12 Best Tableland and Cairns attractions
Regretfully, after two weeks in Port Douglas we ‘cut the roots’ and drove south to Cairns. Port Douglas will remain in our memories for a long time. We will definitely come back here. There were so many Cairns attractions on our list and we could not wait to see them.
#1 Cairns Coconut Resort
Our destination was Cairns Coconut Resort – the only five stars Caravan Park in Australia. It is due to many attractions in the park as well as overall maintenance perfection together with professional staff and service.
Counting the attractions they have a basketball court, tennis court, big playground, tennis table, small and big jumping pillow, two big swimming pools, and a nice water park (similar to the Gold Coast one with the bucket).
It is also possible to hire a bike, play badminton or volleyball.
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The whole place looks nice and clean and straight after our arrival, we had a feeling we will stay here longer. The weather was hot and humid. Occasionally we had heavy rain that passed quickly. The sky was full of low, heavy clouds – perhaps typical Cairns in December.
Thus we fully relaxed and we got busy with our pool adventures. Believe me or not but it takes a while to go to the main pool, have a hot and cold spa, have a swim, go to the water park, have a slide and swim, and finally go to the second pool and have a swim again. The whole loop took us around three hours every time we went.
At the end of our first week in the Cairns Coconut Resort, it rained continuously for the last three days. Not that we cared too much about it. It’s hot and the raindrops are pleasantly warm. The problem is that you cannot go sightseeing in such weather. Therefore, we did not go anywhere as we are waiting for the weather to improve.
Snappers for lunch again
One day we bought two fresh snappers for only $6, which was a big surprise to us as the bait itself costs almost the same.
After stuffing them with butter, garlic, and dill, the fish found their place on the grill, and believe it or not, they caused a sensation when they finally landed on the plate! Marius went so crazy that he even swallowed the skin, he liked it so much. So tasty!
#2 Cairns Esplanade and Lagoon
Normally when we arrive and set up our camp we look around in the neighbourhood to drive and explore the country. During the first week in Cairns, we really enjoyed the atmosphere of our resort fully relaxing in the pool, slides, bikes etc.
In the first couple of days, we did not go anywhere and only visited Cairns town. Cairns’ most featured town attraction is Cairns Lagoon.
It is a public water park located right at the shore where everyone can get wet for free. Nice. The holiday atmosphere of all the cafes and shops makes this place worth visiting.
Cairns does not actually have a beach right in town. There are only mud plains that are exposed during a low tide that is home to mud dwellers.
If you want to enjoy the beach the most famous north of Cairns are Trinity Beach, Kewarra Beach, Clinton Beach and Palm Cove, and on the south, Yorkeys Knob, Holloways Beach and Machans Beach.
After splashing and swimming in the lagoon, we walked along the promenade along the coast. There was a low tide and thousands of crabs were running on the muddy bottom looking for food. We really enjoyed this beautiful, tropical town.
Just before sunset, Marius and Nell rented a bicycle and rode the campground for an hour. In the end, Nell was so tired that she could not fall asleep. It was so hot, and only taking a cold shower calmed her down a bit and she finally fell asleep to our great delight.
#3 Lake Morris
At the end of the week, we had soaked with water so much that we decided finally to go for a drive. First, we drove up to Lake Morris which is a water reservoir for Cairns. The 16 km road was windy and beautiful with many stunning views.
We climbed up to approximately 500 meters above sea level. We were going through the rainforest and ended at the visitor centre at the lake. There were no people around and we could feel the isolation and remoteness of this place.
Lake Morris is beautifully located in the rainforest and cormorants inhabit this area. It was beautiful, peaceful and very picturesque.
It looked very wild and untouched. We could enjoy the lake from the viewing platform. Also, we took a walk to the water tower standing in the middle of the lake.
Interestingly the lake depth around the tower is 36 meters so very deep. I was thinking that at such a high altitude it would be cooler but I was wrong. The weather was hot and humid and there was not much air to breathe.
#4 Crystal Cascades
After we left Lake Morris we drove around to Crystal Cascades. There is actually a direct walking trail from Lake Morris to Crystal Cascades but considering the weather we did not go for it. Maybe we will do it in the future in cooler months.
