Amazing Things to Do in Atherton Tablelands, Queensland

Published Categorized as Australia Travel, Destinations, Queensland Travel, Travel Blog
Atherton Tablelands
Atherton Tablelands

There are so many things to do in Atherton Tablelands and it is just a short drive inland from Cairns. It is the perfect place for a day trip or a three or four day holiday to escape the tropical humidity of Cairns in summer.

You will find interesting and quirky villages, lush tropical rainforests, volcanic lakes, waterfalls, national parks, and an abundance of local history. To find out more about the amazing things to do in the Atherton Tablelands, read on….

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“Still round the corner, there may wait, a new road or a secret gate.”

– J.R.R. Tolkein –



Atherton Tablelands

The Atherton Tablelands are around 90 kilometres south-west of Cairns and they are definitely one of the best destinations to visit in North Queensland. There is so much to see and do so it is perfect for a self-drive holiday. Expect to see lush tropical rainforests, volcanic lakes, wetland reserves ideal for bird watching, waterfalls, national parks, and World Heritage listed sites.

The Tablelands has a beautiful temperate climate making it an ideal holiday destination at any time of the year. If you would like to avoid the rush, travel in the low season between December and April. The temperature is comfortable and free of coastal humidity.

Map of Atherton Tablelands

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Best Things to Do in the Atherton Tablelands


Atherton was the first town settled in the Atherton Tablelands region and lies at its heart. This little township is 95 kilometres from Cairns along the Kuranda Range, and is a great place to stop and visit on your way through the area.

Chinatown + Hou Wang Miau Chinese Temple

The Queensland National Trust have listed Hou Wang Miau Temple as a heritage listed building providing an insight into this part of North Queensland’s history and heritage.

Atherton has a rich and colourful past. The site (Cedar Camp or Atherton Chinatown) was chosen by Chinese settlers during the 1800’s who came directly from China, or via the Pine Creek goldfields of the Northern Territory, initially to mine at the Palmer River Goldfield and later to farm in the area. During the 1800’s to mid-1900’s, Atherton was home to a thriving Chinese community.

The temple was built in 1903 and it is the second oldest temple in Queensland, still being used as a place of worship until the early 1970’s. It is the only one of its type remaining and the only temple dedicated to Hou Wang outside of China still existing.

It has been conserved and restored over the years, with most of its fittings, including ornate interior original wood carvings, and items used for worship, still intact.

Guided tours take visitors through the temple, and it is well worth spending some time going through the adjacent museum with its interactive displays.

Halloran’s Hill Conservation Park

Atherton town sits on the side of Halloran’s Hill which is an extinct volcanic cone.  From the top of the hill there are panoramic views across the surrounding countryside, including the Seven Sisters which is a small collection of hills. The view really showcases the geological formations this region is famous for as well as the amazing produce and flowers that are grown in this region due to its rich volcanic soils.

Hasties Swamp (Nyleta Wetlands)

Hasties Swamp supports more than 300 species of birds and is a location designed for bird lovers.  There is a two level bird hide that allows you to view thousands of birds in their natural habitat.

In addition, there is plenty of information to help you identify the types of bird you are seeing. Local and international bird species that may be seen include Australasian grebes, plumed whistling-ducks, pink-eared ducks, yellow-bellied sunbirds, black-faced cuckoo-shrikes, Lewin’s honeyeaters, white-bellied sea-eagle, forest kingfishers, black-eared cuckoos, and others.

For further information, go to the Hasties Swamp National Park website.

Lake Tinaroo

Lake Tinaroo offers a huge water sports and recreational area. Sailing, water-skiing, kiteboarding, wakeboarding, paddle boarding, canoeing and fishing are all very popular with locals and visitors.

The drive around the shores of Lake Tinaroo, through Danbulla State Forest, is very picturesque and well worth doing. The road is 28 kilometres long and is unsealed.

If you enjoy bushwalking, there are many tracks along the way. Bushwalking opportunities include the Mobo Creek Crater (30 min return), Lake Euramoo (30 minute return), Kauri Creek day use area (2.5 hour moderate walk along the creek), and Downfall Creek Camping area (2 hour return walk to Kauri Creek).

Lake Tinaroo is a fisherman’s paradise open all year for the taking of Barramundi. The famous Barra Bash is held on the lake each year, and Tinaroo holds the record for the largest freshwater Barramundi caught.


The Bat Hospital

The Bat Hospital is a unique ‘hospital’ operated by volunteers committed to conservation of bats and their habitat. The Visitor Centre experience includes a short video about the hospital and personalised tours operate daily between 3 and 4pm throughout the year (bookings are essential). You will meet small insectivorous microbats, and larger fruit and nectar eating megabats like flying foxes.

The Crystal Caves

The Crystal Caves showcases a Dutch man’s passion for crystals, fossils, precious stones and gems that have been collected from around the world. The collection is displayed throughout 300 square metres of tunnels and grottos that run beneath the shop. You can take a self-guided tour and participate in the interactive displays which allow you to touch the crystals.


Chillagoe is a genuine outback town with a fascinating mining history, natural attractions and abundant wildlife.

