Chase this: Top 5 waterfalls on the Sunshine Coast
Most people come to the Sunshine Coast for the epic surf and endless beaches (and we don’t blame them because they’re pretty freakin’ spectacular).
But if dumping waves and sand in your pants has you saying “no deal”, chuck a 180 and flee for the hinterland, where shaded rainforests are home to hidden waterfalls and freshwater swimming holes that are so unbelievably beautiful you’ll curse yourself for not visiting sooner.
Don’t forget the snacks when you road trip to these 5 waterfalls on the Sunshine Coast.
A few words of caution before you go:
- Obey all safety and warning signs
- Take great care if there’s been recent rainfall
- Bring insect repellant, sunscreen, lots of water, and sturdy shoes
- If there are no bins on site make sure you take all rubbish with you
- Never jump or dive as you don’t know what could be submerged underneath
1. Gardners Falls
Easily accessible? Tick. Large pool for swimming? Tick. So beautiful that you get this primal urge to howl your thanks to Mother Nature for its creation? Yes, yes, yes.
In just a short 30-minute drive from the coast you’ll find yourself in hinterland heaven at Maleny‘s family-friendly Gardners Falls.
Parking on the banks of Obi Obi Creek, you’ll stalk smaller rapids and rock pools on a flat 300m path, leading the way ‘round the corner to the drop-off where a large swimming hole awaits (to get down to the base, follow the rock boulder path on the right-hand side of the falls).
Now you can bet visitors swarm to this baby like a moth to a flame come summertime, so you’ll want to get here early in the day to secure a good park. But oh, its claim to waterfall fame on the Sunshine Coast is justly so: the shallow rock pools at the top are perfect for youngins to splash about in, and the grassy banks, rock formations and picnic tables make it all too inviting to plonk yourself here for an entire day to bask in its natural glory.
How to get there: Driving on Landsborough-Maleny Road, turn off at Obi Lane South and follow the road (past Spicers Tamarind Retreat) to the car park.
2. Kondalilla Falls
Here’s a fact for you: The name Kondalilla derives from the Aboriginal word meaning “rushing waters” – go figure!
While most people are quick to follow the path down the escarpment to stay put at the rock pool above Kondalilla Falls, I’d recommend hitting the Kondalilla Falls Circuit to work up a sweat first. (FYI, there are over 100 stairs on the 4.7km round-trip, so sturdy shoes and a reasonable fitness level is required.)
Follow the signs, which will take you right on a downward path into the rainforest. Before getting in too deep, you’ll come across the Kondalilla Falls lookout, where Skene Creek drops 80-magnificent-metres into the dense rainforest valley below.
If you choose to keep following the track from here, you’ll wind your way through towering piccabeen palms and bunya pines right down to the base of the falls, then it’s a bum-burning upward hike back up the ridge. But don’t worry, the trip circles you straight back to the rock pool for a much-needed dip.
Psst! Make a stop at Elements on Montville for a tasty treat on your journey home. I can personally vouch for the Iced Chai and freshly baked cakes… yes, plural… I used up a lot of energy on the circuit alright?!
3. Buderim ‘Serenity’ Falls
Hiding amongst the strangler figs and native vines of Buderim Forest Park, Buderim Falls (also known as Serenity Falls) is what you could describe as a pocket rocket – pint-sized in comparison to its fellow Sunshine Coast waterfalls, but still packin’ a hearty punch.
Only five minutes from the main strip in Buderim Village (hallelujah to less travel time and more waterfall time), there are two entry points you can take to access the park.
If a short and snappy visit is the idea, aim for the high entry point from Quorn Close, which follows an easy 300m dirt track down to the falls.
But if you’d like to explore at leisure, go for the lower entry point off Lindsay Road via Harry’s Lane. Walking past the huge grassy picnic area, you’ll follow a wide wooden boardwalk for 600m through trickling creeks and tall forest before taking on a roughened path of rocks and roots for 300m.
No matter which way you journey, one of the first things to impress when you get here ain’t just the falls, but the gorgeous elevated wooden arch bridge overhead, which was actually built off-site then lowered into the park by helicopter.
Crossing the bridge (over to the Quorn Close side) you can access the base and lower creeks via the steps for a bit of rock-hopping and awe gazing.
*Note: The creek is spring-fed at the source but passes through many urban developments and stormwater drains, so swimming is not recommended.
How to get there: Set your GPS for either Quorn Close or Harry’s Lane.
4. Booloumba Falls
Nestled deep in the Sunshine Coast hinterland within Conondale National Park, Booloumba Falls is a popular waterhole for locals out this way, and it’s not hard to see why, spilling out over multiple ripples into a large pool at the base.
I’ll admit, getting here is indeed a bit of a mission, and you’ll need a high-clearance 4WD vehicle to access the park and Booloumba Creek day-use area (unless you want to hike it the whole way, which is nek-level mission status).
But the time it takes is definitely made up for in the journey itself – driving through unspoilt mountain landscapes, multiple creek crossings, and bearing witness to some stunner views of the range along the way (which you would never see on those pesky main roads).
How to get there: Coming south from Kenilworth or north-west from Maleny, turn off at Booloumba Creek Rd (I would highly suggest not typing ‘Booloumba Falls’ straight into your GPS because, from my own Google maps fiasco, it led me to a “though shall not pass” private property).
Follow the narrow bitumen road, past farm properties, ‘til it turns to gravel and you’ve reached the national park entrance.
Drive past all four camping and day-use areas until you reach the fourth and final, where a steep-ish incline to the left is accompanied by a sign pointing thataway to Booloumba Falls. From here it’s another 10 or so kilometres to reach the car park and day-use area.
But oh, the adventure doesn’t stop there! Get to stepping on the Booloumba Falls Walk, which is an easy 2km forest track past cascades and rock pools until you reach your destination.
PS. While you might be giddy with excitement after (finally) getting to the falls, make sure you take some time to marvel at the gorge lookout a little further ahead, where the impressive Breadknife rock formation marks the junction of Peters and Booloumba Creeks.
5. Wappa Falls
You know what’s crazier than Kanye? The fact most locals don’t even know about Wappa Falls, and *shock horror* it’s only five minutes from Yandina!
Fed by the South Maroochy River coming in from Wappa Dam up ahead, Wappa Falls is a natural mishmash of rock formations and small rock pools which lead to a slightly curved drop-off into a mini-gorge below.
Exploring here is a bit of a scramble, so take care as the rocks can get slippery, but whether you’re just admiring from the top or have found a prime sunbathing spot on the rocks at the pools’ edge, it’s hard to think of anything else more amazing than the scene that lies in front of you (and if you’re lucky, you might even spot a turtle or two getting their tan on as well).
My advice? Head out this way on a Saturday morning to pick up some local eats from the Yandina Markets, then gobble them up either at the falls or under the shaded trees at Wappa Dam park, which is also home to a kid’s playground and picnic facilities.
How to get there: Come off the Bruce Highway onto Nambour Connection Road, turning off at Wappa Falls Rd. Follow until you turn right at Pump Station Rd, where Wappa Falls is located. Alternatively, you could also park at Wappa Dam and walk the short 10 mins to the falls.