ATHERTON to LAKE TINAROO
This area played a crucial role during World War II, and there are numerous historic sites that will take you through Australia's history at that time. The region is also a good place to spot some of the country's most fabulous birds. Lake Tinaroo is a top destination for families and keen fishers alike, and sleepy little Tolga holds one of the most popular markets on the Tablelands.
FOR ALL THE BEST LOCAL ATTRACTIONS, ACCOMMODATION AND DINING AREAS IN THIS REGION, USE THE LINKS ABOVE OR SCROLL DOWN. TO OPEN AN INTERACTIVE MAP OF THE ATHERTON TABLELANDS IN A SEPARATE SMALLER WINDOW, CLICK HERE.
ATHERTONAtherton, with a population of 6,000, as you may imagine by the name, is the hub of the Atherton Tableland region, also known as the Cairns Highlands. From Atherton you can travel north to Mareeba and Chillagoe, south east to the Waterfall Circuit, north east to Lake Tinaroo, south west to historic Herberton, and south to Ravenshoe and beyond.
Atherton is a prosperous and bustling country town, with attractive parks and gardens, built on the side of an extinct volcano called Halloran's Hill. It is surrounded by several small hills known as the Seven Sisters, also cinder cones from ancient volcanoes. The Seven Sisters can be seen from various points around the Tablelands, but Halloran's Hill lookout, with barbecues and playground, is one of the best vantage points for panoramic views across the highlands and as far as the volcanic ranges in the distance. The lookout is just on the outskirts of Atherton.
Atherton was home to a thriving Chinese community from the 1880's into the early 1900's. Initially attracted by the newly discovered deposits of gold - Australia was known as 'New Gold Mountain' among the Chinese - many stayed after the gold ran out, and turned to timber cutting or market gardening. But the Chinese community suffered an upheaval after World War I, when the local government ruled that 'All lands at present being leased to Asiatics in the Atherton, Tolga, Kairi area be resumed for soldier settlement'. Chinese Australians were summarily evicted from their farming leases, and many moved away. By 1930, Chinatown was almost deserted. The remains of Atherton's Chinatown can be seen a short drive out of town on the Herberton Road, at the restored Hou Wang Temple. This was used as a place of worship until the 1970's, but is now owned by the National Trust.
A little futher along the road to Herberton is Hasties Swamp National Park, a definite favourite for birdwatchers. From the two storey Nyleta Wetlands Bird Hide, you should have no trouble spotting some of the 220 species of birds that have been recorded here, including Whistling Ducks, Magpie Geese and Sarus Cranes.
SERVICES: Atherton has all the services you could need, cafes and take aways, hotels, motels, caravan parks, licenced clubs and pubs. There are several banks, a post office, hospital and separate medical clinics. All emergency services are represented, and you will find a number of mechanical workshops if you have car troubles. Atherton also boasts modern shopping facilities, supermarkets, and antique shops.
The word 'Tolga' comes from the Aboriginal word for 'red mud', and there is a small township nearby of the same name. The township of Tolga was originally called Martintown, and grew out of a Cobb and Co. staging post at Rocky Creek. With the outbreak of World War II, the region became a training centre and staging base for Allied forces. In fact, the Cairns Highlands, as the Atherton Tablelands are also known as, housed the largest military base in Australia, with up to 300,000 troops based here between 1943 and 1945. Outside Tolga, on the Kennedy Highway, a Memorial Park has been established on the site of what was the largest field hospital in the southern hemisphere. An estimated 60,000 patients were treated here.
With a population of around 1,000, Tolga is a charmingly authentic Tablelands farming town, largely unaffected by tourism. The rich red volcanic soils have shaped the town's industries; cattle, maize, macadamias, peanuts, sugar cane, mangoes and avocados. With its historic buildings and shady trees, Tolga is an attractive place to stop for a stroll. The small town also hosts the second most popular markets on the Tablelands, on the first Sunday of the month.
