The Atherton Tableland is just one hour’s drive from Port Douglas and a great day outing either self-drive or take one of the many tours on offer.
The tour desk at Nimrod Resort Apartments can make all the arrangements for you but seems a million miles away from its coastal cousin. It’s a different world with cooler temperatures and country-style hospitality.
Sitting atop a plateau which rises up to 1,000 metres above sea level, the farm and grazing lands of the Tableland is the ‘food bowl’ of the north western tropics.
For a taste of local produce, or a treat to take home, the Big Peanut at Tolga sells peanuts in all flavours, fresh fruit and veg and aromatic local coffee. Sample honey from the on-site hives at Atherton Honey or the farm-fresh strawberries now in season from Lake Eacham Strawberries.
From the Atherton township, toss a coin and follow any of the scenic circuit drives which criss-cross the Tableland. First things first though – at the southern edge of town you’ll find one of Atherton’s major attractions, the Platypus Park. Here you’ll find a rare opportunity to catch a glimpse of a wild platypus.
A short drive from Atherton, the Hastie Swamp National Park has been upgraded so visitors can study birds at close quarters without disturbing them. You can sit high in the bird hide and watch or take a self-guided walk around the swamp.
There is Yungaburra with more than 30 heritage listed buildings, as well as cafes, arts and crafts shops, bars and restaurants. The Yungaburra produce and craft markets are held on the fourth Saturday each month. Nearby are the deep blue waters of twin extinct volcanic crater lakes, Lake Barrine and Lake Eacham. Take a leisurely old-time cruise on Lake Barrine and don’t miss the local Devonshire tea at the lakeside café.
Put the famous Curtain Fig Tree on the must-see list, it’s just minutes from Yungaburra. Standing 50m tall and spreading to 39m wide at the base, the tree is more than 800 years old.
Make sure you get up early and head to the Mareeba Wetlands, a 2,000ha protected area teeming with bird life, including North Australia’s exotic Jabiru and Brolga. Wander the wetland’s boardwalks which offer fantastic viewing, or take a tour in a dinghy with a ranger. Don’t forget to stop off at the Coffee Works in Mareeba for coffee tasting and to take home some local Tableland coffee.
Further south you’ll find one of the real treats of the Tablelands: the Waterfall Circuit. Based around the tiny town of Milla Milla, which dates back to 1908, the circuit covers a 16km scenic drive taking in Milla Milla, Zillie and Elinjaa Falls, some of the most picturesque sites of the region. Each offers easily accessible viewing. The longer walks to the base of Zillie and Elinjaa are well worth the effort.