The Tablelands

The Tablelands – Part 1 : Ravenshoe to Mareeba

The Tablelands


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.


The Tablelands


Millstream Falls

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 Tablelands


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.


The Tablelands



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 Crystal Caves


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.


The Tablelands


Tinaroo Lake

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.


The Tablelands


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.


The Tablelands


Coffee Works

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…


Coffee Works


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.


Mt Uncle Distillery


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.


The Tablelands


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

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


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.


The Tablelands


Stay tuned for The Tablelands – Part 2, which will include Kuranda, Yungaburra, Malanda and Millaa Millaa.


The Crystal Caves

Experience : The Crystal Caves, Atherton

The Crystal Caves


We have never seen anything like it.


Imagine that you are a miner or a fossicker and you have just stumbled across a cave filled with treasures so numerous and valuable, that it’s as if you have fallen into a fantastical dream.  As you travel through this whimsical cave, you are surrounded by sparkling shapes and iridescent colours, long lost treasures and objects of unspeakable beauty.  Well, you don’t need to imagine any longer because this wonderland has been created for you by one man – dreamer and visionary, René Boissevain.


René began collecting after a stint in Queensland, when he found a beautiful agate boulder while fossicking at Agate Creek in 1963.  This spurred him to travel the world and find more extraordinary specimens and by 1969, he had established a museum in Holland called De Oude Aarde, meaning The Old Earth.


A few years later, he and his wife migrated to Australia, and after a lot of hard work and using only René’s imagination as blueprints, The Crystal Caves opened in 1986.  René believed that it was the very best way to display his amazing collection of crystals. Eventually, as René’s collection grew, the Crystal Caves grew, and it is still growing today.


The Crystal Caves

Safety first! Before entering the cave, equip yourself with a hardhat and head-torch – you’re gonna need it!  The self-guided tour takes you through many dimly lit caverns and grottos with low hanging stalactites and archways, all encrusted with crystals from all over the world.


The Crystal Caves


It’s ok, you’re allowed to touch.  Run your fingers over the reticulated crystals, or try to pick up a piece of Galena.  The Crystal Caves is not only an intriguing fantasy but also an interactive adventure!  Traverse the Winding Walkway, stroll through the Fossil Gallery and marvel at the glowing rocks in the Magic Temple.  Gaze in awe at the enormous Empress of Uruguay, the largest amethyst geode in the world.  The beauty is 130 million years old, 3.27m tall and weighs 2.5 tonnes.  If you think that’s heavy, the nearby Crystal Fountain is made from over 4 tonnes of rose quartz, the ‘stone of love’.


The Crystal Caves


Learn stuff!  This might not be the primary reason why you’d visit the Crystal Caves but you will certainly walk away with more knowledge than you had before.  As you travel through the caves, you will come across over 600 specimens of gemstones, rock formations and fossils as well as their origins and even how they were formed.  For example, the very cool pyrite cubes are of higher quality when their edges are closer to a right angle, while the beautiful sculpture carved of lapis lazuli is from the Chinese Qing dynasty of 1644-1912.


The Crystal Caves


The Fascnating Facets

Once you’re done exploring the caves, check out the incredible gallery, rock shop and jewellery that is Fascinating Facets.  Browse through beautiful necklaces, rings and bracelets, various gemstones and more.


The Crystal Caves


Crack A Geode

While you’re at Crystal Caves, why not crack your own geode!  The word geode meads ‘of the earth’ and describes a hollow rock full of crystals.


Large geodes, like the Empress of Uruguay, are inspected before they are dug out of the ground.  A small hole is drilled into the geode and a tiny camera is inserted to see whether the geode is worth excavating.  This process also helps to determine the best way to cut the geode.


Amethyst geodes, like the Empress of Uruguay, are formed in volcanic rock inside the bubbles that were trapped in cooling lava.  Over millions of years, water that is saturated with minerals seeps in and reacts with chemicals within the pocket of air.  A combination of minerals, pressure, water and time results in the beautiful crystals that are found within geodes.  Amethyst geodes get their gorgeous purple colour from manganese and iron.


The Crystal Caves


The Essentials

The Crystal Caves is located at 69 Main Street, Atherton and is open 7 days a week – except for good Friday, Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Years Day.  Fascinating Facets is the adjacent gallery, rock shop and jeweller where you can purchase a variety of collectables from semi-precious stones, fossil specimens and beautiful jewellery.


For more information, contact the Crystal Cave on 07 4091 2365 or check out their website at


The Crystal Caves