Tropical North Attractions
The tropical far north of Queensland, with Cairns as its principal center, takes in the beautiful Atherton Tableland and the Cape York peninsula, a relatively undeveloped area for more adventurous travelers, with Cooktown, where Captain Cook was forced to beach his ship for repair.
Lizard Island is the most northerly island with facilities for tourists on the Great Barrier Reef. In the extreme north, off Cape York, are Possession Island and Thursday Island.Cairns, beautifully situated on the Marlin Coast 1766km north of Brisbane, with a warm winter and spring, is a good base for excursions. There are boat trips to Green Island or to uninhabited islands in the northern part of the Great Barrier Reef. The highlands to the west and south of Cairns (Atherton Tableland) offer dense tropical rain forest, waterfalls and crater lakes, and magnificent views of their varied landscape. Other attractive excursions are to Kuranda with its steep scenic railroad and the historic mining village of Herberton. In a region of tropical heat the agreeable temperatures of the highlands are very welcome. The Bruce Highway ends at Cairns, but an asphalted road, the Cook Highway, continues north for another 80km by way of Port Douglas to Mossman, in the sugarcane-growing region. The Cape York peninsula extends north of Cairns for some 1000km. Trips into the almost unpopulated 'last frontier' area, with its poor tracks, should only be undertaken by travelers properly equipped for the outback and with experience of all-terrain vehicles.
Lizard Island offers beautiful beaches for swimming and the Great Barrier Reef for snorkeling and scuba diving. This remote, unspoiled island is also great for exploring on foot paths and fishing.
Crater Lakes National Park
490ha.Lake Barrine 100ha.Lake Eacham 40ha.Both Lake Barrine and Lake Eacham are volcanic crater lakes some 60m deep, probably formed when ground water in the volcano was ejected in a violent explosion. They are surrounded by dense tropical rain forest, through which there are beautiful walking trails round the lakes. In Lake Eacham live a number of snapping turtles that like to be fed by visitors. Both lakes are good swimming spots, and there are facilities for boating on Lake Barrine.
Daintree (pop. under 200) lies in the valley of the Daintree River, surrounded by hills covered with rain forest.The country round Daintree is a Natural Park, listed as a World Heritage Area, with superb wildlife, rich tropical flora and fauna (birds, butterflies and freshwater crocodiles in the mangrove swamps on the Daintree and its tributaries). Boat trips on the Daintree River.
Sugar cane has been grown and processed since 1880 in Innisfail (pop. 8159), when the first plantation was established by the Bishop of Brisbane. After the Second World War many immigrants from the Mediterranean area, particularly from Italy, settled here.On Owen Street there is a handsome Chinese temple. The Sugar Festival is celebrated in August, and in December is the Opera Festival.
At Nerada, 28km west of Innisfail, is a large tea plantation. On the Johnstone River is a crocodile farm, and in the surrounding area are a number of waterfalls. Excursions to Palmerston National Park (Millaa Millaa) and to the Atherton Tableland on the well made Palmerston Highway.There are beautiful, clean beaches to north and south of the town. Innisfail is also a good base for trips to the Great Barrier Reef.
Mareeba (pop. 8000) is the largest town on the Atherton Tableland and the center of Australia's principal tobacco-growing region. Another crop grown in the area between Mareeba and Dimbulah, irrigated with water from Lake Tinaroo (an artificial lake formed by a dam on the Barron River), is rice.The Mareeba Rodeo in July draws large numbers of visitors.
Millaa Millaa, Australia
The attraction of Millaa Millaa lies not so much in the town itself as in its surroundings. To the east are the Millaa Millaa, Zillie and Elinjaa Falls, all seen on a gravel road which leaves and rejoins the Palmerston Highway. From a viewpoint to the west of the town there are panoramic views of the Atherton Tableland. At Nerada is a tea plantation, which visitors can see round.
Wooroonooran National Park
31,000ha.Bellenden-Ker National Park is an almost completely unspoiled area containing Queensland's highest hills, Mount Bartle Frere (1611m) and Mount Bellenden-Ker (1591m). Different types of rain forest can be seen at different heights.Notable features of the park are Josephine Falls and the rich fauna. There is good bush walking and rock climbing (for experienced climbers only).
Address: Josephine Falls Section, Box 93, Miriwinni, QLD 4871, Australia
Useful tips: Best time to visit: winter. Access from Bruce or Gillies Highway. Rock climbing is for experienced climbers only.