The quirkily named Bones Knob Lookout - an old volcano - overlooks the western mountains of the Great Dividing Range and the slopes of Halloran's Hill towards Atherton.
SERVICES: Tolga has a general store, newsagent, post office, one pub, a butcher and a baker. There is fuel available and a caravan park.It is reported through popular legend that upon discovering alluvial tin at the headwaters of the creek, Mr Atherton shouted "Tin, Harroo!!" to his prospecting mate - hence the name.
Just a short drive east of Tolga, via the tiny township of Kairi, is Lake Tinaroo, created back in the 1950's by the damming of the Barron River. More than 545 square kilometres of land was FLOODED by the dam, but today the lake provides over 200,000 megalitres of irrigation water for the region's crops. It also serves as a nature playground for outside visitors and Cairns locals alike. Lake Tinaroo is surrounded by over 200 kilometres of shoreline taking in state forest, the scenic Danbulla Forest Drive and abundant bushwalking trails.
Tinaroo township is a tiny settlement that sits on the edge of the lake. There is a sandy beach there, and a pontoon on the lake. Visitors can also use the grassy lakeside picnic and barbecue areas, and children's playground.
Spectacular Lake Tinaroo is ideal for swimming, waterskiing, jet skiing, canoeing, sailing, birdwatching (more than 300 species of birds inhabit the area around Lake Tinaroo, including Brolgas, Rainbow Lorikeets, Pygmy Geese, Cockatoos, Kingfishers & Jacana "Jesus" birds...) and of course fishing! The lake is home to record size Barramundi and the fresh water crayfish known as Redclaw, a local delicacy. Other fish caught in the area are Mangrove Hack and Black Bream. With no closed season, this is the place to go if you are a fishing enthusiast. Lake Tinaroo is RE-STOCKED annually with barramundi, and fishing permits are required. Permits cost about $8 per week for a couple, anybody under 18 will have it for free and it can be obtained from shops near Lake Tinaroo. Boats can be also be hired from Tinaroo township.
Camping is allowed only at the designated Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service campgrounds, where basic facilities include picnic tables, barbecues, toilets and tap water. Permits are required. Generators are not allowed in the camping areas, nor are dogs. Firewood can be purchased at the nearby caravan park or Kairi service station.
SERVICES: The tiny village on the shore of Lake Tinaroo is not well supplied with services. There is a convenience store, and fuel is available from there. There are public toilets on the lakefront. Tinaroo does not have public telephones, ATM's or any other services.The Danbulla Forest, surrounding a large part of the lake, covers 8,000 hectares and offers plenty of secluded coves, beaches and bays where the rainforest stretches down to shoreline. Starting at the Tinaroo Dam spillway, just north of Tinaroo township, visitors can enjoy the scenic Danbulla Forest Drive, winding around the lake through rainforest and plantations of pine and eucalypt trees, until it meets the highway just north of Lake Barrine. Although the drive is only 28 kilometres, you should allow at least an hour, as the road is unsealed, and there is so much to see and do along the way...
* At Platypus Rocks lookout, you may want to stop and enjoy the views over the lake and Tablelands.
* Between Downfall Creek and Kauri Creek camping areas, there is a 2.6 kilometre walking track. Allow between two and three hours for the return hike.
* Kauri Creek - From the Kauri Creek picnic area, you can walk the Kauri Creek circuit, five kilometres, it will take you 2–2.5 hours return.
* At Lake Euramoo, another crater lake, you can enjoy views from a specially built viewing platform, 600 metres from the carpark.
* The Chimneys is a great place to have a picnic. The Chimneys are the remains of an early 20th century settlement. A shelter shed, gas barbecues and toilets are provided.
* Mobo Creek Crater - The mysterious Mobo Crater has a circuit track of 600 metres. Allow 30 minutes.
* Cathedral Fig Tree - Along Boar Pocket Road, there's a 150 metre boardwalk to the magnificent 800 year old Cathedral Fig Tree, towering 50 metres high.
