Cairns to Mareeba: Planning Your Road Trip

Published Categorized as Australia Travel, Destinations, Queensland Travel, Travel Blog
Mareeba Queensland
Mareeba Queensland

If you are looking to escape the heat of Cairns for a day or a weekend, why not plan a road trip from Cairns to Mareeba? Only one hour’s drive from Cairns, Mareeba and its surrounding areas have a lot to offer and there is plenty to explore.


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CAIRNS TO MAREEBA: PLANNING YOUR ROAD TRIP

How to Get By Road from Cairns to Mareeba

The quickest, easiest and most scenic way to get from Cairns to Mareeba is via the Kuranda Range Road. The Kuranda Range Road is clearly signposted just north of Cairns and leads from the suburb of Smithfield up the McAllister range to Kuranda.

This section of road is one of the most scenic roads in Australia with glimpses of coast and ocean through World Heritage listed rainforest. For much of the road, trees overhang the road to form a green tunnel. As you go up the range, there is a great lookout point from which you will get magnificent views.

The trip to Kuranda should take approximately 30 minutes. If you have time, allow an hour or so to visit the cultural rainforest village of Kuranda, home to the famous Kuranda Markets and a host of other attractions, shops and restaurants.

Continue along the Kennedy Highway from Kuranda to Mareeba. This drive should take approximately 30 minutes. Along the way, you will pass Davies Creek National Park and Emerald Creek Falls, both of which are set in the drier eucalypt forests and granite boulders of the Lamb Range.

The total distance of the drive from Cairns to Mareeba is 38 miles or 65 kilometres, with a total driving time of approximately 60 minutes.


Mareeba

Mareeba is located in the northern Tablelands and is classified as dry savannah country, which is a major contrast to the green rainforests you will have driven through in Kuranda. It is the largest town in Atherton Tableland and known as the fertile food bowl of the tropics. This area produces more than 70% of Australia’s coffee crop. Mareeba is often overlooked by tourists visiting Atherton Tablelands but there are quite a few interesting things to do in the area which can easily fill a day a day or two.


Map of Mareeba

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Best Things to Do in Mareeba

Coffee Works – Coffee World Museum

Mareeba is extremely well known for its coffee plantations and Coffee Works, with more than 25 years roasting experience, is a boutique roastery serving up and selling premium Arabica coffees from local plantations.

Visit the antiquities museum and follow the story of coffee from plant to cup. This museum also houses a world class collection of coffee and tea memorabilia, including coffee machines from the last 50 or so years.

CoffeeWorks also offers an all day, unlimited taste testing experience of coffees, teas, chocolates and liqueurs.

To go with your coffee (or tea if you prefer), you can pick up a delicious selection of handcrafted chocolates (over 50 different chocolates on display) from the Chocolaterie.


Davies Creek Falls

Mareeba is surrounded by some beautiful national park areas and Davies Creek is one we highly recommend visiting. The 1.1 kilometre Davies Creek Falls circuit track should take you approximately 20 minutes to walk and leads you to two lookouts.

The first lookout provides views back along the valley while the second overlooks the spectacular Davies Creek Falls plunging 75 metres into the valley below.

The track then continues alongside the creek which is lined with pandanus, paperbark trees and banksias. There is also a great sandy creek-side picnic and swimming area, and if you are lucky, you may see a platypus.


Emerald Creek Falls

Emerald Creek Falls is another recommended area to visit when in Mareeba. Rushing out of the rainforest-clad heights of the Lamb Range, Emerald Creek runs down into open eucalypt woodland.

There are a couple of walks that can be done here, and we recommend the 1.9 kilometre return Emerald Creek Falls Lookout waling track. Allow about 1 hour walking time.

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Golden Drop Winery

Golden Drop Winery is a family owned and operated business, and it is one of the largest mango plantations in Australia. Visit Golden Drop Winery and experience a working mango plantation, whilst sampling their range of tropical Mango Wines, Citrus Cellos, Mango Port, and Golden Mango liqueur style wine.


Granite Gorge

Granite Gorge is a privately owned nature park with a beautiful landscape dominated by huge granite boulders. It is known for its vast array of wildlife including turtles, echidnas, quolls, and possums, but especially for its colony of rock wallabies which visitors can feed by hand.

The riverside camping ground has tent and caravan sites, cabins and safari tents. Check their website for prices.


Heritage Museum and Visitor Information

The Mareeba Heritage Museum and Visitor Information Centre is a must visit when in Mareeba. This comprehensive museum will assist in understanding the rich and varied history of Mareeba.

It is filled with displays on the area’s past and present commercial industries, as well as its natural surrounds. There are lots of displays on Aboriginal culture, early explorers, pioneer and early history, and the Mt Mulligan mine disaster.

Explore the outside grounds of the museum and you’ll find farming equipment, relics from Mareeba’s early fire service, a vintage rail ambulance, a saddle shop, blacksmith shop, the old post office and telephone exchange, stockyards, goat carts and more. The replicated Mareeba town streetscape is like stepping into the past.

The museum is free to entry and it is definitely worth allowing an hour to wander through the museum and check out over 6,000 items, 47 exhibits and 25 years of collections.

Mareeba Heritage Museum
Mareeba Heritage Museum

Hot Air-Ballooning at Sunrise

The Atherton Tablelands is known as the ballooning capital of the world because of its regular good weather. As such, there are normally between four to six colourful hot air balloons in the air each morning.

