Just over an hour west of Cairns, on the fertile Atherton Tablelands, lies the sunny town of Mareeba. Conveniently located along Highway 1, Mareeba also serves as the gateway to Cape York; heading North out of town will see you headed to Cooktown and beyond. With the town’s welcome sign boasting 300 sunny days per year, Mareeba is one of those locations that caters to campers of all codes - whether you’re taking the big rig for a run up the Cape, in search of a comfortable base to explore the Tablelands area, or desperate to keep the kids entertained these school holidays, Mareeba’s got what you need and then some!
Where to stay
While there’s no shortage of accommodations in the Mareeba area, we reckon you’ll be hard-pressed to find a camping experience more unique than Wally’s Roost. Tucked away an easy 15 minute drive from the centre of town, Wally’s Roost offers a camping experience that is pared-down, uncomplicated, and secluded - exactly how camping should be.
The friendly hosts, Phil and Janette, are wildlife carers whose property is a refuge for all kinds of native critters (they’ll happily take you on a night tour to spot some of the locals!), and they pride themselves on the exclusivity they offer. With only three sites available (including one drive-through site perfect for camper trailers or caravans), rest assured you’ll have plenty of space between yourself and your neighbours! Two sites are nestled down by the creek, which is big enough for a cooling arvo dip while the third site, which accommodates those larger setups, boasts hillside and farmland views. Kids under 13 stay free at Wally’s Roost, and don’t fret about Fido - dogs are welcome too, as long as they’re kept within your campsite and contained at night (it is a wildlife refuge, after all!).
True to its minimalist philosophy, Wally’s Roost doesn’t offer amenities such as toilets, bins or showers. Instead, campers are expected to follow Leave No Trace principles which includes bringing their own camping dunnies/showers and packing out their waste. Don’t have a camping toilet? Don’t stress - swing into a BCF on your way over, nab yourself a snazzy throne, and revel in the knowledge that you’ve now got your own portable ensuite. No questionable amenity blocks, toilet paper tumbleweeds or pit loo horror stories? Sign us up!
What to do
Get outside. Take a hike (dogs welcome on leash) at Emerald Creek Falls; explore volcanically-formed lakes at Crater Lakes National Park; embrace the power of the pedal at Davies Creek Mountain Bike Park; or head off-road on some of the Tablelands’ most iconic 4x4 tracks.
Get wet. Lake Tinaroo is an easy 30 minute drive south of Mareeba, and it’s a water-lover’s paradise. There are no vessel restrictions, and it’s a popular spot for swimming, recreational fishing and redclawing, kayaking and waterskiing. The lake is also home to some of the world’s biggest Barra - and with no closed season and no maximum size limit, Lake Tinaroo should be on every sportfishers bucket list! Grab a permit online.
Get fed. Mareeba and the wider Atherton Tablelands region are renowned for being a foodies’ paradise, so you’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to tucker time! From coffee (the region produces over 70% of Australia’s coffee crop) to fruit wine and everything in between, you can rest assured you won’t go hungry (or thirsty) while you’re here.