The wet season in north Queensland’s Atherton Tablelands is a time of thundering waterfalls and few tourists.
Story + Photos Mandy McKeesick
A 300-kilometre return loop from Cairns, across the Atherton Tablelands and down through Innisfail could, theoretically, be driven in one day, but that would be an injustice to this spectacular, wild region.
A 60km tangential run from Millaa Millaa west along the Kennedy Highway offers even more spectacular waterfalls – Millstream Falls is the widest single-drop fall in Australia – but the highlight of this section comes from the nondescript Nettle Creek, which holds Innot Hot Springs. Hot enough to cook a chook, the hot springs percolate through the coarse quartz sand, mixing with the cooler creek water. In the shallows, people wallow in muscle-soothing bliss.
From Millaa Millaa, the main track drops off the Atherton Tableland and follows the Palmerston Highway down the range through Wooroonooran National Park, where walking tracks lead to Nandroya, Wallicher and Tchupala falls. Like all waterfalls in the area, they can be either crystalline beauties or raging monsters, depending on the rain. At the bottom of the range is Innisfail, surrounded by sugarcane and banana crops, and from here another side-trip is the 50-odd kays to Tully. Reputably the wettest town in the country, Tully also claims fame as a whitewater rafting hotspot, and in 2019 will host the World Rafting Championships. The adventurous can join one of the many tour operators in the area who raft through World Heritage rainforest.
From Innisfail, the 90km drive back to Cairns includes two of the most popular waterfalls in the entire region: Josephine Falls and Babinda Boulders. The popular Josephine Falls has it all – cascading waters, swimming holes and polished rocks creating natural waterslides.
This story excerpt is from Issue #118
Outback Magazine: April/May 2018