The journey from Cairns to Innisfail via the Atherton Tablelands is one of Australia’s loveliest road trips, packing an impressive range of landscapes and sights into a very manageable touring itinerary.
THINGS TO DO
From Cairns, Kuranda is an easy half hour drive up onto the Tablelands. Kuranda is a bustling, alternative town nestled in the rainforest, offering markets, cafes, craft shops and galleries, with a focus on Indigenous arts and craft. The Australian Butterfly Sanctuary will delight the kiddies, and at the right time of year (closer to the wet season) Barron Falls is an impressive sight just a stone’s throw away.
To escape the tropical heat, turn left off the highway onto Davies Creek Road. This windy, dead-end dirt track will take you to a gently cascading creek with the occasional deep pool in between massive granite boulders in which to have a dip.
Mareeba is an agricultural hub with an extensive range of local produce, from macadamias and coffee to mangoes, pineapples and, of course, the ever-present sugarcane. There are countless places to buy these and more along the road, so stock up the camper’s fridge while the going is good.
This charming historic town is the perfect spot to call in to for lunch. The pub is a stunning old Queenslander-style building with a rustic charm and a lush, sprawling beer garden — heritage listed, along with 17 other buildings in the town.
Curtain Fig Tree
One of the area’s main attractions, the Curtain Fig Tree is more than 800 years old. A 50m board walk from the car park delivers you to a clearing in the rainforest, where perhaps the most magical tree you’ll ever see occupies a privileged space in the sky, bedecked lovingly in moss and staghorn ferns.
Lake Barrine is almost perfectly round, stretching 1km in diameter and 65m deep on average. Verdant tropical rainforest overhangs its shoreline, and the water is stunningly clear — perfect for a swim. You can also grab a coffee at the teahouse - which also offers meals and runs boat tours of the lake – or walk one or both of the two rainforest loops.
This tiny little town in the southern region of the Tablelands is the gateway to some of its most stunning falls, including Millaa Millaa Falls.
Fed by the Barron River, Lake Tinaroo is a man-made reservoir of some 407,000 mega litres — two thirds the size of Sydney Harbour. With over 200km of shoreline, the lake serves as a playground for water sports enthusiasts and is home to some of the country’s largest barramundi.
Lake Tinaroo Holiday Park sits just across the road from Lake Tinaroo. It offers a range of accommodation from unpowered camp sites, powered grassed sites, powered sites with concrete slab, family units and villas, waterview villas, and more. There is also a camp kitchen with gas BBQ’s, and hire of kayaks, canoes and boats is available.
Check out the full feature in issue #86 March 2015 of Camper Trailer Australia magazine.