Not many people know about Yungaburra, but once we’ve told you what it has going for it, that could change! Yungaburra has not altered much since 1910 and except for a discreet alternative lifestyle presence these days, the town emits a strong sense of history. Its charming old timber buildings stand next to alternative cafes and naturopathy shops.
The town came into existence as a result of John Atherton’s discoveries of tin and gold at Tinaroo Creek in 1878. John Robson, who was with Atherton at the time, cut a track from the tablelands to the coast and the Allumbah Pocket settlement which grew there became known as Yungaburra.
In the early days there was some timber cutting, particularly cedar. Around 23 of the town’s timber buildings have been listed. The railway arrived in 1910 and tourism became the biggest industry in 1926 when the Cairns-Yungaburra Range road opened. At 720 metres above sea level, the cooler climate of the Atherton Tablelands was, and is, a wonderful escape from the coastal humidity.
Yungaburra’s proximity to the crater lakes and Lake Tinaroo make it the ideal place for visitors seeking sailing, horseriding, boating, swimming, canoeing, bush-walking, water skiing and sailboarding.
At the top of the Gillies Range, just minutes away, is Lake Barrine, where the stable water level and secluded bays have rainforest right down to the water.
The 489-hectare Lake Eacham National Park, as with Lakes Barrine and Eacham, is a volcanic crater full of crystal water, surrounded by tropical highland rainforest. It is a good spot for swimming and canoeing and has an amazing array of birds and rainforest animals.
Something not to be missed is the Curtain Fig Tree, one of the largest and most fascinating trees in Queensland. The curtain effect results from one tree which leant against another tree at a 45° angle. The strangler vine grew along the oblique angle of the leaning tree, dangling 15 metres to the ground to create the curtain effect. A wooden boardwalk surrounds the tree so you can view it from any angle. There is also wheelchair access.
Just 20 minutes further on is the 16km waterfall circuit, which takes in three spectacular falls. Millaa Millaa, the first, is a popular swimming spot. In late afternoon you may see platypus, the magnificent Ulysses butterfly and iridescent dragonflies. There’s plenty of parking, shelter and barbecue facilities.
Zillie Falls are 7.5km further on. A colony of flying foxes lives there and a short walk takes you to an area with excellent views of the rapids and top of the falls. Zillie has no swimming access.
Another three kilometres on are the Ellinjaa Falls. Steps make descent to a viewing platform safe and easy. Platypus and turtles can be seen in the plunge pool. Swimming is not recommended.
The pub is a good place to get a feel for the place in most country towns and the Yungaburra Pub, also known as Lake Eacham Hotel, is no exception.
It was built in the early 20th century and its interior is still magnificent, a showpiece of Federation architecture using locally felled and milled timbers such as cedar and silky oak. Guests lap up the charm, grace and grandeur of days gone. It is a peaceful place with exquisite panelling and fittings, homestyle meals, quality wine and comfortable rooms with ensuite facilities.
Lake Barrine Tea House is a terrific place to enjoy a meal while overlooking the lake. Built in the 1930s, it is a lovely old Queenslander with splashes of art deco and, of course, lip-smacking Devonshire teas.
Nick’s Restaurant comes as a huge surprise. The Swiss Italian fantasy opened in 1986 and the alpine chalet-style restaurant is a real favourite. It began with room for just 24 diners and can now seat up to 180. The granite, stone and wrought iron Yodellers Bar is loads of fun. Co-owner Nick Crameri yodels and plays accordion for guests. They open from 6pm to 11pm every day except Monday.
The menu includes soup, pasta, steak and dessert. The potato roesti is a must. They serve 24 varieties of beer, three beers on tap and, of course, schnapps.
Nick has worked in five-star hotels and on various Great Barrier Reef islands and his presence in Yungaburra helped keep the town going after the sawmill shut down. There is quite a large Swiss Italian community in the area many came to farm, trade or look for gold and stayed.