Sometimes just getting to the supermarket is a big deal requiring military style organisation (and shouting) so the thought of us heading out for a daytrip came not without a few worries! I have turned into a bit of a wimp since baby number two arrived (for example we’d had a trip to see family planned over Christmas but we rainchecked – favouring instead a few weeks at home in our normal beds and routine therefore guaranteeing as much sleep as possible) and it was for this reason we settled on a day trip rather than over-nighting – although there are heaps of brilliant looking options available (next time we’re planning on staying over so watch this space)
It’s not that our boys are badly behaved or excessively grumpy – they are both really good but things can change quite quickly if food/sleep are in shortage – so without the regular midday nap I was wondering how things would go. One of the great things about the Tablelands (and one of the reasons we chose to go there) is the short driving times between places of interest. There are 2 ways to reach the Tablelands from Cairns – this is probably the hardest part of the journey – either taking a helter skelter uphill road of twists and turns for about 15km (Kuranda Range – north of Cairns) or an even heltier-skeltier uphill journey heading south of Cairns up the Gillies Range. Neither is for the faint hearted and I’ve known a few cases of car-sickness especially up the Gillies so for delicate passengers be prepared! Luckily for us both the boys slept all the way there (we planned an early start so they would both be drowsy and skipped breakfast so their tummies weren’t too full) and the views made the dizziness worth it!
There are loads of things to do on the Tablelands but we decided this time on the Herberton Historical Village in the morning followed by a swim at Lake Eacham in the afternoon as it’s about 1000 degrees in Cairns at the moment (January).
We had absolutely no phone signal for much of the journey so luckily things were well signposted – after coming off the range it was only a short hop to Herberton and we reached the village by 9am. Never mind a historic village it was like a ghost village at this time of day – fab for us we had the place to ourselves! Herberton Historical Village is a 16acre re-creation of an Australian town back in the tin mining days with over 50 exhibits that you can wander around freely. This is a toddler’s dream! There were sealed paths, lovely maintained lawns and lots of nooks and crannies to explore – with lots of things he was genuinely allowed to touch and climb without getting yelled at every 5 minutes!
There are loads of old machinery and vehicles sitting around (great for a digger obsessed lad!) and they start up the engines at different times of the day – we saw the fire engine, ambulance and the saw mill starting up and he loved it. Baby sat in his pram for a while – the majority of the exhibits are pushchair friendly – and when I transferred him to my baby carrier the reception had free umbrellas to borrow to shade us from the sun.
Our first stop was a picnic table near the river to enjoy our delayed breakfast – one of the brilliant things about the village is that you can take your own food with you. We also grabbed a drink at the café which had great looking food too and was really reasonably priced. We then went to the printworks and got the boys a fab wanted poster for their wall – the chap who made it for us was lovely and watching the old print press was fascinating.
We then went to watch all the engines being turned on then ambled around the exhibits for an hour or so then headed across a brilliant suspension bridge over the river (toddler loved running across while dad wobbled it!)
On the other side of the bridge was what looked like an engine graveyard with rusty vehicles that looked like they had come straight out of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. There was a river walk which was about 15mins return which we didn’t brave with the 2 littlies but which looked fun. We headed to the Pioneer Camp which served Billy Tea and campfood (with an original supplier of veggies – see pic below!) where we enjoyed a fresh off the campfire cuppa followed by a play in the fab playpark just behind.
We ate our picnic lunch and finished up at about 1pm – although we left a lot of the exhibits untouched so will be back! The only disappointment was that the train was not running on the day we were there so next time we are definitely going back on a Sunday as the train runs every hour – our Thomas the Tank obsessed toddler would have loved this!
The staff were all lovely and super helpful, the grounds well maintained and lots and lots to see and do – plus the village is dog friendly so next time we can bring our four-legged friend along. Definitely recommended for a day out for the whole family!
After leaving the village we headed to Lake Eacham – which was perfectly located about a half hour drive away so the boys both got a nice nap. This lake is a great place to take young ones as there are several easy access points and a ledge at the edge so it’s not too deep. We had hoped after leaving the Lake to go and say hello to the cows (and eat lots of cheese) at Gallo Dairyland but typically it’s closed on Fridays so we will have to check it out next time.
On the drive back to Cairns we decided to stop for a cold beer and icy pole at the Mountain View Hotel just at the bottom of the Gillies – what a hidden treat! I love proper Aussie country pubs and after walking through the bar and dining room a huge deck opens up with lovely breezes and views down to the river. We got back to Cairns just after 5pm with plenty of time for dinner and a glass of wine at home – both boys and both parents in fine spirits!