Set in lush Kuranda, Koala Gardens and Birdworld are neighbours.
A sanctuary for kangaroos, wallabies, wombats and other animals as well as koalas, Koala Gardens is your chance to cuddle Australia’s native teddy bear. As well as having the ultimate selfie with this sweet and gentle marsupial, you can mix and mingle with the other residents. It’s a lot of fun. A tip – go early in the day when the animals are keen for breakfast.
Birdworld has flocks of beautiful birds who will happily use you as a landing strip. The enclosure is stunning and the species spectacular, including several cassowaries. Many of the birds are Australian natives but there are a few international residents among the feathered population. You will see everything from tiny finches to massive macaws and can feed most of them. This is a highly interactive, joyous place and a once in a lifetime experience.
Emerald Creek Ice Creamery
I scream, you scream, the kids scream – for ice cream.
Need a stop and a chance to stretch the legs? What can be better than adding ice cream. And not just any old ice cream – Emerald Creek Ice Creamery can’t be licked for inventive flavours and creamy deliciousness. And if you fancy a sorbet these treats use local fruits including mango, pineapple, dragon fruit and lime for full on flavour. The visitor centre near Mareeba also offers other food such as jams, fudge and biltong set in beautiful surrounds with lots of seating inside and out. Super helpful staff and homemade yummy goodness – don’t go past it!
Historic Village Herberton
This is the ultimate town-sized playground for the kids.
Made for running around and exploring, the Historic Village Herberton is set on 16 acres and has more than 60 turn of the century restored and recreated buildings. The Village has shops, pub, bank, chemist, grocer, printer and a garage. Lots of the places have interactive attractions and there are thousands of pieces of machinery, displays and Australian collectibles. You can spend a day here. Prepare to be blown away by the quality, quantity and content of this outdoor pioneer museum.
The Crystal Caves
Set behind and underneath an unassuming shopfront in Atherton is one of the most remarkable things in Tropical North Queensland.
And that’s saying a lot. It was one man’s mission to build a cave system underground and fill it with the treasures of the earth and Rene Boissevain did it. The Crystal Caves are 300sq metres, have 600 specimens inside and have five chambers plus numerous tunnels, grottos and crawlspaces. A 525kg quartz boulder jostles for space beside a dinosaur egg form China, the jawbone of an Ice Age woolly mammoth and a 385-million-year-old marine fossils. The kids can put on a miner’s helmet and knock themselves out – no that’s what the helmet’s for! But they can discover an amazing world underground they can touch and let their inner Indiana Jones off the leash.
Australian Butterfly Sanctuary
They are the jewels of the rainforest and the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary has thousands of these gossamer creatures. Floating by in all their colourful and ethereal beauty, it pays to wear a bright colour like orange or yellow if you want a butterfly or two to land on you. Find out why on one of the informative tours of the labs and breeding programme at the sanctuary. Described by one visitor as “heaven on earth” the sanctuary is the largest butterfly flight aviary in the Southern Hemisphere. The extensive and exotic plantings make it a magical venue and like many Atherton Tablelands things to do, it’s an immersive experience for the whole family. No netting or glass cages, you are in the midst of a legendary lepidopteran experience.
Learn about the Gympie Gympie plant (clue: the translation is Bad Bad), ride a World War II amphibious vehicle into a lake, take in an enthralling performance by the Pamagirri people and meet Australia’s native animals. Rainforestation is three experiences in one: there’s a wonderful collection of animals including dingo, cassowary, Tasmanian devil and a big, big croc; a cultural experience including a dance performance and a chance to learn the didgeridoo and a short trip into the rainforest in a duck boat, which is equally at home on land or the water. This former orange grove has been turned into a must-do near Kuranda because there is something for everyone. Hand feeding kangaroos may just be the best part of the day.
Mareeba Rodeo Festival
Grab your hat and polish your boots – the Mareeba Rodeo is dust busting, foot stomping fun for everyone. Part rodeo, and all action, the event is part of Mareeba’s festival, which runs for two weeks in July. The rodeo is part of the national circuit so you know it’s top notch action and these days the sport has big screens for close ups of all the record-breaking rides and bone-breaking falls. Outside of the rodeo there is an agricultural show and exhibitions, a ute muster, woodchops, the Rodeo Queen comp and a garden show. It’s a blockbuster two weeks to keep the family happy and busy, entertained by thrills, spills and a few chills.