We won’t lie, it’ll be tough covering all the wonders of Tropical North Queensland’s Atherton Highlands in just 48 hours. Embarking on a tasting trail alone – of the plentiful aromatic fruits, the creamiest dairy goods, chocolates, coffee, and fruit wines – could take a good couple of days; and that’s just the food! Then there are the waterfalls of the famous circuit; the hot air balloon rides above the picturesque landscape; the national parks and stunning lakes; and camping lakeside, under the stars.
While we’ll give it a good go with this itinerary, we’re sure you’ll find another reason – or five – to come back to this special part of our region.
A pioneer in the Australian coffee industry, it’s not just about the bean at this establishment. You’ll find more than 50 flavours of fine, handcrafted chocolates for sale, some with a tropical twist; think dried mango and pineapple dipped in dark or milk chocolate. With all-day tastings of coffee, tea, chocolate, and liqueur, as well as a chance to browse the gift store, see the chocolate being made, and having a bite to eat at the café, you could spend hours here without realising it.
The Tolga Woodworks Gallery & Café is a gorgeously sophisticated roadside stop. Take the time to admire how artists skilfully mastered the grain of the wood to create stingrays and platypuses which look like they could wriggle away at any moment. There are also impressive works created from steel, clay, precious metal, and fabrics.
An entire village of more than 60 beautifully restored buildings, within the old tin mining town of Herberton, is an incredible tribute to Australia’s past; the Historic Village Herberton. To enter the ‘village’ there’s a small fee. Once in, allow plenty of time to marvel at the incredible detail of this outdoor museum as you wander through the restored schoolhouse, bank, toy shop, and chemist. But first, settle in for lunch at the Bakerville Tearooms. Expect fine china, polished silverware, and wide verandahs overlooking the village grounds on one side and the river on the other side.
Set on a 40-acre property on the outskirts of Yungaburra, Gumtree on Gillies Bed & Breakfast boasts four uniquely themed, luxurious guest rooms set amongst native Australian bush. Enjoy first class facilities including a large saltwater swimming pool and spa nestled amongst the picturesque manicured gardens. All guest suites feature an open brick wood burning fireplace and a deluxe double spa bath, perfect for a romantic getaway. Three guest suites feature air conditioning throughout – great for the warmer months, or simply enjoy cool fresh breezes that float through the large open windows.
Your stay also includes a sumptuous home-cooked breakfast each morning, and complimentary chocolates and smooth Australian port. Situated just 10 minutes' walk from Yungaburra, it’s only a short stroll to dinner.
Before feasting on fine food, head to the platypus viewing platform at Peterson’s Creek, located just off the main road in as you enter Yungaburra Heritage Village. Dusk and dawn are the best times to spot this shy creature. Aim for 5.15pm in winter and later in the height of summer, say 6.15pm. Venture along the waterway to see if you have more luck but try to keep as quiet as possible, and be patient. It also might be an idea to spray yourself with insect repellent before heading down.
This restaurant has earned a reputation for producing high-quality food with warm, yet professional service. Flynn’s offers up simple, honest French and Italian cuisine, such as duck confit and Osso Bucco. This place is popular, so book a table.
You’ll most likely wake up to a chorus of birdsong. And after your day of exploring, you would’ve slept soundly, so you’ll be ready to break the fast. This homely, family-owned café is a favourite; well known for its beautiful cakes and slices. It serves a range of breakfast options, including the classic eggs benedict, and iced coffee with all the trimmings.
More than 500 years old, and only a short drive from Yungaburra, the curtain tree fig is a fascinating display of nature. The boardwalk around its base allows you to take in the 50m-tall tree, with its 15m aerial roots, from all angles, as well as appreciate the surrounding national park.
Only a short walk from the visitor centre – which is well worth checking out to learn about the geological history and Indigenous culture of the area – this cascade waterfall is nestled among lush rainforest. Take a dip in its cool waters or venture along one of the nearby walking tracks; look up and you may see a Lumholtz tree kangaroo.
At an impressive 18m tall you’ll see why this waterfall has been chosen as a backdrop for well-known advertisements. It’s probably the most Instagrammed waterfall of the famous circuit. We love it because it’s a great swimming spot and there’s plenty of surrounding grass to settle in for a picnic. Or simply lie back and watch the clouds drift across the blue, Tropical North Queensland sky.
As you head down the road towards this family-run dairy through rolling, green hills, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’re driving through the English countryside. The cows and chickens graze on organic pastures year-round resulting in certified biodynamic produce. If you need something a bit more substantial than a cheese plate, the ‘Out of the Whey Cheesery and Teahouse’ serves up a great ploughman’s lunch and a range of delicious homemade pies. Leave room for a slice of cheesecake. It’d be rude not to.
