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History of the Tablelands - Atherton Tablelands Online Booking Service. Atherton Tablelands Accommodation. Atherton Tablelands Tourist Site.

History of the Tablelands

James Mulligan, an adventurer and prospector was one of the first Europeans to explore this region, generously sharing his discoveries.  He is responsible for opening most of the Far North Qld mining fields.

In 1875, on a Government expedition looking for gold over the Herberton Range, he found tin at Wild River near what is now the town of Herberton. However its isolation delayed its development. Then in 1878 John Atherton, a pioneer grazer who had considerable exploration work to his credit, discovered tin deposits around the now town of Tinaroo, then in the following year rediscovered Mulligans camp on the Wild River. In 1880 the Great Northern Mine opened and the far north tin industry blossomed.

It was to Herberton that the track was carved through dense rainforest from Port Douglas.  Later to be named Mulligan Highway, it passed through the present Main Street of Atherton.  Bullock teams hauled supplies over that road, which also opened up the area to exploitation of the magnificent cabinet timbers in the rainforests.

The coach company Cobb & Co ran a service up and over the Great Dividing Range on the Mulligan Highway.

The supply route from Port Douglas dwindled once the Railway line from Cairns to Mareeba was constructed in 1893.

The first settlement in the district took place in December, 1885, when a number of portions situated in the Kairi area were opened for selection.  By the year 1900, practically all lands to the east of the Barron River had been applied for either as Homesteads or Unconditional Selections.

For more detailed information on History of specific townships, see below:


History of Tinaroo

History of Kulara

History of Mt Mulligan