Deep in the Atherton Tablelands in northern Queensland, where heritage-listed rainforests grow, waterfalls thunder and cassowaries try to swoop but really just run around, lies fertile Atherton and its hulking neighbours, the Seven Sisters, relics of ancient extinct volcanoes.

With the Sisters perpetually in the background, the wide main street of Atherton is framed with palms, and there’s a relaxed, tropical feel in the air. With a long, proud history of farming since the 1870s, Atherton was home to almost 1100 Chinese immigrants in the 19th Century and the village where they once lived is now an archaeological site and museum.

The dormant cone of Halloran Hill offers the best views over the town and the Tablelands with the volcanic ranges afar, while the crater at the foot of Halloran is filled by rare, dense, vine-tangled Mabi Forest. Nearby is the man-made Crystal Caves, filled with all manner of sparkly minerals, as well as the world’s largest amethyst geode. It won’t fit on any pendant or ring; chiming in at upwards of two tons, it’s protected from would-be robbers by its weight alone.

Where? // 80kms (80mins) southwest of Cairns.
Did you know? // The corrugated iron and wood temple in Atherton’s Chinatown is the only temple outside of China dedicated to Hou Wang, and is the last of its kind in Australia.


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