Join the Mareeba Local Tourism Network!
Posted: 05 Apr 2017
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In terms of land area, Mareeba Shire is one of Queensland's largest, a fascinating melting pot of pristine rainforests at Kuranda and the coastal ranges, rich fertile plains where mangoes, paw paw, coffee, macadamia nuts, sugar cane, pineapples, cashews, bananas and a whole banquet of other crops flourish. Then over the range to the vast sun burnt savannah plains of the great Australian outback, a land where nature and cattlemen live in kinship. The climate, Mareeba folk argue, is the best in Queensland possibly even the whole of Australia; they boast of 300 sunny days a year, clean arid air, low humidity and cooler evenings to the coastal towns. Prove it for yourself, come and see, the locals are all welcoming and the outback sunsets are awe-inspiring.
Mareeba is less than one hour's drive west of Cairns, situated at the northern terminus of the Atherton Tablelands or Cairns Highlands if you prefer. Mareeba is a gateway town; from her hub travelers continue north to Cooktown, Weipa and the tip of Cape York, or along the Wheelbarrow Way into the Gulf Country. Others journey south to explore the towns, villages and hamlets of the southern Atherton Tablelands. Mareeba was first settled in 1877, the name is derived from an aboriginal word meaning "meeting of the waters", those waters being the mighty Barron and Granite Rivers.
The Mareeba Township has been purposefully designed, with streets wide enough to turn a team of oxen. The Mareeba District's history and heritage is one of stirring deeds and colourful people; first came the intrepid explorers, then the early settlers' where survival depended on being brave, courageous and bold just to live and tell the tale of frequent forays with indigenous cannibal tribes, venomous snakes and bushrangers. The migrants and miners followed, where the search for riches in the goldfields transformed the diggers, as they were known, into a state of lawlessness, anarchy, claim jumping and murderers.
The farmers, timber getters, graziers and ringers were the next to arrive. The 60's saw the appearance of hippie communes in the surrounds of Kuranda where they blossomed and mushroomed in the rainforest and became synonymous with way-out lifestyles and wacky tobaccy. The life and times of the Mareeba area is truly fascinating.
Mareeba is a bread bowl township, the heart of Australia's thriving tropical fruits and coffee industry. It is far simpler to list the fruit, flowers, vegetables, nuts and berries that Mareeba does not grow, than to detail the smorgasbord of local produce. The Mareeba district is fast becoming a food lover's paradise, an epicurean's delight indeed; a number of local tours now integrate the tastes of the tropics, by visiting nearby plantations, farms, wineries and distilleries as part of what is known as the “food trail tours”. Horticulturalists and small holders throughout Mareeba operate farm gate businesses where they cater to the passing parade of gourmet visitors, hungry to sample the region's exotic fare. Pick it from the tree, and then taste it at your table.
Mt Uncle Distillery is a working banana, avocado and macadamia nut farm where you sightsee the trees, view the packing sheds then audition their multi-prize winning banana, coffee and citrus liqueurs. The Golden Pride Mango Winery is the site of Australia’s largest mango plantation, take a guided tour around the property, inspect the wine making process then kick back for a spot of sampling, find a bottle of something golden and delicious, buy it on the spot at better than wholesale prices. North Queensland Gold Coffee Plantation provides free personal tours which percolate through the estate then on to roasting factory where they spill the beans on how fine coffee is produced, now you get to put the local java to the test, allowing you to make a prudent purchase of your preferred blend of aribica or robusta varieties.
De Bruey's Boutique Winery offers, free tropical fruit wine tastings and cellar door sales. Has the days of the grape been numbered, experience the fabulous fermentations of the lychee, mango, jaboticaba, bush cherry, mulberry, star apple and passionfruit to answer the future of the grape question for yourself .The Coffee Works tempts travelers' taste buds and curiosity. Tour their blending factory then relax in their coffee shop to enjoy local specialties such as Cairns Highlands Pearls Coffee, macadamia flavoured coffee, coffee liqueur, chocolate-coated macadamia nuts, all have been painstakingly presented to taunt the gastronome's willpower. Remember the only coffee beans that are fresher are still swinging from their trees.
