CASSOWARY COAST TO THE ATHERTON TABLELANDS
ATTRACTIONS Kurrimine Beach is famous for King Reef, which is so close to shore that walking tours are offered on the lowest of low tides. It is also popular with fisher folk.
A leading attraction nearby is the Berryman family’s Murdering Point Winery, where visitors can enjoy free guided tropical fruit wine tasting and discussion of the bush tucker and locally sourced fruits used to make the medalwinning wine. Quality dry, sweet and fortified wines are produced from fruits such as mango, passionfruit and lychee and bush tucker Lemon Aspen and Davidson Plum. Follow the road to Silkwood, which maintains religious and cultural immigrant links with Italy. The tradition of the Feast of the Three Saints is celebrated on the first Sunday of May, with a parade, feast and fireworks. The town is home to the famous Aussie Pepper and the smallest National Australia Bank building. Mena Creek’s history is flavoured with the romantic story of Jose Paronella, a Spanish immigrant with a dream and a passion for castles and hard work. In the 1930s he opened his pleasure gardens and reception centre, Paronella Park, powering the venture with hydroelectric generators. Today the dream continues at this restored, intriguing venue. During the day, visitors are charmed by guided tours, including the Tunnel of Love. By night, the park presents a dramatic evening tour. Paronella Park was voted the number one thing to do in the 2009 RACQ poll and has since been recognised as the best major tourism attraction in the region. Camping and cabin accommodation is available. Visitors can also stay locally at the caravan park and camping grounds with its six boutique cabins or at the Mena Creek Hotel, which offers air-conditioned rooms (including family room options). Mena Creek is home to a number of walks, including the Gorrell Track, an easy 3.7km to MacNamee Creek’s lush rainforest and picnic spot. The cane track runs through the centre of South Johnstone so it is a good place to grab a coffee or a beer and experience the sight of the colourful little locomotives hauling cane bins to the local mill during the sugar cane crushing season. Next stop is Wangan where award-winning pies are on offer. The southern access to the Atherton Tablelands provides a scenic drive along the 55km Palmerston Highway from the coast, through Wooroonooran National Park, to the township of Millaa Millaa at the top of the range. After turning off the Bruce Highway 5km north of Innisfail, the vista opens out on to cattle and cane farm land with breathtaking views of mountain fringed valleys and the southern aspect of Mt Bartle Frere. At 1622m, this is Queensland’s highest mountain. Continue past the Nucifora tea plantation and into the World Heritage rainforest, stopping en route to experience the Mamu Tropical Skywalk, a 350m elevated walkway in the traditional country of the Mamu Aboriginal people. It offers close-up views of rainforest plants, insects and birds high up in the rainforest canopy, along with spectacular panoramic views of the World Heritage area, including North Johnstone River gorge and surrounding rainforest-clad peaks. Interpretive signs tell the story of the rich culture and history of the area and explain the rainforest’s complex web of life. There are numerous camping areas and places to swim in the cool, fresh water of the North Johstone River as you drive through Wooroonooran National Park. Sections of the Palmerston Highway are quite steep so observe the speed limits. Keep an eye out for the overhead “possum ladders”, which allow native animals to cross from rainforest on one side of the wide road to the other without having to come to the ground and risk being hit by vehicles. The endangered Southern Cassowary and even feral pigs (definitely ground-dwellers) have been spotted along this section of highway. From Millaa Millaa continue on the Millaa-Malanda road or take the Old Palmerston Highway tourist drive (not suitable for caravans) to the Kennedy Highway north of Ravenshoe.