Looking to explore the less travelled area of the Atherton Tablelands? While many have ticked off the major sights like Millaa Millaa Falls and Windin Falls, there is an entirely different area of the Atherton Tablelands just waiting to be discovered – Mareeba.
Unlike the southern sections of the Atherton Tablelands, the Mareeba area transitions from tropical rainforest into classic Australian bush; providing a new landscape to explore in the wider Cairns area.
Your Cairns to Mareeba Road Trip Itinerary
What You Need
First things first, while the main section of road between the best places to see near Mareeba is sealed, the smaller roads on the way out to certain places aren’t. While you don’t need a 4WD to access these areas, be prepared to take them slowly and carefully. If you have a hire car, it’s best to check if the company will allow you to head off a sealed road.
Don’t forget to bring your swimmers (as there are some spectacular waterfalls near Mareeba) snacks, camera and sunscreen.
Start with Kuranda Village
Leave Cairns city and drive north in the direction of the Kuranda Range. You can choose to visit Kuranda by hopping aboard the Kuranda Scenic Railway or Skyrail Rainforest Cableway, which is a great adventure in itself or drive up the Kuranda Range. If you drive, you can also stop at Henry Ross Lookout for a great view across north Cairns (Google Map coordinates here) before heading towards the eclectic township of Kuranda Village.
While there are only 3,000 permanent residents in Kuranda, this hippie village is flocked by tourists every year. Highlights of this village include wandering through the Kuranda Heritage Markets, meeting the wildlife at the Kuranda Wildlife Experience (combined of Australian Butterfly Sanctuary, Birdworld Kuranda and Kuranda Koala Gardens) and cruising along the Barron River with the Kuranda Riverboat. For a list of the best things to do in Kuranda read: Things to do in Kuranda.
Visit Barron Falls and Barron Gorge
One of the most incredible waterfalls to view in full flood in the entire world (no word of a lie), Barron Falls is located only a 6 minute drive from Kuranda Village (Google Map directions here). A short elevated boardwalk through the rainforest and you’ll find yourself looking out across Barron Gorge, a view that is millions of years in the making.
While this waterfall only floods during the wet season (typically December to March) after periods of wet weather, the rugged view of the rock outcrops are impressive either way and worth a stop in on your Cairns to Mareeba road trip.
Suggested read: How to see Barron Falls in flood
Take in the view from Davies Creek Falls
Head back onto the highway and in the direction of Mareeba (Google Maps directions here), your next stop is Davies Creek Falls. A quick 30 minute trip and you’ll find yourself arriving at Davies Creek Falls camping area. You can hop out here for a look around and a quick dip, but I recommend continuing up the track (drive carefully) until you reach the Davies Creek Falls lookout.
A quick rock hop and you can take in the view of the Australian bush at the top of a waterfall.
This is also a fantastic place to take a dip while you’re here. Otherwise head back to your car, it’s time to
Go for a dip at Emerald Creek Falls
Emerald Creek Falls is truly a local’s favourite and off the tourist track. While actually physically very close to each other, it’s about a 40 minute drive from Davies Creek Falls to Emerald Creek Falls (Google Map directions here). However, Emerald Creek Falls is very easy to get to and worth the stop in.
Suggested read: How to get to Emerald Creek Falls
The water can be icy cold – making it a very refreshing spot to cool off on your way to Mareeba.
Hang out with the locals at Granite Gorge Nature Park just outside of Mareeba
On the very outskirts of Mareeba, you’ll find Granite Gorge Nature Park (Google Map coordinates here). A popular camping and caravanning location, you can pull up for the night and immerse yourself in the Australian wilderness or stop by to meet the cutest animals around.
What’s even more interesting about these rock wallabies, is that they’re actually a rare species – discovered in Granite Gorge in 1996.
Once you’ve had your cute animal fix, finish your day exploring between Cairns and Mareeba by stopping in for a
Coffee at the Skybury Coffee Plantation
With a bustling cafe and great views of the surrounding land, Skybury Coffee Plantation is worth a stop by for a mid afternoon pick-me-up.
Cairns to Mareeba Road Trip Itinerary
This is a very easy day trip itinerary between Cairns and Mareeba, seeing some of the best parts of this section of the Atherton Tablelands. Google Map directions of this itinerary can be found here.
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