A local’s guide to the best of the Tablelands

We start out first thing in the morning with a drive along Topaz Road. The views of the rolling green hills and the distant blue ranges are spectacular. With a short diversion up Old Boonjie Road, we see glimpses of the ocean and Innisfail and don’t mind the detour! After a quick leg stretch, we’re back in the car for the next destination, Lake Eacham in Crater Lakes National Park.

Lake Eacham proves to be a real surprise for our guests. They’re amazed to see a picture-perfect volcanic lake nestled among the lush rainforest we’re driving through. Everyone ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ over the tranquil, crystal-clear lake and its fringing rainforest.

Keen to explore more, we follow the well-defined path with cameras ready to snap that ‘Insta-perfect’ wildlife or nature image. Unusual fungi and interesting patterns on the bark of majestic trees that cast dappled light through their leafy canopies reveal Musky Rat-Kangaroos foraging for worms and fungi, as well as a curious Eastern Water-Dragon or two. Next we head into Yungaburra, well known and loved for its village atmosphere, for refreshments and shopping and perhaps a yarn and beverage at the pub.

It’s always hard to drag yourself away from Yungaburra, but we finally get underway and head to the Afghanistan Avenue of Honour on the southern shores of Lake Tinaroo. Lining the path to the flying wings sculpture is an avenue of Illawarra Flame Trees that thrive in this region and will display their bright red flowers around Remembrance Day. Our cameras are out again capturing the memorial’s graceful angles and after a while our more pensive and subdued group quietly gets back in the car. We start driving towards the other side of the lake where the Tinaroo township is located.

We travel past volcanic cinder cone hills known locally as the Seven Sisters or The Pinnacles and through a large area of farming land known as the Golden Triangle due to its highly valuable productivity before reaching the Tinaroo Dam wall lookout. This is an impressive engineering structure, and we walk along the wall as far as we’re allowed. The dam is not at capacity and no water is flowing over the wall, so we drive back to the park near the township and wander past the interpretative signs that line the foreshore walkway and learn of the dam and areas history.

We decide to travel home via Mount Hypipamee National Park. On the headwaters of the mighty Barron River, it has a volcanic pipe feature thought to have been created by a massive gas explosion. The crater that resulted is quite a sight to see, once again surprising our guests by its sudden appearance after a short walk. A detour track leads steeply down to a delightful waterfall on the Barron River, however, our guests seem to be wilting, so we defer that walk and head back to the car park hoping to see one of the regular Southern Cassowaries that are often seen here.

Alas, no luck today, so we travel on towards Millaa Millaa and stop at the McHugh lookout for a 180°-view of the Tablelands from a height of 1000m. Fortunately, the weather has stayed clear and while we are a bit blown about, we again spend some time snapping the stunning views. Back in the shelter of the car we have just enough time to drive the waterfall loop just east of Millaa Millaa before returning home for sunset drinks and local produce cooked on the barbie. We recount the day’s highlights as the sun dips, and I can’t help but remind our guests that we really do live in paradise!

A section of walking path around Lake Eacham
Avenue of Honour