We were absolutely thrilled when we hit the Tablelands. The contrast in scenery from the dry, dusty outback to moist, green rolling hills was refreshing to our eyes, but also sparked nostalgia for the Victorian countryside. Known as the ‘food bowl of the tropics’, the Tablelands has the perfect environment for dairy farming and growing crops like tropical fruit and coffee, so the gourmet food and wine trails are fantastic. The natural beauty of the region is also undeniable and includes waterfall circuits, stunning rainforests, craters, lakes and unique wildlife.
The Tablelands was immediately put on our list of favourite places in Australia, and as we planned our travels, we were happy to realise that we’d be passing through the region twice! This is our first instalment of the Tablelands, starting from Ravenshoe, and following the road north through Atherton and Mareeba. Our next instalment will include Kuranda, Yungaburra, Malanda and Milla Milla – stay tuned.
It was too early in the morning for us to go exploring Ravenshoe, but we were still stoked about being in the highest town in Queensland. This cute, little town sits at an altitude of 920m above sea level and is surrounded by World Heritage listed rainforest. On our way out, we passed the highest pub in Queensland, and lamented that it was too early in the day for a bevy.
This was our first stop from the west, and as we walked down the winding path to the falls, we sucked in the delicious forest air. Millstream Falls is the widest single drop waterfall in the world.
Mount Hypipamee National Park
On the way to Atherton, we stopped in at Mount Hypipamee National Park to check out the crater of the same name, and Dinner Falls. We were surrounded by lush foliage, bush turkeys scratching around in the undergrowth and the soothing scents of the forest.
The Mount Hypipamee Crater was very deep, with a manky, green pool at the bottom. This crater is actually a diatreme, which is a volcanic pipe that was created by a gaseous explosion. Dinner Falls was also a treat to see, and once we got back to the Troopy, it was time for breakfast.
Atherton is a great little town that was named after a bloke called John Atherton, who settled in the area in the 1870s. It’s the ‘capital’ of the Tablelands and the population sits at around 7000 people. There are two major supermarkets, a few parks that are perfect for picnics, and a central visitor information centre staffed by helpful locals. There are also several attractions in and around town that are definitely worth checking out.
The Crystal Caves and Fascinating Facets
An award-winning tourist attraction and we could see why. The Crystal Caves are a fantasy wonderland located right on the main street of Atherton and would make any fossil fanatic or gemstone buff squeal with delight. Fascinating Facets is almost like a museum on its own with a fabulous display of fossils, gemstones and jewellery, and you just have to try the chocolate – YUM!
The Peanut Place
Queensland produces 95% of Australia’s peanuts, and considering that it’s the main ingredient n peanut butter, one of Juz’s favourite things, we had to check out the Peanut Place.
Despite the suspiciously shaped mascot standing at the front of the store, which also happens to be the Big Peanut, we found their variety of peanut products to be very impressive – sweet nuts, savoury nuts, nut butter, nut ice cream, boiled nuts, roasted, salted, the list goes on. They were featured on the front cover of the local newspaper for their delicious chocolate peanut butter spread, and we also sampled the peanut ice cream. As you can imagine, nearly everything they sell has peanuts in them so anaphylactics can wait in the car.
This man-made dam is a great place for a family picnic. There are picnic benches, shady trees, BBQs and a big playground, and you can even hire a boat for a paddle on the lake.
Another cute town in the Tablelands, they say that Mareeba is where the rainforest meets the outback. The area is occupied by a variety of crops, such as mangoes, sugarcane, avocadoes, exotic fruits, as well as coffee plantations. There is also a fantastic Heritage Museum at the Visitor Centre that sheds light on the local tobacco and mining industries, aboriginal culture and pioneer history, with lots of historical memorabilia on display. Entry is by gold coin donation – and it’s well worth it.
Our day was to include a visit to Coffee Works, Mount Uncle Distillery and de Brueys Wines so we prepared for the day by visiting Curcio’s Drive-Thru Bakery to break the fast with chunky curry pies, and bacon–infused sausage rolls at very reasonable prices.
You could easily spend the whole day at Coffee Works. While there is a colourful gift shop and café onsite, entry to Coffee World will take you on the ultimate coffee-lovers adventure. Not only will you have unlimited access to their variety of coffees, teas, chocolate and liqueurs, but you will discover things about coffee that you never dreamed of in the museum. Their collection of coffee paraphernalia is biggest in the world, with many being either one of a kind, or the last one remaining in the world. Amazing…
Mount Uncle’s Distillery
For those why love a bit of spirit, you can’t go past Mount Uncle’s Distillery. Their vodka is pristine, their gin is sublime, and regardless of whether you’re a rum gulper or a whiskey sipper, you’ll enjoy the Iridium Gold Rum.
De Brueys Boutique Wines
Usually, wine and grapes go hand in hand but not at De Brueys. Their wines, ports and liqueurs don’t contain grapes; instead they’re made from exotic fruits like mango, lychee and bush cherry. They even have a wine made from jaboticaba, a cauliflora fruit from Brazil. If you like Irish Cream, then you’ll love their Temptation Range. While we really enjoyed Envy with its delicious honeydew melon flavour, the Coffee Temptation was our clear winner and we left with a bottle.
As we made our way to camp, the sun was setting over the distant hills, and we drove past the Mareeba Wetlands just in time for the sky to burst with the colours of mangoes and bananas.
Information & Accommodation
The Atherton Information Centre is located on the corner of Main & Silo Rd Atherton. They are open daily from 9am to 5pm. For more information, visit www.athertoninformationcentre.com.au
The Mareeba Heritage Museum & Tourist Information Centre is open daily from 8am to 4pm and is at 345 Byrnes Street, Mareeba. To find out more, visit www.mareebaheritagecentre.com.au
Rifle Creek Rest Area
Just south of Mount Molloy is a spacious rest area. Cold showers and toilets are provided, a small donation for the convenience is appreciated.
Rocky Creek Memorial Park
A few clicks north of Tolga, this war memorial park is right next door to a rest area that can get rather busy during peak season. Phone reception and clean toilets are on offer, as well as the opportunity to give a small donation for the convenience.
Stay tuned for The Tablelands – Part 2, which will include Kuranda, Yungaburra, Malanda and Millaa Millaa.