Cairns waterfalls are breathtaking and provide the perfect place to connect with nature, in this land of eternal summers. Clear freshwater tumbles over and around rocks, cascading down into cool pools surrounded by rainforest. Dragonflies hover on the water’s edge and butterflies float through the air – this may sound too magical to be true but trust me – this is what we get to enjoy most weekends living in Cairns. These little pockets of paradise are scattered throughout the region, from high up in the mountains, to the coastal rainforest lowlands, there’s many Cairns waterfalls waiting for you. So – Let’s go chasing waterfalls!
We love waterfalls. There’s nothing more refreshing than spending time splashing around in cool pools, surrounded by rainforest. Most of the waterfalls are in National Parks and most of them are open for swimming throughout the year. Some you can drive too, some you must hike to, and one is on a private property with access by tour only, but all are beautiful and worth visiting. What is the best Cairns waterfall for you? That all depends on what you are hoping to find, who you are with and to a lesser extent, where you are staying. We’ve been, seen and swum, so read on for our personal tips and information.
This is our Guide to Cairns Waterfalls. From the best known to the lesser known, from the Tablelands to the Daintree, and from the Rainforest to the Savannah, let’s go chasing waterfalls. What will you find? Places of outstanding natural beauty, and for those who opt to swim, the opportunity to refresh the mind and body, leaving you rejuvenated and feeling connected to the country that surrounds you. Our guide has been written for those who are visiting us here in paradise, and locals who want to get out and explore some more of our beautiful ‘backyard’. We want your waterfall adventure to be the best it can be, whether you are traveling solo, exploring with mates, taking the family to the falls, or wanting to take a scenic journey with lookouts and views, there’s something for everyone. You can jump on board one of Cairns’ great local tours or pack a picnic and jump in the car, for your own self-drive journey of discovery. We’ve been to all of these Cairns waterfalls – many times – these are our personal tips, helpful hints, information and considerations.
Cairns waterfalls are located across this beautiful region. Some you can drive to, with car parks located relatively close to the waterfall itself. However, to reach some others, you will be required to walk / hike in. The distance and terrain you are walking on varies, depending on your waterfall destination of choice. If you want less walking and more enjoying the waterfall, then Millaa Millaa, Zillie, Ellinjaa and the Malanda Falls (pictured), all on the Atherton Tablelands, are accessible via walking tracks that take between 5-10 minutes. There’s also Stoney Creek Falls, a short drive from Cairns in the Barron Gorge National Park. If you want to stretch those legs, other tracks vary from 1.1km to 11.5km return. More below.
Firstly, let me just say there is a Cairns waterfall for everyone. If you cannot swim but are comfortable standing in the shallows and enjoying the views, then there’s Millaa Millaa, Malanda and Davies Creek Falls on the Tablelands, and Cassowary Falls in the Daintree. If you are a confident swimmer, comfortable in flowing water with some current, then you can choose from all of those plus many more including Emerald Creek, Zillie, Ellinjaa, Dinner, Halls (pictured), Nandroya, Windin, Stoney Creek and Josephine Falls. There are also a few falls where there’s views but no swimming, and that includes the Barron and Wujal Wujal Falls. Please note water conditions and current can vary, pending time of year and rainfall.
If you are travelling by yourself or with friends, then you need to choose a waterfall that best matches your interests, regarding accessibility and swimming, with notes above on this. If you are travelling as a family, then in our opinion the best waterfalls would be (in no particular order), Stoney Creek Falls (Barron Gorge National Park), Josephine and Nandroya Falls (Wooroonoran National Park – pictured), Millaa Millaa, Malanda and Davies Creek Falls (Atherton Tablelands) and Cassowary Falls (on guided tour – Daintree Rainforest). If you want some sightseeing with your waterfall adventure, then you can walk to the Barron Falls lookout or let Skyrail Rainforest Cableway give you the best seat in the house, with epic rainforest views.
