This is how you do the Wet Season in Tropical North Queensland
Ooh baby, it’s raining, raining.
And when it rains… we explore. We’re talking everything from tackling thundering rapids in the heart of the tropics, to secret waterfalls, and witnessing the roaring Barron Falls, in all her glory. As the weather heats up, Mother Nature looms large in Tropical North Queensland.
Ask any local North Queenslander and they’ll tell you that once you hit the tropics, there are only two seasons – the wet and the dry. Each year from November to April, the wet season lands in Tropical North Queensland, bringing with it longer, balmier days and (you guessed it) plenty of rain. Please, for the love of all-that-is-good-in-this-world, do not let that deter you.
It’s during wet season – locally known as the Big Wet – that the rainforest explodes with colour, the native wildlife is at its best and the waterfalls are at their peak. Better yet, if you’re in need of more convincing, the Great Barrier Reef is calm during wet season, so it is prime for snorkelling and scuba diving too.
Without further ado, here are 11 things you need to tick off your bucket list during the Wet Season. Right now.
Important: Please avoid swimming in waterholes and waterfalls during or after heavy rainfall.
“Don’t go chasing waterfalls,” said no one ever… sans TLC.
Tropical North Queensland is certainly no stranger to natural, pinch-me beauty, but when the rain comes falling down and wet season is at its peak, the sight of these tumbling waterfalls will render you speechless. To say this is epic would be an understatement.
1. LET BARRON FALLS TAKE YOUR BREATH AWAY
💦 The wet season has finally arrived in Explore Tropical North Queensland Australia.com & the Barron Falls in Tourism Kuranda are raging! 🙌📹 by PhlipVids
Posted by Visit Queensland, Australia on Tuesday, 6 February 2018
There’s big… and then there’s do-my-eyes-deceive-me, Barron Falls big. During the wet season, you can expect to see this roaring, thundering beauty tumble dramatically down a near-vertical rock face in Barron Gorge, shrouded in mist and shimmering rainbows.
Rugged rainforest-clad mountains and gorges, cascading waterfalls, a myriad of native wildlife, and an easily accessible viewing platform make Barron Falls an absolute must-do.
How to see it: Being so close to Cairns, you’ll find yourself spoilt for options when it comes to choosing how to see Barron Falls. We did the hard yards, so you don’t have to.
- Want to fly past the Barron Falls? Yes, we’re serious. The best aerial view has to be on board Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. This #bucketlist-worthy gondola journey will find you cruising above and through 7.5km of World Heritage-listed tropical rainforest canopy, before venturing deep into lush forest, and past Barron Falls.
- If you’re looking for a day trip that dishes up unsurpassed views of dense rainforest, steep ravines and a kaleidoscope of natural flora at every turn, look no further than the Kuranda Scenic Railway. From the comfort of your leather booth in a heritage timber carriage, the Kuranda Scenic Railway takes you on a picturesque one hour and 45-minute journey through Barron Falls National Park. P.S. Keep your eyes peeled for the Northern Bettong and Lumholtz Tree Kangaroo on the way!
- You can also take a (short) road trip to Kuranda or hop on the bus, where it’s an easy climb up to the Din Din Barron Falls Lookout from the carpark… but where’s your sense of adventure?
2. HIDE & GO SEEK WATERFALLS IN CRYSTAL CASCADES
Hidden in the tropical rainforest near Crystal Cascades – just 15 minutes out of Cairns – you’ll find no shortage of secluded, crystalline pools and swimming holes to cool off in… but there is one local favourite that shines a little brighter.
Meet Fairy Falls, and get acquainted, because this natural beauty will have you coming back time and time again.
How to get here: To the left of the carpark, you’ll find an opening between the trees. Keeping the creek on your right, you’ll climb over a series of boulders until you stumble across this lesser-known wonder, nestled in the rainforest.
TIP: The climb down to Fairy Falls is a little steep and can be slippery, so take your time and wear appropriate footwear. If the downpour is too heavy, you’re best to come back and save it for a not-so-rainy day!
