The Atherton Tableland is part of the Great Dividing Range in Queensland, Australia. It is located west to south-southwest inland from Cairns.
Despite being in the tropical latitudes, its elevation provides the tablelands with a more temperate climate.
The tableland sits at an elevation of between 500 and 1,280 metres, well above the surrounding land.
The Atherton Tableland encompasses a number of towns, including Atherton and Mareeba, which are the largest, as well as Herberton, Kairi, Kuranda, Malanda, Millaa Millaa, Tinaroo, Tolga, Yungaburra, Walkamin, and Ravenshoe. The area also contains a few remnants of the old rainforest that used to cover the area.
Most of these areas are protected National Park land that is very well maintained and available for the public to enjoy.
The area is also listed as one of Australia’s Important Bird Areas, with over 1% of the world population of the sarus crane and a significant population of the bush stone-curlew living in the area.
Atherton Tableland: What to Do
In addition to the lush greenery and fascinating bird life, the Atherton Tablelands are also home to a number of other attractions, including its waterfalls, which will be discussed at length later, fantastic bushwalks, coffee plantations, tropical fruit farms, interesting rural history, beautiful National Parks, World Heritage listed rainforests, and a variety of other Australia wildlife.
Visitors can enjoy a platypus viewing platform at Peterson Creek at Yungaburra. Granite Gorge is also home to a large number of rock wallabies.
However, even if you are just enjoying a nice hike through the forest, you are likely to see a wild kangaroo or a harmless python or any of a variety of creatures.
Fishers will enjoy a visit to Lake Tinaroo, which is a true fisherman’s paradise. The lake is home to some of the world’s largest barramundi.
In fact, the lakes within the Atherton Tableland are some of its most beautiful attractions.
There are the twin volcanic crater lakes, Barrine and Eacham, which are stunning sights, fringed by lush, dense rainforest.
Lake Barrine is home to a quaint 80 year old teahouse right by the lake that is the perfect place to relax, enjoy the weather, and take in the beautiful lake after a day out touring the lake.
Lake Eacham has a large grassy lawn that runs up to the water.
The area is completed with BBQs, picnic facilities, and toilets, making it a fantastic place to spend an afternoon enjoying the weather and the calm waters of the lake.
In addition to these two lakes, there are also the Atherton Tablelands hydro dam lakes, Lake Tinaroo and Lake Koombooloomba.
Lake Tinaroo is at a high elevation and is a popular place for visitors looking to escape the higher humidity in the rest of the region.
Both of these lakes offer great fishing and are ideal camping destinations.
Of course, if you want to take a break from enjoying the wonderful natural attractions the Atherton Tableland has to offer, there are also a variety of culinary attractions on offer.
Visitors in October will get the chance to enjoy the Taste of the Tableland festival, which showcases the region’s best wines, coffees, cheeses, chocolates, and other local fare.
Year round, visitors can embark on five different Taste Paradise food trails, all of which are documented on an Atherton Tablelands app.
Coffee or tea adventures are some of the most popular at Atherton Tableland as all the components of a perfect cup of coffee or tea (coffee, tea, milk, and sugar) are grown in the tablelands!
Skybury, is Australia’s oldest coffee plantation and it has a dedicated visitor centre with tours and a gourmet café with amazing views.
However, the tablelands is more than just coffee.
Mungali Creek produces wonderful cheeses, yoghurts, ice cream, and milk and visitors can get award-winning liqueurs, fruit wines, and spirits at Golden Drop Mango Winery, De Brueys Boutique Wines, and Mt. Uncle Distillery.
If you want something fresher, the area is known for amazing fresh produce as well which is available throughout the tablelands.
Atherton Tableland – Waterfalls
One of the primary attractions, and arguably the most beautiful, in the Atherton Tablelands are the waterfalls.
While there are many waterfalls in the region, the Waterfall Circuit is a great way to see three of these wonderful waterfalls in close proximity to each other.
The circuit takes about an hour to complete and incudes Millaa Millaa Falls, Zillie Falls, and the Ellinjaa Falls.
The Millaa Millaa Falls is the first stop on the circuit. It is also the most scenic of the circuit, if not the tablelands.
This waterfall is one of the most photographed areas in the Wet Tropics, so it is a great place for photographers, both professional and amateur.
You can view the falls from the car park, but you can also get right up close to the falls via a short walking track through the brush.
This is also a popular swimming spot for locals and visitors alike. Zillie Falls is about 7.5 kilometres from Millaa Millaa Falls.
The best vantage point to take in this waterfall is from below. This area is accessed via a walking track.
There is a tree in the car park at Zillie Falls which is home to the flying foxes, that can almost always been seen.
A further 3 kilometres from Zillie Falls is Ellinjaa Falls, yet another picturesque and popular waterfall.
Ellinjaa Falls cascades over a series of lava columns.
The falls can be viewed from a viewing platform located at the beginning of the walk, which is an excellent sport for photos, or from the base of the falls at the end of the walking trail.
If you want to extend the circuit, you can also include Pepina and Mungalli Falls.
Pepina Falls is 10 kilometres from Millaa Milla Falls. Mungalli Falls is around 13 kilometres from Millaa Millaa Falls and is the highest natural waterfall in the tablelands at 90 metres high.
The southern portion of the tablelands is also home to Australia’s widest waterfall, Millstream Falls, which is located only five kilometres from Ravenshoe.
The northern portion of the tablelands also has some noteworthy waterfalls, including the series of pools and waterfalls at Davies Creek National Park.
While these aren’t the largest waterfalls in the area, the park and its water features make a very beautiful setting.
The north is also home to Barron Falls, which is regarded as one of the region’s premier waterfalls and a must see for visitors to the tablelands.
Located on the Barron River, Barron Falls is a steep, tiered cascade waterfall that is truly spectacular during the wet season.
The waterfall is much less impressive in the dry season.
Where to Stay – Atherton Tableland
The Atherton Tablelands have every sort of accommodation to suit any taste and budget.
High end Eco-lodge: The lodge offers options such as world-class views, facilities such as spa baths, restaurants,breakfasts, gourmet baskets of using local produces and optional tours such as bird watching and lava tubes.
Motel offers a self-catering holiday which may best suit family holiday, and those who planning a longer visit. Chose from self contained apartments with laundry facilities and pools, to budget options in classic traditional pubs in and around the village centres.
Holiday parks always welcoming any type of travel group, including recreational vehicles, caravans and campers and many offer the luxury of on-site accommodation units and villas.
Students and backpackers can accommodate from lodges, backpackers and homestay options.
With everything from family rooms with en suites to dorm type accommodation, cooking facilities, tour bookings, and WIF access.
How to Get There
If travelling by air, the closest airport to the tablelands is in Cairns. From there, the tablelands can be reached by car.
The tablelands are easily accessible by road and the roads are generally well maintained.