Crystal Cascades has a 1.2 km wide, concrete path along the creek. It is also a popular swimming place with many water holes. There were a few guys jumping off the rocks.
It is not allowed to jump from the rocks but I have to admit it was quite spectacular and looked very dangerous. At the end of the walk, we reached a small but beautiful Crystal Cascades waterfall.
The next day was very busy. Our intention was to drive around the Tableland and make a loop.
#5 Davies Creek National Park
We started from Davies Creek National Park. After passing Kuranda, 15 km before Mareeba, we turned left to Davies Creek Road. It was a dirt, well-maintained road and our first stop was at Lower Davies Creek Camping Area. Later on, we found out this campground was situated at the bottom of Davis Creek Falls that was just ahead of us.
At some point, we were surprised by a 1950s vintage car that passed us on this narrow dirt road. The car was beautifully restored and looked like new. We were wondering what it is doing here. It looked like the locals had pulled it out for a Sunday ride.
The road started to be rocky with crystal creek meandering around and campsites available at the creek. It is a really nice place even for the after-hours drive.
Next, we drove to Davies Creek Falls. From there the road started to be steep and narrow. We could see a magnificent view of the gorge that ended at Davies Creek Falls.
Once we arrived at the car park we went for Davies Creek Falls Circuit walk. The walk had two parts. The first part led to the viewing platform overlooking the gorge and the second part went along the waterfalls where we could see the waterfalls from the top.
Interestingly, there were no tourists so we had the whole place for ourselves.
After seeing the falls, we enjoyed driving up to the end of the road that ended in the rainforest where there was another loop walk called Kahlpahlim Rock Trail. This was a 6 hours walking trail that led to Kahlpahlim Rock and later was finishing through Ridge Trail.
Instead of walking we found a nice spot at the creek and cooled our feet in the water. We stayed there for a while enjoying the dense rainforest.
We returned the same way and visited the Tichum Creek Coffee Shop at the intersection of Kennedy Highway and Davies Creek Road.
As it was already off-season and no one but us was there, the owner had time to chat for a moment and also made us a delicious iced coffee.
We also had the opportunity to see the coffee trees that are currently blooming. We could admire small, delicate white flowers among dark-green, shiny leaves. Due to the fact we are coffee addicts, we bought a supply of it for later.
#6 Mareeba Wetlands
Our next destination was Mareeba Wetlands. We took a shortcut through Gilmore Road to bypass Mareeba town. By doing this we could observe how local farmers make their living and see the country from a non-commercial perspective.
A few days of rain filled the nearby streams and we crossed the rapidly flowing water several times. November is the mango season so while passing the orchards, we admired the dignified trees covered with good-looking fruit.
We even passed a distillery where they run mango vodka, but we found that sweet vodka somehow did not suit us.
Mareeba Wetlands happened to be a well-organised visitor centre that even offers accommodation in safari tents. They offer self-guided walking trails, guided boat cruises, canoeing and twilight safari.
The main building is placed at the billabong with a viewing deck to observe the birds. The billabong was one of the most beautiful wetlands that we have seen so far. We could not stay long as we still had a long drive.
Funny, on our way out we were ‘patrolled’ by two emus. I think they were checking if we did not leave some rubbish behind. 🙂
#7 Emerald Creek Falls
The next stop on our agenda was Emerald Creek Falls. The falls are located 15 km southeast of Mareeba. The road leading to the falls is a dirt road not suitable for caravans. It ended at the car park and from there it was a 2 km walk.
The creek and the falls were very similar to Davies Creek Falls but the walk was more difficult as it was going in full sun with limited shade. It must be a popular place as there were many people having a plunge in many water holes along the creek.
Emerald Creek Falls did not have much-flowing water even though it was the beginning of the wet season and we had some good rain already. Regardless, we enjoyed the place and we tick it off from our list.
#8 Danbulla National Park 4WD driving
Emerald Creek Falls was our last planned stop on our trip. Later on our intention was to do some 4WD driving through Danbulla National Park and State Forest. This way we could enjoy the wild rainforest for longer while finding a nice shortcut using our HEMA navigator. By doing that we could save 20 km in comparison if we drove on the highway.
So, when we left Emerald Creek Falls we first went on Henry Hannam Drive road and soon turned left to Tinaroo Creek Road which led us deep into the rainforest. The road soon converted to a more challenging track that was called Kauri Creek Road.