3. ENJOY NATURE’S OWN PLAYGROUND
Looking for a place where you can wander along rainforest paths, channel your inner-Tarzan and swing on thick vines, laze on smooth granite boulders and slide down a natural waterslide, with a dense rainforest canopy overhead?
Fed from the summit of Mt Bartle Frere, Josephine Falls is made up of three pellucid swimming pools and nestled in the heart of Wooroonooran National Park.
How to get here: From Cairns, head west on Mulgrave Road and continue south towards Townsville and you’ll find yourself on the Bruce Highway. Enjoy the scenic 75km drive to Mirriwinni, just south of Babinda, before taking the turnoff to Mount Bartle Frere (fun fact: this is Queensland’s highest mountain) and follow the signs for another 8kms.
Bonus: Once you arrive, you’ll be treated to a short hike through the dense rainforest, until you find yourself knocking on Josephine’s door.
NOTE: Please avoid swimming during or after heavy rainfall in the Wet Season. And, when you are at Josephine Falls, follow the signage and stick to the two bottom pools for swimming, and simply kick back and take in the view of the top pool (or you might break the bank with an on-spot fine of $365).
If you ask us, this view of the top pool is perfectly paired with a picnic on the sun-drenched granite boulders. If there is heavy rain, you’re better off taking a rain-check and visiting Josephine another day!
4. CHASE WATERFALLS ON THE ATHERTON TABLELANDS
Who are we kidding… ANY day trip to a waterfall is guaranteed to be a pearler of a day out, but a visit to the Atherton Tablelands comes with an added bonus – three-for-one waterfalls!
For a day trip to rival all day trips, venture to the popular 17km loop road (accessible off the Palmerston Highway) where you’ll find Millaa Millaa, Zillie and Ellinjaa Falls waiting to be explored. Good things really do come in threes.
P.S Keep your eyes peeled, and you may catch a glimpse of a platypus while you’re here.
P.P.S A colony of flying foxes are also often spotted near the Ellinjaa Falls car park.
5. LET THE RAIN FALL DOWN AT PARONELLA PARK
While most recognisable for its dreamy Spanish castle nestled in the rainforest shrouded in lush tropical plants, after a particularly heavy downpour you’ll find Paronella Park to be completely transformed and Mena Creek Falls booming, baby!
Witness the power of the tumultuous Mena Creek Falls, and – if the rain gets too heavy – seek shelter in any number of hideaways dotted throughout the historic castle ruins. Looking for more? Here’s how you can do Paronella Park in a day.
6. BE WELCOMED TO THE RAINFOREST AT MOSSMAN GORGE
If an adventure rich in heritage, ancient culture and unsurmountable natural beauty is on your mind, then don’t let this wonderland remain part of your great unknown.
One-hundred and thirty-five million years in the making, Mossman Gorge is located in the heart of the oldest continuously surviving rainforest in the world, but this is only where the allure of Mossman begins.
With the local area inhabited by the Kuku Yalanji people for the past 50,000 years, a guided Ngadiku Dreamtime Walk (led by the Kuku Yalanji people) is the best way to truly appreciate Mossman Gorge.
Armed with an intimate knowledge of nature and the cultural significance of the sites, plant use, bush foods and the importance of wet season, you’ll leave with a deep respect for the significance of this iconic Tropical North Queensland wonder.
7. ‘TIS THE GREEN SEASON AT UNDARA
Just three-and-a-half hours from Cairns in Tropical North Queensland’s Gulf Savannah, lies a land so different in contrast, you’ll feel as though you’ve stepped into another world. This is the Undara Experience in Undara Volcanic National Park.
Here you’ll find the oldest (190,000 years in the making) and best-preserved lava tube systems across the globe. This alone makes Undara a non-negotiable when it comes to your bucket list, but during the Green Season, Undara goes from incredible to an out-of-this-world nature fix.
As wet season lands in the tropics, it brings with it an explosion of colour and the usually dry vegetation surrounding the lava tubes explodes with colour.
