Quaint outback towns and historic villages, dense tropical rainforest and incredible food and hospitality abound across the Cairns highlands, known as the Atherton Tablelands. The beautiful mountain-top area of the Tablelands provides beautifully lush settings with a climate slightly cooler than the coast due to its higher elevation and forest surrounds. The fertile volcanic grounds grow some of the produce in the region, making this fruit bowl of Queensland a destination packed with great local farmgates and spots for lunch.
Millaa Millaa Falls on the Atherton Tableland. Picture: Getty Images
Charming townships dot the landscape – such as Kuranda, Mareeba, Tolga, Atherton, Herberton, Yungaburra, Malanda and Millaa Millaa – offering visitors a view into the rich local lifestyle with quaint shops and cafes presenting a most inviting atmosphere that makes you want to linger just a little longer. Take a drive to the national parks scattered throughout the Tablelands and enjoy the perfectly situated lookouts that offer grand views of the deep ravines and plunging waterfalls set under the forest canopy.
A true feast for the senses
See how some of Australia's best argiculture with a visit to one of the many wineries (Golden Drop, de Brueys, Mt Uncle), coffee and tea plantations (Jaques, Skyburry, Nerada) and plantations of mangos, lychees, pineapples and bananas for a true taste of the Tropics.
To fully experience the Atherton Tablelands, take the driving tour from Cairns through to Kuranda, and continue on the Kennedy Highway to Mareeba where the rainforest meets the outback. From Mareeba, continue south on Savannah Way to Atherton (the heart of the region) before descending the Gillies Range from the boutique bohemian hub of Yungaburra. The mountain range comes out at Gordonvale, where the circuit meets back up with the Bruce Highway – Cairns is just a short 35-kilometre drive north.