The turn off to the left for Mt Molloy via the Rex Range road is 10km past the Port Douglas turnoff. This road was still unsealed less than 30 years ago. The Julatten and Mt Molloy tableland is very scenic and well known for its benign climate at a little over 400m elevation. The Julatten area is a birdwatching hotspot with the Sooty Owl and Blue-faced parrot Finch being two of the local stars. The latter is found from Nov-April in the Mt Lewis area which can be reached via the Mt Lewis Rd on the right about 18km from the Cook Highway. Keep right at the fork past Cobb's Cottage and as the road is mostly unsealed, it is best to use a 4WD. The road stops at the locked gate after 11km. Useful links :
Between Mt Molloy and Mareeba, the country is no longer wet enough for rainforest but still supports a huge variety of plants. The huge Lake at Southedge is just above the main road from Mt Molloy to Mareeba.
Drive a little further and the Mareeba Wetlands are on the right at Biboohra. Well worth a visit for birdwatchers either early or late in the day. The photos below are taken around the wetlands.
Mareeba is the local town for the many farmers in the area. It was once a major tobacco growing are but now bananas are the most important crop by value. Many other fruits and vegetables are grown such as avocadoes, coffee, lychees, mangoes, pineapples, papaya, passionfruit, pumpkins, potatoes and sweet potatoes. The whole area is watered by irrigation channels from Lake Tiroo and the Barron River.
There is a very good information centre and pioneer museum at the Atherton/Mareeba/Cairns intersection.
Kuranda is a pretty village in the tableland rainforest and well known for its market and local arts and crafts shops. Look out for the fine porcelain from ceramic artist Mollie Bosworth.
There are 2 markets in Kuranda - the old one which is tucked in down the hill behind the corner of Therwine and Coondoo Streets. I prefer this one because it has more of the old hippie vibe and also has a little french cafe where the crepes and coffee are worth lingering over. The newer "heritage" market is on the left side just pass the Butterfly sanctuary as you drive into Kuranda.
Don't miss the Barron Falls lookout. Take the Barron Falls road and follow the signs to the car park for Wrights Lookout and the Barron Falls Lookout. In the wet season the falls are spectacular from here or from the halfway station on the Skyrail. The volume of silt-laden water roaring down the rockface is astounding. The whole ground seems to be vibrating. Most visitors come to North Queensland in the drier winter months but the summer wet season is the time when nature shows off.
You can also take the McDonald track which begins from behind the Wright's Lookout. Take the power line access road behind the gate. The track continues for nearly 5km to Red Bluff with great views down the Barron Gorge. It descends steeply to Surprise Ck after about 1.5km. This is a lovely swimming creek and worth visiting by itself. At Red Bluff the track joins up with the Douglas track which goes to Speewah (about 6km). See Barron Gorge map below.