Ride, Swim, Eat, Repeat: Day 1, Mountain Biking the Atherton Tablelands

See our day two and three adventures here:

Atherton EP:2

Atherton EP:3

Why does life feel like it is ending when summer draws to a close, how could it be considered ‘good news’ to hear that the mountains have received their first snowfalls for the season?

Why can’t we live some nomadic life and chase the sun? Ok, while that’s clearly not going to happen – it’d take too long to pack – we do have some fairly sensational options here in Australia. As mountain bikers, a typical holiday can be so much more than seeing the sights or lying on a towel, lucky us we get to ride.

Head north, soak in the warmth.

On a recent trip to Atherton in Tropical North Queensland, we rode the sun-drenched singletrack, swam in the crater lakes and under incredible waterfalls, ate our way through the delicious local produce, kicked back in historic old pubs and repeated it all again three days in a row.

It was awesome.

Warm singletrack, bliss!

Getting there is easy, with a very scenic 1.5-hour drive west from Cairns. Up on the Atherton Tablelands, the spaces are incredibly unique; it’s tropical, lush, vivid, and being at a higher altitude than Cairns it’s typically a few degrees cooler.

Atherton is a small town that received a huge government grant to build mountain bike trails by professional mountain bike trail companies, the network is extensive, varied and well signed. The green trails in the flatter areas are mellow and remarkably scenic, blue trails take you higher into the foothills of the range for a longer ride, and black runs pack a punch with a faster ride and options to boost jumps and tackle technical rock sections.

The trails start right in town, literally, from town you have hours of riding available to you, it’s pretty sweet. We arrived just after an unseasonably wet summer, which saw the mountain bike park closed for quite some time to preserve its state and minimise damage. 

But the trails in Atherton MTB Park is only half of the reason we love travelling there, the region is packed with things to do when your legs have had enough. We’re talking about feasting on all that the Atherton Tablelands offers, eat, swim, drink, relax, repeat.

Day One – Ride, eat, swim, drink, eat, repeat.

We bit off a big chunk of riding on our first day, taking on an epic loop of trails including Stairway to Heaven, a big climb that takes you right up high where the views over the whole region make up for the burning in your legs. 

What goes up must come down, and it was our first run down Drop Zone, aptly named this black grade trail gave our resident bike magician Dave McMillan the chance to let fly.

Yeoooo, A-line versus B-line.

As the speeds crept up, so did the technicality of the descent with dozens of sections of trail that kept us on our toes, negotiating loose corners and sharp embedded rocky bits. Drop Zone could be the training ground for a keen enduro racer it’s that wild.

Rack your bike, it’s time to submerge.

Grabbing a bowl of fruit and avocado for lunch we were recharged to relax the arvo away. Lake Eacham is a short drive from Atherton, and it’s a complete paradise! A lake formed from a volcanic crater and free from any powered craft, its clear water and the overhanging jungle is amazing.

Give your legs and bike a rest, time to get submerged in a clear freshwater lake.

Like some dream, the swimming is such a sweet way to wind away the day, and we were lucky to be there on a sunny afternoon to watch the sun go down. We were buzzing.

Pub timewarp.

Look, we aren’t going to hide the fact we love a good old pub, and the Tablelands do them so well. There are half-a-dozen great old pubs on the area worth checking out, well preserved and littered with historic photos and artefacts from the original farming and sawmilling days.

While the craft beer scene doesn’t seem to have migrated that far north yet, the food servings are generous and the mixture of locals and fruit picking backpackers from the UK is quite bizarre. It’s a really good time.



Where we stayed – Big 4 Caravan Park is a stone’s throw from the trails and is well set up for mountain bikes with a dedicated wash bay, work stand and tools.

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