If you are seeking a Cairns waterfall destination that offers a bit more than ‘just the waterfall’ (what!!) we’ve got that covered too. Let’s start with the most ‘extreme’ which is Windin Falls (pictured). Access to Windin is a 11.5km return hike and when you get there, it’s a short, steep scramble down to the edge of the falls, which drops away revealing panoramic views of the rainforest gorge. Stunning with a side serve of danger. Dinner Falls is in Mount Hypipamee National Park, the walking track to get there also includes an impressive volcanic pipe (crater) which drops 58m beneath the lookout, with another 70m submerged. The Cassowary Falls tour is an awesome adventure, including ATV rides in the rainforest.
This is actually a major consideration. The majority of Cairns waterfalls are found in the mountains above the coastal city, on the Atherton Tablelands, with a few to the south. The closest waterfall to Cairns city is Stoney Creek Falls, which is around a 20 minute drive (each way). The Barron Falls can be seen from Skyrail (tour – pictured) or you can drive to the boardwalk, which is near Kuranda and around a 45 minute drive (each way). Josephine Falls is an hour from Cairns by car and has a beautiful, natural rockslide and then most of the other waterfalls are dotted across the Tablelands. If you are in Port Douglas, then Cassowary Falls is your ‘go to’ being a 1 hour drive (the next closest is Barron Falls).
Cairns waterfall tours make your life so super easy, as they have mapped and planned the whole trip out for you. If you want to see lots of waterfalls, then the best Cairns waterfalls tour is run by the Cairns Adventure Group. You can book a full day or half day waterfall tour with them, with daily departures from Cairns. Highlights include Josephine Falls and the Babinda Boulders, with Millaa Millaa Falls (and more) on the full day tour. Cassowary Falls (pictured) operates an adventure tour on their private property in Daintree. It includes ATV rides with river crossings, swimming at Cassowary Falls and an army truck ride. Self drive to Cassowary Falls, which is around 1 hour from Port Douglas.
Can you self-drive to Cairns waterfalls? Yes, you absolutely can map out your own waterfall adventure and you don’t need a 4WD to get to any of these beautiful places. You can either pick one destination and stay there all day – Davies Creek and Emerald Creek Falls (pictured) are good for this – or cherry-pick your favourites and make a day of it. If you’re unsure where to start, we suggest the ‘Waterfall Circuit’ drive on the southern end of the Atherton Tablelands, which includes Millaa Millaa, Zillie and Ellinjaa Falls. If you do this, my top tip is to make the time to stop at the Mungalli Dairy ‘Out of the Whey’ café. They have simply amazing Devonshire tea, milkshakes, cheese platters, cheesecakes and more.
Cairns waterfalls are stunning all year round and the water is always refreshing and cool. If you are planning to visit some waterfalls, we highly recommend making a day / outing of it and pack a picnic lunch, or cool drinks and some snacks. Sunscreen and insect repellent is highly recommended. As is taking the time to read the interpretive and safety signage, this will provide you with important information on habitat, currents and swimming conditions. Please note that most Cairns waterfalls are in National Parks, so while you can take yourself, your guests and your family, you can’t take your pets. Halls Falls outside of Herberton is an exception to this, you can take your doggo along for a swim here.
I think waterfalls are really fun because some of them have strong currents and you get to push yourself in the water (like I do with diving). My favourite waterfall is definitely Cassowary Falls, because it has a nice current, with lots of turtles and you can climb out on the rocks and dive back in. Plus there aren’t lots of people – which is the same as Halls Falls outside of Herberton – not many people, but amazing views. The waterslide at Josephine Falls is lots of fun, but you have to be very careful, as it is slippery and can be dangerous. I’ve been going to waterfalls since I was very young. Swimming at the waterfalls is fun, but the water can be very cold, especially at Millaa Millaa. When our family goes to waterfalls, we usually stop to get ice-cream afterwards or, depending on where we are, stop in at Mungalli’s café to get milkshakes.
