NORTHERN EXPERIENCE ECO TOURS
Like a fine aged wine, this tour was smooth, well rounded, not rushed with plenty of time to take in all the sights at each location. You enjoy being in the moment, enjoy feeling alive, breathing in that fresh rainforest air into your lungs, taking a moment away from the rat race. Like a fine wine, with every sip you discover something new, learn new things, awaken new senses and explore your palate… the tour clearly has gotten better with age and it goes down a treat! Each stop on the tour you discover something new, learn something from the informative guide, absorb new sights and sounds.
I was grateful to have a pick up from the hotel around 7.30am (most rainforest/ waterfalls tours can leave earlier) where our guide for the day, Steve, would greet us. Once again we had joined a smaller group in a lovely comfy smaller bus and set off southward out of Cairns on the Bruce Highway. The highway runs from Cairns in the Tropical North all the way down the Queensland Coast, terminating in Brisbane. Every time I get on the Bruce Highway, or hear someone mention it… I ALWAYS get an image of the large shark character and hear his voice, on Finding Nemo. “Hello… the name’s Bruce!”.
Photo from Finding Nemo, Pixar.
We were heading to the Atherton Tablelands, so at some point we had to go up the Great Dividing Range, something which can not be that fun if your a passenger in a vehicle and dislike extremely winding roads with multiple hair pin turns, 200 to be precise! However, this time was a pleasure! Steve told us stories and gave us information about the Australian Bush and Wet Tropics Rainforest whilst heading up the range at a leisurely pace, without being thrown around the bus. We took a stop at Heal’s Lookout (named after the surveyor who plied the course for the road all those years ago) to sight Queensland’s second highest mountain, Bellenden Ker (1593m) and sprawling out down below, the Golsborough Valley. It wasn’t long before we had completed the 19km winding journey to arrive up the top to our first visit, Lake Barrine.
At Heal's lookout. Photo by Tara Reynolds
Lake Barrine is an old Volcanic crater, now filled with water. It is known for it’s lovely scenery, flora & fauna but probably more so for it’s famous Tea House who freshly bakes the best scones in the region, with locally made cream and jam. We also enjoyed a cup of locally grown/made Ulysses Tea and… wollah! Devonshire Tea Tablelands style!Devonshire Tea at Lake Barrine. Photo by Tara Reynolds.
The Tea House has been in the hands of the Curry Family for over 90 years. It is the perfect stop for morning tea, when you take your first bite into the light and fluffy scone by the lake, ducks quacking down below… the rest is silent, not a breath of wind. You realise you are miles away from the daily stresses of life…cue....RELAX.
Lake Barrine Tea House from the water. Photo by Tara Reynolds.
$20.00AUD will get you the Devonshire Tea with your choice of local tea, coffee or other drinks and also a nature cruise on the lake. Thanks to Joy for taking us on the 45 minute cruise! Apart from the comical ducks, the still morning made for amazing photography and allowed us to see well beneath the water to view many of the fresh water turtles and eels.
Link for Duck feeding on Lake Barrine. Video by Tara Reynolds.
Link for Eels & Turtles video. Video by Tara Reynolds.
Next Stop was a beautiful Curtain Fig Tree that was over 500 years old. A sight to behold, you feel so small!
The Curtain Fig Tree. Photo taken by my tour guide.
Our continued journey takes us through dairy country. The tablelands is so unique as it has a variety of different landscapes. From Agriculture (banana plantations, sugar cane, paw paw, lychee, coffee, tea and more) to the rolling hills of cattle and farming country (meat and dairy) to protected deep thick rainforest and cascading waterfalls. It sure is diverse and spectacular country to view, there is no place like it on earth!
Link to Millaa Millaa Falls. Video by Tara Reynolds.
