Stunning Natural Attractions
One of the most unique trails on offer for the Atherton Tablelands is Geological Wonders. The Atherton Tableland was once a very active
volcanic area and what has been left for us to enjoy is a series of stunning natural attractions with an incredible history to go with it.
Start: Lake Barrine, via Gillies Highway, Barrine
Duration: 2 – 3 days
Print: Geological Wonders [PDF]
Lake Eacham is a clear, blue lake surrounded by lush rainforest. Walking tracks through the rainforest provide secluded forest-fringed views of the lake and excellent opportunities for viewing wildlife. In geological terms, the lake is a maar—a volcanic crater formed by massive explosions from the superheating of groundwater. The crater has filled with water, forming a lake 65m deep.
Lake Barrine was formed over 17,000 years ago when a large volcano erupted, leaving a crater that over time filled up with water to create a lake. The crater or maar was formed as a result of a series of volcanic explosions. These explosions were caused by the hot molten rock coming into contact with groundwater. This caused a build-up of steam, gases and pressure which blasted the central core from the volcano. This massive explosion left a huge crater, which filled with rainwater to create Lake Barrine.
Mt Quincan Crater
Mt Quincan is a dormant volcano that erupted approx 16,000 years ago. It is 11.2 m deep and there is water under the floating vegetation root mat. Mt Quincan is an outstanding example of a scoria cone that charactises the volcanic influences on the Atherton Tableland landscape. The crater is on private land and the best way to truly experience this geological wonder is to spoil yourself and stay at Mt Quincan Crater Retreat.
The Seven Sisters are a series of seven volcanic mounds on the Atherton Tablelands between Yungaburra and the township of Atherton. These volcanic cones were created by explosive eruptions. As air vents opened, volcanic ash and scoria (light weight volcanic rocks with gas bubbles) hurled into the air, falling to build up cones around them.
Bromfield Swamp is a shallow crater of an extinct volcano and forms part of the headwaters of the North Johnstone River. Bromfield Swamp is home to a population of Sarus Cranes, elegant long-legged waterbirds that look like a large heron. These cranes used to be found from Australia to Northern India but have now become almost extinct in Asia. Australia has one of the last breeding populations in the world, with an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 birds, of which three thousand live on the Atherton Tablelands.
Recognised as one of Australia’s most unusual attractions, this world class natural history museum gives visitors a very exciting glimpse at what happened millions of years ago beneath our earth’s crust. Rene Boissevain is a man with a passion. He has spent a lifetime travelling to every corner of the world to collect crystallised mineral specimens, gemstones, fossils and rocks. To house his growing collection of more than 600 individual pieces, Rene has built 250 m2 of tunnels and grottos for you to explore. Carefully positioned and delicately lit, you are free to discover in your own time and encouraged to touch and photograph the crystals.
Open your mind and put all expectations aside, this is not your average museum…
Mt Hypipamee Crater
Mt Hypapamee Crater is a deep, cylindrical volcanic pipe with a lake at the bottom is an awe inspiring feature of this park. It is 61 metres in diameter and 82 metres deep. The Traditional Owners of Mount Hypipamee National Park, the Ngadjon and Jirrbal, Aboriginal people, welcome you to their country and ask that you respect their special place.
Innot Hot Springs
Innot Hot Springs is a series of natural geo thermal mineral springs located between Ravenshoe and Mt Garnet on the Kennedy Highway. The hot springs of Nettle Creek have long been established as rejuvenating and healing. Throughout the sandy creek bed bubbles hot water and many locals and visitors come here to sit in the shallows of the creek and enjoy the healing properties.
Undara Lava Tubes
Undara Volcanic National Park is rich volcanic basalt soils, covered in a sea of seasonal grasses, conceal the Undara lava tube. This geological tunnel of global significance extends under a ribbon of remnant dry rainforest. ‘Undara’ is an Aboriginal word meaning ‘long way’. The park protects one of the longest lava tube cave systems in the world. About 190,000 years ago, a large volcano erupted violently, spewing molten lava over the surrounding landscape. The lava flowed rapidly down a dry riverbed. The top, outer-layer cooled and formed a crust, while the molten lava below drained outwards, leaving behind a series of hollow tubes.
