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Yungaburra

Just over an hour south-west from Cairns, Yungaburra is the first stop for travellers who’ve completed the spectacular drive up the Gillies Highway from Gordonvale. With its fresh air, great cafes and 28 heritage buildings, it’s an enticing introduction to the charm of the Atherton Tablelands. There’s good interpretation of the local streetscape, so take the time to stroll around, pick up the local history and check out the locally made arts and crafts.

The town itself is surrounded by the remnants of volcanic activity. Ask someone to point out the extinct volcanic mounds, the Seven Sisters, and then take a drive to the Crater Lakes of Barrine and Eacham. While they’re often talked about in the same breath, the lakes have quite different characters. Barrine is smaller, with a quiet, almost Scandinavian feel (assisted by a delightful cruise boat and tea house), while Eacham offers large scale picnic facilities and is often very busy on a sunny day. Both however offer well interpreted walks which are worth taking the time to complete. The Barrine track at 6.5 kilometres is too long for many day trippers, so the fit and enthusiastic nature lover has a good chance of a quiet time spotting the local wildlife.

On the way to Lake Eacham, take the Gadgarra turn-off to the Giant Red Cedar tree. Although the tree fell in cyclone Larry and is now lying on the ground, the size of it is still a spectacular site. Imagine the scale of the forests that once would have covered the rich dairy country of the Tablelands. Similar thoughts will no doubt come to mind when viewing another of the great Tablelands trees – the Cathedral Fig. It’s well signposted off the Gillies Highway and has never yet failed to impress.

Yungaburra is also well placed as a base for exploring the considerable expanse of Lake Tinaroo. Boating, swimming, camping, bushwalking and fishing are all available on the dam. Try the 28 kilometres Danbulla Forest Drive around the lake and follow the signs to find the many lookouts, swimming holes and refreshment stops along the way.

Yungaburra, Tablelands Area
Queensland
Australia

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Curtain Fig Tree

Yungaburra, Tablelands Area
Free Entry
The Curtain Fig National Park contains the renowned Curtain Fig Tree, an enormous strangler fig tree. Located a short drive out of Yungaburra, a small town in the Atherton Tableland, the giant tree has several aerial roots hanging down from its branches that look like curtains. It's over 500 years old and definitely worth a look! There's a short boardwalk around the base of the tree that is wheelchair accessible.

Eubenangee Swamp National Park

Babinda, Cairns Area
Free Entry
One of the most important wetlands between Ingham and Cairns, Eubenangee Swamp is a birdwatchers' paradise, with over 190 species of birds recorded. Situated in the lowlands east of the Bellenden Ker Range (the wettest part of Australia), much of this park is flooded during the wet season. As well as being a significant habitat for waterbirds, the park also protects some of the last remnants of various lowland vegetation types. Much of the park is swampland, supporting paperbarks, waterbirds and crocodiles. The rest is rainforest and grassland. Stroll along the 1.5 kilometre return walking track that follows the Alice River, through rainforest to the top of a grassy hill and enjoy views of Bartle Frere and Bellenden Ker, Queensland's two highest peaks, as well as the swamp and its many waterbirds. Birdwatching is rewarding, as the different vegetation types attract many birds. Remember to be croc wise.
Free Entry
Josephine Falls, a scenic section of Wooroonooran National Park, features a scenic waterfall fed by rains falling on Queensland's highest peak, Bartle Frere, which looms above this popular picnic area. Josephine Creek starts as a trickle high on the south-east side of the summit of Bartle Frere and ends as a substantial creek flowing into the Russell River. Approximately 7.5 kilometres from the summit of Bartle Frere, the waters of Josephine Creek tumble over granite boulders, forming the picturesque Josephine Falls. Wander along the walking track through lush tropical rainforest to viewing decks overlooking Josephine Creek and falls. From here, enjoy excellent views and opportunities for photography. Do not enter the restricted access area around the top of the falls. Serious injuries and deaths have occurred here. Penalties apply. Flash flooding (rapidly rising water) is common during wetter months. Rapid and unpredictable water level rises have isolated people on the far bank requiring their rescue. The rocks are also exceptionally slippery, the water cold and submerged objects may be in the creek. Never jump or dive into the water and take care around steep slopes and rock faces along the track and at the lookout.

Misty Mountains Wilderness Walking Tracks

Ravenshoe, Tablelands Area
Free Entry
The Misty Mountains wilderness walking tracks are a 130 kilometre network of short and long wilderness tracks takes visitors through pristine, high altitude rainforest with crystal clear creeks, waterfalls and panoramic views.The tracks cross the Walter Hill Range and the Cardwell Range, extending from the coastal plain to the tablelands. The area forms part of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area and is recognised for its diversity of rainforest types, plant species and outstanding landscape features. Four long tracks—the Koolmoon Creek, Cannabullen Creek, Cardwell Range and Gorrell tracks—make up the Misty Mountains wilderness walking tracks. Sections of some of the tracks are accessible for shorter walks. Walkers must be well prepeared, self-sufficient and responsible for their own safety. Tell a responsible person where you are going and when you expect to return. A reliable form of communication is essential and satellite phones and PLBs (personal locator beacons) are the most effective.

