Looking for a list of the best waterfalls in Cairns and the surrounding area? You’ve come to the right place. A complete guide to visiting the very best of Cairns’ waterfalls!
The Cairns region seems to have everything for adventure travelers. Located between the World Heritage Listed Wet Tropics and the incredible Coral Coast and Great Barrier Reef, it’s no wonder that Cairns is one of the most popular travel destinations in Australia.
If you’re not on the beach or snorkeling at the reef, then you might want to head inland for some hiking and to explore the rainforest. While you’re at it, why not check out some of the best waterfalls in Cairns and the surrounding tropics region.
In this blog post, I’ve listed the best waterfalls in Cairns and surrounds. This blog post covers waterfalls along the coast from Innisfail to the Daintree, as well as many from the nearby Tablelands. I’ve also written individual blog posts for every waterfall, which you can click to get more information on how to get there, what to expect and some photos that I hope will inspire your adventures.
UPDATE: I’m currently in Cairns exploring more waterfalls and I’m constantly updating and adding to the list. Follow me on Instagram to check out some new waterfall gems in Cairns and the surrounding Tropical North coast before they end up here.
Map With the Best Waterfalls in Cairns – Itinerary Guide
Are you looking to make the most of your Cairns adventures by checking out multiple waterfalls near Cairns? Below I’ve pinned all of the waterfalls I’ve mentioned to help you better plan out your day trips.
Of course, you’re not going to be able to visit all of these Cairns waterfalls in a single day. Therefore, I’ve pinned the waterfalls into different colour groups based on where they are. This should help you plan day trips and itineraries for chasing all of these waterfalls in Cairns and the surrounding Tropical North.
Getting to the Waterfalls in Cairns
Australia is big. If you’re used to traveling in Asia or Europe, then you might forget how far things are away from each other.
The best way to get around and explore the best waterfalls in Cairns is to have your own car or transport. If you don’t have a car, you can compare the best local prices by using Rentalcars.com.
While I understand that that won’t be possible for everyone, you simply won’t be able to visit them all without your own means of transport. However, if you’re looking to see some of the best waterfalls on a single day-tour from Cairns, then the one below offers the best bang-for-buck in my opinion.
The total tour duration is 10-11 hours and includes:
- Cairns Hotel Pickup
- English Speaking Tour Guide
- Hike in the nearby Wooroonooran National Park
- Swim at Josephine Falls (one of my favourite waterfalls near Cairns)
- Swim at Millaa Millaa Falls
- Platypus spotting in Yungaburra
- Swim at Lake Eacham
BOOK THIS BEST RANKED AND CHEAPEST CAIRNS WATERFALL TOUR FOR UNDER $110
The Best Waterfalls in Cairns: The Ultimate List
So, let’s get right into the list of the best waterfalls in Cairns and surrounds. Whether you’re looking for the perfect spot to cool down or you want to snap some pictures of an incredible waterfall at the end of a rainforest hike, the below list will have you covered.
Update June 2020: Since this post has grown significantly, I’ve now grouped these waterfalls into sections to better help you plan your trips.
Waterfalls Closest to Cairns
Below I’ve grouped the best waterfalls that are closest to Cairns. Although, they’re not within walking distance of town. Again, you’ll either need a car or jump on a tour. To save you time, I’ve included links to trips that include the below waterfalls underneath each section.
1. Barron Falls
Barron Falls is one of the largest waterfalls near Cairns, with close to 250 meters of cascading water forcing its way down the deep Barron Gorge.
Located near Kuranda, Barron Falls is one of the most popular waterfalls in Cairns and the surrounding Wet Tropics Area. The force will vary depending on the season. To see this waterfall in full force, you’ll need to visit in the wet season. However, while the wet season might produce a more powerful waterfall, I’d still recommend a visit in the drier months too.
To make the most of this experience, you might want to book a complete self-guided day tour from Cairns. This includes accommodation pickup, a ticket to the Scenic Railway and the Skyrail Cablecar, which takes you to the best views of Barron Falls.
CONSIDER: SELF GUIDED BARRON FALLS TOUR
READ THE FULL BLOG POST: BARRON FALLS – LARGEST OF THE WATERFALLS IN CAIRNS
2. Crystal Cascades
In terms of distance to Cairns, Crystal Cascades is one of the closest on our list. At the end of a short sealed walk, you’ll find a medium-sized waterfall with a deep swimming hole. There are also several spots on the trail that allow access to more swimming spots in the creek.
Apparently, this waterfall and creek swimming location used to be a fairly well-kept secret. However, when I visited it seemed to be one of the most popular waterfalls near Cairns.
To get here, it’s only a short 30-minute drive from Cairns. If it’s a quick freshwater swim you’re looking for, then this might be a good choice for you.
