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A bicycle tour in North Queensland

The Atherton Tablelands, 1700 Km, April 2016

The Atherton tablelands region, inland from Cairns, is an interesting area geologically, because of recent volcanism and also because it is a lush tropical farmland area well known for its dairy industry. The original dense tropical forests have been cleared in many areas to make lush open grasslands for cattle grazing, but many areas of forest remain. Many volcanic craters occur and conical hills which are remnants of volcanic necks are common.

My route:   1700 Km.   Entirely on paved roads.

townsville to cairns route map

A detailed route map which works in Google Earth is here. (a .kmz file)

Starting from Townsville, it is some 350 Km north to Cairns and the only coastal route is on the arterial Bruce highway, on which there can be much traffic. But for most of this distance there is a reasonable shoulder on the highway which facilitates cycling. In April the prevailing winds were south-easterly so traveling north is good. The route to Cairns is not hilly, but the climb to the tablelands is significant and the southern tablelands can be quite hilly. In fact the highest altitude declared road in all of Queensland is here, near Ravenshoe, which is also the highest town in Queensland. There are only 4 routes up to the tablelands from the coastal highway. 

To reach Mossman (and Port Douglas) from Cairns, the Bruce highway is narrow with no shoulder and traffic is heavy, so cycling is stressful, but the coastal road is very scenic.
Roads in the Atherton - Malanda - Millaa Millaa - Ravenshoe region are narrow without a shoulder and there can be much truck traffic on the main routes. But there are some pleasant alternative secondary routes which are nice for cycling. The "Old Palmerston" road from near Ravenshoe to Millaa Millaa was very pleasant and scenic with light traffic as most traffic uses the new alternative highway.

In early April daytime temperatures are still warm, from 30 to 34 C even on the tablelands. But nights are cool and pleasant (not cold) in the Tablelands. The humidity can be high along the coast at this time of year and there could even be a late season cyclone, though that would be unusual.

This region is a very pleasant location for cycle touring.