April 12, 2023
9 mins Read
The Northern Rivers region is home to an incredibly diverse range of stunning waterfalls. Here we list some of our favourites within driving distance of Byron Bay, on the traditional land of the Bundjalung People, some of which have swimming holes to enjoy, and others that are just about admiring the falls from afar. There are even a couple of waterfalls that are best experienced at night. Add these to your list for your next Byron Bay holiday (and remember they are always best visited after a decent rainfall). Please also remember to leave no trace behind – respect the land, and always take your rubbish with you.
NOTE: Please check the NSW National Parks website for safety updates and closures before you embark on visiting any of the below waterfalls. There are a number of tracks that are closed due to flood damage until June 30, 2023.
Distance from Byron Bay: One-hour drive
Where: Nightcap National Park (west side)
Parking: Yes, a big car park
Difficulty: A short, easy 1.5-kilometre return stroll
This would have to be our favourite one of all. Protestors Falls, nestled perfectly into the World Heritage rainforest of the Nightcap National Park, takes its name from a protest that happened back in 1979 by a group of conservationists who were trying to stop the area from being logged. They were thankfully successful. To access the falls, make use of the car park (there’s plenty of space) and take a peaceful stroll along the lovely timber boardwalk through this magnificent rainforest until you reach the falls. It’s a 1.5-kilometre return trip.
This spectacular waterfall plunges 25 metres into a natural pool below in an incredibly magical setting. As tempting as it may seem, swimming is not allowed here however due to it being an important habitat area for a range of endangered frogs, including the threatened Fleay’s barred frog. In any case, it is the most stunning place to sit, listen to the birds, listen to the water, and soak up the magical energy of this ancient land. You can also enjoy a picnic at the nearby Teranian Creek picnic area, or if you are adventurous enough to come back at night time, you will be treated to the most incredible light show by thousands of glow worms and bioluminescent mushrooms that light up the forest – it’s a truly astonishing sight to behold.
Distance from Byron Bay: 45-minute drive
Where: Nightcap National Park
Difficulty: A short and easy stroll from the car park
Minyon Falls is a 45-minute drive from Byron Bay and is one of the region’s most popular falls. Also in the Nightcap National Park, this time on the eastern side, the falls are set amidst the spectacular World Heritage-listed Gondwana rainforest. It’s just a short and easy stroll from the car park, along a pretty walking track, to the falls lookout.
A plunge waterfall with a super impressive 100-metre drop, the water cascades over huge rhyolite cliffs that were once part of the Tweed Volcano. It’s rather magical. You can choose to view this magnificent waterfall from above (from the lookout), or you can hike down to the base of the falls and view it from there (and jump in for a swim in the swimming hole if you feel like it). If you are in the mood for a longer walk, you can opt to take the nine-kilometre loop track that winds you through the valley of the giants, with its huge Brush Box and Strangler Fig trees, and past Condong Falls as well.
Distance from Byron Bay: 45-minute drive
Where: Goonengerry National Park
Parking: Yes, park in the car park at the clearing on Garrong Road
Difficulty: A 10-minute walk from the northern end of the car park
The Goonengerry Waterfall can be found within the Goonengerry National Park, it’s considered a bit of a hidden treasure. To reach the waterfall, it is an easy loop walk from the northern end of the car park (about 10 minutes). From there, you can choose to swim in the little rock pools at the top, enjoying the beautiful views over the mountains and the forest and over to the waterfall itself. You can’t actually see the whole waterfall, but you can see enough, and the setting itself is dramatic and beautiful. There is also an option to walk the Goonengerry Waterfall loop track that passes by two beautiful waterfalls that plunge into the valley below to join Coopers Creek. It’s a decent 10-kilometre round trip that can get a little challenging in parts, but definitely worth it if you have the stamina.
Distance from Byron Bay: The closest of all the falls, just 25 minute’s drive
Where: Tintenbar (between Byron Bay and Ballina)
Parking: There is a car park but parking is very limited (best to visit midweek).
Difficulty: An easy 10-minute walk to the lookout, if you continue down to the falls it’s a one-kilometre return trip.
Killen Falls can be found in Tintenbar, in the hinterland between Byron Bay and Ballina, and it is one of the more accessible falls to visit. It is also located in one of the last remaining areas of intact Big Scrub local rainforest in the region. A short and easy walk from the car park to the falls lookout, it’s then another 400 metres or so down a rocky nature path to reach the base of the falls (it can get a bit slippery when wet but there is a handrail to support you). When you arrive at the bottom you just walk across some small rocks to reach the falls.
A beautiful 10-metre plunge waterfall that culminates in a deep green, rainforest water hole at Emigrant Creek with cave-like rocks as the backdrop – it’s an enchanting setting. You can choose to walk to the cave behind the cascade of water for a beautiful view back under the falls – and you won’t even get wet! Swimming is not recommended because of how shallow and rocky the water is. Turtles can sometimes be spotted there as well. Definitely go early, it can get very busy here.
Distance from Byron Bay: 50-minute drive
Where: Rous Mill, seven kilometres from Alstonville
Parking: There is no car park (and no signage), just grab a park on the side of the road
Difficulty: Easy walk to the top of the falls along a well-trodden path through a private paddock (the owner doesn’t mind you visiting).
Marom Creek Falls are much more off-the-beaten-track but they are definitely worth travelling for. A double waterfall that plunges into a large swimming hole, it’s a magical setting. The falls are located on private property (but the owner doesn’t mind you visiting) near Dalwood, so you will need to find a park on the side of the road (the falls are not signposted), jump a fence and then cross the countryside, and go down several hills, and down a rock face, to reach the base of the falls. It’s only a 5-10 minute-ish walk. You will no doubt see people jumping into the water from the edge of the cliff (it’s a three-metre drop), but if that’s not for you, there’s always the option to swim in the little stream at the top.
Distance from Byron Bay: One-hour drive
Where: Near the Nightcap National Park
Parking: Yes, a car park with plenty of parking
Difficulty: An easy five-minute walk
Whian Whian Falls is another favourite in the Northern Rivers. It’s a beautiful place for a swim located in the Whian Whian Falls Conservation Area near Nightcap National Park. To reach the falls from the car park, look out for a clearing and a little track on your left-hand side. From there, you follow the fence around until you arrive at the lookout, just a short five-minute walk. There are two different swimming holes to choose from. Getting down there can be quite slippery and muddy if it has recently rained, but otherwise, it is generally fine. There is also a lovely picnic area to enjoy. Our tip: go early, it can get busy.
Distance from Byron Bay: 1.2-hour drive
Where: Near the town of Nimbin
Parking: Yes, for a small fee
Difficulty: The path down is narrow but well-worn. Access to the water is by climbing or jumping in and climbing out and the rocks can get slippery.
Hanging Rock Falls offers an incredibly magical setting for a rainforest swim in a very beautiful and large swimming hole that is more than seven meters deep (in parts). The water is crystal clear and you will be surrounded by the lush greenery of the rainforest and the cascading waterfall beside you. It is quite something. High up on the cliffs, you will find a rope that is very fun for swinging off, and there’s also a fallen log that is perfect for jumping off (being careful of course). This one can get quite busy as well, so go early.
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