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Occupying a fertile elevated plateau in Queensland’s Great Dividing Range west of Cairns, the Atherton Tablelands have a climate ideal for dairy farming despite being within the tropics.

The Tablelands are classified by BirdLife International as one of Australia's Important Bird Areas, supporting over 1% of the world population of sarus crane plus a significant population of bush stone-curlew. Twelve species of bird are endemic to the area and the mountain ranges immediately to the south: Atherton scrubwren, Bower's shrikethrush, bridled honeyeater, chowchilla, fernwren, golden bowerbird, grey-headed robin, Macleay's honeyeater, mountain thornbill, pied monarch, tooth-billed bowerbird and Victoria's riflebird. The tableland still contains several small remnants of the rainforest that once covered it, several of which are now protected as national parks or conservation areas. 

The principal river of the plateau – the Barron – was dammed to form a reservoir named Lake Tinaroo, which is used for irrigation and also has a small hydroelectric power station. The many crops grown here include banana, sugarcane, maize, avocado, strawberries, macadamia nuts, mangoes and citrus fruits. Tobacco was also grown until 2006, but ended by a government buyout. There is also some dairy farming, fat stock grazing and poultry farming.

Places of interest include Cathedral Fig Tree and nearby Lake Barrine, Lake Eacham, Curtain Fig Tree near Yungaburra, Undara Volcanic National Park, Hann Tableland National Park, Mount Hypipamee Crater and Dinner Falls.

View suggested itinerary

Key info

  • Ideal for viewing: Atherton scrubwren, bush stone-curlew, sarus crane, pied monarch, tooth-billed bowerbird
  • Where: Queensland, Australia

Wildlife trips

This wildlife location is featured in the following itinerary:

Tablelands, Reef & Rainforest Self-drive

This comprehensive self-drive visit to Northern Queensland includes the great ‘must-dos’ – a relaxing cruise on the Great Barrier Reef and a stay in Daintree Rainforest – as well as an opportunity to explore lesser known places and see the region’s wildlife on excursions with expert local operators.

  • When to go: Apr-Nov
  • Duration inc. flights: 17 days
  • Price inc. flights: From £4,195 pp
  • Trip type: Tailor-made trip idea
Suggested accommodation is shown below. Please contact us for further recommendations.

Rose Gums Wilderness Retreat

Situated 1-2 hours drive from Cairns, in the cool tropical climate of the Atherton Tablelands, this award winning rainforest lodge sits beside World Heritage-listed Wooroonooran National Park. Accommodation consists of timber treehouses with spectacular views, and is a paradise for nature lovers.