One of the highlights of Northern Queensland is the Atherton Tablelands. This huge national park is about an hour south of Cairns, and is home to tropical rainforest, some of the most beautiful waterfalls ever, ancient volcanic craters, incredible views, and an abundance of wildlife.
If you’re up for adventure and aren’t short of time, then this is an area you should explore yourself. Rent a car with some friends and drive around the huge national park. Camp and take your time. However, if you’re short of time and/or money, there are plenty of tours on offer of the area which will show you the highlights in one day.
Normally, I only do tours if it’s necessary in order to view or truly experience an area, or if the tour is highly recommended and is considered a ‘must-do’. The latter is the reason why we decided to go on one of the famous and highly recommended Barefoot Tours. As we had to forgo going up into the Daintree because of money, we needed something to fulfil our needs of seeing what the Tropics of Queensland had to offer. Barefoot had been recommended to us and seemed like not only a great way to see the gorgeous scenery of this area, but great fun too. The tour seemed less like a classic, boring tour where a guide ships loads of people from place to place, but like a genuine laugh. Plus, it was great value for money – only $100 for the whole day.
We were greeted at 7.45am outside our hostel by our tour guide, Wade. He said good morning by giving us a big hug and welcoming us on board his little bus, Shikaka. Shikaka had flowers on the ceiling, a black and white chequered floor, covered with fake grass. It definitely had character. Everyone on the tour was a similar age, so we had plenty of laughs. Wade was not only hilarious and sweet, but was incredibly knowledgable about the area and Australia, whether it came to the strange creatures that inhabit this country or the countries history. On the bus he played us music from Aboriginal musicians so we could really get a feel for Australia’s heritage and culture, from the original people of this lands perspective. He also played us Red Hot Chilli Peppers and The Beatles though. There was certainly variety and the long drives around during the day were never boring!
On our way up the steep (and sickly) climb to the tablelands, we were greeted with incredible views of the landscape.
Our first stop was at what Wade called the ‘woah tree’, because apparently when people saw it they couldn’t help but go ‘woahhhh’. It truly did live up to the hype. As wade pointed it out, we all gasped – I had never seen a tree so big and beautiful in my life.
In reality, it wasn’t a tree. It had been once, and the huge vine like branches had climbed around it and remained, whilst the tree itself inside died. Still, it was some sight, and we all got to go inside.
Next up was one of my favourite things of the day. A huge lake which sat inside an ancient volcanic crater. It sounded cool, but when we got there and took in the size and scope, it was truly breathtaking. Once upon a time. This had been a volcano, but thousands of years of rainfall had created a huge lake with a depth of over 300ft. It was one of those things that you just struggled to comprehend the true size of.
The best part was, we got to swim in the lake. It was the perfect temperature and was so clear, it was just crazy realising how far the bottom was beneath our feet!
After the lake, a spot of sunbathing, and morning tea with lots of biscuits, mini muffins, and delicious fresh fruits, we headed out to the famous Millaa Millaa falls, best known as the location for Peter Andre’s Mysterious Girl music video.
Well, I can certainly see why Peter chose this as the location. In the past few months of travelling I’ve been lucky enough to see, swim in, and even abseil down, some incredible waterfalls. But nothing could compare in beauty to this, it truly was picture perfect.
Seriously. So beautiful. We were lucky that the weather was so good. It just made the waterfall and the surrounding forest stand out. We also got to swim in the waterfall, which was incredibly cold! It felt like ice, but it was worth it.
We then took a longer drive up to Josephine Falls, with a few stops along the way. We stopped to buy some Mangosteen from a roadside stall – it was only 50c for one of these superfood fruits!
Josephine Falls wasn’t quite as beautiful as Millaa Millaa, but was still impressive. This waterfall was much more powerful, with strong currents, and we could only swim in a certain part of it. The falls were nestled within the rainforest, surrounded by exotic trees and twisting branches.
Despite being in the Rainforest, the temperatures were pleasantly cool, due to us being so high up. It provided welcome relief from the heat down in Cairns and was very different from the sticky heat within the jungles I went to in Asia!
After this, we enjoyed afternoon tea with lots of cake, before making our way back to Cairns.
I had such a fun day on this tour and would recommend it to anyone. It’s perfect for young people who want to see the natural beauty Queensland has to offer in a fun environment. It’s not a party or booze tour or anything like that, even though if you want to drink you can. But it does have a fun and youthful environment. There is a lot of driving around so you can see everything in the short space of time, but I didn’t even mind the drives, as the views were beautiful, the music was good, and there were plenty of people to talk to. If you are short on time and unsure of what to do in Cairns, then Barefoot is a brilliant option.