It’s the silence you notice first. The silence of a sacred place unchanged by human contact. Gold rushes. Coal-mining disasters. The arrival of white settlers, and then their sudden departure. The vertiginous, pockmarked sandstone face of Ngarrabullgan has sat above it all. Watching, silent, still.

Fly west from Cairns, above the farmland and mulga scrub of the Atherton Tablelands, and it emerges out of the haze, a primordial table-top monolith sitting 400 metres above the surrounding hills and plains. Bound tightly to the identity of the local Djungan people, it runs 18 kilometres north to south, 10 times the size of Uluru.

The Lodge sits in the shadow of Ngarrabullgan’s eastern flank, the mountain adding a sense of contemplation to this all-inclusive luxury retreat. Experiencing the region’s geological, Indigenous and colonial histories is central to a stay here, whether you’re investigating old gold fields, or learning about the Mount Mulligan coal mining disaster and touring its abandoned township.

Between times, you’re relaxing in spacious rooms built from spotted gum and handsome stone tiles, or soaking in the oversized outdoor corrugated-iron bathtub with its views overlooking a tree-lined weir. Or maybe you’re sipping champagne in the infinity pool, rising early for yoga, fishing for barramundi, experiencing a cattle muster (at certain times of the year – the lodge sits within a 28,000-hectare working cattle station), and enjoying sunset cocktails while admiring Ngarrabulgan’s escarpments. Or maybe you’re just going large on à la carte farm-to-table food, and Australian wine, beer and spirits in the main pavilion.

You won’t ever share the lodge with more than 19 other guests, meaning nothing’s too hard for the staff and their egalitarian style of service. And “all-inclusive” does a number on your brain – there are no room keys and you’re never signing a bill, making this feel nothing like a hotel and everything like staying at your mate’s fancy cattle farm.

Transfers from Cairns are typically by helicopter, but self-drive if you’re keen to tour the wider Atherton Tablelands.

Head south from the lodge, exploring towns such as Chillagoe, with its limestone caves, or the quaint heritage village of Yungaburra, before discovering the spectacular Waterfall Circuit. Start at the 18-metre Millaa Millaa Waterfall – one of Far North Queensland’s most famous – before driving to the viewing platform overlooking Zillie Falls – a great spot for lunch. Finally, Ellinjaa Falls is another two kilometres down the road, a beautiful, shaded waterfall that could be lifted from a picture book.

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Updated: December 15th, 2022

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