One of the best things about living in far north Queensland is the nature that surrounds us. There are so many beautiful waterfalls and swimming holes to visit when you need a swim or are just keen on an adventure. This blog post lists my favorite waterfalls to photograph and visit, but there are countless others in the area. I encourage you to go see them all! But let’s start with my favorite waterfall on this list.
#1 Nandroya Falls
The Nandroya Falls Circuit is part of a network of walking trails in the Palmerston section of Wooroonooran National Park. It can be a pretty far drive from Cairns, it will take you at least 1.5 hours but trust me it’s worth it!
The trail begins at the Henrietta Creek Campground and runs about 6.6 kilometers. You will walk about 700 meters into the rainforest before forking to form a circuit.
The left-hand fork is shorter, taking you 1.7km and past Silver Falls to reach Nandroya Falls. The right fork is a longer 3.5km route and winds along Douglas Creek.
If you take the shorter route you should get to the falls in about 40 minutes. There are two levels to these falls. You will first see the lower level of Nandroya Falls to your right.
These falls are wide and photograph beautifully with a long exposure. If you go here in the wet season you will see a lot of water flowing! It’s a beautiful scene, especially with all the greenery around it.
A little further on you will reach the upper level. Nandroya Falls is a spectacular 50-meter waterfall that drops from a tall cliff into a deep blue pool. The thing that I love about this place is that it’s not very popular.
The chances of you having the waterfall to yourself are quite high, which makes Nandroya Falls all the more tranquil. With the lush greenery surrounding you it’s hard not to feel at peace here.
The pool of the main waterfall is deep enough to swim in, and trust me you will want to after that hike! I would recommend giving yourself at least 2 hours to spend at the falls.
Get your tripod out and take some beautiful photos of the waterfall right in front of you! These photos were taken in the month of December. We had perfect weather!
#2 Dinner Falls
Dinner Falls is a circuit located on a section of the upper Barron River. It is a great place to spend a few hours, bring a picnic and chill out for the afternoon.
From Cairns you can take the winding Gillies Range Road, it is a beautiful drive to Mount Hypipamee National Park. Once you arrive you can take the 1.2km Dinner Falls loop track. This way you will see the falls and the crater.
The track is relatively easy and the crater is only a 400-meter walk from the car park through the rainforest to the viewing platform above the crater. From here you will get clear views of the granite walls which plunge into the 70-meter-deep crater lake.
From here you can then turn around and start the walk to Dinner Falls. You will spot several tiers of the waterfall along the way. However, my favorite is the second tier, and it is also the best swimming spot.
The 12-meter-high waterfall cascades down into a shallow pool. It is deep enough to submerge your body and cool off. Then get your camera out and take some photos. It can get busy here so just be aware you may be waiting to get some photos without people in them.
#3 Clamshell Falls via Behana Gorge Trail
Behana Gorge is a spectacular sight all year round. This is a moderately challenging trail but if you can bear the hills it is definitely worth the workout!
Just a 30-minute drive south of Cairns and you will be met with pristine swimming holes and breathtaking views of the waterfalls that flow into a deep granite gorge.
The 45-minute walk along a sealed road will lead you to your final destination, the beautiful Clamshell Falls cascading along Behana Creek into a cool swimming hole.
The water here actually supplies Cairns with fresh rainforest water, so you can imagine how beautiful it is. The length of the trail follows a water pipe parallel to Behana Creek.
When you reach the end of the walking track you will see a large fence that blocks the path. This is the entrance to the water catchment facility. Just walk back a few hundred meters on the track and you will find a trail leading down the rocks to the creek.
From here you can set up your picnic on the rocks and go for a swim. The pool is fairly deep right under the waterfall but you can find shallow spots along the way. It can get quite popular here in summer but the good news is the gorge is quite big.
Be careful swimming here after a big downpour, the water level can change quickly. But it is a wonderful spot to escape the heat on a hot summer’s day with some friends and your camera.
#4 Emerald Creek Falls
If you are looking for the perfect day trip from Cairns Emerald Creek is the place to go! Emerald Creek is a favorite among locals, with its multiple swimming holes and a plunging pool, it is the perfect spot to cool off all year round.
Emerald Creek rushes out of Lamb Range into an open eucalypt woodland. The water cascades over granite boulders forming the picturesque falls that plunge into placid pools.
This multi-level waterfall is about an hour and 15 minutes away from Cairns. It is about a 2.4km hike from the car park to visit the lower and upper falls.
There are several small swimming holes along the track. If you want to have a private swimming hole, you can take a small detour to the left of the track on the way up.
Otherwise, check out the lower-level waterfall. The water cascades down large granite boulders into a deep plunging pool. It’s deep enough to swim and is the perfect place to cool down and have a picnic on the rocks.
If you go all the way up the track you will reach the upper waterfall viewpoint. You can see the water cascading down the rocks and all the way down the creek. Although I find the lower level much more impressive.
#5 Davies Creek Falls
Davies Creek is a picturesque waterfall in the Dinden National Park about an hour from Cairns. The best thing about Davies is that you can drive to the top and then just a short hike away is a spectacular infinity pool to swim in.
The pool is perched above a sheer cliff overlooking a spectacular drop to the bottom. It’s best to swim here on calmer days. Over the wet season, I have seen it pumping here and there is no way you could go swimming without falling down the cliff. Davies Creek Falls is one of the highest waterfalls near Cairns.
