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Tablelands - Atherton to Malanda trail

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The Atherton Tablelands, about one hour drive west of Cairns, are a destination for lovers of fine food, fantastic scenery and heritage places. The tablelands include part of the World Heritage listed North Queensland Wet Tropic Rainforests.

Cedar was the most prized resource of the forests. Just outside Atherton, a group of Chinese timber-getters established a small settlement, including a temple, in the late 1880s. The Hou Wang Miau is now the second oldest Chinese Temple in Queensland. A Chinese museum provides a comprehensive interpretation of culture and lifestyle. The Chinese established the maize industry on leasehold land. These farms were later given to returned WWI soldiers, and as this industry grew, maize silos were built across the tablelands. Silos at Kairi are the only ones remaining.

Dairying was successful in the district because of the mild climate and high rainfall. A butter factory was built at Atherton in 1910 and by 1925 Malanda had two cheese factories, two dairy factories and a bacon factory. Today, the Malanda Dairy Centre includes a café, gallery and museum. A new cheese and chocolate factory has been established near Atherton and a bio-dynamic dairy at Mungalli. There are also outlets for coffee, wine, nuts, honey and tropical fruits.

The natural features of this volcanic landscape have attracted tourist for more than a century, including the crater lakes Eacham and Barrine, and the Malanda and Millaa Millaa falls. Grand hotels were built throughout the district to cater for travellers. Today these have been supplemented by a wide range of accommodation options.

During WWII, the Atherton Tablelands became the training and staging post for Australian and American Service personnel heading for the South-west Pacific. Remnants of this era include the Bones Nob Radar Station near Tolga, the Atherton War Cemetery and a number of igloo structures, including the Rocky Creek Hospital Entertainment Hall, Atherton Performing Arts Theatre and Merriland Hall in the Atherton Showgrounds.


Listing 13 places within this trail.

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Last reviewed
1 July 2022
Last updated
28 February 2023