Chillagoe-Mungana Caves National Park
Featuring spectacular limestone caves, small galleries of Aboriginal rock art, jagged limestone outcrops and an historically significant mining site, this park is rich in natural and cultural heritage.
- Start off by climbing the Gillies Range towards Yungaburra. Your first stops are going to be Lake Barrine and Lake Eacham. In geological terms, the lakes are a must, volcanic craters formed by massive explosions from the superheating of groundwater. The craters have filled with water, forming lakes some 65m deep. Now surrounded by stunning rainforest, Lake Barrine offers cruises giving you an insight into the unique ecology of the lake.
- A little further on is Lake Eacham. A self guided walk circles the entire lake.
Both Lake Barrine and Lake Eacham are perfect for a swim on a hot Tropical North Queensland day.
- Mt Quincan and the Seven Sisters, near Yungaburra, are volcanic cones created by explosive eruptions. As vents opened, volcanic materials were hurled into the air, falling to build up cones around them. The seven sisters are easily seen as you drive between Yungaburra and Atherton as is the rich vibrant volcanic soil that is the envy of farming districts around Australia.
- Mt Quincan Crater Retreat offers romantic rainforest isolation on the slopes of an extinct volcano. Yungaburra offers a variety of top quality accommodation, with charming B&Bs, boutique style cottages and motels providing a choice for every budget.
- Leaving Yungaburra via the Atherton Road/Gillies Highway, head towards Atherton to visit the Crystal Caves located at 69 Main Street Atherton (15 mins). The Crystal Caves The Crystal Caves is a natural history museum displaying the private collection of rock hound René Boissevain. Hundreds of crystals, gemstones, fossils and rocks from all corners of the globe are exhibited in a maze of tunnel and grottos which René has built.
- 20 minutes from Atherton is Bromfield Swamp via the Kennedy Highway /National Route 1. At approximately 14.8 klms turn right into Belson Road and 2.8 klms on your right is the Bromfield Swamp, home to a population of Sarus Cranes, elegant long-legged waterbirds that look like a large heron.
- Returning back to the Kennedy Highway via Belson Road, turn right and a further 15 klms towards Herberton is the Mount Hypipamee Crater, also known as The Crater is a huge diatreme. It is 61 metres in diameter and 82 metres deep. Mount Hypipamee crater is thought to have been created by a massive gas explosion. As the gas rose suddenly througha crack to the Earth’s surface, pressure on it was reduced and the gas expanded . The massive explosion as it burst through to the surface created a deep cylindrical hole or pipe through the granite. This feature is known as a diatreme. Mount Hypipamee is the only known example of this in North Queensland. The Crater is surrounded by beautiful waterfalls and rainforest.
- Innot Hot Springs is a series of natural geo thermal mineral springs located between Ravenshoe and Mt Garnet on the Kennedy Highway (56.7 klms from Mount Hypipamee crater). The hot springs of Nettle Creek have long been established as rejuvenating
and healing. Throughout the sandy creek bed bubbles hot water and many locals and visitors come here to sit in the shallows of the creek and enjoy the healing properties.
- Undara Volcanic National Park is located at Mt Surprise, 172 klm drive from Innot Hot Springs. Undara’ is an Aboriginal word meaning ‘long way’. The park protects one of the longest lava tube cave systems in the world. About 190,000 years ago, a large volcano
erupted violently, spewing molten lava over the surrounding landscape. The lava flowed rapidly down a dry riverbed. The top, outer-layer cooled and formed a crust, while the molten lava below drained outwards, leaving behind a series of hollow tubes. If geology is of
interest to you then simply Undara is not to be missed.
- From Undara and heading back towards Innot Hot Springs you can experience the Chillagoe Caves National Park via Lappa Mt Garnet Road. The limestone of the Chillagoe Caves was deposited as calcareous mud and coral reefs approx 400 million years ago, on the bed of shallow sea where Chillagoe is located today. A fitting end to a series of great natural encounters.