At Mt Uncle Distillery you’ll wander the grounds with the resident, free-roaming peacocks among the banana, avocado and macadamia trees. Be sure to say hello to the alpacas, donkeys, and goats too. Then relax with a bite to eat in the air-conditioning of Bridges Bar & Restaurant, gazing at the gardens through the picture windows. But it’s the award-winning spirits and liqueurs of the Far North’s only distillery that are the real draw card. While its gins are probably the most well-known of the range, Mt Uncle also produces rum, sugar cane spirit, and the world’s only marshmallow liqueur; visit the cellar door for a little taste.
Oh, and while you’re venturing, be sure to visit the well-stocked roadside stalls. Depending on the time of year, you could be picking up the freshest pineapples, bananas, or pumpkins.
If you’ve only got a limited time in Mackay, this itinerary will still allow you to seek nature experiences in the rainforest, get up-close-and-personal with wildlife on the coast and soak up the city scene all in a 48-hour period.
Cairns is a city that feels more like a big town. Devoid of the traffic and high rise buildings plaguing other east-coast cities, Cairns exudes a relaxed vibe that keeps people coming back. While there’s no denying it’s best known as a hub to explore the World Heritage-listed double act of the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest – and yes, we’ll let you know the best ways to do so – there’s even more to Cairns than this. Teeming with bars, restaurants, and cafes for all budgets, you’ll need a little guidance on the best haunts to visit in 48 hours. So, swap your briefcase for boardies and your heels for thongs (or flip flops – depending on where you’re from), because you’re in the tropics now and we like get down to business in comfort here.
What was once a sleepy little fishing village is now a luxurious base from which to explore the two World Heritage-listed gems of the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest. So, aside from these two must-see sites what else is there to do in, and around, this idyllic seaside location? You mean besides the boutiques, cafes, fine-dining restaurants, art galleries, scenic lookouts, tours, spas, and beach activities? Yeah, you get the picture. But let’s say you only have 48 hours and you want to snap the most drool-worthy Instagram pics. Well, you’ve come to the right place. Here’s a suggested run down, with a couple of alternative options thrown in for good measure. Enjoy!
How long does it take to get to the Great Barrier Reef from Cairns? It very well may seem like a simple and easy question to answer, however, there are so many variables that make the answer not quite as straight forward as you may have initially thought.
No matter whether you are a snorkeller or a certified scuba diver, there are number of amazing Great Barrier Reef experiences that are a once in a lifetime absolutely ‘must do’. And a Minke Whale snorkel and dive Expedition is one of those that should be on your list!
Thinking of becoming a Certified Scuba Diver and looking to do your learn to scuba dive PADI certificate? Do you wish to learn to dive with a high quality professional company that has an outstanding reputation for not only skill but also safety and can match this with some of the best liveaboard dive boat fleets on the Great Barrier Reef?
This tour is special in so many ways, and is unrivalled to all other reef tours in Far North Queensland. First of all, it has the shortest open water crossing to get to the Great Barrier Reef. Fantastic news for anyone prone to motion sickness. Although this tour is a ‘Reef’ tour, it includes a ‘River Cruise’ on the journey there with Island activities on arrival. And a huge PLUS to guests that like to avoid the crowds, it has one of the lowest passenger capacities of all the island tours with a maximum of 100 guests. The destination is to an uninhabited continental island called Normanby in National Park which is part of the archipelago of Frankland Islands. It is located 10km offshore from the mouth of the Russell and Mulgrave Rivers at Russell Heads, which is approximately 45km South-East of Cairns. The Normanby Island has an abundance of wildlife not only in the water, but also on the island itself. The island is pristine, and has its own rainforest and a fringing reef not far out from its sandy shores. There are also coral gardens located further out from the island for the those that want to explore the deeper waters.
This is not a blog, it is a pitch on how good this Great Barrier Reef 2 day 1 night liveaboard dive trip from Cairns is such good value. One of our team members wrote it because she thinks it is such an amazing good value Great Barrier Reef tour, she wanted to write about it and put it on our Barrier Reef Australia blog page. We were not sure it was appropriate to pitch a single tour but we decided on free speech and free opinions so read more if you are inclined, or go to another page now. From our wonderful Great Barrier Reef Tour Specialist Chelsea Are you looking for a good value liveaboard Great Barrier Reef scuba diving adventure from Cairns without the crowds? Do you want the best dive deal money can buy in Cairns? If your answer is yes, then check out what deals we have on offer with our Great Barrier Reef Tour 2 Day 1 Night Sail, Snorkel and Scuba Dive tour!
If you are scared of the water and the creatures that live there or have never been exposed to an aquatic life in your younger years, but still wish to live out that lifelong dream of seeing the iconic wonders of the world the Great Barrier Reef, then that is okay, we have a tour that will enable you to see the coral reef from above the water and also below the water’s surface without you even getting your hair wet!