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The Atherton TablelandsUpdated: 22-May-2008
A scenic one hour drive west from Cairns is the Atherton Tablelands also known as the Cairns Highlands. Situated between the Bellenden Ker Range and the Great Dividing Range, the Atherton Tablelands is regarded as one of the region's best kept secrets.
At an altitude of 400 – 1100 metres it is a very unique and special place with much of the landscape shaped by volcanic activities.
The rural landscape of the Atherton Tableland is green throughout most of the year. Among the rolling hills dairy cattle and deer graze on green pastures and farms grow tea, coffee, nuts, corn, vegetables and flowers for local and export markets. Everything thrives on this cool tropical plateau where temperatures and humidity are generally lower, providing an ideal break away from the heat of the coast.
For visitors, the Tablelands present opportunities for bush walking, bird watching, wildlife cruises, marsupial spotting, hot air ballooning and water sports as diverse as fishing to waterskiing.
Winding roads lead to spectacular lookouts and waterfalls, and highlights include Australia's widest waterfall - Millstream Falls - and many others flowing all year round, the deep blue waters of extinct volcano crater lakes - Lake Barrine and Lake Eacham, and the Hypipamee National Park and crater near Herberton.
Among the World Heritage listed rainforests, national parks, mountains, rivers, lakes and waterfalls are some of Australia's richest agricultural lands and charming small townships. Classic old hotels, motels, guest houses, backpackers, farm stays, and caravan and camping parks provide the ideal base for exploring. Fine dining restaurants are plentiful, and weekend country markets are a fascinating treat with locals sharing their arts, crafts, music and festivities.
Atherton Tablelands towns are among the tidiest in Australia, the gardens a brilliant mix of tropical and cool climate trees and flowers.
Each town has its own special attractions:
Mareeba's annual rodeo
Tolga's homestead park and woodcraft gallery
Atherton's crystal caves, art gallery, Chinese joss house and steam train
Yungaburra's markets, and heritage buildings
Millaa Millaa's waterfall circuit
Malanda's natural history museum
Herberton's historic village
Ravenshoe's timber crafts and wide waterfall
Chillagoe's superb limestone caves
The Tablelands area has well marked self-drive tours and rainforest hikes. Scenic roads lead to the tablelands from the coast and tours leave from the coast daily.