This study examined patterns in the species richness and abundance of small non-volant mammals along a tropical altitudinal gradient in north-eastern Australia. We investigated whether a mid-altitudinal peak in diversity was apparent, and if it occurred, whether it was determined by particular environmental conditions. We sampled a small-mammal assemblage at 17 sites distributed along an altitude-environmental gradient from savanna (350 m) to rain-forest vegetation (1000 m). Over four separate occasions (5100 trap-nights) we recorded 17 species of mammal with 416 captures. A positive non-linear relationship between altitude and mammal species richness and abundance was observed, peaking at the 800–900 m range. Many species were distributed across a range of altitudes, while others were strongly associated with particular habitat conditions. There was a distinct reduction in abundance and species richness at low altitudes associated with the less complex vegetation, lower productivity and possible anthropogenic effects. Key findings were: that small-mammal richness peaked towards the summit of the gradient and not at one-half the maximum altitude predicted by the mid-domain effect; contrasting conditions and greatest vegetation juxtaposition had the greatest influence on the patterns recorded; and that local idiosyncratic influences such as habitat factors, land management and historical biogeography are significant.