Ascending from a junction 35 kilometres (21 miles) south of Cairns to the Atherton Tablelands, the Gillies Highway ducks, winds and weaves (reputedly with 263 corners) over an elevation of almost 1,000 misty metres (3280 feet). You’ll likely feel your ears pop and you’ll definitely feel the temperature drop as you ascend through the Gillies Range. Stop off at Heales Lookout for the mandatory photo across the Goldsborough Valley and Walsh’s Pyramid.
Why we love it: The landscape changes from sugar plantations on the valley floor through eucalypt woodlands and dense rainforest before popping out in dairy farmlands of the Atherton Tablelands. At the top of the Gillies, we recommend taking time to explore the quaint town of Yungaburra or the Curtain Fig Tree, a jurassic like tree towering towards the canopy of the rainforest
Where: Gordonvale to Atherton
How far: Approx 60 kilometres (37 miles)
KIRRAMA RANGE RD
Closed for eight years and recently reopened, thanks in part to passionate local campaigners, the Kirrama Range Road’s original purpose was to service the timber industry. These days, campers and freshwater fishermen are its biggest fans. North-bound adventurous tourists are using it as an alternative route into the southern Tablelands as it winds upwards through Kirrama National Park.
Why we love it: Firstly it’s dirt. Secondly, you don’t need a 4WD to access it (during the dry season). Bereft of bitumen, the Kirrama Range Road weaves in and out of the Girringun National Park and is dotted with beautiful camping spots and one of the most impressive waterfalls in the region, Blencoe Falls
Where: Kennedy (near Cardwell) to Society Flat
How far: 30 kilometres (18 miles)
OK, first up let’s be clear, the Savannah Way is no Sunday drive. Rather, it’s an epic adventure traversing some of Australia’s most remote country from coast to coast across three states and territories. Get the picture? If you’re looking to find the ‘real Australia’ you’re on the right track. We’d highly recommend you allow yourself the necessary months to savour the Savannah Way.
Why we love it: Focusing on just the Tropical North Queensland section of the Savannah Way, you’ll be mesmerised by the spectacular limestone caves, small galleries of Aboriginal rock art, jagged limestone outcrops and an historically significant mining site of Chillagoe. Continue on the road but make sure you stop for a couple of nights in the beautiful outback surrounds of the Undara Experience where daily tours run through the 190,000 year old lava tubes of the Undara Volcanic National Park
Where: Cairns to Broome
How far: Approx 3,700 kilometres (2299 miles)