THE PEANUT PLACE
Kennedy Highway, Tolga (MAP)
Phone (07) 4095 5333 / Fax (07) 4095 5444
100% Australian Jumbo Hi Oleic Peanuts!
In the center of Australia's second largest Hi Oleic Peanut growing region, The Peanut Place is a compulsory stop. With free taste testing, you can experience all of their scrumptious flavoured peanuts including Honey and Ginger, Sweet and Salty, Chilli and Lime, spicy Cajun or Curry, or Salt and Vinegar. Sweet tooths are spoilt for choice with butterscotch and caramel or honey flavoured peanuts and peanuts coated in sugar or chocolate, as well as peanuts in shell, raw, boiled and hot nuts. Fresh peanut butter is also available either unsalted or salted and made fresh on the premises without preservatives. If you like it hot you must try their new WASABI flavoured peanut! Only available from The Peanut Place.
Why Hi Oleic? Hi Oleic peanuts have different oil chemistry to regular peanuts, with the oleic acid ratio closely resembling that of olive oil, ie with more monounsaturated fatty acid. This is a naturally bred characteristic, which has been crossbred into existing peanut varieties, and offers increased health benefits as well a longer shelf life
THE CRYSTAL CAVES
69 Main Street, Atherton (MAP)
Phone (07) 4091 2365 / Fax (07) 4091 3285
Home of the world's biggest amethyst geode!
Crystal Caves is a fascinatingly crafted mineralogical museum. Explore a labyrinth of caves on 2 levels over 250 square metres to discover spectacular and colourful natural crystals, ancient fossils, and rare delicate minerals. You will be given a miners helmet and your adventure begins! Venture into the man made cave system, which offers an amazing labyrinth of gemstone, crystals and fossils studded into the walls.
What began with one man's passion is now Australia's most spectacular mineralogical collection, attracting more than 25,000 visitors annually. The mineralogical world is as much a part of nature as the rainforest and the reef, and René Boissevain, and his wife Nelleke would like to share the beauty of this spectacular collection that they have travelled the world to collect since 1963.
NUTWORLD (formerly The Humpy)
1 Kennedy Highway, Tolga (MAP)
Phone (07) 4095 4102
Fresh local produce and nuts, nuts, nuts!
Nutworld is the place to go for freshly harvested Atherton Tablelands produce, from vegetables to tropical fruits. And don't forget their nuts! Nutworld has hundreds of different varieties of nuts, as well as dried fruits, locally produced jams and sauces. You'll even find organic produce, including gluten free and wheat free bread.
Drop in and say "G'day" to Peter and Giovanna at Nutworld, just near the lush green archway of Mabi rainforest known as the 'Tolga Scrub', opposite the free overnight parking area.
Atherton-Malanda Road, Atherton
(Halfway between Malanda and Atherton) (MAP)
Phone (07) 4095 2388 / Fax (07) 4095 2366
Welcome to the newest attraction on the Tablelands!
Gallo Dairyland is a fully functional dairy farm that is now producing a range of gourmet dairy products and hand crafted chocolates. With a wholesome cafe featuring a range of fresh farm baked produce, informative displays, observations decks into the cheese factory and the surrounds of a working farm, Gallo Dairyland is an unmissable stop on your Tablelands Food Trail, and an ideal place to while away a few relaxed hours, in any weather and on any day. And it's perfectly located between Yungaburra, Atherton and Malanda.
The Gallo Family have been farming on the banks of the Barron River since 1937. Now, visitors will get to see how the age old method of cheese making has evolved over the years to be come a complex and innovative process. With European cheese makers developing new and unusual cheeses alongside the old favourites, a visit to Gallo Dairyland is fascinating, informative and tasty! Then of course there is the chocolate...
SHAYLEE STRAWBERRY FARM
Corner Gillies Highway and Marks Lane
(between Atherton and Yungaburra) (MAP)
Phone (07) 4091 2962 / Fax (07) 4091 4060
Shaylee Strawberries is located between Atherton and Yungaburra, sitting at 700 metres above sea level. Shaylee's rich, red volcanic soil and temperate weather conditions are just right for the cultivation of large, succulent strawberries. These are at their best during tourist season, July to November.