Cairns waterfalls are located in the rainforest lowlands and highlands surrounding Cairns. For the ease of ‘grouping’ them into ‘destinations’ we have selected four geographic reference points, being the Barron Gorge National Park (closest to Cairns), Atherton Tablelands, Wooroonooran National Park (south of Cairns) and Daintree Rainforest (north of Cairns). More of each of these below. All of the waterfalls we have included in our guide are just beautiful. Which Cairns waterfall is the best? There is no answer to this question, as it all depends on what you are looking for and who you are seeing them with. Barron Falls is iconic, but for most of the year does not have much water flowing over it, due to the presence and activity of the hydroelectric power station. Also, you cannot swim there. The water temperature at most Cairns waterfalls is cool and refreshing, as it tumbles down the mountainsides and is shaded by the rainforest. In fact, the water temperatures at some waterfalls (Millaa Millaa) can sometimes be quite cold, especially in winter. The Davies Creek and Emerald Creek Falls are located in the Savannah and the water here can be a few degrees warmer than say Millaa Millaa. Anyway, our ultimate Cairns Waterfalls Guide continues.
The Atherton Tablelands is home to a lot of waterfalls. Probably the most well-known is Millaa Millaa Falls (pictured), a short drive from the tiny township of Millaa Millaa, which is around a 90 minute drive from Cairns (via the Gillies Range). This single drop waterfall is pretty as a postcard – literally, it is on lots of postcards and airport signage – and is also close to nearby Zillie and Ellinjaa Falls. These are all easy access waterfalls, as is Malanda Falls (30 minute drive from Millaa Millaa) and Halls Falls near Herberton. Other southern Tablelands waterfalls include Dinner and Windin Falls, with Davies Creek and Emerald Creek Falls closer to Mareeba and Kuranda.
It’s a big name – pronounced just as it’s spelt – and is a part of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, which also includes the Barron Gorge and Daintree National Parks. Wooroonooran is on the southside of Cairns and is home to some amazing waterfalls and swimming spots, including Babinda Boulders (not a waterfall), Josephine Falls (pictured) and Nandroya Falls. Josephine Falls is a waterfall that also has a naturally formed rock waterslide, which empties into a cool pool at the bottom. It’s a beautiful, shaded location and a 1.2km return walk from the car park. Nandroya Falls is a 6km return walk from the Henrietta Creek camping area carpark (Palmerston Highway) and is another beautiful, single drop waterfall. (Lots of horse flies though – take insect repellent).
The Barron Gorge National Park is the closest to Cairns and is well known for its Barron Falls, an iconic tourism drawcard for over 100 years. The Barron Falls (pictured) was carved out by the Barron River over thousands of years, and today that same river is used to ‘feed’ the Barron Gorge Hydroelectric power station. As such, the waterfall itself is usually moderate in flow – which is still impressive – only going into full flood a few times a year, usually January and February. You can’t swim there, but you can get photos from the boardwalks and lookouts.
The Daintree Rainforest has one standout waterfall and that is Cassowary Falls. Located on a private property Cassowary Falls is accessible on tour only, but man – what a tour – ATV rides and creek crossings, rainforest talks, army truck rides and of course, swimming at Cassowary Falls (no crocs here). Cassowary Falls has all the looks of Millaa Millaa – but none of the crowds, thanks to the small group tours. If you are headed further north across the Daintree River and along the Bloomfield Track, there is Wujal Wujal Falls (pictured). This one is pretty to look at, but definitely no swimming due to the presence of crocodiles. Wujal Wujal Falls is around a 70 minute drive from Cooktown.
The map provided outlines numerous waterfalls within and surrounding North Queensland. While diligent attempts have been made to accurately place the markers, the precise locations and name of each waterfall cannot be guaranteed. Additionally, it’s important to note that some of the listed waterfalls may be located on private land. Therefore, we strongly advise conducting your own research and due diligence before visiting any remote waterfalls.