Next stop was Millaa Millaa Falls. The double aboriginal naming means that there is LOTS of something, the actual meaning is “many” of something. “Millaa" in that Indigenous language of the area means “water”. So… there is “many water” at Millaa Millaa and because of recent rains… this was definitely true to it’s name! The falls have been used as a back drop in movies and TV commercials over the years. If you are brave you can take a dip and take the famous hair flick shot from the Norsca hair commercial, or just get amongst it for the stock standard selfie to make your friends back home jealous.
Me at Millaa Millaa Falls. Photo by Tara Reynolds.
After heading South East we dropped down off the range gradually towards the coastal town of Innisfail. This was our lunch stop at Italian Restaronte, Roscoe's http://www.roscoes.com.au. This was an amazing lunch inclusion, one of the better lunches I have had on a tour. Loads of options for the carnivore or vego. Plenty of different pastas, pizza & salads. For a small additional cost you can upgrade to dessert.
Some Photo's of the lunch inclusion at Roscoe's, Innisfail.
The afternoon stop was a highlight for many who would choose this tour, Paronella Park. In the early 1900’s, Spanish native Jose Paronella built a home for his lady love and other Spanish-esque buildings to create a recreation park for travellers and locals. He built his own hydro-electricity to feed to his home stead and water features & fountains. He built outdoor public spaces such as picnic tables by the Meana Falls, a tennis court out of crushed termite mounds, a ball room and theatre. Unfortunately, the river that helped them survive was also what ended it’s demise… with multiple floods over the years and cyclones ravaged the buildings. The main highway in the 60’s was also moved further away, meaning less visitors and less money coming in to the park for up-keep. A big fire in their main ballroom in the 70’s added another nail in the coffin. The place was left abandoned for 14 years after it was sold by the Paronella’s. Today, the Evan’s Family own the park and it is yet again, a place for the public. Jose was a smart man, but his trade was a baker, not a builder… these buildings won’t stand the test of time so visit Paronella before they crumble to the ground. Join the 45 minute tour to learn all about it’s history. The park and it’s eerie crumbling buildings are a photographers paradise!
Some photo's of Paronella Park. Photo's by Tara Reynolds
The last stop of the day was on route heading back on the Bruce (hello, the name's Bruce!) Highway towards Cairns, just outside the small town of Babinda, the wettest town in Australia (Yes, they have officially won that award). Babinda sits in the shadow of Queensland’s highest mountain, Mt. Bartle Frere (1622m), also another reason for the high rainfall statistics.
This is a little gem and the perfect way to end the day. You can take a swim in the crystal clear waters or go for a unique rainforest walk to some spectacular look out points. The Boulders is actually used in promotion of the Daintree Rainforest’s Mossman Gorge… believe it or not. They look extremely similar, only much fewer crowds at the Boulders and it is also free! Make sure you read the information panels about the Aboriginal meaning of the Boulders and how they were formed… there are also interesting recent stories about events at the Boulders… you will have to take this tour to find out what they are!
Beautiful Scenery at The Boulders,Babinda. Photo's by Tara Reynolds.
Coming back in to Cairns past Walsh’s Pyramid, the only free standing monolith of it’s kind in the world (922m) and the entrance to the Goldsbourogh Valley you get a sense of how far we had travelled in the day. We had seen so much and covered so much ground however not once did we feel rushed, feel like we were in the bus a long time or feel tired from a big day tour or feel we were amongst any crowds. It was thoroughly relaxing and a pleasurable day. Thank you to our awesome guide Steve, It was a day to remember and one I highly recommend.
Full day trip
07.15am - 6:00pm (pick ups from your hotel in Cairns CBD)
- Solo travellers or couples/friends
- Options for those who speak little English (at Paronella Park)
- Families with older children who will appreciate the commentary
- Keen photographers
Fitness level (out of 5):
Time of year:
- All year round
- Southern rivers and Tableland waterfalls can be effected by flood in the summer months (late October to April)
Price for option A (full tour inclusions):
- $175.00 AUD Adult
- $112.00 AUD Child
- $557.00 AUD Family
- $166.00 AUD Pensioner