The Chillagoe-Mungana Caves National Park is about three hours and 215kms from Cairns and an amazing destination – spectacular limestone caves, small galleries of Indigenous rock art, jagged rock outcrops and fascinating mining relics. It’s a complete contrast to the lush Wet Tropics with limestone moulded, dissolved and reformed by water to create spectacular caverns and passages. The interior design is courtesy stalactites, stalagmites and flowstones. You can drive there nearly year-round except for the height of the wet via either Herberton or Undara National Park. Be aware – neither road is completely sealed.
Being able to trek through a rainforest wilderness by four-wheel drive or motorbike makes the 28km drive up the Mount Lewis range a treat. Nowhere will the bush of this Wet Tropics World Heritage Area be more accessible. Winding through forest covered ridges and spurs, the road climbs to more than 1200 metres and then follows the chain of peaks that form the watershed of the Mossman and Mitchell Rivers. From your car spot the area’s treasure of unique and native wildlife.
Roaring over rocks in full wet season mode, Barron Falls is a sight – and sound – to behold. The volume and noise are mind blowing. It’s pretty impressive in the dry as well. Just out of Kuranda, the falls are 259m wide and 125m high. They can be seen from the train heading up the Kuranda Range – there’s a special stop – but there’s also viewing platforms signposted from Kuranda. It’s an easy walk right round to get the best perspective on this mighty drop.
Emerald Creek is one of the Atherton Tablelands sweet swimming spots – clear cool waters tumbling over boulders into irresistible pools. About 20 minutes out of Mareeba on the end of a gravel road, and a 1.9 km return walk (wear shoes) to the lookout you’ll find the answer to a hot day: cool mountain swimming holes to have a paddle in or take the plunge. An oasis in the bush, and the perfect place for a picnic.
The birthplace of the Rainbow Serpent, Mt Mulligan is an 18km long sandstone ridge 10 times larger than Ayers Rock but about a million times less known. Jutting out of the bush landscape this stone mountain sits grandly within a 28,000-ha working cattle station. Nearby is the township of Mt Mulligan, a ghost town now, but formerly a thriving coal mining operation. However, it became the site of one of Australia’s worst mining disasters when in 1921 75 men died when an explosion tore through the mine. The blast could be heard from 30 miles away. A little bit eerie but well worth having a fossick round and paying your respects.
Written by Tanya Snelling. Originally published 10th July 2018