The Atherton Tableland Region has a long history of Indigenous occupation. Aspects of traditional Aboriginal land use and culture have been documented from the period of first contact to the present. Aboriginal people with ties to the region seek to maintain their culture today, despite a long period of forced removal from their lands following European occupation in the late 19th-early 20th century.
Yidinji (also known as Yidinj, Yidiny, and Idindji) is an Australian Aboriginal language. Its traditional language region is within the local government areas of Cairns Region and Tablelands Region, in such localities as Cairns, Gordonvale, and the Mulgrave River, and the southern part of the Atherton Tableland including Atherton and Kairi.
Dyirbal (also known as Djirbal) is a language of Far North Queensland, particularly the area around Tully and Tully River Catchment extending to the Atherton Tablelands. The Dyirbal language region includes the landscape within the local government boundaries of Cassowary Coast Regional Council and Tablelands Regional Council
The first European exploration of this area, part of the traditional land of the Dyirbal, was undertaken in 1875 by James Venture Mulligan. Mulligan was prospecting for gold, but instead found tin. The town of Herberton was established on 19 April 1880 by John Newell to exploit the tin find, and mining began on 9 May. By the September of that year, Herberton had a population of 300 men and 27 women.
In the late 19th century the Mulligan Highway was carved through the hills from Herberton and passed through what is now Main Street, Atherton, before continuing down to Port Douglas. This road was used by the coaches of Cobb and Co to access Western Queensland.
Flora and fauna
The tableland contains several small remnants of the rainforest which once covered it, many of which are now protected in national parks. It is classified by BirdLife International as one of Australia's Important Bird Areas, supporting over 1% of the world population of the sarus crane and a significant population of the bush stone-curlew. Twelve species of birds are endemic to this area and the mountain ranges immediately south: Atherton scrubwren, Bower's shrikethrush, bridled honeyeater, chowchilla, fernwren, golden bowerbird, grey-headed robin, Macleay's honeyeater, mountain thornbill, pied monarch, tooth-billed bowerbird and Victoria's riflebird.
Use State Route 52 or National Route 1 from Cairns. No airports apart from Atherton Aerodrome although that isn't an airport with scheduled flights, and so the nearest airport is in Cairns. No trains here as well.
Your best bet on getting around is by car, given the distances.
- 1 Cafe on Louise, 23 Louise St, Atherton, ☏ .
There is a wide choice of hotels, bed and breakfast and cabins on the tableland.
- 1 On The Wallaby, 34 Eacham Rd, Yungaburra. A lovely backpackers with friendly staff. They organise many tours on the tableland. Dorm: $25, Double: $60.