So grab some delicious fresh strawberries and cool off with a refreshing natural Gelato or Sorbet, made from all natural products from the Atherton Tablelands.
While in Atherton, we recommend you organise a barbecue lunch at the popular 'Platypus Park', frequented by locals and visitors alike. The park has been built on the surroundings of a local freshwater stream on Herberton Road, and it is home to a family of five platypus, as well as ducks and swamp hens. The park is equipped with barbecues, undercover picnic area and walking tracks.
Atherton is actually built on the side of an extinct volcano – Hallorans Hill. From this vantage point, Hallorans Hill Lookout, you will get the most spectacular panoramic views over the Atherton Tablelands. Below you, you will see a magnificent display of patchwork farmlands, and stunning views across Lake Tinaroo and the Seven Sisters volcanic landscape. It is also a good spot for locals and visitors to enjoy a barbecue while admiring the colourful artworks of local artists, displayed throughout the park.
HOU WANG TEMPLE
ROCKY CREEK MEMORIAL PARK
86 Herberton Road, Atherton (MAP)
Phone (07) 4091 6945 / Fax (07) 4091 6946
The Hou Wang Temple was the social and religious heart of Atherton's Chinese community. Apart from the temple itself, there was also a community hall, kitchen and a pig oven. People gathered here to worship, celebrate festivals and discuss community issues.
Nowadays, it is the only remaining structure of the original town. It is highly significant as a rare example of temples in overseas Chinese settlements. This unique building houses elaborate carvings and has an intriguing past. The site and temple were bought by a number of Chinese families who donated it to the National Trust in 1979. It is the only temple outside China known to be dedicated to HOU WANG, and is the only surviving timber and iron temple in Queensland. The Temple contains a substantial number of original artifacts. The Chinese were pioneers of agriculture in North Queensland and, as such, played an important role in opening up the Atherton area for settlement.
Located on the Kennedy Highway, Rocky Creek Memorial Park, established a decade ago to honour the many men and women who served, is the perfect place to relax over a cup of coffee or tea, with undercover picnic tables and chairs that are provided for your convenience. If you're interested in exploring the history of the Tablelands, this is the right place to start. The land was originally the site of the largest field hospital in the southern hemisphere, where an estimated 60,000 patients were treated. The old hospital site is appropriately marked with the battalion number, and memorial plaques have been erected in remembrance of our soldiers. Dedication ceremonies are held in the park each year on the Sunday nearest VP (Victory in the Pacific) Day, 15th August 1945. The park features commemorative stone markers for military units with a special area reserved for Allied and community plaques. An old igloo, erected on Frazer Road during the war, still stands today with plans underway for its restoration. As you approach Tolga, call at the Railway Museum and see the many photographs and relics of the past.
THE TOLGA RAILWAY STATION MUSEUM
This museum is located on the Kennedy Highway, seven kilometres north of Atherton. It houses the memorabilia of the local timber and agricultural industries, early history from pioneering days and Tolga's involvement in World War II. Opening times are Monday to Sunday from 1:00pm to 4:30pm. A gold coin donation is required.
The Tolga Hotel is well worth a visit. Built in 1885, it was destroyed by a fire in 1929, and was substituted by the contemporaty hotel that can be seen nowadays, removed from Kureen. The name of the hotel changed in 1973 and became known as 'The Commercial'.
The Wongabel Botanical Circuit is a very enjoyable stroll, only 2.6 kilometre long, where Victoria's Riflebirds and Tooth-billed Bowerbirds can be spotted easily. The whole circuit is a mixture of mixture of rare 'Mabi' rainforest and plantations of hoop pine.
Cnr Marion Street and Kennedy Highway, Tolga, Phone (07) 4095 5573.