It is an early start, but what better way to enjoy the varied landscape of the Tablelands than with 360-degree panoramic views from a hot air balloon. Enjoy the magical experience of gliding along with the silence only interrupted by the roar of the burner to take the balloon higher.


Mareeba Drive-in

If you are looking for something a little different to do, head to this old-school drive-in cinema, the only one left in Far North Queensland. It screens two blockbuster back-to-back movies each week on a Friday and Saturday night.

In addition, you can camp onsite for the night for free on movie nights.


Mareeba Markets

The Mareeba Markets are held on the second and fifth Saturday of each month from 7:00 am to 12 noon in Mareeba’s Centenary Park, next to the Heritage Museum. Local artisans and producers are selling gourmet handmade jams, fresh produce, art and crafts including stunning handmade jewellery, clothes and woodwork. With approximately 100 stalls, you are sure to find something you will enjoy!


Mareeba Rodeo

One of the biggest events on the Mareeba calendar is the Mareeba Rodeo held in July each year. Dating back to 1949, Mareeba’s annual rodeo is one of Australia’s biggest and best.

Enjoy two days of bucking broncos, bull riding and crazy clowns. There’s also an agricultural show and exhibition, wood-chopping competition, junior cowpokes, night parade, garden show and the crowning of the rodeo queen.

It is a huge event not to be missed and anyone visiting the rodeo can camp overnight for free at the rodeo showgrounds.

Mareeba Rodeo Grounds
Mareeba Rodeo Grounds

Mareeba Wetlands

The Mareeba region is acknowledged by birding experts as one of the richest areas for birdlife in Australia. The Mareeba Tropical Savannas and Wetlands Reserve is located on 5000 acres and is full of lagoons and channels. It is home to nearly half of Australia’s 828 bird species.

With lots of boardwalks and walking tracks, the Mareeba Wetlands Reserve offers a great chance to explore this unique environment and learn about the conservation program that maintains the region. 


Skybury Coffee and Roastery

Skybury is Australia’s oldest commercial coffee plantation. Standing high above the Atherton Tablelands, Skybury Farmgate, their distinctive café on stilts, offers amazing views from their deck and is the perfect place to enjoy a cup of their trademark coffee.


If you are planning on extending your trip and visiting more areas within the Atherton Tablelands, read more about the Amazing Things to do in Atherton Tablelands here.


A Mareeba Sunset At It's Best
A Mareeba Sunset At It’s Best

Places to Eat in Mareeba

Ant Hill Hotel

Known as Mareeba’s friendliest pub, this is the place to come for locally sourced beef steaks. They also serve pizza, and other mains including seafood, pasta and daily specials.


Dino’s

Dino’s on the main street is a great little Italian deli/pizzeria


Emerald Creek Ice Creamery

Homemade ice cream made on-site using pure cream and full cream milk. They also make delicious sorbets (dairy free, full fruit) on-site using local Tablelands fruit.

The Emerald Creek Ice-Creamery also makes their own fresh Fudge and a range of condiments such as Strawberry and Blueberry Jam, Marmalade, Mango Chutney, and Tomato Relish. For those wanting a savoury option, try the Biltong (dried beef).


Mareeba Heritage Museum and Visitor Information

A range of treats are available at the Visitor Information Centre including Devonshire Teas, banana splits, apple pie and ice-cream, waffles, and sundaes.


Skybury Café and Roastery / Skybury Farmgate

The café serves light lunches, hot and cold drinks including coffee and tea, iced drinks, smoothies and soft drinks as well as a selection of cakes.


In Summary: Cairns to Mareeba

Rich in wildlife, museums, and coffee and wine, this district offers clear blue skies and perfect weather for hot air-ballooning. Mareeba is also rich in history going back to the gold mining days.

We highly recommend taking the time to explore some of the sights we have listed above visiting Mareeba. It is also a great place to use as a base for further exploring the Atherton Tablelands.  

We hope this guide will entice you to plan your road trip from Cairns to Mareeba and enjoy the area as much as we did!

Have you ever visited this incredible part of North Queensland? What did you enjoy doing most? Have we missed something? Leave a comment below.


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Exit 45 Rating

The Exit45 Rating scale runs from a low of 1 to a high of 5 in each of the 9 categories.  As such, the higher the score out of 45, the better the Exit45 Rating.  N.B. These scores are our own personal opinions and are based on our experiences, budget constraints and what we love doing i.e. adventure seeking foodies who love snorkelling and water related activities.

Value for Money4
Cuisine4
Friendliness of Locals4.5
Ease of Language Barrier5
Climate5
Activities and Tours4
Ease of Travel4.5
Culture Barrier5
Safety5
TOTAL EXIT45 RATING41 / 45

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CAIRNS TO MAREEBA: PLANNING YOUR ROAD TRIP

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By Peta Wenzel

We are Peta (Australian) and Jonas (Swedish/Australian), a couple in our mid 40’s / early 50’s who have been travelling the world fulltime since January 2018. We met and lived on the Gold Coast, Australia and spent many evenings researching and watching YouTube vlogs about travel and dreaming of the day we would retire and be able to enjoy a lot more travel ourselves. Over the years, a number of events happened to family and friends and an opportunity arose which made us decide to not wait but to instead take a “Gap Year”. We are now in our 3rd year of travel and still hunger for new adventures and embrace the uncertainty that comes with full-time travel. If you want to know more about who we are, why we choose this lifestyle and how we do it, please follow our adventures and see how you can do it too.

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