The Atherton Tableland, which guards the western front of the rainforest-covered hinterland of Cairns, is rightly regarded as one of Australia’s natural wonders. Superb rainforest, volcanic crater lakes and magnificent waterfalls which make this area are just some of the features of the area, most of which are protected within national parks.
This, in combination with the rich pastoral plateau, offers the traveller a singular corner of Australia where breathtaking contrast is the watchword. This is country into which you should never venture without first checking your camera's batteries.
Set in the heart of one of the oldest land masses in Australia, the Tableland and its 'capital', the town of Atherton, take their names from John Atherton, one of the area's early white pioneers, prospectors and pastoralists.
Much of the region’s fascinating past is preserved in a mineral and rock museum, complete with exotic cave, in Atherton's main street, and in the old Post Office Gallery. The links to Chinese settlement are maintained in the restored Joss House.
A short drive to Halloran’s Hill Lookout provides a panoramic view embracing the Seven Sisters - as the local volcanic cinder cones are known - and the edge of the extraordinary lava flow which features the unique lava tubes in its drift north across the landscape.
The town of Atherton is central to many of the area's attractions, making an excellent base for a few days of relaxed exploration.
The tableland's other townships such as Mareeba, Malanda, Tinaroo, Milaa Milaa, Yungaburra and Ravenshoe and their attendant natural wonders and attractions are all within an hour or so drive of Atherton. There's so much to do and see up here that you'll need at least three days to do all five of your senses and the Tablelands justice.
In the area
Bushwalks - around the crater lake and Baldy Hill walk
Birdwatching - Hasties Swamp National Park bird hide for Saurus Crane (keep a look out for the Atherton scrub wren)
Peanut Factory - and craft at Tolga, 5 km north
Historical Village - and museum at Herberton
Fishing, Water Sports - Lake Tinaroo 15 km north-east