Atherton Tablelands, an Australian Adventure
When people travel to Cairns, Australia, it’s usually for one thing, the Great Barrier Reef. And, some will include a trip up to Daintree National Park, the world’s oldest rainforest. They’re great reasons to visit the Cairns area but I would like to put the Atherton Tablelands on your radar as well. This area is not quite as flat as a table but actually full of hills covered with farms, mostly dairy and beef cattle. On the higher ground is a rainforest and with a high volume of rain and high elevation, waterfalls are inevitable. Add them together and it equals adventure. approximately 90 minutes from Cairns is this amazing playground. You can drive there on your own or join a tour as I did. A tour seemed easier for me, they do the driving and know the best vantage points and trails. I booked a waterfall day tour from Cairns to the Atherton Tablelands.
After picking up all the tour members and the highway drive, we arrived at our first stop at the Babinda Boulders where we had morning tea and snack. There’s a short trail here where you can see the river cut through the boulders and at the bottom is a beautiful pool for swimming. It was still early, approximately 9:30 a.m., and no one went for a swim. Probably a good idea since the shore was patrolled by large flies that would smother you if you stayed in one place to long.
After loading up on snacks, we were on our way to Josephine Falls. This also had a short trail which lead to the mid and top vantage points of the cascading falls. The main attraction here was the lower pool and the water slide. This was also my most anticipated attraction. To get to the slide, you would have to swim to the other side of a small pool and make your way up a boulder. But beware, the rock is very slippery with what I think is algae growing on the rock and getting out of the water is the toughest part. Once your on the boulder, it’s still slippery but manageable. Hard part done, we made our way to the slide. This was the part of the boulder where the creek runs over the surface with a slow descent, creating a slide.
My inner child took over and down I went, sliding down the rock into the deep pool. We all participated and even had time to just sit on the rock and soak up the sun. It didn’t disappoint, I had a blast and I could have stayed here the rest of the day. But, the day had just started for us and we were on our way again.
Our next stop would be Zillie Falls. A short walk near the parking lot is the vantage point where you can see the top of the waterfall. The view was beautiful from up here but we had bigger goals. This is where having a guide paid-off. He took us on a trail down to the waterfall. The trail was unmarked with multiple sections going in different directions so having the guide was key. The view from the bottom of the waterfall was worth the short hike but the excitement didn’t stop here. The group made their way up the boulders to the back of the waterfall.
I decided to stay at the bottom taking photos and shooting video and, oh yah, staying of the slippery rocks. With the beauty of Zillie Falls captured, it was time to make our way back up to the top. The group had worked up an appetite so it was time for lunch. Our next visit would serve as our refueling stop.
Millaa Millaa Falls would be where we would fill up with carbs and have lunch with a spectacular view. The pool below the falls is completely in the shadows, from surrounding cliffs, so the water was very cold. Winter is just ending here which kept the temperature low as well. There were few visitors who attempted to swim. The few that entered the water did so to take a hair-flip photo. This was the location for a shampoo commercial where a women quickly flipped her hair back in front of the fall. It’s become so famous for this that Millaa Millaa has become the most photographed waterfall in Australia. Our bellies full, it was time to make our way to our next stop.
Lake Eacham is a large deep water lake open for swimming. It was now approximately 4 pm and the day had cooled off so no one wanted to go for a swim. The signs acknowledging the presence of fresh water crocodiles didn’t help either. Although, multiple local kids were playing in the water, no one from our group ventured into the water. It was time to make the long drive back to Cairns.
The day had come to an end and in retrospect, this was the most exciting single-day of my Australian expedition. If I do return, this would be at the top of my list and I look forward to a repeat adventure.