The Atherton Tablelands is a quaint, Far Northern region that could have been lifted straight from the pages of a storybook. Villages with charming main streets and cutesy vintage stores stocked with enough pretty frocks to curl the wildest of hipster moustaches. Lush, green foliage abounds every direction you look, all against a backdrop of sprawling valleys, windy laneways, densely forested mountains and former volcanoes, making you believe you were Julie Andrews ready to bust out an acapella version of ‘The Hills Are Alive’.
It’s fair to say that the romance of nature can evoke an *ahem* romantic swoon amongst even the most hardened of pirates. So with that in mind, we decided to pack the mini-break bag (with the ‘good’ nightie – nudge, wink) and head for the hills for a long weekend of retreat hopping on the Atherton Tablelands.
Mt Quincan Crater Retreat
From the moment we arrive at Mt Quincan Crater Retreat, it’s the magic of the property and the genuine hospitality of owners Kerry & Barb that instantly warm you. Six luxury treehouses, truly built out of love when they bought the land 30 years ago, reflect everything the word ‘luxury’ embodies. Each of these timber one-bedroom treehouses have different aspects, either overlooking the crater of an 88,000 year-old volcano or the rolling peaks and valleys of the Tablelands; all feature deck spas, local art and artisan products, and wood stove fireplaces whose bellies can be rotated wherever you are in the room. Locally sourced breakfast, enough for two days sustenance, is prepped in the fridge, as are chocolates and a decanter of port. If you do decide to leave the cabin, there are a number of bushwalks carved out, to the very top of the Mt Quincan Nature Reserve and all the way around the rim of the ancient sleeping crater. The rainforest sanctuary around Mt Quincan Crater Retreat is home to the Lumholtz Tree Kangaroo so keep an eye out for this beautifully rare animal.
If visiting during the spring months, drop by Shaylee Strawberry Farm for a fix of pick-your-own strawberries – perfectly delicious in a spa bath at sunset. If you happen to be here on the last Saturday of the month, a trip to the Yungaburra Markets is an absolute must. You’ll find the best biscotti you’ve ever eaten, sweet, tropical jams and hand made children’s outfits so delicately made you’ll be mesmerised by the needle work.
The Canopy Treehouses
Romance and rainforests must have more in common than simple alliteration, or maybe it’s just that there’s so many rainforests up this way, which – by proxy – make the locals a pretty romantic lot, ammiright?!
The uber-eco-friendly Canopy Treehouses, located near Malanda, are specifically designed for comfort in the wilderness… well, wilderness if you’re a Real Housewife more so than Bear Grylls. No need for extreme survival tactics here – each treehouse, perched high in the rainforest canopy, has a fully self-contained kitchen, BBQ, spa and an emergency hammock. Your friendly host, David, will make sure that you’ve got plenty of treats for when the locals stop by in the evening. Leave a little bit of fresh fruit on the balcony at night and you’re sure to get a visit from the friendly possums. Keep your bird feeder full of seeds and tropical birdlife will flutter to your treehouse like something out of Cinderella. Keep en eye out for the majestic Cassowary and his chicks who live in the protected rainforest on the property.
The Tablelands also has a well-deserved reputation for both wellness and adventure, so take advantage of the Treehouse Concierge to arrange inhouse massage therapies in the privacy of your own treehouse, as well as adventures like hot air ballooning, private picnics, waterfalling around either Malanda Falls or the world’s most picturesque waterfall, Milla Milla (true story!) and recommended foodie trails.
Jabiru Safari Lodge
If you thought you had to go all Lion King to go on safari, think again. Located in the Mareeba Tropical Savannah region, Jabiru Safari Lodge is a 2000ha reserve of grassland and freshwater wetland, home to an abundance of wildlife so extraordinary you’d swear you could hear Sir David’s voice in surround sound. Stargazing into eyes and distant galaxies under a magnificent Southern sky, retreating to African style safari tents, and experiencing walking trails, canoes and privately guided nature tours make this bed and breakfast adventure truly unforgettable.
While in the area, it would be a crime not to swing past Mt Uncle Distillery. A short 30 minutes from the Lodge door, this award-winning distillery magically turns local botanicals into sensational liquors, including outstanding gin, rum & whiskey, which as we know, makes ya frisky. Rise early for the best spot in the house for sunrise, up in a hot air balloon. Raging Thunder or Hot Air Cairns depart every morning from Mareeba, just a 10 minute drive away.