We visited the Tablelands in far north Queensland last year spending time in Julatten (northern tablelands) and in Tarzali (southern tablelands). This time round we decided to spend our time in the central tablelands. We chose to stay at Yungaburra.
The trip from Undura to Yungaburra was less than 3 hours driving and largely uneventful. The biggest challenge was having chosen a specific petrol station to fill up, we found it was a single old looking pump. We then found another alternative which ended up much the same. Eventually we found a suitable option by which time our range left in the tank was down to zero. We know that this means we have less than 30km left in reality – cutting it a little fine.
We arrived in Atherton which is near Yungaburra towards the end of lunch time. We knew a great café (Crazy Cat) from a previous visit. Oh dear, on arriving we discovered it closed at 12pm. After wandering around we found a nice alternate café (Petals and Pinecones) in a back alley. What do you have for lunch when looking for a nutritious meal – waffles and ice cream of course.
We arrived at our accommodation after lunch. We had chosen a self contained suite attached to a home. It had great views, a very nice kitchen and an enormous bathroom. It all looked great. It was missing a couch with the bed being kind of the only place to ‘sit’. After a few days this was a little annoying and we shortened our stay from two weeks to one week.
The Atherton Tablelands village of Yungaburra sits 750m above sea level. The name translates to Meeting Place in local indigenous dialect. The village hasn’t really changed since 1910. Yungaburra has the highest portion of heritage-listed buildings of all regional centres in Queensland. The landscape dates back 420 million years and one of the points of interest is three crater lakes.
During our stay in Yungaburra we managed to cram in a lot of activities.
Last year we completed the walk around one of the crater lakes called Lake Eacham. We had briefly stopped at Lake Barrine. This time round we completed the walk around Lake Barrine.
Lake Barrine was formed over 17,000 years ago when a large volcano erupted, leaving a crater that over time filled up with water to create a lake. The largest of the natural volcanic lakes in the area, Lake Barrine is 730m above sea level. It is about 1km in diameter, with a shoreline of almost 4.5km, an average depth of 35m and a maximum depth of 65m. No streams or springs feed the crystal clear lake; it is filled only by rainwater. During our walk we saw giant kauri, red cedar and flowering umbrella trees in the surrounding rainforest. We also spotted some birdlife including pied cormorants, Pacific black ducks, and plumed whistling ducks. There were also many water dragons.
It is no secret that we love our coffee. Last year we had intended to visit Skybury coffee. As we turned off the main road onto the road leading to Skybury we found they we laying down new bitumen. It was not worth getting fresh bitumen onto the car and so we turned around. This time we mad it to Skybury coffee. Ian and Marion MacLaughin (ex South Africans) started Skybury coffee in 1987. They now produce about 40 tonnes of coffee per year. About 80% of the coffee grown in Australia comes from the tablelands.
When we walked into the café it felt like we were entering a luxury safari lodge. It has been built in the African style of timber decks mounted to big wooden poles. We ordered our usual piccolo coffee. Since leaving Brisbane we have found what passes for a piccolo to vary widely. Most disappointing has been that most of them are so big (more grande than piccolo) and we invariably have to ask them add an extra shot of coffee. Queenslanders in particular seem to like a mug of hot milk with a splash of coffee.
Leaving Skybury we visited the Mareeba Heritage Museum. Wow, what a find. It has a very interesting array of historical and heritage machinery, farming equipment, dioramas and an old train and carriage. Sounds like a weird mix but somehow it works.
The museum had an excellent display about the development and demise of the tobacco industry around Mareeba. It explained the reason for building Lake Tinaroo and how the water was used to irrigate the tobacco crops. Now it is invaluable as a water supply for all types of agriculture. Another attraction in the museum is one of the early local houses which has been relocated and renovated at the site. The master bedroom furniture was all made from timber from the one tree. It is worth spending a couple of hours looking through all the displays. One of the best museums we have visited.
Shush – don’t tell anyone – the Peterson Creek walking track in Yungaburra is a well kept secret.
No sooner had we embarked on our walk than we saw a platypus, one of a number that we would spot along the way. In addition to being a relaxing path alongside the creek, the trail has a number of points of interest such as an old boiler used to power a coal-fired steam pump. A quick visit to the old steam pump gave us a piece of interesting history. The remains of the original coal-fired boiler was pulled out of the creek and housed next to the creek. It is thought to be potentially the only boiler of its type left in the world
Further along at William’s Weir, we found an ancient turbine (also recovered from the creek) next to a recently built water wheel driving a small piston pump. Volunteers reforesting the area use this pump to water the newly planted trees.
One of the highlights was the very pretty Frawley’s pool where Mick Frawley, a teacher at the local school, taught a number of the children to swim.
There were a number of friendly locals out and about maintaining the path and we enjoyed stopping for a chat.
Invariably if we are in an area with a Parkrun we will join in. The Atherton parkrun is held on a portion of an old railway line that has now been converted into a rail trail. The morning started off a little cool, perfect for running. The field at Atherton was not very big but they did have a few competitive runners. The start was a slight downhill with a tailwind and so our initial pace was very quick, turning around and running uphill into a headwind, not so much. We both ran reasonable times with 1st in our respective age categories.
I never realised it was so BIG. It took a few hours to drive around the lake. Lake Tinaroo was created by damming the Barron River. Lake Tinaroo was completed in 1958. It was the first large dam in Queensland built primarily for irrigation. Its construction opened up new areas to farming and allowed different crops to be trialled. It is now a multi-purpose storage dam providing water to tableland towns, power generation, crop irrigation, stock watering and recreation.
The dam wall impounds enough water from the Barron River to create a lake approximately 75% the size of Sydney Harbour with a capacity of 438,919 megalitres of water. The surface area of the Lake Tinaroo is 3,500 hectares (35km2).
Hasties Swamp Bird Hide
With weather changeable, we took a drive on one of the days and visited the Hasties Swamp Bird Hide. Hasties Swamp is a large seasonal wetland renowned for its diverse range of resident and migratory birds. Over 220 species have been identified and the large bird hide, with informative identification signs, offered excellent waterbird viewing opportunities.
The 2 story hide must be one of the best we have ever visited. 100’s of birds were present. There were huge numbers of Plumbed Whistling Ducks. Australian Swamphen were abundant, an excellent selection of Egrets & Ibis and even Brolga & Sarus Cranes.
It was well worth the trip.