Mount Hypipamee National Park

Atherton, Tablelands Area
Free Entry
This park features a diatreme (a volcanic pipe or vent) thought to have been created by a massive gas explosion. The gaping hole is 70 metres wide with steep granite sides that plunge 58 metres to the lake below. The lake itself is 82 metres deep! The park protects unique high-altitude rainforest and is part of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. Have a picnic in the rainforest clearing then walk 400 metres to the viewing deck over the diatreme. Return along the 1.2 kilometre Dinner Falls track. Look for golden bowerbirds, spotted catbirds and riflebirds. Set out with spotlights at night to look for green, lemuroid and Herbert River ringtail possums, and long-nosed bandicoots.

Millstream Falls National Park

Ravenshoe, Tablelands Area
Free Entry
Plunging over the edge of a columnar basalt lava flow, Big Millstream Falls is reputedly the widest single-drop waterfall in Australia. Lying in the rain shadow of the eastern dividing ranges, the dry open woodland here is in stark contrast with the rainforest which is only kilometres away. This area is rich in World War II history. Camp sites were constructed for the Battalions of the 7th and 9th Divisions between 1943 and 1945. Picnic in the shady day-use area among the blue gums and ironbarks, or walk down to the viewing area above Millstream Falls. Explore their history as you wander the World War II Heritage track past the camp site remains, where informative signs tell of the conditions at the time and show how the soldiers lived, worked and played. Ride mountain bikes or trail bikes through the park's internal roads and firebreaks. At Little Millstream Falls, view these beautiful falls from just near the car park or enjoy a different perspective by walking the narrow path to the base of the falls.

Curtain Fig National Park

Yungaburra, Tablelands Area
Free Entry
This park protects a small area of an endangered type of forest, called mabi forest, the local Aborignal (Ngadjon) word for the Lumholtz's tree-kangaroo. The large fig tree found in this park is unique because the extensive aerial roots, that drop 15 metres to the forest floor, have formed a 'curtain'. Starting from a seed dropped high in the canopy, this strangler fig grew vertical roots, which gradually became thicker and interwoven. Over hundreds of years these roots have strangled the host causing it to fall into a neighbouring tree-a stage unique to the development of this fig. Vertical fig roots then formed a curtain-like appearance and the host trees rotted away, leaving the freestanding fig tree. The tree is thought to be nearly 50 metres tall, with a trunk circumference of 39 metres, and is estimated to be over 500 years old. Explore the elevated boardwalk that encircles the curtain fig, protecting the roots while allowing for uninterrupted views from all angles. Return at night to spotlight for the elusive Lumholtz's tree-kangaroo and other nocturnal animals.

Barnard Island Group National Park

Kurrimine Beach, Cassowary Coast Area
Free Entry
The islands feature outstanding rock formations and diverse landforms including shallow reefs, sand spits, beaches and dense rainforest-clad slopes. The rainforested slopes of the Barnard Islands rise steeply from the sea, part of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. Mangroves fringe parts of the islands and coastal plants border the shores. The South Barnard islands (Sister and Stephens islands) are an important breeding site for seabirds. 23 species of woodland birds have also been recorded on and around the Barnard islands. Camp on Stephens or Kent islands. Drop a line and catch a fish for dinner. Snorkel on the extensive reefs connecting Sisters and Stephens islands in the South Barnard islands and on the fringing reefs surrounding the North Barnard islands. Wander along the beaches and spend fascinating hours watching birds. Access is restricted to Sisters and Stephens islands from 1 September to 31 March each year to protect nesting sea birds. Remember to be croc wise.

Clump Mountain National Park

Mission Beach, Cassowary Coast Area
Free Entry
This park, on the scenic coast just north of Mission Beach, contains some of the few remaining patches of undisturbed tropical lowland rainforest in North Queensland. These rainforest remnants are important habitat for the endangered southern cassowary. Bicton Hill is the main feature of the park. The summit of Bicton Hill was historically used as a lookout by Aboriginal people and later as a ship lookout by the area's first permanent European residents. Challenge yourself on the four kilometre Bicton Hill circuit walking track and be rewarded with spectacular mainland and island views, and a chance to see rare rainforest plants and the elusive cassowary. Stay on the track at all times and take care around cliffs, steep slopes and at the lookout.

Lake Barrine, Crater Lakes National Park

Yungaburra, Tablelands Area
Free Entry
This popular park features a deep crater lake surrounded by cool lush rainforest. Lake Barrine, part of Crater Lakes National Park, is a maar: a crater lake formed by volcanic explosions. In several places, large bull kauri pines, a species that once dominated the tableland forests, emerge through the rainforest canopy. Take the short stroll along the boardwalk to view the two giant bull kauris. Stretch your legs on the longer five kilometre walking track around the lake, pausing to admire the lake views. Look for rainforest animals, such as the colourful but cryptic Boyd's forest dragon, along the way. Take your canoe onto the lake and look for fish, turtles and waterbirds around the shallow reedy lake edges. Enjoy afternoon tea in the privately-operated teahouse. Lake cruises operate from the teahouse.
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