From hidden waterfalls that look as if they’ve been plucked straight from Tomb Raider, to ‘infinity pools’ at the top of 75-metre-heigh cascades, these seven waterfalls near Cairns are worthy of inspection.
Cairns might be best known as the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, but there are countless beautiful waterfalls (and swimming holes) to explore in its backyard. Whether you’re searching for hidden cascades to wallow under with your other half, or dramatic waterfalls to admire from afar with the whole family, this guide to the most beautiful waterfalls near Cairns will get you started.
Not just a scenic spot for Instagram or a picnic, this tiered cascade waterfall in Wooroonooran National Park is popular among those seeking a cooling dip in the heat of summer. When the creek is in full flow, you can even slide down the smooth cheeks of rock into the main pool. Sundappled light pours through the thick surrounding forest canopy, and there’s plenty of granite boulders encircling the water to perch on and sunbake.
A natural habitat for plenty of local wildlife, you may even spy brilliant blue Ulysses butterflies fluttering by, lace monitors scuttling along the riverbanks, or vivid red and green king parrots in the treetops. It’s a relatively easy walk from the carpark to the falls, with a viewing platform at the very top.
Super accessible, even if you have a pram or use a wheelchair, this waterfall in Barron Gorge National Park is located at the end of an elevated walkway, suspended high above the forest floor; at most it’s a 10-minute walk to the first viewing platform. Conveniently, the falls are also within walking distance of the village Kuranda, so you can knock off two ‘must-do’s’ in one day. If timing allows, plot your visit to coincide with the wet season, or drop by after heavy rains, when this steep, tiered cascade waterfall is at its most dramatic, and sometimes enshrouded in mist. Look down from the treetops into the gorge and watch as the falls tumble over the cliff face.
A 20-minute drive from Cairns’ CBD, Crystal Cascades is something of a local’s secret. Comprised of a series of waterholes and waterfalls, some of which are harder to reach than others, this section of Freshwater Creek promises cool, crystalline waters, perfect for a swim, or just a sightseeing stroll. There’s a paved 1.5-kilometre trail that leads to the swimming holes, and finishes at the cascades. Make a day out of it and bring some snags for the public barbecues.
A petite beauty, the picturesque Fairy Falls is tucked away behind dense greenery and feels a bit like a secret retreat. A slender white ribbon of water that drapes between two enclosed rock faces plastered with vines, it’s unlikely that you’ll have to share this spot with many other souls, if any at all. The track to the waterfall follows the creek (don’t head uphill), so expect a little bit of scrambling over slippery rocks, but it’s only a 15-minute walk from the Crystal Cascades car park.
Davies Creek Falls
Fancy bathing in an infinity at the top of a waterfall? You’ve come to the right place. A cascade on the Davies Creek in Dinden National Park, these falls plunges 75 metres into the valley below. Head to the lookout point for the best view of the waterfalls, or venture up to the swimming hole at the falls’ source to gawp at sweeping views of the whole valley, drenched in foliage. It’s a short walk on marked trails to reach either point. And if your appetite for chasing waterfalls still hasn’t been sated by Davies Creek Falls then fear not, as Emerald Falls lies a 35-minute drive away.
Old Weir Falls at Stoney Creek
The walk to Old Weir Falls might prove a little taxing for the less agile, with an uneven surface of rocks and twisted tree roots to tackle, but the effort is worth the reward. The Stoney Creek Weir Track, also known as Garndal Garndal, leads to an outdoor playground full of swimming holes as well as the waterfalls. In need of a post-swim snack? In summer you might just be in luck: mango trees dot the trail, the fresh fruit begging to be plucked and devoured. More adventurous spirits can even carry on up to Glacier Rock via the Douglas Track (the trailhead starts after the footbridge, to the right).
Mena Creek Falls, Paronella Park
Located on the Cassowary Coast, Mena Creek Falls are a touch further from Cairns than the other waterfalls listed here, but they definitely merit mention for those interested in exploring a little further afield. And unlike the other options, you can also visit these falls at night.
Arguably, the views over this single-tier waterfall are even more impressive after the sun has set and lights illuminate the water rushing over seven million-year-old basalt rock. Mosey over the the suspension bridge that spans the falls for a bird’s-eye look, or park yourself on one of the benches near its base and soak up the magical castle that is Paronella Park.
Planning a trip to Cairns? Read more tips and itineraries in our Cairns travel guide.