The man, the myth, the legend - we were met my Barefoot Tours owner himself Captain Matty who picked us up outside our hostel ready to start the day. Now when I say picked us up, he literally picked each and every one of us up in a bear hug before hopping onto the bus ready to head on out of Cairns and up into the Tablelands. The trip consists of 5 main stops for swimming and cooling off, with a number of additional stops along the way to check out some of the hidden gems along the way. With even an average winters day here being 25-28 degrees, you'll find yourself wanting to jump into the icy water to cool off.
The windy road up to the first destination included a stop at a view point to look down at all the tiny people left in Cairns before moving onwards. It's about a 45 minute drive out of town, however not for those who are perhaps slightly hungover. With the road going round and round for a good half an hour, you may feel a little queasy without the help of residual alcohol.
Once up on the Tablelands, the beautiful green pastures just roll on by. Doesn't quite feel like you're in Australia anymore up here. Of course, that only lasts a few minutes until you reach the Cathedral Fig tree found just a short walk from the main road. Looking like something out of Avatar, it's a pretty special stop to check out. Over 500 years old, the strangler tree is the perfect place for a cheeky snap and some shade from the sunshine.
The first swimming spot of the day, super quiet with few other visitors there's space to spread out on the grass in the sunshine and take a dip. With a swimming platform in one area, and steps down to another there's plenty of room. If you're not quite in the swimming mood yet though, not to worry as you can pass the time turtle spotting on the waters edge. Keep an eye out while you're swimming though, rumour has it you might see a crocodile if you're lucky.
Here is where morning tea is served, along with the most incredible fruit platter for the health nuts and cakes for those of us who have delayed the summer body for yet another season. Matty was proud to make sure it was known he always buys as much local produce as possible, from only the local suppliers to keep the money in the region. Bread from the local baker, fruits grown throughout the Tablelands. It was seriously awesome to hear how a small company was happy to pay a little bit more to their suppliers to keep it local than to go to the big supermarkets that don't always support the surrounding area.
Millaa Millaa Falls
When you picture a waterfall in your head, this is pretty much what you think it will look like. Tall, loads of swimming space and the perfect place for the 'profile picture' that dreams are made of. Also home to where the famous herbal essences advert was created, it's near criminal to come here without giving the hair 'swoosh' a try. The water is pretty cold though I might add, so for girls you may want a bikini or swimsuit with a little padding to stop the awkward obvious nip moment. Have a swim, jump off some rocks, grab that perfect picture and be ready to lie in the sunshine for a little warm up before heading off to stop 4! Also, keep a keen eye out as sometimes you may spot a rare platypus in this area.
Dinner Falls and The Crater
Another beautiful waterfall stop, with a short walk to a number of view points. For these agile on their feet you can climb over the rocks and get pretty close to the falling water as well, but make sure you have shoes with good grip or you may regret it. Here we stopped for lunch (included in the price), which consisted of more sandwiches, cake, fruit and other delicious treats. As you can imagine, this was all polished off pretty fast when you've got a group of backpackers faced with free food.
The best of them all! Here you can use the waterfall as a natural waterslide as it's so smooth! It can be a little bit of a mission to get into the water here, with either a jump between a few rocks or a careful climb. Luckily, we had Captain Matty to 'accidentally' push us in to make sure we avoided the rocks on either side. With the water being super cold as well, I can't imagine slowly climbing in would be much fun either. A quick swim across the pool gets to you to the best way to the waterfall, then just gather with a group or go solo, get on your butt and slide on down!
You can only swim in certain areas of the falls though, so please remember this! Part of the falls is sacred to the local aboriginal people and treating this with utmost respect it important. The team at Barefoot want to be able to keep bringing us lovely tourists here, and can only do so if we all keep our cool. Also, with strong currents & raging water, you wouldn't really want to take a dip in the other areas either! Enjoy the below 'in action' shot of us - thrilling stuff right here.
Basically, it's not your typical day out in terms of the 'must do in Australia' list. However, I think that's what makes it so great. It's a very chilled out, fun and adventure filled way to spend your day tailor made for backpackers & the understanding that anything too engergic may not be possible with the residual alcohol in your system from the night before at Gilligans. We had one of the best days, and Captain Matty seriously wanted everyone to have a good time, make some new friends and remind us ladies to steer clear of the dive masters (sadly, he didn't give me any advise on the skydive instructors though... opps!)