From rolling green pastures, to endless blue skies, the Atherton Tablelands is the Far North’s most underrated answer to pure adventure. The cooler-climate makes its stunning array of landscapes a treat to indulge in, no matter how you choose to do it. Discover accessible travel in the Atherton Tablelands with this guide.
At the crux of dozens of different worlds, the Atherton Tablelands boast something special for every kind of traveller. From crystal-clear waterfalls, to dusty roads, locally-grown tropical fruit and award-winning fresh dairy, there’s a million and one ways to explore the area. Humming humbly with life, the region is home to a range of accessible adventures.
Explore the Crystal Caves
Based in Atherton, one hour from Cairns, you’ll find a treasure trove of crystal and fossils. Boldly named the Crystal Caves, discover an exciting other-worldy display created with love from one man’s passion for crystals and the natural world.
While donning a hardhat, explore 300 square metres of tunnels and grottos draped with pure million-year-old natural crystals and prehistoric fossils. The self-guided tour and interactive displays let you get up close and personal with the ancient world by touching and photographing the crystals. After ducking back into the real world, you’ll even get to crack your own geode if that’s up your alley.
While the caves are access-friendly, it’s important to note that some of the ramps are steep and there is low clearance in some areas. Your best bet is contacting Crystal Caves before you visit to make sure your access needs can be met.
Accessibility level: the ramps in the Crystal Caves are accessible in theory, but for those who need extra support, it’s worth calling beforehand to ensure you’ll be able to enjoy the experience. Please note that the shop containing the Crystal Caves itself is completely accessible.
Marvel at the Curtain Fig
If you’re a fan of natural wonders, you’ll be charmed by the towering 500-year old Curtain Fig nestled in Yungaburra’s towering Curtain Fig Tree National Park. At an incredible 50 metres tall, with a trunk circumference boasting a whopping 39 metres, the tree is accessible via a 180 metre return boardwalk that circles the curtain fig and protects the tree’s roots.
Famous for its divine aerial roots which create a curtain-like formation, the fig’s vertical strangler roots have grown thicker and more entwined as it’s aged. Over the years, the roots have strangled its host, causing it to fall into a neighbouring tree.
Enjoy a relaxing day exploring the endangered mabi forest, home to the elusive and beloved Lumholtz’s tree-kangaroo!
Accessibility level: the Curtain Fig and its walkway are completely accessible for every kind of traveller, including those who use wheelchairs.
Indulge in gourmet chocolate at Gallo Dairy
If your dreams are lined with cheese and chocolate, look no further than Gallo Dairyland. Boasting a fully functional dairy farm that has made waves in producing its very own gourmet dairy, you’ll love spending a lazy day taste testing the house-made truffles and bitey cheeses at their licensed restaurant.
Interested in learning about the dairy making process? You’re in for a treat at Gallo Dairyland. Pull up alongside the large glass windows and feast your eyes on the world of curd and whey below. The cheesemakers here are proud as punch to do what they do, so make the most of it and join the fun.
Accessibility level: the cafe/restaurant is completely accessible, as is the the viewpoint to watch the cheese and chocolate-making.
Enjoy Devonshire tea at Lake Barrine
Love nothing more than a lusciously-lined lake and a hot drink? Lake Barrine might be your cup of tea, then. Serving up delicious locally grown tea, coffee and house made sweets, Lake Barrine Teahouse is a stunning 90-year-old teahouse that oozes charm and cosiness.
Perched on Lake Barrine itself, the teahouse makes for a great day of relaxing. Donning serene lake views and a front row seat to some of the Tablelands’ best birdwatching, the teahouse is completely accessible for all kinds of travellers thanks to its access-friendly ramp and toilets.
Accessibility level: Lake Barrine Teahouse is accessible for travellers with all mobility levels, including those who use wheelchairs.
Go back in time at the Herberton Historic Village
History buffs, you won’t want to miss out on this hidden gem. At the foot of the Tablelands, this outdoor museum is jam-packed with genuine antiques, collectables, vintage machinery and vehicles.
Set on 16 acres, the tin mining town is fitted with charming shops, a pub, a bank, a chemist, grocer, printer and a garage! With over 50 restored period buildings, the Historic Village Herberton boasts a brilliant way to spend a sunny day.
Marvel at the 130-year-old pioneer homestead and If you’re lucky, you might even be privy to one of the eight live displays of the old town, including billy tea-making, heritage train rides and blacksmiths at work.
With wheelchair-accessible terrain and access-friendly toilets, this is an adventure the whole family can enjoy. Located just 90 minutes inland from Cairns, make the most of the rugged history and take a trip back in time!
Accessibility level: the Historic Village Herberton is completely accessible for folk with all levels of mobility. Please note that this could change in bad weather so it’s worth calling the information desk before you arrive.
Bird watch to your heart’s content
There’s nothing more peaceful than settling into a long day of birdwatching. For those who agree and find themselves with time to spare on the Atherton Tablelands, you’ll love exploring its array of craters, swamps and wetlands.
The Bromfield Swamp is beloved for being the breeding ground of the elusive Sarus Crane, boasting an amazing spot to watch them in flight during the dry season during sundown. The viewing platform here is entirely access friendly, making it a wonderful outing for every kind of traveller.
Tucked only a few minutes away from Atherton, you’ll find Hasties Swamp. This beautiful wetlands area boasts a purpose-built two-story birdhide, making it a great place to spot magpie geese, ducks and brolgas without too much trouble. Hasties Swamp is also accessible, meaning you’ll have a great time dipping between the wildlife reserves in the Atherton Tablelands.
Accessibility level: both Hasties Swamp and Bromfield Swamp are wheelchair-friendly.
Get caffeinated at Coffee Works
Can’t start the day without a freshly brewed coffee? You’ve ventured to the right place. The Atherton Tablelands is home to some of Australia’s finest coffee plantations, so treat yourself to a trip to Coffee Works.
Located in Mareeba, Coffee Works is a boutique roastery that serves up premium locally-grown Arabica coffee. Settle into your chair with a delicious cup of coffee in hand. Pair it with a handcrafted locally-made chocolate, and if you’re not into coffee, indulge in their amazing selection of locally-grown teas. Whatever you indulge in, your tastebuds will be tantalised!
Accessibility level: Coffee Works and their cafe is completely accessible for all mobility levels, including wheelchair users.
Accessed that podcast
Presented by Queensland.com, this podcast delves into the world of accessible travel. Julie Jones, founder of Travel Without Limits, Australia’s inaugural accessibility-focused travel magazine, recounts her family’s travel journey in Tropical North Queensland, addressing the distinct challenges of having a child with cerebral palsy, Braeden.
The podcast features a multitude of episodes covering diverse topics and locations.