Chillagoe-Mungana Caves National Park

Join a park-ranger guided cave tour and explore the natural beauty of the caves. You will explore the underground world of enormous chambers, narrow passages, stalactites and stunning limestone cave decorations. You will also learn how the caves were formed over hundreds of millions of years.

Chillagoe Weir

Just a few minuted drive outside town, the Chillagoe Weir is a great swimming spot with plenty of shade and picnic tables.


Herberton is a historic mining town nestled into the hills and known as “the village in the hills”. Historically, it was a tin town with both a mine and a smelter nearby.

Herberton Historic Railway Museum

This museum is operated by The Atherton-Herberton Historic Railway Inc. volunteer organisation. They have restored the original train line and offer train rides from Herberton Station to the Historic Village Herberton every Sunday between 10am and 3pm.

Herberton Mining Museum and Visitor Information Centre

The Herberton Mining Museum is located where the first payable tin was found in Herberton on 19 April, 1880. The museum offers visitors a great insight to the Queensland mining industry. Journey through the history of mining in the area with a metals room which tells the story of metals and mining.

You can also take the Great Northern Mine Walk through the original open air mining workings and equipment in an area that is Heritage listed

Historic Village Herberton

Anyone with a fascination with Australian pioneering history will love the Historic Village Herberton. This open air museum has been laid out to resemble a tin mining town where more than 60 lovingly restored period buildings dating back to the 1870’s are filled with memorabilia. Buildings include a garage, newspaper office, butcher’s shop, chemist, grocer, school, dress shop, jail, and more. Allow a full day to visit.

Mount Hypipamee Crater and Dinner Falls

When you arrive at the Mount Hypipamee carpark, take the Dinner Falls and Crater Loop Walk. The loop is 1.2 kilometres and will take approximately 30 – 40 minutes to complete.  

Mount Hypipamee Crater, a massive diatreme or volcanic pipe caused by a gaseous explosion, is just one of the many volcanic remnants of the Atherton Tablelands. Take the opportunity to view the 70 metre deep Crater Lake from the viewing platform above.

Continue on the loop and you will come across the different tiers of Dinner Falls. If you want to go for a swim, the second tier of Dinner Falls is the best spot with its 12 metre high cascading waterfall.

Spy and Camera Museum

The unique Spy and Camera Museum in town is owned and operated by photographer Michael Petersen. It showcases his extraordinary collection of rare cameras including a Russian KGB police camera, a ‘mousetrap camera’, rare press cameras, the world’s smallest camera – The Petal, and a variety of unusual spy cameras.


Malanda township is located downstream of the Malanda Falls on the North Johnstone River. It is now known for its wonderful bird watching, bush walking, art galleries and a successful dairy industry.

Bromfield Swamp

The extinct volcanic crater known as Bromfield Swamp is known as a breeding ground for the Sarus Cranes and is a great place to watch their dancing displays or see them in flight during the dry season at day break or sun down. Here you will find some of the best bird watching in the area and if you stay long enough (and quiet enough) you may come across several hundreds of bird species.

Gallo Dairyland

Gallo Dairyland is a fully functional dairy farm that is now producing a range of gourmet dairy products and hand crafted chocolates. This working dairy farm has a cheese making facility that you can have a look at and it also offers cheese and chocolate tasting. A nice place to enjoy a stop for coffee and if you’ve got children, they will enjoy visiting the animal nursery or watching the cows being milked daily at 3:00pm in the afternoon.

Curtain Fig Tree, Yungaburra
Curtain Fig Tree, Yungaburra

Malanda Falls

Located next to the Malanda Visitor Centre, Malanda Falls on the North Johnstone River, tumbles over basalt rock formed by an ancient lava flow that spread from the Mount Hypipamee area 15 kilometres away. It’s surrounded by lush, green rainforest and is conveniently located a very short distance from the carpark.

Nerada Tea Estate

Nerada Tea Estate runs tours of the factory and has a cafe where you can drink the locally grown tea while overlooking the beautiful tea plantations. The elusive Lumholtz’s tree-kangaroos are regular visitors to the estate so you may get lucky and see one yourself.

Self-Guided Walking Trails

Upon arrival in town, head to the Malanda Falls Visitor Centre and collect maps for the two easy walks which meander through the rainforests of the Malanda Falls Conservation Park. Allow half an hour to an hour for each walk.

Tulip Oak Walk features signs written and designed by the local Aboriginal people, telling the history and culture of the area. The Rainforest Circuit Walk weaves through the forest or along the banks of the North Johnstone River.

Millaa Millaa

This beautiful town, known as the Village in the Mist, is gateway to the southern Atherton Tablelands. At 850 metres above sea level, the town is nestled among emerald hills surrounded by lush dairy pastures, majestic rainforests and those magnificent cascades.

Milla Milla Waterfall Circuit

The 17 kilometre waterfall circuit and rainforest-clad Wooroonooran National Park are just two of the natural attractions that bring visitors to the mild climate of this town. The circuit begins at Teresa Creek Road, just south of the township of Millaa Millaa encompassing Millaa Millaa Falls, Zillie Falls and Ellinjaa Falls.

