If you have limited time, head straight to lovable Yungaburra, Queensland’s largest National Trust village. A local platypus colony, 19 heritage-listed sites and stunning surrounds make it a popular retreat for those in the know. Abundant, quality accommodation means it's the perfect place to lay one's head in the Tableland.
Mareeba revels in a Wild West atmosphere, with local merchants selling leather saddles, handcrafted bush hats and the oversized belt buckle of your bronco-bustin’ dreams. July’s Mareeba Rodeo is one of Australia’s biggest and best, with bull riding, a ‘beaut ute’ muster and boot scootin’ country music.
Malanda & Around
If you need to escape the heat, the shady, croc-free Malanda Falls, about 75km southwest of Cairns, have been tamed into a kind of public swimming pool. Guided rainforest walks, led by members of the Ngadjonji community, can be organised through the Malanda Falls Visitor Centre, opposite the falls.
Lake Tinaroo was allegedly named when a prospector stumbled across a deposit of alluvial tin and, in a fit of excitement, shouted 'Tin! Hurroo!'. The excitement hasn't died down since, with locals fleeing the swelter of the coast for boating, waterskiing and shoreline lolling.
Crater Lakes National Park
Part of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, the two mirrorlike, croc-free crater lakes of Lake Eacham and Lake Barrine are easily reached by sealed roads off the Gillies Hwy. Camping is not permitted. Lake Barrine is the largest of the lakes, and is cloaked in thick old-growth rainforest; a 5km walking track around its edge takes about 1½ hours.
Take in four of the Tableland’s picturesque waterfalls on this leisurely 15km circuit, beginning 1km east of Millaa Millaa off the Palmerston Hwy. You'll soon arrive at the 'most-photographed', 12m Millaa Millaa Falls, the best for swimming. Zillie Falls, 8km further on, are reached by a short trail leading to a lookout above the falls.
Mt Hypipamee National Park
Between Atherton and Ravenshoe, the Kennedy Hwy passes the eerie, and hard to pronounce, Mt Hypipamee crater, which could be a scene from a sci-fi film and certainly adds some vertigo to the itinerary. It’s a scenic 800m (return) walk from the picnic area, past Dinner Falls, to this narrow, 138m-deep crater with its moody-looking lake far below.