The top 10 waterfalls to chase in Tropical North Queensland
Don’t stick to the boring old rivers and lakes that you’re used to.
There’s plenty to see and do in Tropical North Queensland with the Great Barrier Reef just offshore and towns full of delicious food and attractions. But, if you venture inland, you’ll come across stunning rainforests with secret treasures.
Meandering through rainforest tracks, admiring lush vegetation and listening to birdsong fill the air makes for a perfect day. It can, however, get pretty tiring. To prevent grumpy hikers, you’ll need to cool down once in a while. There’s nothing quite as rewarding as finding a waterfall after a sweaty walk through the steamy rainforest.
With so many options to explore, it’s best to know where to go before you start the day’s trek! We’ve done the hard yards and put together a list of the top 10 waterfalls you’ll discover as you wander through the Wet Tropics.
Stoney Creek Falls
Not able to travel too far from Cairns? Luckily, Stoney Creek Falls is one of the favourite waterfalls amongst Cairns locals and is only a 15-20 minute drive north of town.
With a crystal clear waterhole ideal for children, and rocky walking tracks to other cooling off spots, you can enjoy nature while not venturing too far from civilisation!
Looming high above all other mountains in Queensland is Bartle Frere, with its rainfall runoff creating the majestic Josephine Falls.
With walking tracks for both the experienced and inexperienced climber, Josephine Falls can be enjoyed by all fitness levels. The waterfall rests nearby a popular picnic area, perfect for families to chew with a view.
From here you can enjoy excellent views that are begging to be snapped and ‘grammed. Check out our tips on how to photograph waterfalls like a pro.
The Waterfalls Circuit
Take the relaxed approach to waterfall chasing and spend a day driving along the Waterfall Circuit. On this journey you’ll cover off three of the most notable waterfalls the tropical north has to offer – Millaa Millaa Falls, Zillie Falls and Ellinjaa Falls.
To start, head to the town of Millaa Millaa, 60km west of Innisfail. The Millaa Millaa Falls are accessed through the Palmerston Highway about five minutes from town, off Theresa Creek Road. This circuit is one of the many trails along the Great Tropical Drive.
Millaa Millaa Falls
The first stop on the Waterfall Circuit is Millaa Millaa Falls just 3km off the main road. It’s a truly romantic location with lush green grass and rainforest insulating you from the world.
The falls cascade perfectly into a pristine waterhole below where you can enjoy a refreshing swim in the cool water. As one of the most photographed waterfalls in Australia, you’ll want to bring your camera. And keep an eye out for platypuses!
Next, ramble your way along a short 7.5km drive to Zillie Falls, a wonderful place to enjoy a picnic lunch or to simply relax and enjoy the surroundings.
The cascading water and rapids are best experienced from the viewing platform at the base of the falls.
Travel another 3km and you’ll know you’re close to Ellinjaa Falls when you can hear the water rushing over a series of lava columns into the pool below.
These falls are some of the best on the circuit for a swim – you might actually get to share the water with turtles and platypuses! See if you can find the little ledge hidden behind the falls to chill out.
Malanda Falls Conservation Park
If you’ve had your fill scrambling amongst all the rocks at the base of a waterfall for a swim, try out the picturesque Malanda Falls, which flow into a peaceful, artificial swimming pool.
Surrounded by dense rainforest, keep an eye out for secretive tree-kangaroos. Venture along the river and into the rainforest on the easy 1km Tulip Oak walk, where you can learn more about the original owners of the land, the Ngadjon-Jii people.
Millstream Falls National Park
Need more than a photo-worthy waterfall? Add some history to your day with a stop at Big Millstream Falls, which are reputedly the widest single-drop waterfall in Australia and are also rich in World War II history.
Explore the remaining campsites of the battalions of the 7th and 9th Divisions and learn about the conditions for these soldiers – how they lived, worked and played. Have a play yourself on the mountain bike tracks through the park and cool off in the pool below.
Have your camera at the ready for the seriously picturesque falls of Emerald Creek. Here, the water tumbles over granite boulders into the placid pools below with vibrant red bottlebrush trees sprouting up between the rocks.
After your photo sesh, enjoy a picnic and cool down in the nearby creek. The afternoon can either be spent napping in the sun or walking the moderate 1.9km track to a lookout with views of the falls, the valley and across the northern Atherton Tableland.
Davies Creek Falls
Davies Creek Falls has something for everyone. For the exercise-obsessed there’s a strenuous 12.3km walk or mountain bike ride along the Kahlpahlim Rock circuit.
And for the rest of us, there are large sun-warmed rocks for sunbathing. Once everyone has worked up a sweat, it’s time for a dip in the cool clear waters of the creek.
Who would’ve thought there’s even a waterfall for foodies? Grab a bird’s eye view of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area on the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway and float above the rainforest canopy to Kuranda.
Once at Kuranda, stand above the mighty Barron Falls. With enough water flowing through to power a hydro-electric station, they’re an incredible sight to behold!
On your return, take the Kuranda Scenic Rail. This heritage steam train navigates tight turns and passes Barron Falls yet again with the 3:30pm return train service including sparkling wine and canapés for an additional $48 per person.