Tolga houses the gallery of Bruce Duncan, one of Australia finest photographers, where award winning photographs are on display. It is a great opportunity to see wonderful photos of Australian landscape, and if you find one that you need to take one with you, they can be purchased straight away.
HAND CARVED 'HERITAGE IN TIMBER' POLES
The main street of Tolga is home to the seven 'Heritage in Timber' Poles, featuring different aspects of Atherton Tablelands rich heritage. The themes vary from animals and plants to community or agriculatural aspects, aboriginal culture, rainforest threats, etc. The poles were created by the Tableland Woodcarvers Guild, artist blacksmith Hans Pehl and aboriginal artist Gus Gosam together.
The Tolga Markets are the second most popular markets happening in the Tablelands. Every first Sunday of the month, from 7:00am to 12:00pm, lots of stalls get together with a large range of local produce, handmade arts and crafts, tools, clothing and hot and cold drinks and snacks. The markets are held on the Tolga Race Grounds.
The Tolga Scrub is the name given to the remant of Mabi rainforest that separate Atherton from Tolga. The rainforest forms a living green archway across the Kennedy Highway, and it is the place to see the Spectacled Flying Foxes in residence. To enter the walking track, start at the playground area opposite the 'Humpy' fruit and veggie shop, or, if you are coming from Atherton, it is just after the green archway.
Walkamin is a little town north of Tolga. The Nardello's Lagoon, in the town, is a quiet and peaceful retreat, perfect for a picnic. Queensland's first and only distillery, Mount Uncle, is also located here, three kilometres west of the town. The distillery produces excellent fruit liqueurs, using a natural, tried and proven method of traditional distilling..
For more information about wineries in the area, please visit our WINERIES page.
Every July, the town of Atherton celebrates a fantastic country show featuring agricultural displays, arts and crafts, thrill rides, poultry, stalls, locally made products, competitions, exhibitions and lots more. Visitors can enjoy People's Day on Tuesday.
WALKAMIN COUNTRY MUSIC FESTIVAL
The Walkamin Country Music Festival is a weekend packed with all types of music, from country to rock and blues and much more. The festival features country wide known performers as well as local talents and the entertainment and the activities are designed so all visitors have a great time.
Every year, the town of Atherton celebrates the Maize Festival, with sport activities, art exhibitions, a mardi grass, competitions, live entertainment, a festival ball and much more to keep all the family entertained.
TOLGA BIKE SHOW
The Tolga Bike Show congregates every year hundreds of motor cyclists from all over Queensland, lots of them coming from Townsville. Contestants in the 16 different categories will have access to a wonderful array of prizes.
From Saturday afternoon and goes on until Sunday evening. Live music, rides, country markets, exhibitions, food and drinks and other attractions will be available for all of the attendants to the fun and entertaining show.
For more details of special events throughout the year, please check out our TROPICAL NORTH QUEENSLAND EVENTS CALENDAR.
ATHERTON TO LAKE TINAROO ACCOMMODATION section, or use the buttons on the right to choose your style of Lake Tinaroo and Atherton holiday accommodation.
BARRON VALLEY HOTEL BISTRO
55 Main Street, Atherton (MAP)
Phone (07) 4091 1222 / Fax (07) 4091 1829
Dine in the bar, on the deck or in the dining room!
The Barron Valley Hotel is a fabulous pre-war hotel right in the heart of Atherton; its extensive restoration has maintained the original and distinctive Art Deco style. For the cheapest and best meals in town you can't go past the Barron Valley's counter meals in the main bar.
Seating is now available on the upstairs or downstairs deck. Enjoy the balmy evenings while you dine al fresco. All deck furniture is locally produced from local timber and by local workers.
The BV also has an excellent a la carte dining room, which is open for both lunch and dinner. On cold nights you can even sit in front of an open fireplace and enjoy a drink or meal. In the dining room you have a choice of dishes ranging from fresh seafood to grain fed beef and homemade desserts, with very affordable average prices. So come on in soon and enjoy a great meal and a cold drink
Atherton-Malanda Road, Atherton
(Halfway between Malanda and Atherton) (MAP)
Phone (07) 4095 2388 / Fax 07 40 952366
Featuring a range of fresh farm baked produce!