Pinata Pineapple Plantation has developed what they feel to be the world’s lowest acid and highest in flavour pineapple variety, known as ‘Mareeba Gold’, the proof of the pineapple is in the palate, to try is to buy. Your day of indulgence would not be complete until you savour fresh water crayfish or lobsters, known locally by the aquaculturalists who produce these delicacies as “red claw”. Flower farms sending blooms all over the world also cater to the green thumbed visitor by providing fascinating farm excursions of great beauty and fragrance.
Mareeba is also the commercial center of the Cape York and Gulf Country cattle industries, each week the sale yards are filled with beasts brought in by road trains from outlying cattle stations to be auctioned, herd-by-herd to the highest bidder. In July, Mareeba overflows with jackaroos and horsemen competing in Australia's showcase rodeo, the Mareeba Annual Rodeo. The Mareeba Rodeo has a history dating back to 1949 and has become a national icon on the rodeo calendar. It is held in July every year and top level competition and entertainment gives spectators plenty to watch over 2 days of full-on action from 7:30am each day. All the usual rodeo events including bull ride, saddle bronc, steer wrestling, ladies and junior events will be on; as well as the Comedy Clown, Mazda Teams Relay, RM Williams Interstate Rodeo Challenge, Beaut Ute Muster, Woodchops and Stud Beef Cattle Show.
Rough Riders from all over the country and overseas arrive to do battle against the region's most fearsome bulls and belligerent bucking broncos. Tourists and locals alike witness the action, up close and personal. They smell the fear, they taste the dust rising over the slip rail from the percussion of pounding hooves, they hear the wince of pain from fallen riders and they laugh at the antics of the rodeo clowns. Rodeo evenings are spent dancing to North Queensland’s premier country and western artists and imbibing in something cold and refreshing, just to settle that dust.
Mareeba Nature & Wildlife
Mareeba is a virtual Garden of Eden for the nature lover, abounding with the wildlife of the rainforest, woodlands and savannah. The celebrated Mareeba Tropical Savannah and Wetland Reserve, a 5,000-acre sanctuary, is home to a vast array of animals and birds, all of which are easily accessed, viewed and photographed. Here the Mareeba Conservation Foundation is at the leading edge of an ambitious project to reintroduce the endangered Gouldian Finch, an exquisitely beautiful little bird, locally known as the 'Jewel of the Savannah'. Visitors to the Reserve may be treated to a flash of brilliance as these finches are released from their breeding aviaries. Walking trails, canoeing, electric boat tours and guided twilight safaris are all admirable activities available to the nature lover and wildlife connoisseur.
Other local wildlife hotspots include Granite Gorge, a privately operated nature park on the outskirts of Mareeba. Here the endangered Mareeba Rock Wallaby stages its last stand; it maintains a strong foothold at Granite Gorge where they congregate each afternoon to be fed, stroked, caressed and photographed by the daily throng of visitors. The mammoth strange shaped granite boulders of the gorge offers grand opportunities to explore the valley below. Picnic sites, natural swimming holes and overnight camping are all available at the gorge. Many beautiful picnic spots and bush walks are to be found nearby; these include Davies Creek National Park and Emerald Creek Falls, both just a short drive from Mareeba on your journey to Kuranda. To the north of the Atherton Tablelands, Julatten and Mt Lewis are known world wide among birdwatchers as a haven, as few other regions on the planet offer such a huge variety of species, all thriving in a wealth of numbers and all offering ease to access and photograph.
Accommodation in the shire ranges from resorts, motels, hotels, holiday units, self-contained cabins, farm and station stays, bed and breakfast properties, caravan parks and camping grounds. The Mareeba Wetlands Safari Camp provides visitors with the unique opportunity of going bush, in style!
Hot Air Ballooning Capital
Mareeba embraces the title of being the hot air ballooning capital of Australia. An ideal climate where cool evenings, sunny days and clear arid air combine to produce thermodynamic conditions perfect to enjoy a memory making merger of an early morning hot air balloon flight and a champagne breakfast. Every morning a colourful array of balloons rise above the landscape and then go with the flow of a gentle breeze. From the air, the scenery in this part of the Atherton Tablelands is as spectacular as it is diverse.
