Explore the Amazing Atherton Tablelands | Cairns Tours

Explore the Amazing Atherton Tablelands

By James Dixon | 12th May 2015

The stunning Atherton Tablelands – which is part of the Great Dividing Range – should technically be desert; however, due to its elevated position, this volcanic plateau is fertile, rich and beautiful. This popular tourist location is well known for its diverse landscapes of sweeping farmland, open eucalypt forests, remnants of lush ancient tropical rainforests and rugged rocky terrain along the areas waterways.

The Tablelands also have a number of spectacular natural wonders that visitors flock to see, such as Lake Barrine, Lake Eacham, Tinaroo Dam, Undara Volcanic National Park, Mount Hypipamee Crater and Dinner Falls, Hann Tableland National Park, Barron Falls the Curtain Fig Tree and the Cathedral Fig tree, just to name a few. Within the area’s many protected National Parks, you’ll find some of the world’s most important birdlife, including species such as the sarus crane, the Bush Stone-curlew, the scrub wren, Bower’s shrikethrush, the bridled honeyeater, the chowchilla, the fernwren, the golden bowerbird, the grey-headed robin, Macleay’s honeyeater, the mountain thornbill, the pied monarch, the tooth-billed bowerbird and Victoria’s riflebird.

For thousands of years, five Indigenous groups shared the natural wealth of the Atherton Tablelands region. The Mamu people lived along the southern regions, while the Yidinji lived to the north. In the central regions, the Ngadjon resided, while the Jidabal and Barbarum occupied the west. All of these groups were short in stature and artistically creative, fashioning shields and large, wooden sword-like tools that were brightly painted.

The first European to explore the region was J.V. Mulligan in 1875, who explored the region while prospecting for mineable metals. John Atherton then settled within the region in 1877, giving the town its name. Atherton was the first to discover tin in the area and it is even thought that Tinaroo Creek was named after Atherton shouted “Tin, Hurroo!” during his discovery. After Atherton – along with his pals, William Jack and John Newell – discovered the site that was to become the Great Northern Tin Mine, a huge influx of miners from Hodgkinson’s Goldfields entered the area.

The building of a dray road through the region opened the way for timber cutters and their families, who thrived on the seemingly endless supply of red cedar, kauri, black bean, maple, white beech, walnut and red tulip oak. Chinese farmers also moved into the area and – with their amazing agricultural productions – were integral in opening up this area to other settlers. As the Chinese population increased, the  area was developed with wells being sunk, small shops opening and cooks, doctors, herbal apothecaries and other merchants popping up. Houses were built and by 1909, the Atherton Tablelands had a Chinatown with over 1100 residents. Banana, sugarcane, avocados, strawberries, corn, macadamia nuts, mangoes and citrus crops are grown within the region today – a feat made possible by the Chinese, and the Hou Wang Temple remains in commemoration of the amazing efforts of the Chinese settlers in opening up the region.

If you’d like to explore this remarkable region for yourself, the Paronella Park and Waterfalls tour is one of the best ways to do it. This eco-certified all-day tour takes you on a journey to visit Lake Barrine with its 1000-year-old twin Kauri Pine trees, the astonishing Curtain Fig Tree, the majestic sites of Waterfalls Circuit, World Heritage Rainforests and the indescribable Paronella Park. Along the way, you’ll encounter a variety of Australian wildlife species, including platypus, tree kangaroos, Boyd’s Forest Dragon and maybe even a crocodile, among other species.

If you’d like to see the Atherton Tablelands from a unique perspective, a sunrise Hot Air Balloon ride will leave you in awe of the beauty of this region. Taking off from Mareeba in the still, cool pre-dawn, you’ll marvel at the patchwork of colour below you as you gently drift above the picturesque vista. A perfect experience!