If you can’t swim there are some beautiful viewpoints you can check out. The walking track will take you past two fenced lookouts where you can see out over the top of Davies Creek Falls. You can watch the water flowing down huge granite boilers into the Davies Creek National Park gorge.
This is also a fantastic place to go camping. The campsites are at the bottom of the gorge but it’s a beautiful place to escape real life for a weekend.
#6 Windin Falls
Are you looking for one of the most scenic waterfalls near Cairns? Windin Falls does not disappoint! It’s insta famous for its sunrise lookout and picturesque infinity pool.
Located in Wooroonooran National Park you will embark on a 5.5km hike to the top of the waterfall overlooking the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area.
The trail is relatively easy to follow and anyone with an average level of fitness can do it. However, after heavy rain, it will get muddy and there could be a possibility of flooding so please be careful. Do not attempt to go here after bad weather.
The final section of the track is very steep for about 300 meters. Please be very careful going down here. Once it’s done though you will have arrived at the top of Windin Falls!
You won’t see the actual waterfall because you will be above it. That is unless you bring a drone. But the views from the top are absolutely worth it!
The rocks can be slippery, especially near the edges so take precautions as you walk around. But on a calm day, you can swim in the infinity pool and soak in the views. Just be aware it is right at the very edge of the cliff so do not go swimming if the water flow is too strong.
#7 Spring Creek Falls
This hidden gem is a local hotspot for Port Douglas locals. It lies in the secluded Mowbray Valley and is a popular swimming hole in the hotter months.
There is no specific path to the falls. At the end of Spring Creek Road, you will start your walk. Simply follow the creek upstream until you reach the falls.
It should take you about 1.5-2 hours to reach the falls. You will be climbing over rocks and the ground can be uneven at times so exercise caution. There will be times when you need to cross the creek. Look for the best route.
There will be small swimming holes along the way but just keep going. You will know when you have arrived when you see the huge waterfall in the rugged amphitheater.
Once you arrive you can enjoy a swim in the deep rock pools and devour a picnic lunch. Trust me you will want some food after the hike you just did.
#8 Crystal Cascades
Crystal Cascades is a series of water holes and waterfalls in a section of Freshwater Creek. Only a short 20-minute drive from Cairns, this is a popular swimming spot all year round.
The area is shaded by a rainforest canopy and surrounded by granite boulders, making it a beautiful spot for photographs. You will also be kept cool in the summer months.
Just a short 1.5km paved trail will lead you to several swimming holes for your enjoyment. The walk is incredibly beautiful as you pass through the tropical rainforest and flowing rapids.
There are many swimming spots downstream but if you walk to the end of the trail you will see the main waterfall. This is a great spot for swimming in a deep pool and you can relax on the large granite boulders.
This area does tend to get very busy so chances are you will not have this place to yourself. If you are looking to get photographs you can go really early in the morning. Or you can do what I did and go when the weather isn’t great and not too many people were there.
There is also Fairy Falls which is more secluded. But you will have to go back to the Crystal Cascades car park. On the left of the car park, there is a small unmarked trail that will lead you to a beautiful waterfall with a deep swimming hole. Fairy Falls is much less busy than Crystal Cascades. But it is a harder hike to get to the falls.
#9 Wallaman Falls
Wallaman Falls is the highest, permanent, single-drop waterfall in Australia! Located in the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, it is home to some of the oldest rainforests on earth and many endangered plants and animals.
Wallaman Falls is part of the traditional lands of the Warrgamaygan Aboriginal People. ‘Nginba Warrgamaygan Ngarji’.
There are two viewing options when visiting Wallaman Falls. The first is a dedicated viewing area where you will get great views from above. This is where I took this photo below.
You can watch as the waterfall plunges down a sheer cliff into a deep pool at the base of the canyon. It really makes you think about how powerful nature can be.
The second viewing option is from below the waterfall itself. You can reach the bottom by taking the Djyinda Track.
I personally have not gone to the bottom but it is definitely on my list. You can take some really powerful images of the waterfall from the bottom.
Even though Wallaman Falls is a far drive from Cairns, it’s definitely worth the trip. Make a weekend out of it and go camping at the Wallaman Falls campsite!
#10 Barron Falls
Near the rainforest village of Kuranda you can find Barron Falls, located in Barron Gorge National Park. This mammoth of a waterfall flows down for 250 meters into the gorge below.
Located around a 40-minute drive northwest of Cairns it can easily be reached via car. Follow the signs to Barron Falls lookout.
Alternatively, you can take the Skyrail. The Cableway departs from Smithfield and slides 7.5km above the rainforest canopy for a unique view of Barron Falls.
If the Skyrail isn’t your thing how about a train? From Cairns, you can take the Kuranda Scenic Railway, a famous train journey through the World Heritage rainforest which stops at the Barron Falls lookout.
If you drive to the lookout at the car park you will find an easy 1.2km return track through the lush rainforest. This beautiful experience allows you to walk along an elevated boardwalk above the rainforest floor.
It is quite calming and you can hear the rainforest around you. You will then reach the Barron Falls lookout where you can watch the force of the waterfall cascading down into the gorge.
Barron Falls is stunning year-round, however, after heavy rainfalls, you can really see the power behind it. The falls will be in full flow and breathtaking. I took these photos in January after we had a ton of rainfall!
I hope you enjoyed reading this post on my favorite waterfalls near Cairns. Comment below with your favorite waterfalls in the area. Now go out and chase those waterfalls!