14,200ha.A road runs through the tall rain forest of the Palmerston section of Wooroonooran National Park to the gorges on the Johnstone River; from the road there are walking trails to a number of waterfalls. The narrow, winding road is at some points almost closed by vegetation. This section of the park is named after the pioneer and prospector Christie Palmerston, who discovered this route in 1882. Swimming in lakes; white-water rafting on the North Johnstone River.
Atherton (pop. 4640) is the chief place on the Atherton Tableland. It lies in a productive agricultural area, with good soil and high rainfall (dairy farming, maize plantations) and patches of rain forest. The town grew up round a logging camp and took its name from John Atherton, a farmer who settled here around 1870.
Round Atherton are crater lakes with dense rain forest (Eacham and Barrine, Mount Hypipamee), waterfalls (Millaa Millaa, Millstream Falls National Park) and magnificent views. At Yungaburra is the famous Curtain Fig Tree.The road over the Atherton Tableland, an area of ancient rock, is an interesting alternative to the Bruce Highway along the coast.
Mount Hypipamee National Park
360ha.The sheer walls of the crater was the result of an explosion of volcanic gases in the granite. 70m in diameter, its granite walls fall steeply down 60m to the crater lake.
Mossman (pop. 1850) is the center of the most northerly sugarcane-growing area in Queensland. The town is surrounded by hills, the highest of which is Mount Demi (1159m).There are tours of Mossman Central Mill during the cane-crushing season (June to December).
From Port Douglas a steam train, the Bally Hooley Steam Express, runs on a narrow-gauge line through the cane fields to the mill. The growing of tropical fruits in this area is increasing (tours of plantations).Excursions to Daintree National Park and Cape Tribulation National Park. Beaches near town, at Cooya, Newell and Wonga.
Daintree National Park
56,000ha.In the park is a deep gorge cut by the Mossman River through the granite. Other features are coastal hills, waterfalls, various types of rain forest and rich and varied wildlife. The gorge is the entrance to the park, which is largely unspoiled and without tourist facilities.
Address: Level One Cairns Corporate Tower, 15 Lake Street, Cairns, QLD 4870, Australia
Useful tips: Best time to visit: winter.
Cape Tribulation National Park
17,000 haCape Tribulation National Park consists of a hilly expanse of rain forest wilderness rising to 1300m and a stretch of impressive coastal scenery. It has a particularly rich flora and fauna. Declared a National Park in 1981, it now also takes in the older Thornton Peak National Park. Although the park itself has little in the way of facilities for visitors there are a number of holiday settlements on the coast.
The little town of Gordonvale (pop. 2300) lies in a sugar-growing area. Previously known as Mulgrave and as Nelson, its present name comes from an early settler called Gordon.
To the west of the town the Gillies Highway runs up to the Atherton Tableland in a succession of several hundred bends. Nearby is the Bellenden-Ker National Park.
Millstream Falls National Park
370ha.This relatively small national park is centered on the Millstream Falls, which are up to 60m wide and have an abundant flow of water throughout the year. In the water below the falls are platypuses. Swimming is possible.
Address: McLeish Road, Yungaburra, QLD 4871, Australia
Useful tips: Best time to visit: in summer it is very hot, with high rainfall. The waterfalls are at their most impressive in autumn (March to May) after the abundant summer rain. Access by way of the Atherton Tableland and Ravenshoe.
Yungaburra (pop. 770) lies on the Atherton Tableland. A particular attraction is the much photographed Curtain Fig Tree, a strangler fig named for the aerial roots which hang down like a curtain (2.5km south).
Evidence of volcanic activity in the past is provided by two crater lakes, Eacham and Barrine, both declared national parks (Lake Barrine National Park and Lake Eacham National Park). Lake Tinaroo, a huge artificial lake created in 1958, supplies water for irrigating the tobacco and rice fields and generating electric power.
Mission Beach, Australia
Mission Beach (pop. 800) is a quiet holiday area with a number of beach resorts. The settlements along the bay are surrounded by expanses of rain forest and hills.
Day trips by boat to Dunk Island (see Cardwell) and the islands in the Great Barrier Reef are available, as well as trips through mangrove swamps and rain forest. White-water rafting is available on the Tully River.At the south end of Mission Beach is a cairn commemorating Edmund Kennedy's ill-fated Cape York expedition in 1848.
Ravenshoe (pop. 1000) is the highest town in Queensland (alt. 915m). It lies on the Atherton Tableland in a magnificent setting amid luxuriant rain forests.
Tully Gorge National Park
502ha.The Tully River carries less water than it used to following the construction of the dam at Koombooloomba to power a hydro-electric station, but the gorge it has hewn through a rain forest-covered plateau shows the force it exerted in the past. There is a walking trail leading to a good viewpoint.