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Yes – Cairns waterfalls are definitely worth visiting – they are the perfect place to refresh and relax in nature. They are readily accessible to most ages and people with reasonable mobility. If you plan on swimming, just be aware you are visiting a natural destination. There are no steps or paths into the water itself and when you are in the water, there can be rocks around and underneath you. Similarly, there will be water movement and current, which can fluctuate pending weather and rain. If you do not have reasonable mobility, then you can still visit and see the Barron Falls on the Cairns Skyrail.
There is no definite answer to this, it all depends what you are hoping to do at your waterfall destination. In regard to ‘what is the ‘prettiest’ of the Cairns waterfalls’ – looking for your classic single drop waterfall surrounded by beautiful rainforest, it is a split decision between Millaa Millaa Falls on the Atherton Tablelands and Cassowary Falls in the Daintree. If we are talking the biggest Cairns waterfall, in terms of height, it’s probably Barron Falls. If you’re looking for a waterfall you can swim and relax at, then Josephine Falls, Davies Creek and Emerald Creek Falls are all strong contenders. None of these are ‘better’ than another, they are all just different.
Yes – there are lots of Cairns waterfalls you can swim at. The closest is Stoney Creek Falls. You can also swim at the following waterfalls: Josephine, Nandroya, Cassowary, Davies Creek, Emerald Creek, Halls, Dinner, Windin, Malanda and Millaa Milla Falls.
Anytime is a good time to visit Cairns’ waterfalls, and most of them are flowing all year round (except Barron Falls). Please note that in summer – December to March – Cairns and its surrounding areas receives the majority of its annual rainfall. Heavy rains, either locally or further up the river systems on the Tablelands, can lead to strong currents and flash flooding. You should always exercise caution at these times and pay attention to the safety signage at each site.
Is the water cold at Cairns waterfalls – that all depends on where you are from and what you are used to. As Cairns locals, we would say that in summer (December to February) the waterfall water is refreshing. In winter (June to August) the waterfall water can be cold, especially on the Tablelands. That being said – when we think the water is cold there’s plenty of intrastate and international visitors jumping right in and enjoying themselves, so it really is all relative.
All of the Cairns waterfalls we’ve written about on this page are safe to swim at, at most times of the year* – except where noted. People should make their own risk assessments before entering the water, to determine the situation and how it relates to your own swimming and water abilities.
*Obviously waterfalls are created by flowing water, sometimes when there has been heavy rainfall, this water becomes a torrent and then a place that is usually safe to swim at, can become dangerous. It is always best to read the signage at each site to determine the conditions at your time of visit.
No – you cannot go fishing at the Cairns waterfalls we have written about on this page, because they are either in a National Park or on private property. There’s plenty of other locations you can go fishing, including some local rivers and creeks, beaches and the reef.
Yes – you can camp at a few Cairns waterfalls, but not all of them. There are campgrounds and facilities at Malanda Falls and National Park campgrounds at or near to Davies Creek Falls, Emerald Creek Falls and Nandroya Falls.
Yes – we think the Waterfall Circuit on the Tablelands is worth it. Millaa Millaa Falls on its own is worth the drive from Cairns, so it’s a bonus you can check out the nearby Zillie Falls and Ellinjaa Falls while you are in the area. This is a very pretty part of the Atherton Tablelands, with rolling dairy farms and pastures, towering rainforest mountains and of course, the waterfalls. We also recommend visiting the Mungalli Dairy café ‘Out of the Whey’ for amazing Devonshire tea, milkshakes, cheese platters, ploughman lunch, cheesecakes and more. It’s only an 11 minute drive from Millaa Millaa Falls and has very pretty views.
It takes around 7 minutes to walk from the main car park to Millaa Millaa Falls. There are steps. Most of the walk is on concrete pathways.
You sure can – the water here is fresh and refreshing. You can walk into the cool pool at the base of the falls and swim over to enjoy the cascading water. You can even get ‘behind’ the waterfall for a different perspective, peering through the waterfall to the rainforest beyond.