The drive was going smoothly and the only thing that worried us as we had only half a tank of diesel. Even though we had HEMA topographical maps we still could end nowhere but if we got lost we could always return the same way. Some of the roads marked in our navigator did not exist or we could not find them.
All way we were driving through the rainforest and at some spots we could see beautiful views. Hopefully, Kauri Creek Road was all right and finally, we ended close to Lake Tinaroo and joined Danbulla Road. From there we made a choice to drive east as we knew there were some attractions on the way.
#9 Lake Euramoo
Lake Euramoo is a crater lake that occupies a volcanic landform. It is a very unusual lake as it has the shape of a dumbbell (most lakes are circular in shape). This unique shape represents two similar-sized, overlapping craters. Scientists believe that these craters were created when two vents from a volcano erupted at the same time, causing a double explosion.
As you see, we were learning a lot from this trip.
We sat down on a bench for a while and it was very quiet and peaceful. The sun was already setting and the city was still far away. This got us quickly to our feet as we didn’t want to drive in the dark in this jungle! The next attraction on the way was The Chimneys.
#10 The Chimneys
The Chimneys happened to be a historic sawmill or rather whatever was left from it. We learned that the Danbulla area was a soldier settlement area during the first world war. The sawmill was built in 1924 and was operating until the construction of Lake Tinaroo in 1955. Then, the mill machinery was moved to Kairi where the biggest mill stands even today.
Today, the place is called The Chimneys as only two chimneys are left from the whole sawmill.
#11 Mobo Creek Crater
Soon after, we found Mobo Creek Crater. There is a bit of mystery about it. Scientists are not sure if it should be called a crater.
One of the explanations is that the crater represents the remnant of an underground basalt formation. Over time the waters of Mobe Creek eroded exposing the basalt rock which is the creek base now with non-volcanic walls above.
There was a 1.2 km walk to Mobo Creek Crater but we did not take it due to the late hour we found it. Maybe next time.
#12 Cathedral Fig Tree
After another 2 km, we reached Cathedral Fig Tree. It was already 5.30 pm but we had to see it. You have to know that in the rainforest the sunset goes faster as the big trees hide the remains of the afternoon sun much quicker.
Fortunately, the tree was located only 60 meters from the main road. Thus, we went to see it. The impression was amazing. This was actually the biggest fig trip we had seen so far in Australia.
The roots of the figs formed a soaring shape that resembled a gothic cathedral. The tree is so big that Nell looked like an ant standing next to it!
Hopefully the pictures we took give you more of an impression than my description.
It was very late afternoon and we had to finally return to our camp. Shortly after we left Cathedral Fig Tree the dirt road turned to bitumen and soon we turned left to Gordonvale-Atherton Road and drove to Cairns.
Best Tableland and Cairns attractions – Summary
It was one of the most interesting, beautiful but exhausting days of our trip.
In just one day we saw: Lake Morris, Crystal Cascaded, Davies Creek Falls, Mareeba Wetlands, Emerald Creek Falls, and Danbulla National Park. During that mysterious dark, wet, 4WD drive we found Lake Euramoo, The Chimneys, Mobo Creek Crater, and Cathedral Fig Tree.
We really like Atherton Tableland. Within the first week, we visited 12 Cairns attractions and it wasn’t the end. Next week we were planning to see the best Cairns beaches.
PS. I have to praise Nell as she was great on this trip. She did not complain, walked with passion and she knew how to milk it and get ice creams whenever possible. Well done girl!
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4WD Equipment Checklist
GPS Navigator or compass
Maxtrax – if you get bogged, you can use it for additional traction
Tire Deflator – deflate tires quickly when going on dirt or 4WD
Air Compressor – inflate tires quickly after going back on bitumen (we use MM)
Tire Repair Kit – to fix the tire by yourself when you don’t have access to the tire shop (we use Oztrail)
UHF Radio – for communication with your mates and in emergency
Full Recovery Kit (with Dampener Blanket) – must-have if you are going on real off-road
High Lift Jack – useful if you do serious 4WD tracks
Shovel – useful if you get bogged, also good for campfire cooking
Fuel funnel with water filter – additional protection when fueling up in dodgy places
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