherton boasts plenty of art and culture for such a small town. Explore Atherton’s Chinese heritage in Chinatown and be amazed at the local art and dramatic landscapes of the town.
Tolga is a fantastic place to visit if you are looking to see some endemic Australian wildlife including the Tree Kangaroo, the Red Legged Pademelon, the Coppery Brushtailed Possum — unique to the tablelands — the Green Possum and the Flying Fox. The Rocky Creek Memorial Park is situated just outside Tolga and was home of several army divisions between 1942 and 1945. Tolga is not a rampant tourist destination, it is a small quiet town home to many farmers and retirees. Tolga possesses a distinct charm that makes it a lovely place to visit.
Visiting Yunaburra is like stepping back in time. This elegant little village is exploding with character and charm. It has a relaxed and slow-paced atmosphere and is a beautiful spot to relax for the weekend, with plenty of boutique gift shops, tantalising restaurants and natural beauty to explore. Every 4th Saturday of the month the Yungaburra markets are held and showcase some of the regions best artists and musicians. View the famous Curtain Fig Tree, or have a swim in a magnificent crater lake; all at your doorstep at the beautiful Yungabarra.
Lake Tinaroo is situated just 15 minutes from Atherton and was created back in the 1950s by damming the Barron River. Lake Tinaroo now serves as a water supply for the agricultural industry on the Tablelands but is also a mecca for wilderness, water sports and wildlife. With 200km of coastline, Lake Tinaroo is a wonderful playground for waterskiing, wakeboarding, sailing, fishing, camping and house boating. The Danbulla Forest surrounds Lake Tinaroo and is home to many secluded coves, beaches and bays. The rainforest covers over 8000 hectares and stretches from the tops of the hills, right down to the lake shore.
Malanda and Millaa Millaa
If you are looking for a peaceful spot to get away from it all, Malanda and Millaa Millaa are the perfect spots for relaxation. Malanda is situated in the wettest area of the Tablelands so the scenery is marked with pockets of rainforest and rolling hills covered with lush green grass. Malanda is famous for its agricultural industry, with nearly 200 local dairy farmers. Other agricultural activities in the area include beef cattle, deer, pigs, poultry, redclaw crayfish, avocados, flowers, timber, macadamia nuts and tea. Wildlife is also abundant in Malanda with birds, tree kangaroos, platypus, echidnas, cassowary, bandicoots and possums all inhabiting the area. While in Malanda be sure to check out Australia’s oldest operating picture theatre called ‘The Majestic’.
Millaa Millaa, the town named after the aboriginal word for ‘plenty water’, is situated just past Malanda and is a great place to base yourself to explore the infamous waterfall circuit. You may recognise some of the stunning waterfalls as many of them have been featured in advertisements around the world because of their unique beauty. Millaa Millaa Falls, Zillie Falls, Mungalli Falls and Ellinjaa Falls as well as many others are featured on this beautiful 17 km long scenic drive.
Mareeba is situated one hour’s drive west of Cairns and is one of Queensland's largest shires, a fascinating melting pot of pristine rainforests, coastal ranges and rich fertile plains. Mareeba is rich with multicultural heritage and diverse agriculture. From mango farms to coffee plantations, this small town has a unique assortment of exotic fruits, nuts, wines and treats — a food lover’s paradise. Mareeba is situated 60 kilometers from Cairns and boasts 300 sunny days a year — a trip to Mareeba is a great way to escape the heat and humidity from the city and experience clean arid air, low humidity and cooler temperatures. View the area via hot air balloon or helicopter to really soak in the vast beauty of this unique region.
Chillagoe is a great was to get a taste of the outback. It is 140 kilometers west of Mareeba and is famous for its limestone caves with approximately 600 caves in the Chillagoe region. The Chillagoe Caves are the remains of coral that once lived in the sea that covered this inland area about 450 million years ago. Volcanic activity later heated the limestone, turning it to marble which is hard and more resistant to weathering than pure limestone. Mildly acid water dissolved the limestone into calcium bicarbonate, signaling the formation of the Chillagoe caves. Chillagoe is also a great fishing destination where you can go on a day trip to the Walsh River and catch barramundi. Another must-see while in Chillagoe is the historic copper smelter ruins.
- Regular flights are available from all Australian capital cities to Cairns with Qantas, Virgin Blue or Jetstar. International services to Cairns are available with Qantas, Jetstar International, JAL, Cathay Pacific and Air New Zealand.
To Cairns Tablelands via Kuranda:
- Just north of Cairns the Kuranda Range Road climbs the coastal range to the cultural rainforest village of Kuranda. From there, continue on the highway 65 kilometres to Mareeba.
To Cairns Tablelands via The Gillies Range:
- Travelling to the Tablelands from Cairns, you will start your gradual climb through the Gillies Range at Gordonvale, 35 kilometres south of Cairns. Over the next 30 kilometres you will climb between 600-1000 metres to the Atherton arriving at Yungaburra.
In summer, temperatures rarely exceed 30 degrees Celsius during the day, and drop to 19-20 degrees at night. During winter, the daytime temperature is about 22 degrees in most areas and the nights are around 11 degrees. This is a climate that allows for comfortable daytime activities and refreshing nights. The average rainfall in the area is 1400mm.
Imagine the peaceful humming of insects, frogs croaking and the distant sound of trickling water from a distant creek. The rainforest truly comes alive at night, and there is nothing more enjoyable than falling asleep to the transpiring hum of the forest.
The accommodation on Atherton Tablelands ranges from rustic style cabins, quaint B&Bs to beautiful tree houses set on top of the rainforest canopy. Wherever you choose to stay, a pleasant experience awaits you.
Eden House Restaurant and Garden Cottages in the small town of Yungaburra is a fabulous spot for a quiet weekend away. The beautiful property is a historical homestead built in 1912 and offers exquisite dining, functions facilities and is an ideal spot for wedding receptions. Mt Quincan Crater Retreat is situated on the slope of a massive volcanic crater. This 5 star accommodation has romantic wood fireplaces as well as spacious two person spas. It is ideal for couples and honeymooners. Mt Quincan resort is sure to sweep you off your feet. Lavender Hill Bed and Breakfast overlooks the magnificent Lake Tinaroo; the bed and breakfast is situated in a perfect location to explore the Tablelands and is suited for families, couples and singles alike.
Dining And Entertainment
Located in the town of Yungabarra. Nick’s Swiss restaurant is an alpine chalet-style restaurant that makes you feel as if you’ve taken a trip to the Swiss Alps for dinner! Attention to detail is paramount and live nightly accordion, piano and yodeling keeps everyone entertained.
Eden House Restaurant
Recommended for the gourmet traveller, this restaurant makes delicious contemporary cuisine. Situated in a heritage-listed homestead and surrounded by beautiful gardens, it is an ideal location for a wedding.
Lake Barrine Tea House Restaurant
This quaint tea house is situated right on the water and has a huge patio overlooking the beautiful crater, Lake Barrine, and World Heritage-listed rainforest. Enjoy a Devonshire Tea before you take a cruise on this beautiful lake.
Pensini’s Café Restaurant
A delightful family-run restaurant with an extensive menu, overlooking the dam wall at Lake Tinaroo. An ideal spot for lunch while visiting Lake Tinaroo.
The Australian Coffee Centre
Taste, tour and take home Australia’s finest coffee. Located just outside Mareeba, the Australian Coffee Centre is the place to visit for coffee drinkers and non coffee drinkers alike. Enjoy a sandwich on their balcony that overlooks spectacular views of their coffee plantation and the Atherton Tablelands. Also a great place for events and weddings.