Gallo Dairyland café offers a wholesome menu, morning and afternoon tea, and of course sales of the gourmet range of cheese and tantalising chocolate.
The Cafe/Restaurant is fully airconditioned, seating approx 80-90 people. A wholesome lunch menu, morning and afternoon tea is available for you to relax and enjoy the ambience of the surrounding scenery on the beautiful Atherton Tablelands.
Souvenirs and local products such as Coffee, Rosella Jam, Tomato/Mango Chutney, Honey, and Macadamias are available for purchase. Opening hours are from 9.30am
THE GALLERY CAFE
Tolga Woodworks, Kennedy Highway, Tolga (MAP)
Phone (07) 4095 4488 / Fax (07) 4095 4589
The most delectable food stop!
The Café serves a delicious all day menu using the freshest ingredients with flair and imagination.
Enjoy summer salads, Thai, Greek or Tuscan, woodfired breads with Mediterranean vegetables, cheesecakes of sweet potato and leeks, winter tarts, soups, mouth-watering cakes and bakes, with locally grown coffee, leaf tea and fruit juices. Gluten free meals and bread available.
Both the Gallery and the Café have been recognised with awards for excellence: "...the most delectable food stop on the Atherton Tablelands, providing the simplest fare with a rare excellence." Australian Gourmet Traveler. Teas and lunch seven days a week.
"SNIBBLES" IN THE RAINFOREST
As you'll see on the Atherton Tablelands map, all roads lead to Atherton. Whether entering the Tablelands from the northeast (Cairns, Port Douglas, Kuranda), the southeast (Innisfail) or from any outback destinations, you will end up passing through the town of Atherton as you cross the Tablelands. It's a pleasant drive, and if you're looking for a great deal... no, the best deal... on a rental car or campervan, please visit our CAR HIRE page.
Please Note: There are no regular public transport services to (or between) the towns of Yungaburra, Malanda, Kairi, Tinaroo or Millaa Millaa.
Trans North Coaches services the Atherton region, and connects the Tablelands with Cairns, operating a number of daily services on the Cairns - Kuranda - Mareeba - Atherton route. Connections are available with Kerry's Bus Service from Atherton to Ravenshoe and Herberton, and with Chillagoe Bus Service along the Wheelbarrow Way to Chillagoe. In Atherton, catch the bus at Phillips Newsagent, Main Street
In Cairns, the route begins/ends at 46 Spence Street, but passengers can also also hail the bus at bus stops along Sheridan Street, or anywhere else along the route, provided it is safe for the driver to stop. Discounts range from 20% for tertiary students to 50% for pensioners and primary school children.
A number of towns, including Mareeba, Atherton, Malanda and Ravenshoe, have local taxi services, and can serve to transport you from town to town. Of course this can become expensive, especially if travelling alone. Atherton's taxi service phone, located at 126 Robert Street, is (07) 4091 1622.
- MT. MOLLOY - JULATTEN
- MAREEBA - CHILLAGOE
- ATHERTON - LAKE TINAROO
- YUNGABURRA-CRATER LAKES
- MALANDA - MILLAA MILLAA
- RAVENSHOE - MT. GARNET
- HERBERTON - IRVINEBANK
In case of emergency only, dial 000. In all other cases, phone the local service for Atherton:
Ambulance (07) 4091 1911 or 131233
Hospital (07) 4091 1211, (07) 4091 0211, (07) 4091 0279
Police (07) 4091 1200, (07) 4091 5088
EMERGENCY SERVICESIn case of emergency only, dial 000. In all other cases, phone the local service for Atherton:
Ambulance (07) 4091 1911 or 131233
Hospital (07) 4091 1211, (07) 4091 0211, (07) 4091 0279
Police (07) 4091 1200, (07) 4091 5088