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.
Atherton is fast becoming the ultimate cycling destination with the growing popularity of the Atherton Forest Mountain Bike Park, a network of world-class, purpose-built, single-track mountain bike trails located in the Herberton Range State Forest and easy access from Atherton’s CBD.
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 two-storey bird hide provides wheelchair access on the lower section.
Take time to get to know the inhabitants at The Bat Hospital on the road to Herberton. Here, you can see flying foxes 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.
The Crystal Caves In the main street, you will find one of the most remarkable and novel attractions in the whole of Australia. The spectacular private mineral collection features more than 600 specimens, including rare crystals, gemstones and fossils. These treasures 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 and his wife Nelleke have made it their life’s work to build one of the largest mineral collections in Australia. Don’t miss the Empress of Uruguay, the world’s largest amethyst geode.
Gold attracted Chinese settlers to North Queensland in the late 1800s and when the gold ran out, many turned to timber cutting and market gardening. The remains of Atherton’s Chinatown are now an archaeological site featuring the community’s fully restored place of worship, the Hou Wang Temple. The Temple was the social and religious heart of Atherton’s Chinese community.
Hasties Swamp National Park is a ‘must-do’ for birdwatchers with a two-storey bird hide providing a comfortable vantage point across the seasonal wetland. More than 220 species have been recorded at Hasties Swamp (sometimes referred to as Nyleta Wetlands), 4km south of Atherton on the road to Herberton. The swamp sits amid open Eucalypt forest and it is not surprising that many of the migratory and resident birds are aquatic and woodland species.