The life and times of the Mareeba area is truly fascinating, and is painstakingly interpreted at the local Heritage Museum, where the displays of artifacts and exhibits permit visitors to inspect the life and times of the region, the backbreaking work of the miners and timber getters, the blood sweat and tears of the farmers and graziers. The Mareeba Heritage Museum’s collection includes an extremely rare rail ambulance. The Heritage Museum also serves as a Visitor Information Centre, making it the apt starting point to commence your Mareeba experience.
For those with a need for speed, the International Mako Go Kart Track has been built by a local eccentric, a multi-millionaire, to a “spare no expenses” standard and offers a helipad, cafeteria, mini-golf course, barbeque facilities and two racetracks one 411 meters and the other 1,345 meters in length.
Journey through the expansive aircraft and military museum to learn of the weapons of war and how it was fought in yesteryears. Mareeba is linked by rail to the gulf country where you can experience one of the last great train rides of the world, the Savannahlander, lauded by many to be a vasty superior experience to the orient express, great Siberian railway or the rocky mountain rambler and why, because of the oceans of unspoilt wilderness and teeming wildlife. The Savannahlander is the trip that Indiana Jones takes, when he wants to get away from it all. Prettiponds is where you are able to acquire gemstones and jewellery direct from the Blue Vale Mine after you have enjoyed your complementary tea and coffee by the ponds, which are always graced with a plethora of water birds.
Horse riding stables are scattered throughout the Mareeba district and make available an infinite choice of trail way experiences, rainforest trails, tall timber country, open woodlands and savannah, along the way you will be taught how to throw a boomerang, cook a damper and make a didgeridoo. Mareeba is also home to possibly Queensland’s last drive-in theatre; don’t laugh your mum, dad or even you where likely conceived at one of these!
There are ample sporting opportunities in Mareeba, including a tennis club, Olympic-sized swimming pool, and the Mareeba golf course, where you will find yourself partnered by the resident grey kangaroos that also enjoy the tasty tender greens and love the fare of the fairways! Restaurants, clubs, cafes and coffee shops provide a great way to sample the local repast with Italian Cuisine being the specialty of this Cairns Highlands town, a legacy of the migrants who first pioneered the area. The Mareeba Multicultural Festival held each August celebrates the shire’s diverse cultural heritage. Local aboriginal art may also be found at galleries and craft centres in town.
The Wheelbarrow Way
Go west young man, go west and take the Wheelbarrow Way inland from Mareeba where the history of the gold rush era is revived. During the late nineteenth century, this area formed the thriving and ungovernable Hodgkinson goldfields. Tyrconnell Gold Mine has been lovingly restored and offers overnight accommodation in heritage cabins and tours of the mine, which brings the 120-year-old quartz-crushing machine back to life. Panning for your own gold adds to the excitement of this trip, take home a tiny bottle of colour, flecks, flakes and wee nuggets of gold gouged out of the ground, then panned with your own bear hands.
Nearby is the infamous Mt Mulligan Mine, the site of the worst mining disaster in Australia's history when in 1921 an explosion killed all 75 men underground. Station stays on the mammoth Mt Mulligan Station makes a fascinating holiday alternative, here horseback riding and bush walking combine with your opportunity to evolve from a city slicker to cowboy and help with the cattle round-up, droving, drenching and branding.
Venture further west and the traveler will find a rare treat waits at the outback town of Chillagoe. Known as the "Reef of the Outback", here limestone bluffs and a huge underground cave system are testament to its beginnings as a coral reef some 400 million years ago. Now, visitors enjoy tours through the caves accompanied by a National Parks and Wildlife ranger who will explain the different sparkling limestone formations. You will witness some of the world's premier examples of limestone stalactites and stalagmites as they glimmer like a cache of jewels from the cavern walls.
You may choose to visit the nearby galleries of ancient Aboriginal rock art. Budding paleontologists will wish to fossock for fossils - the famous 'Dave' a 110 million year old, five-meter marine reptile, known as the Loch Ness Monster of Chillagoe, was found here in 1999! A place for Dave has been reserved at the Hub, Chillagoe's information centre, when the Queensland Museum can be coerced into returning him. The towering chimneys of the old smelters dot the horizon and bear witness to the town's former glory when it was at the heart of a thriving mining industry where gold, silver, copper and nickel were all extracted and smelted locally. Today Chillagoe quarries some of the world's finest marble which graces palaces, houses of parliament, mansions and stately buildings around the globe.