One of the features dominating the area around Atherton is Lake Tinaroo so on Friday 26th August we decided to spend a day by the lake. It is a man-made lake created by the damming of the Barron River but has no end of recreational facilities associated with it including several bush camping areas. It was at one of these camping areas that Sarah and Darryl – The Wallaby Wanderers – met up with their travelling gurus Andy and Caroline – Kangaroojack. They had never met before but had exchanged blogs, emails, phone calls etc for many months whilst travelling around Aus in opposite directions and it was here that they realized that their paths would actually cross.
The Atherton Tablelands were named after John Atherton who settled at Emerald End Station, at the junction of Emerald Creek and the Barron River. A popular legend says that upon discovering alluvial tin at the headwaters of the creek, Mr Atherton shouted "Tin, Harroo!!" to his prospecting mate - hence the name.
We set off for the small township of Tinaroo and we were tempted to divert briefly for a well signed lookout. Expecting to have a view of the lake and
the township, we were a bit disappointed. It must have been a great lookout once but the ever-growing trees now masked the surrounding countryside so we saw nothing. Tinaroo was just a few minutes away and we soon found ourselves strolling along the lake’s edge in the heart of the splendid small township. There is a big commercial caravan park here and we almost came to stay here rather than in Atherton. We would not have been disappointed as Tinaroo seemed a delightful, quiet place. There is what appears to be a Summer Camp in Tinaroo and it was interesting watching about 100 young kids all practicing “circus skills”.
We drifted up to the Dam Lookout which gave a splendid view across the main expanse of the lake although there are many “arms” to the lake which are not visible from that point. The information contained in the various signs on display made it clear just how important the dam was and still is to the on-going development of the area. We drove on for a short while until we spotted signs for Platypus Rock Lookout. We made our way to the lookout and climbed the well-constructed stairway to
the top of a very imposing rock. It must be a feature of lookouts in this area that you can’t actually see anything!! Once again, mature trees blocked any chance of a view over the lake. Nearby was one of the several National Park camp sites so we drove down through to the water’s edge. By contrast to the lookout, this camp site had a delightful view across the lake and several camping units were taking advantage of the beautiful location. We decided to have a cuppa at this spot and to look out for platypus (it must be called Platypus Rock for some reason!!). But on our way out of the camp site we spotted the reason for the name. There is no connection with real, live platypus but a huge, curiously shaped rock clearly resembles the head and “beak” of a platypus and obviously influenced the name of the area – probably of aboriginal origin.
We meandered on round the lake to another beautiful camping area – Kauri Creek and decided to stay for our picnic lunch. For a while it was wonderfully tranquil and quiet with just a few swamp hens mooching around and then a
few young lads arrived with their motor boat and water skiing gear to shatter the peace – it was still lovely there though!
After passing a couple more camping areas (one was School Point where Sarah and Darryl stayed and met up with Kangaroojack) the road drifted away from the lake. We stopped briefly at another lookout with a great view of Lake Euramoo, an ancient volcanic crater, but resisted the temptation to do the circular walk. Before long we came upon ‘The Chimneys’ – a picnic area named because the only surviving feature of a small homestead which once occupied the ground were two stone built chimney stacks. Just a bit further along from The Chimneys is a brilliant example of a Strangler Fig tree known as The Cathedral Fig. It is enormous with a girth exceeding 44 metres – that’s some tree!! The gravel road had been excellent up to this point but the remainder of the track was not quite as good with many twists and turns as we made our way out towards the main road. From here we intended to make our way to Youngaburra where we had been told that a platypus viewing
platform existed. Before we got there, however, we happened upon a sign for Lake Barrine and couldn’t resist exploring the area. We’re glad we did as the lake was splendid with a beautiful viewing area. Wildlife cruises were available but we chose to purchase some ice creams from the fancy restaurant there and to sit on the balcony overlooking the lake and to enjoy the brilliant view for a while.
Next we passed through Youngaburra where, indeed, a specially constructed viewing platform exists on the edge of the small town overlooking the river that runs through the outskirts. Alas, it was completely the wrong time of day for spotting platypus. They usually appear at dusk or dawn so although we sat patiently for a while we weren’t lucky enough to spot one. We knew we would be passing back through Youngaburra quite early tomorrow on our way to Cairns so, as long as we can find somewhere to park the caravan, we’ll have a better chance of spotting the elusive platypus. So our stay in the Atherton area finished with a great day in and around Lake Tinaroo and we arrived back at the caravan late afternoon with plenty
of daylight left to make a few preparations for tomorrow’s onward journey. It’s another fairly short journey so there was no need to put everything away because, as long as the weather stays fine, we will have plenty of time in hand. We’ll remember Atherton fondly and would recommend that anyone travelling through northern Queensland should take some time out to explore the Tablelands and enjoy what they have to offer.
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