After Cooktown our plan is to make our way down the coast as far as Mackay and then head inland. After we saw the rock art in Laura we went to Mareeba for a few days. We had spent a night here on our way north. The town has a rodeo grounds you can camp at and these usually charge less than caravan parks which is good for our family. The amenities are never as nice at show grounds but we can deal with that. When we’d spent the night here previously there was a family in a bus that the kids had enjoyed playing with. When we came back through they were there again. They had also left and returned, so it was funny that we ran into them again. We didn’t know it then, but Mareeba wasn’t the last place we’d see them. Mostly we rested in Mareeba. It’s essential to have down days. You can’t go everywhere and see everything, it’s just too exhausting. We did drive down to Atherton to see the Crystal Caves. It seemed as though it would be unique, unlike anything else we’ll see on our journey, and I knew the kids would enjoy it. We’d all have to wear hard hats with lights in the caves, so that alone pretty much guarantees the kids will love it. On the way to Atherton we drove by the Big Peanut. It counts as a Big Thing. Some of the Big Things are bigger than others. Some are also more impressive than others. 😉 The Crystal Caves are not real caves. And thus they are able to be located right in the CBD. This creative car on the main road is your first taste of the caves. Outside the door is a random dinosaur. Thank goodness this was before we watched Jurassic Park for the first time or some of my children might have refused to go inside! When you enter you find yourself in a shop with all sorts of beautiful crystal items. You can even crack your own geode open which we saw some kids doing when we got there. At the back is the entrance to the caves. Some parts of the caves have a low ceiling so you are required to wear hard hats equipped with lights. TurboBug’s was a little big but he managed. The caves were created as a way to showcase the collection. The cave walls don’t look real, but the lights are dim and the effect is good enough to highlight the crystals. Each crystal is identified with a name and where it came from. This one is from Arkansas which is where our family started. The best part about the caves is that you are welcomed to touch everything. Some of the more delicate items are in glass cases, but most of the crystals can be touched which makes it great for families. There were crystals at all different heights so it was lovely for all ages. LadyBug had the camera at one point and of course she loved these pink, glittery pieces from India. There was heaps to see. This one is from Madagascar. TurboBug is learning his colours and blue is one he gets right every time! (Can you believe he’s old enough to learn his colours? Crazy!) Some parts of the caves were darker than others. All the hats had lights that we could turn on and off as needed. There was a small room with a domed roof that you literally had to crawl into (unless you are two!) with beautiful agates all over the walls. The lighting behind them made all the colours so clear. It was like being in a small planetarium with stars all over the ceiling. This is the Crystal Fountain of Love. Really. TurboBug loved it, but he loves all things water. But the huge attraction was this giant geode. Giant. The world’s largest amethyst geode. It’s called the Empress of Uruguay. It’s over three metres tall (eleven feet) and weighs two and a half tonnes. It is breathtakingly beautiful. They had to crane it into place and then built the room around it. You can read more about it here. The colour is so beautiful. The other half of the geode was removed in small sections and they have slowly sold the pieces. The crystals are jewellery quality and the geode sparkles beautifully under the light. A picture does not do it justice. There’s a video on this page, but it’s blurry and doesn’t do it justice either! Onto the rest of the place! A large room just for us! This is a petrified tree slice from Arizona in the USA. There’s a Petrified Forest National Park there (I’ve even been there!), which makes me wonder how this piece came to be in Australia! Some things were behind glass, not sure if it was the value or the delicacy or both. There was a dark room with Magic Spheres in it. Crystals that glowed under ultraviolet light. They’d set them up on rotating arms under black lights. Under regular light they look white. You were supposed to get the feel of these colourful spheres moving around in space, but I don’t think the effect was quite as good as they describe. Still neat to see. The Death Star. Right? That’s what we thought it was! This is the amethyst room in the shop where we oooh’d and ahhhh’d over all the geodes. Such a unique experience. The kids loved trying the rock candy from the shop (chocolates shaped and coloured like rocks), funny how that’s what they mention when we talk about the caves. We purchased some magnetic singing rocks which you can throw up in the air and they will cling together and ‘sing’. A good family outing in Atherton!