Cairns Outback

Cairns outback is just south of Cape York.

If you get time before or after your Cape York trip, while you are in the area, it is worth turning in to the road west of Mareeba.

After Mareeba you continue to Mutchilba and  Dimbulah on what is called the Mareeba - Dimbulah Road.

Between Mareeba and Chillagoe it is also called the "Wheelbarrow Way", the stretch along which the Great Wheelbarrow Race is held.

cairns kuranda

Cairns to Kuranda
If you start in Cairns, you will first cross the Great Dividing Range (right here it is called Kuranda Range), pass a lookout point, the Rainforestation nature park, the beautiful rainforest village Kuranda, and continue to Mareeba, past Speewah and Koah, on Kennedy Highway.


Mareeba is a sizeable country town up on the northern end of Atherton Tablelands, meaning cooler climate, fertile soils and consequently farming country. 
It used to have nothing much for travellers, but does now have a great museum and a few other things to see and do.


Dimbulah and Around
West after Mareeba you pass through Tabacum and Mutchilba, before you come to Dimbulah - a small township which is the gateway to 
Hodgkinson Goldfields

There is also a historical railway station and a museum.


Petford and Around
After Dimbulah, the road is officially called Burke Developmental Road

The next place west is Petford - if you turn south here, there is a side trip to Emuford, Irvinebank and Watsonville (all the way to Herberton if you like).

lappa junction

Lappa Junction and Around
Back on the Burke Developmental Road, the next place is Lappa Junction - and again turning south takes you to side trips - here they are even more exciting four wheel drive tracks to Brownville, Munderra and through to Mt Garnet.


Almaden and Around
The next township west is Almaden - a small community with another historical railway station, and the pub - Railway Hotel. 

Again, turning south takes you to Ootann, Lyndbrook and Mount Surprise, much the same way as the Savannahlander train.


West of Almaden is Chillagoe - a small friendly town with some interesting geology and history. 

Around the town are some great limestone caves, the old smelters, the courthouse museum, lookout point, the old railway station and the old Mungana township further west.

mount surprise

Mount Garnet and Mount Surprise
South of the Burke Developmental Road is Kennedy Highway, and the Gulf Savannah Developmental Road, and there are different tracks through to Mount Garnet and Mount Surprise - both small one pub towns, and you can also get here by
the historical Savannahlander Train.

undara lava tubes

Undara Lava Tubes
But the best thing near Mount Surprise is the
Undara Lava Tubes - an amazing geological formation - tunnels of rocks formed from a cooling lava flow. 
They are best visited during the Dry Season, as during the Wet there can be too much water in them to explore.


Einasleigh and Forsayth
Further west you come to Einasleigh and Forsayth. Einasleigh is a small one-pub town with a nice black basalt gorge.

Forsayth is a bit bigger, it even has a post office and a small shop. Both are on a loop side-road, which takes you to the beautiful Gobbold Gorge.

gobbold gorge

Gobbold Gorge
Unfortunately on private land so you cannot visit without taking a tour (by the way the same applies to Undara).

But it is a beautiful gorge where you can take a boat tour to watch the sandstone rock formations, turtles and freshwater crocodiles.

Cairns Kuranda Road

Cairns Kuranda road is a beautiful road through rainforests.

The most usual way Cairns visitors do Kuranda is one way with the scenic Kuranda Train, and the other way the Skyrail.

In Cairns end of the Skyrail trip is the famous
Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park.

In Kuranda there are the famous markets and wildlife parks, and the trip makes a great day trip from Cairns.

But you can also drive, which is a great way to experience the rainforest.

cairns kuranda

It starts at Smithfield Shopping Centre north of Cairns. It soon starts climbing up the hill and the road starts winding as it crosses the Great Dividing Range.

cairns kuranda lookout

There are a few good views of the surrouding country, Cairns and the coast.


In Kuranda end there is the Rainforestation Nature Park with a wildlife park section, an Aboriginal Experience and the Army Duck Rainforest Tour.

cairns kuranda road

In the other end, the road descends again, but not as much as in the Cairns end. Right before Kuranda Village is the Black Mountain Road to Julatten.


Speewah is a small community just west of Kuranda.

It's close enough to almost be a southern suburb of Kuranda.