Windin Falls is on the Atherton Tablelands, in the Wooroonooran National Park. To get there from Cairns, drive up the Gilles Highway and turn onto Lake Barrine Road, drive for around 6km and take a left turn on to Topaz Road, then in another 9km veer left near the Lamins Hill lookout on to the Old Cairns Track. From there follow the signs to the Windin Falls walking track.
The Windin Falls walking track is an 11.5km return hike. How long it takes depends on your fitness. The track itself is not sealed and may be rough and overgrown in places. It is mostly shaded and there can be slippery rocks. Please note the descent to Windin Falls itself is dangerous. It’s very steep and can be slippery if wet. We have done this walk once – when our son was around 8 years old – and have not been back. The Parks website does caution people to take extreme care here and notes that death and serious injury has occurred here.
Yes you can – but as above – the Parks website does caution people to take extreme care and notes that death and serious injury has occurred here. Fast flowing water and strong current can occur. Windin Falls has amazing views, which makes it popular with Instagrammers, but we personally would not get in the water here. You can admire the view, without getting in the water.
Halls Falls is in the Herberton Range National Park, which is around a 100 minute drive from Cairns. It’s located on East Hill Road, Upper Barron, just outside of Wondecla, south of Herberton. Do not trust / follow Google maps for this one, it is incorrect. We have directions on how to get to Halls Falls in our blog post.
From the car park, it only takes around 15 minutes to walk to the Halls Falls swimming area. Here you will find a cool pool on the side of the mountain, with a series of cascading waterfalls above and below it. The walking track is not sealed, but it is mostly shaded. There are no facilities on site.
Yes – you can swim at Halls Falls and we did. It was beautiful and because it is one of the lessor known Cairns waterfalls, we had it all to ourselves. Check out our Halls Falls review here.
Dinner Falls is in the Mount Hypipamee National Park on the Atherton Tablelands, around a 90 minute drive from Cairns in the Upper Barron. At this location, Dinner Falls is arguably the lessor of the two attractions – as this place is best known for its crater – it’s also home to the humble beginnings of the Barron River. The crater is actually a volcanic pipe and is very impressive to gaze down into, from the safety of the viewing platform. From here, take the walking track to Dinner Falls and keep your eyes peeled for Boyd’s Forest Dragons, which can sometimes be seen clinging to tree trunks. For pictures and more information, see our Dinner Falls blog post.
The Dinner Falls walking track is a 1.2km return circuit from the car park, which should take around 45 minutes to complete. The track is mostly shaded and relatively well maintained, it does have some steep sections and can be slippery when wet.
Yes – you can swim at Dinner Falls and we have. The water was relatively shallow and quite refreshing. There are picnic tables and toilets adjacent to the car park. Read our Dinner Falls review here.
Davies Creek Falls is in the Davies Creek National Park, between Kuranda and Mareeba on the Atherton Tablelands. It is clearly signposted and around a 1 hour drive from Cairns, taking the Kuranda Range Road. Please note access is on a dirt road which can be quite corrugated.
Davies Creek Falls is a 1.1km return walk from the car park. The track is not sealed and not particularly well maintained – we recommend wearing closed in shoes. Also, there is not a lot of shade, so make sure you have a hat, are wearing sun protection and have drinking water with you.
Yes – you can swim at Davies Creek Falls and River. The water is cool and refreshing and you can find a spot to suit most ages and levels of swimming abilities.
Emerald Creek Falls is in the Dinden West Forest Reserve, between Kuranda and Mareeba on the Atherton Tablelands. It is clearly signposted and around a 75 minute drive from Cairns, taking the Kuranda Range Road. Please note access is on a dirt road which can be quite corrugated.
Emerald Creek Falls is a 1.6km return walk from the car park. The track is not sealed. We recommend wearing closed in shoes, a hat and having sun protection. Also, bring drinking water with you.
