From its beginnings as a timber-getters’ camp and staging post between the outback tin mines and the coast, Atherton has blossomed like its trademark Jacaranda trees into a diverse regional centre. Well known to the locals as a highland getaway destination, Atherton is also famous for its rich soils, which grow superb produce and flowers. and microbats at the visitor centre. This internationally renowned facility is operated by a not-for-profit group dedicated to the conservation of bats and their habitat. They achieve the rescue, rehabilitation and release of hundreds of bats each year and the facility is open seasonally to the public.
FARM FRESH PRODUCE
The Atherton Tablelands covers an area from Julatten and Kuranda in the north, west to Chillagoe and south to Ravenshoe and Mt Garnet. The cool, elevated green and brown mountains are part rainforest, part outback. This region is known as Tropical North Queensland’s food bowl with agriculture the largest contributor to the regional economy, realising a gross value of production of over $500 million. The success and resilience of the Atherton Tablelands’ agriculture industry is attributable to the diversity of sectors suitable to the vast region. Water, soils and diverse growing conditions have sustained development of a wide range of agricultural and horticultural cropping operations including plant and animal industries and production of both tropical and subtropical crops of which 39 large agricultural industries now exist. Mangoes, bananas, avocados, strawberries, macadamias, dairy cattle, lychees, pumpkins, aquaculture, beef cattle, flowers, longans, hay, eggs, peanuts, mixed vegetables, tea, coffee, table grapes, blueberries, melons, tea-tree, passionfruit and honey are just some of the produce grown here. Look for produce and preserves at the weekend markets and roadside stalls, savour local coffee (over 90% of Australia’s coffee crop grows here) and teas, and take home award winning fruit wines and liqueurs made from tropical fruits and other exotics. Did you know? Just under five million flowers are picked each year on the Atherton Tablelands for the wholesale market.
ATTRACTIONS The region
has a wealth of artists whose works are best seen at the Tablelands Regional Gallery. Check out the wonderful pre-war Barron Valley Hotel, browse through the town’s quaint shops like Atherton Antiques & Australiana and enjoy a picnic at Halloran’s Hill with a view of the Seven Sisters volcanic cones. Hasties Swamp (Nyleta Wetlands) is a seasonal wetland with an annual wet and dry cycle. The twostorey bird hide provides wheelchair access on the lower section only. Finally, take time to get to know the inhabitants at The Bat Hospital on the road to Herberton. Here, you can meet flying foxes
THE CRYSTAL CAVES In
the main street, you will find one of the most remarkable and novel attractions in the whole of Australia. The Crystal Caves are a spectacular private mineral collection with over 600 specimens made up of rare crystals, gemstones and fossils. These gemstones have been brought together by one visionary who found love at first site more than 40 years ago after cracking his first geode along the banks of Agate Creek in North Queensland. Rene Boissevain, together with his wife Nelleke, have made it their life’s work to build one of the largest mineral collections in Australia.