It has markets and some accommodation, ...


.. a tavern with a public bar, a beer garden and accommodation ...

speewah tavern

.. and if you drive further in and continue for a while, ...

speewah camping ground

.. there is the camping ground.

speewah camping

That's where you can walk some long distance bushwalking tracks through some beautiful tropical rainforest.

djina wu track

It's the Speewah-end access to Barron Gorge National Park (the other two are in Cairns and Kuranda).


Koah is a tiny community of a few hundred people.

It is about half way between Kuranda and Mareeba, inland from Cairns.

Along the road between Kuranda and Mareeba is Koah Roadhouse.

koah roadhouse

At the roadhouse, a road turns in towards the small community.

koah queensland

It is on the border between Kuranda's tropical rainforests and Mareeba's open woodland.

koah entrance

There is nothing much in the few streets, except horse carriages, ...

koah mango tree

... but there are a few back tracks ...

koah railway bridge

... and an old railway bridge

koah river

And if you spend a little time looking around, ..

koah track

... there are some four wheel drive tracks around the tiny township.

koah 4wd track

Some quite extreme :-)


Mutchilba is a tiny one-shop town.

It is west of Mareeba and east of Dimbulah in Cairns Outback.

It is in the middle of some large mango farms, but the only thing you see from the the Mareeba-Dimbulah road is the township's only roadhouse and shop.  


It sells groceries, drinks and ice, and has a cafe that sells takeaway food.

Fuel and EFPTOS facilities are also available.


Dimbulah is a small town west of Mareeba in Cairns Outback.

It is in the eastern end of the Burke Developmental Road, and in the western end of the so-called Dimbulah-Mareeba Road.

The main thing for travellers is the Heritage Park, with the old railway station and the museum inside it.

dimbulah railway station

At the front of the railway station is a wheelbarrow statue, symbolising the area's rich gold mining history.
dimbulah museum

And across the road is the turnoff to Hodgkinson River Goldfields.

dimbulah hodgkinson goldfields

There is a grocery store, a pub, a bar and a restaurant, a post office, a butchery, a fuel station, and a fast food cafe.
dimbulah sign

Places to stay are the pub and a caravan park.


Petford is a tiny community just south of Cape York.

It is in Cairns outback, west of Dimbulah and east of Almaden on Burke Developmental Road that goes to Karumba and Normanton.

It is a very small community of less than 100 people.

But all you can see from the road unless you turn in, is the cute little historical railway station.

It's a beauty and it's been here since the days when Chillagoe was a big mining town, and the railway was built to link it to the coast.


South of Petford is the road to Emuford, Irvinebank, Watsonville and Herberton on Atherton Tablelands. Off that road are some very good four wheel drive tracks.

Lappa Junction

Lappa Junction is an interesting place to discover.

It is between Petford and Almaden, east of Chillagoe on the Burke Developmental Road that goes from Mareeba to Karumba and Normanton in Gulf Savannah.

It is a tiny place today, but it used to be a big railway junction in the days when Chillagoe was a gold mining town.


Today, the old railway station and the pub remain,

lappa pub

... although you won't get any beer here anymore.

lappa junction pub

The pub is a museum now,

lappa junction museum

... and is a great place to have a look around :-)

lappa railway station

Behind the pub is an old railway station, and the old truck that flew away in cyclone Larry in 2006, but it's back now.

lappa junction

South of Lappa Junction is a track to Munderra and Mount Garnet. Off that track are some great side tracks to four wheel drive - try the one from Ord to Emuford :-)


Almaden is a tiny township just south of Cape York peninsula.

It is just east of Chillagoe, in the Cairns Outback along the Burke Developmental Road that goes to Karumba and Normanton.

You can also get to it via a few shortcuts from Kennedy Highway that runs from Smithfield north of Cairns to Undara Lava Tubes not far from Mount Garnet.

almaden sign

There is a historical Railway Hotel in town (the town's only pub), ...

almaden pub

... and the railway station where Savannahlander train stops on its way from Cairns to Forsayth.

almaden railway station

It is 
in the middle of some beautiful red-soil country...

almaden red soil

with millions of termite mounds.

almaden red soil country

South of Almaden you get past Ootann to Mount Surprise and Undara Lava Tubes.

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