Plus, this time of year is, without a doubt, the best time to experience the incredible native wildlife who call Undara home. Macropods are having their babies and are out in droves, and the Wildlife at Sunset tour will render you speechless.
Here, snakes hang from the trees at the entrance of Barkers Cave and the catch the bats as they exit to feed at night. You have to see it to believe it… but we’ll give you a peek at the action.
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The #lavatube #snake tour at @undaraexperience was the best land based wildlife experience i've ever had. Just after sunset at the entrance to one of the #lavatubes the #snakes wait in a tree for the #bats to fly out and then pick them out of mid air. All around you! It really is a must do if you can handle being that close to the snakes and only happens in the green season! Happy #EarthDay #thisisqueensland @queensland #ExploreTNQ #SeeAustralia #Australia #wildlife #bbcearth #natgeo #wildlifeplanet #UndaraLavaTubes #Undara #UndaraExperience @tropicalnorthqueensland @australia @australiangeographic @natgeowild @bbc_travel @BBCearth
Fun fact: In seasons of extreme (next-level) monsoonal rain, approximately once every 20 years, the ancient lava tubes can fill with water to create a phenomenal natural underwater environment. Don’t believe us? Just watch.
8. TAKE TIME OUT AT LAKE EACHAM
While the blue and green hues of this Tropical North Queensland stunner may be deceiving, did you know that this is actually a volcanic crater lake you’ll find in the Atherton Tablelands?
Lake Eacham sits nestled in the tranquil surrounds of Crater Lakes National Park. This is the perfect spot to take a dip, go bird-watching and soak up the serenity while exploring the shaded walking tracks.
9. ADVENTURE IS CALLING AT BEHANA GORGE
You'll do a little bit more than just chase waterfalls with Behana Canyoning 💦🏃🏼 Video by PhlipVids
Posted by Explore Tropical North Queensland on Sunday, 23 July 2017
Looking for an adventure where you can beat the heat and escape the crowds? You’ll do a little more than just chase waterfalls when you venture out with Behana Gorge Canyoning.
You’ll also abseil down Behana Gorge, leap off towering cliffs, slide down rocks into refreshing rainforest pools, swim under waterfalls, snorkel through crystalline tropical water and hike through dense, lush tropical rainforest… all in one day!
10. SOAK UP THE SERENITY AT THE BABINDA BOULDERS
When there are secluded swimming holes set amid rainforest in the foothills of the Bellenden Ker Range, you know they’re going to be good.
Needless to say, the Babinda Boulders in the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, do not disappoint. Nestled in lush rainforest, you’ll find a cauldron of silvery rocks, emerald green water and a cultural significance that’s positively palpable in the air.
How to see them: The Devil’s Pool Walk will take you on a 1.3km-return walk along Babinda Creek. You’ll weave through cool, dense rainforest to two viewing platforms where you’ll see the aqua water cascade down a number of waterfalls, tumble over smooth granite boulders and through washpools. Please only swim and walk in the designated areas here.
11. GO RAFTING DOWN THE RAGING BARRON RIVER
As the wet season picks up, so do the rapids! When it comes to adventure-seeking and adrenaline-chasing, the crew at Raging Thunder don’t do it by halves.
The thundering Barron River, just south of Cairns, is renowned for its wild rapids, rips and cascading waterfalls, making it one helluva spot to take to the water with the experienced guides at Raging Thunder.
Remember, for the latest information on access, closures and conditions check online for any Park Alerts at: https://www.npsr.qld.gov.au/park-alerts/
Please avoid swimming in waterholes and waterfalls during or after heavy rainfall.
With the wet season comes the possibility of monsoonal rain. If the downpour is a little too heavy, take your cue from Rihanna:
Now that it’s raining more than ever
Know that we still have each other
You can stand under my umbrella
And work your way through 9 more unmissable day trips out of Cairns.
EVERYTHING’S BETTER NOW THAT IT’S WETTER! WHAT WILL YOU BE TICKING OFF YOUR QUEENSLAND BUCKET LIST THIS WET SEASON