Far North NSW is filled with natural wonders beyond its famous beaches. On your next holiday, it’s worth choosing a day, skipping the sand and heading inland to experience its spectacular waterfalls.
Veering off the Pacific Highway towards Yamba might feel like leaving reality behind and escaping to a pocket of beach-filled paradise, but if you’re in town for more than a few days it’s definitely worth hopping back in the car and venturing inland again to experience the serenity of the hinterlands and their many waterfalls.
Northern NSW is filled with secret swimming holes and waterfalls you can either paddle towards or admire from afar, and many of them are within a short driving distance from Yamba. Below, check out our favourites in the region below.
1. Minyon Falls, Nightcap National Park
Starting with one of the furthest waterfalls from Yamba (but one of the best), Minyon Falls drops 100 metres from an escarpment into a crystal clear plunge pool that’s open for swimming, so you can float at your leisure near the roar of the waterfall itself.
Swim in the crystal clear plunge pool below.
Located inside one of New South Wales’ best national parks, Nightcap National Park, which is world heritage-listed and a short drive outside of Lismore, there are picnic areas and walking tracks nearby (plus a lookout up top if you’re not keen on swimming) that make Minyon Falls perfect for a day trip.
Time from Yamba: 2 hours
Take in the power of Minyon Falls from above. (Image: Destination NSW)
2. Boundary Falls, Gibraltar Range National Park
This pretty waterfall inside the rocky Gibraltar Range National Park is a little further from Yamba than some, but worth the day trip.
Park near the Boundary Falls picnic area. (Image: Destination NSW)
You can swim here at the base of the falls, accessed by a 200-metre track and a small descent down some stairs. There is a campground nearby if you want to make an overnighter of it, and it’s worth exploring the national park itself if you have time – there are some beautiful walks and picnic areas to enjoy.
Go for a dip at the base of the falls. (Image: Destination NSW)
You’ll be driving through Maclean and Ulmarra on your way, so be sure to stop off and check out these lovely country towns for lunch or breakfast.
Time from Yamba: 2 hours
3. Killen Falls
One of the smaller waterfalls near Yamba, Killen Falls is a popular swimming hole with families thanks to its range of fun activities on offer. You can swim, of course, but it’s also worth taking time to head up above to the lookout platform for spectacular views, and take the walking track behind the falls themselves to get the best Instagram snaps as the water cascades behind you. There’s even a cave, for avid explorers.
Take advantage of the magical swimming hole at the bottom of Killen Falls.
A 20-minute drive outside of Ballina or around 45 minutes south of Byron Bay is where you’ll find this waterfall, just turn onto Killen Falls Drive once you reach Tintenbar.
Killen Falls looks magical from every angle. (Image: Destination NSW)
Time from Yamba: 1 hour 20 minutes
4. Red Cedar Falls, Dorrigo National Park
The largest waterfall in Dorrigo National Park, Red Cedar Falls thunders from above amid red cedars and bangalow palms, meaning that when you’re observing from below you’re coated in a fine mist. It’s a real experience and worth the lengthier day trip drive. Best of all, you can swim at the base of the falls.
The only issue is it’s a lengthy walk to get there (8.9-kilometre round trip from Never Never picnic area), but the bonus is you can take a breathtaking walk through rainforest along the Rosewood Creek Circuit, which features several other swimming holes for quick dips along the way. It’s a tougher Grade 4 track that may not suit children, but if you make a day of it, you won’t have regrets.
Time from Yamba: 3 hours
5. Crystal Shower Falls, Dorrigo National Park
This is one of those waterfalls where the name really says it all. A short walk from the Dorrigo Rainforest Centre, you’ll make your way down to a suspension bridge that will take you across a wide valley with excellent views of the falls, if you want some great snaps of the drop. Take the side trail to check out the cave behind the waterfall, too.
Take in the views from the suspension bridge on the trail. (Image: Destination NSW)
You can’t swim here (the pool below isn’t very deep, so it’s not really ideal for swimming anyway), but the walk and views are worth the drive anyway, and you can always head to nearby Dangar Falls for a dip if you like.
The pool is too shallow to swim in. (Image: Destination NSW)
Time from Yamba: 2.5 hours
6. Protesters Falls
When a logging protest back in 1979 successfully saw the area around Terania Creek protected from land clearing, a new waterfall was named. Welcome to Protesters Falls, a spectacular waterfall two hours outside of Yamba, nestled in palm-filled rainforest. You can’t swim here, but the walking track is worth the road trip anyway (be aware that this area may be subject to temporary closure due to flash flooding during, or after heavy periods of rain).
Make the hike to Protesters Falls. (Image: The Legendary Pacific Coast)
At one-and-a-half hour return trip, it’s marked as Grade 3 so may not suit little ones, but is great for exploring with friends or older children thanks to the beautiful surroundings and possible wildlife spotting on offer (walkers often spy pademelons and rare frogs in this area).
Time from Yamba: 2 hours
7. Whian Whian Falls, Nightcap National Park
This lesser-known waterfall near Yamba is a great spot for a summer swim. A wide, low waterfall sits above fresh, clear waters usually filled with locals having a leisurely dip – even if you visit and the waterfall isn’t flowing (it usually needs prior heavy rain to get going), it’s still a lovely place to spend a day.
Whian Whian Falls is inside Nightcap National Park, specifically in the Whian Whian State Conservation Area. Head to the national park and follow signs – there is a car park and a marked walking track.
Time from Yamba: 1.5 hours
8. Marom Creek Falls
This small waterfall has one of the best swimming holes beneath it where many locals and tourists alike while away their days. Dip in and out of the pool, or take the leap from the top of the waterfall into the depths below.
This one is a little trickier to get to – because it’s essentially an oasis amid farmland, you’ll have to walk from the road along an unmarked track to reach the swimming spot. Head to the little town of Rous Mill and turn off to Marom Creek from here.
Time from Yamba: 1 hour
A previous version of this article included Dalwood Falls. We do not recommend visiting Dalwood Falls as it’s partially located on private property and there have been a number of fatalities at the site.
For the best stays around town, check out our accommodation guide to the best Yamba Airbnbs here.