October 2, 2013
I find Atherton Tableland to be a waste of time. Driving from Millaa Millaa back to Cairns was improbably the most fun I had the whole day. In pitch dark I drove on the Gillies Highway, infamous for squeezing 263 corners and 800 m of elevation change in a 19 km stretch.
Atherton Tableland is a farmer’s dream. Southwest inland from Cairns, the fertile plateau is famous for its sugarcane, macadamia nut, mango and coffee. The dairy and cattle industries also thrive in this area. Tourist draws include waterfalls, gigantic fig trees, freshwater lakes, quaint villages and many choices of farms.
On paper it seems impossible not to have a good time there. But that’s what happened to us. Cruising through this productive land in our compact Nissan, we checked out most of the major sights. Except for the epiphytic Curtain Fig Tree, I wasn’t impressed by anything the tableland has to offer.
Kuranda is tacky. The industrialized farms and coffee plantations are as interesting as a factory assembly line. The self-labeled “scenic drive” from Malanda to Millaa Millaa can’t hold a candle to Yarra Valley’s. And Millaa Millaa, the crown jewel of the tableland, is just a very ordinary waterfall.
There is nothing wrong with each and every of the above places – they just don’t stand out from what I have seen before elsewhere. The Curtain Fig Tree is unique, but it couldn’t on its own justify a visit to the tableland when I could happily been at the beach instead. I think Atherton Tableland is better suited for families or retirees.