Your first stop on the sealed road off will be at Millaa Millaa Falls which is the only place you can swim and enjoy the refreshing waters. Keep a look out for platypus and the iridescent blue Ulysses Butterfly. At Zillie Falls you can take a short walk through the surrounding forest to the viewing platform where you can get a great perspective of the rapids and top of the falls. Ellinjaa Falls are the next stop on the waterfall circuit. Walk down the zigzag stream to the track surrounded by amazing tree ferns.

Millaa Millaa Falls
Millaa Millaa Falls

Paronella Park

Paronella Park is a heritage-listed tourist attraction located at Mena Creek, just 120 kilometres south of Cairns. Covering five hectares of land next to Mena Creek Falls, Paronella Park is a mystical wonderland, complete with Spanish-style castle, and tranquil waterfalls, bridges and tunnels. 

With a lush rainforest made up of 7,500 tropical plants and trees, it’s no wonder it has earnt its place as one of North Queensland’s premier tourist attractions.



Ravenshoe is the highest town in all of Queensland and sits above all the others at 930 metres above sea level. This quaint little village was founded as a timber town and is full of character and history. Being so high up, the drive boasts some of the most expansive and impressive views of the Atherton Tablelands.

Windy Hill Wind Farm

Located about 3 kilometres from Ravenshoe, Windy Hill Wind Farm is Queensland’s first and largest wind farm with 20 windmills producing enough power for 3500 homes. You will spot the wind turbines along the side of the road and they really are a sight to be seen. To get a better look at them and the surrounding area, visit the Windy Hill Wind Farm viewing area.

Windy Hill Wind Farm - Ravenshoe
Windy Hill Wind Farm – Ravenshoe


Yungaburra town itself has lots to offer as do the many natural attractions in the beautiful surrounding countryside. The rolling green hills, crater lakes, waterfalls, and lush rainforests and pastures are a legacy of its volcanic origins. There are great walking tracks for the fit or not so fit, lovely picnic spots, and drives with fantastic views at every turn.


Curtain Fig Tree Yungaburra

Also known as Cathedral Fig Tree, this incredible 500 year old heritage listed tree is one of the must see attractions in Far North Queensland. It is 50 metres tall and almost 39 metres wide trunk circumference. It gets its name because of the extensive ‘curtain’ of aerial roots which hang down some 15 metres from the main body of the tree to the ground.

There is an elevated 180 metre return wheelchair-accessible boardwalk all around the curtain fig so you can admire the tree from all angles.

Lake Barrine

The larger of the twin crater lakes, Lake Barrine has been operating as a tourist destination since the 1920’s. Enjoy a 45 minute boat cruise around the lake, or an award-winning Devonshire Tea, complete with a secret scone recipe, on the balcony of the Lake Barrine Teahouse whose tin and timber dates back 80 years.

Lake Eacham

Lake Eacham is a huge crater lake with deep emerald waters which was probably formed about 10,000 years ago. The lake is a place of spectacular beauty. It has excellent swimming facilities and there are plenty of grassy banks to enjoy a picnic lunch.

The lake is surrounded by World Heritage Rainforest, with a 4.5 km walking track around its perimeter (Lake Eacham circuit track).  This track promises Wet Tropics rainforest on one side, and views of the deep blue lake on the other.

Peterson Creek Walking Track

Just a 5 minute walk outside the town, you will find the Peterson Creek – Wildlife and Botanical Walking Track (collect a map form the Yungaburra Visitor Information Centre). This 2 km walking track can be started from either end – Gillies Highway or the cemetery on Mulgrave Road.

We started at the Gillies Highway platypus viewing platform where we were lucky enough to spot platypus immediately upon our arrival. We followed the track leading to the creek under the bridge, and then we meandered along the creek at our own pace. We were rewarded many times over with platypus sightings, however, they proved a lot harder to capture on camera.


Platypus Spotting at Peterson Creek Walking Track, Yungaburra
Platypus Spotting at Peterson Creek Walking Track, Yungaburra

The Afghanistan Avenue of Honour

This living memorial, opened in 2013, is dedicated in remembrance of the soldiers who served in the Afghanistan campaign, and to those Australians that died there.  Some of these soldiers came from this region.

Yungaburra Heritage Walk

Yungaburra has the highest proportion of heritage-listed buildings of all regional centres in Queensland. No fewer than 19 have been listed by the Queensland Register of the National Trust of Australia. The 3 km self-guided Yungaburra Heritage Walk (collect your map from the Yungaburra Visitor Information Centre) will provide you with information about 29 sites of historical significance within the village.

In Summary

We highly recommend taking the time to explore some of the sights we have listed above when touring the Atherton Tablelands. It is a truly magical area and one of our favourite regions in Queensland.  

We hope this guide will entice you to visit Atherton Tablelands and enjoy the area as much as we did!

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


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 Money4.5
Friendliness of Locals5
Ease of Language Barrier5
Activities and Tours5
Ease of Travel5
Culture Barrier5

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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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