Tops in Queensland…
Climbing Queensland’s Mount Bartle Frere will make you the state’s highest person.
At 1622 metres Bartle Free is the tallest peak in Queensland and one of the hardest to climb. This adventure is only for the most meticulous with above average climbing skills and fitness. Best to plan two days of climbing for safety’s sake. It’s steep, slippery in the wet and needs some hard scrabble near the top including negotiating large granite boulders, but it’s worth it.
The summit is reached after a bushwalk and climb through pristine World Heritage-listed rainforest. Climbers will be rewarded with great views if the mist and cloud have retreated. Expect to take six hours each way. Oh, and there are leeches but hey, they clear after the 1000 metre mark.
Access is via the Gillies Highway, Lake Barrine Road, Topaz Road and Gourka Road.
Off the beaten track…
There are scores of four-wheel drive tracks around the Atherton Tablelands that can take you anywhere from rugged bush-clad ranges to ochre-earth outback savannah.
For many townies there’s nothing more exciting than negotiating near vertical drops, splashing through creek beds and climbing back up again in a go anywhere ute or truck.
There’s lots of information online if you want to tackle the four-wheel driving yourself (try www.tablelandstrails.com/trails/4wd-trails) and tracks range from easy to only-for-the-most-skilled. You can also hire a four-wheel drive vehicle or take a tour.
Four-wheel drive trekking not only gets everyone into some of the best countryside around but the thrills – and chills – of off-roading make for an unforgettable outing.
At close range…
For those who like their adventure more mild than wild, a trip up and down the Kuranda Range is perfectly thrilling. Guests can either hop on the magical Kuranda Railway with its spectacular engineering and stunning scenery or SkyRail, a gondola which soars over the rainforest canopy with views to Cairns and the Coral Sea. Swap around for the return journey.
Both experiences are amazing and it doesn’t matter which way you do them, the journey there and back from this pretty rainforest town is absolutely memorable. Kuranda itself is a bit of an adventure with its 60s vibe and wildlife attractions including a snake zoo and bird aviary.
In olden times gold was all the rage but today miners are looking for gems such as topaz and aquamarines. Have a go at fossicking yourself in the western parts of the Atherton Tablelands. You can easily get a licence to fossick online and information centres will tell you where’s best to go and what to take for that Eureka moment.
And if you are heading out west reward yourself with a swim at Innot Hot Springs off Kennedy Highway at the end of the day. Or be a little adventuresome and put that spade to good use with a d-i-y pool in the sand alongside Nettle Creek. Be careful though – the clue’s in the name. These mineral springs are steaming hot.
Sky’s the limit…
Take to the heavens for the ultimate high-end adventure, not air ballooning.
Mareeba is one of the best spots in the world to try this astounding flight experience. The air is crisp, the landscape is a collage and it’s nearly always fine. Be treated to unforgettable views, catch an Atherton Tablelands’ sunrise and be in awe of the pilot as they manoeuvre the balloon up and down to catch the wind currents.
A unique way of seeing the Atherton Tablelands’ patchwork of forest, farms and towns, and surprise a few kangaroos at breakfast.
Holiday guests can find their inner caveman and woman at several places around the Atherton Tablelands. The Undara Experience is best as a two-day trip, staying in an old rail carriage and touring the lava tubes at day and night. The crusts of old lava flows, the tubes are now cave systems criss-crossing this extraordinary volcanic countryside. Wildlife-wise there’s lots of bats and the odd snake having a feed while the savannah is home to kangaroos, wallabies and wallaroos – not a hybrid but the smallest of the macropods. There are lots of tracks and if you can, catch a sunrise or sunset from one of the many bluffs. Just perfection.
The Chillagoe-Mungana Caves National Park has a plethora of limestone caves with stalagmites, stalactites and flowstones. Home to bats and birds, some of the caves you can explore by yourself but there are also ranger-guided tours for the big picture.
As well as the spectacular caves, don’t miss Balancing Rock – nature on a knife edge. The nearby Chillagoe Smelter is a blast from the past; some of the site is off limits but there’s plenty of evidence of copper, gold, silver and lead smelting to fossick amongst.
Check the weather and State Route 27 road condition, some stretches are gravel; 4wd is recommended and it can be impassable in the wet.