When you travel to tropical far North Queensland, you will inevitably find yourself spending time in Cairns. For some reason, when most people think of Cairns, they don’t think beyond its tropical waters and silvery white beaches. The locals know, though, that much of the magic of the region is in the Atherton Tablelands and other Cairns hinterland areas.

Rainfall is high in this part of Australia and the tropical climate makes it a verdant land crisscrossed by rivers and creeks. While populated, the hinterland is not overpopulated and much of it has not yet been exploited. Easily accessible and stunningly beautiful, a day trip to the tablelands could end up being the highlight of your stay in Cairns.

Once a year, the locals test their stamina and stage a running race to the top of the 3000 foot Walsh’s Pyramid. If a challenge appeals to you, just taking the two hour hike to the top of this peak can be taxing, but it will be worth it when you reach the top and have the world at your feet.

From Walsh’s Pyramid, you continue along the Gillies Highway to Lake Barrine. A very popular local spot, you can jump in for a swim before continuing on your adventure. While you’re floating on your back, think about the fact that as volcanoes go, this was a fairly recent one, having emerged a mere 13,000 years ago. It is young enough, in fact, to be part of aboriginal lore, which says that this and two other craters were formed when two men broke a taboo and angered the Rainbow Serpent.

Lake Barrine is also the home of the 1100 year old twin kauri pine trees. These, along with the 800 year old towering Curtain Fig Tree, are highlights of the pleasant and easy 4 mile walk around the lake’s perimeter.

Hopefully, you’ll have remembered to bring your camera with you, because Lake Barrine will be just one of the places that will give you innumerable photo opportunities. At Millaa Millaa Falls, for example, you will want to get photos from every angle. However, it’s lucky we live in the digital age, when you can take hundreds of pictures without reloading film, because Millaa Millaa Falls is just one among dozens on the Waterfall Circuit that begins in the village of Millaa Millaa and is the starting point for the amazing 80 mile Misty Mountains Trails network.

The quaint and welcoming village of Millaa Millaa is also the southern entrance to the Atherton Tablelands. To get an idea of what’s in store for you, go to the Millaa Millaa Lookout and take in the sweeping 180 degree view all the way to the coastal town of Innisfail.

Continue another 35 miles inland to Innot Hot Springs and treat yourself to a dip in the healing waters. Hot Springs are rare in Australia, so make the most of it while you can by staying overnight in a nearby accommodation or at the campground next to the springs.

That’s just a sampling of what you’ll find in the Cairns hinterland and Atherton Tablelands. Local secrets, you’ll be stepping off the tourist trail and into the magic of the real north Queensland.

If hotels and high rise apartments is not your thing you may want to look at staying a few night is a Cairns Bed and Breakfast and escape the crowds.