Yes – you can swim at Emerald Creek Falls. Please note the rocks can be very slippery, so please take care around the water’s edge, so as not to slip and fall.
Josephine Falls is in the Wooroonooran National Park, which is approximately a 1 hour drive south of Cairns. It is past Babinda and Mirriwinni but before Innisfail.
Josephine Falls is a 1.2km return walk from the car park to the swimming area. This is mostly shaded and on formed pathways. There are some stairs and it can become slippery when wet. You should allow around 30 minutes each way. Make sure you bring insect repellent and drinking water.
Yes – you can swim at Josephine Falls and there is even a naturally formed rock waterslide for you to enjoy. While Josephine Falls and its cool pool are generally safe throughout the year, conditions can change rapidly in summer (December to February) due to monsoon rains.
Please note: Josephine Falls is one of those places where conditions can rapidly change during the summer months, with monsoon rains. This is well noted with signage all around the site. There is also an alarm – which will sound if the water conditions are becoming or soon will be, dangerous. You need to pay attention to this. Lives have been lost here and unfortunately reckless swimmers often need the services of swift water rescue crews, due to their failure to listen to the alarm.
Nandroya Falls is in the Wooroonooran National Park and is approximately a 110 minute drive south of Cairns. To access the falls you will need to walk. The walk starts from the Henrietta Creek camping area, which is clearly signposted on the Palmerston Highway.
It’s a 6km return walk to Nandroya Falls from the car park. The track is mostly shaded and you should definitely bring insect repellent (there were lots of horse flies when we visited) and drinking water.
Yes – you can swim at Nandroya Falls and it’s beautiful. The water is cool and the spray emanating from the Falls on to the basalt walls that sit behind and beside it, has allowed the growth of ferns and mosses. It’s a really lovely waterfall to visit and swim at.
Cassowary Falls is on a private property, in the Daintree. Access to the falls is by tour only. That is because the property is also a working cattle station, so there are biohazard and safety concerns regarding unrestricted access, and people just wandering on and around the property.
You don’t have to walk to Cassowary Falls, the journey there and back is all action and adventure, on ATVs and an Army Truck. These vehicles park just metres from the Falls and water access is easy. The Cassowary Falls Rainforest Adventure tour takes 2 hours.
Yes – you can swim at Cassowary Falls and we have many times. For more information, images and video, check out our Cassowary Falls tour review.
Wujal Wujal Falls is on the Bloomfield Track, accessible from Cape Tribulation National Park or Cooktown.
It’s an easy 5-10 minute walk to and from Wujal Wujal Falls and the car park. The track is relatively maintained but has uneven ground, so you should have relative mobility to access this waterfall.
No – you can not swim at Wujal Wujal Falls due to the presence of saltwater crocodiles.
Crocodiles are a part of the natural environment in and around Cairns. There are freshwater crocodiles and saltwater crocodiles. That being said, there are not crocodiles at all Cairns waterfalls and there are plenty of places you can safely swim, this includes but is not limited to: Millaa Millaa, Malanda, Dinner, Halls, Nandroya, Josephine, Davies Creek, Emerald Creek and Stoney Creek falls. Please note: Always pay attention to local signage regarding crocodiles and your safety.
Yes – people have died at Cairns waterfalls. This is a natural environment. There can be slippery rocks, underwater currents and fast flowing water. However, all of the places mentioned on this page are safe to visit and we have swum at them all, many times over many years.
Your safety is always in your hands. Whether that is driving your car, crossing the street or visiting waterfalls. Take the time to read the interpretive and safety signage and make decisions around your own physical and swimming capabilities.
Imagine floating above the rainforest. Gazing down into its green heart, a sea of rustling leaves and climbing palms. A place where cassowaries roam and ancient trees reach for the sky. Well stop dreaming and start doing, because you can make that happen on Cairns’ Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. So easy. So beautiful. So worth it.More
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