READ THE FULL BLOG POST: CRYSTAL CASCADES CAIRNS – SWIMMING HOLE AND WATERFALL GUIDE
3. Fairy Falls
If you decide to make the short trip to Crystal Cascades, then you might be glad to know that there’s another hidden waterfall just around the corner.
Fairy Falls is located at the end of a short, unmarked trail beginning at the Crystal Cascades car park. It might not be the biggest out of this list of the best waterfalls in Cairns, but it’s still a pretty epic little waterfall that’s great for escaping the crowds.
The pool underneath this narrow waterfall is also deep enough to swim. This is perfect if you want to relax at your own private waterfall oasis.
READ THE FULL BLOG POST: FAIRY FALLS CAIRNS – THE SECRET WATERFALL AT THE CRYSTAL CASCADES
4. Stoney Creek Falls
Stoney Creek is an easily accessible swimming hole and waterfall track that is a favourite amongst Cairns locals.
Although the waterfalls here aren’t the most spectacular, they’re only a 20-minute drive from Cairns! This means that visiting Stoney Creek is perfect if you’re just looking for a place to cool down.
There is a wide and deep swimming hole just near the car park. However, it’s also possible to continue for roughly 25 minutes to Old Weir Falls, a larger and more impressive Cairns waterfall.
READ THE FULL BLOG POST: STONEY CREEK FALLS CAIRNS – WATERFALL AND SWIMMING HOLE
5. Isabella Falls
Hidden at the back of a local suburb is one of the best hidden waterfall gems near Cairns.
A short, 20-minute rainforest track leads to a tall and secluded waterfall half-way up the mountain adjacent to Edmonton. This one takes a bit of root scrambling to reach the top, but it’s well worth it! Along the way, there are several stops at swimming holes and smaller, cascading waterfalls.
FULL GUIDE: ISABELLA FALLS CAIRNS – COMPLETE GUIDE
Waterfalls South of Cairns
Grab a car and head on a road trip! These Cairns waterfalls take a bit of a drive to reach, heading south on the Bruce Highway. If you’re planning a trip, definitely add these to your list.
6. Babinda Boulders and Devils Pools
While not technically a waterfall destination, I’ve included Babinda Boulders and the Devils Pools on this list because they offer another excellent freshwater swimming location near Cairns.
While it’s mostly considered a creek, Devils Pools does also have a small waterfall, fed by the fast-flowing waters from the foothills of the Bellenden Ker Range. Here, there’s a popular swimming and cliff-jumping location into a deep gorge. Keep in mind though, QLD Parks doesn’t recommend swimming at the Devils Pools since several deaths have unfortunately occurred here.
Closer to the park entrance, Babinda Boulders has beautiful, clear flowing waters surrounded by tropical rainforest trees and plants. There are plenty of deep pools and holes here that are perfect for cooling down.
READ THE FULL BLOG POST: BABINDA BOULDERS AND DEVILS POOLS, CAIRNS
7. Josephine Falls
Next up on the list of the best waterfalls in Cairns is one of my personal favourites; Josephine Falls.
This waterfall is located closer to Innisfail, approximately an hour’s drive from Cairns. The car park location is also the start of the Mount Bartle Frere track, which leads to the top of the tallest mountain in Queensland.
Josephine Falls cascades down the Bartle Frere Range in the Wooroonooran National Park. It’s a decent-sized waterfall that flows into a large circular freshwater pool.
While quite spectacular, the main waterfall itself isn’t the main reason why it’s earned a spot on the list of best waterfalls in Cairns. What’s really great about this waterfall is that it has the best and clearest freshwater swimming areas near Cairns. Just a little further down from the main waterfall are deep, crystal-green swimming holes. You’ll even find a small but fun waterfall rock slide with a drop into one of the refreshing pools.
Waterfall Trips to the Tablelands from Cairns
In my opinion, the Tablelands are easily one of the most underrated regions in Tropical Far North Queensland and perhaps in all of Australia. There are epic rainforest hikes, viewpoints and of course, superb waterfalls. In fact, you’ll find the most variety of waterfalls in this region!
Yes, you’ll definitely need a car to visit these waterfalls independently from Cairns. Alternatively, you could book an Atherton Tablelands waterfall tour from Cairns. Below I’ve summarised the best tours and trips to this region.
|Most-booked waterfall tour from Cairns||$115||Josephine Falls, Millaa Millaa, Dinner Falls, Crater Lakes|
|Cheapest Atherton Tablelands Waterfall Tour||$107||Josephine Falls, Millaa Millaa, Dinner Falls, Curtain Fig Tree|
|2D1N Waterfall and Atherton Camping||$251||Barron Falls, Lake Eacham, Overnight Camping, Peterson Creek (platypus viewing), Curtain Fig Tree, Josephine Falls|
8. Millaa Millaa Falls
Millaa Millaa Falls is probably on most lists of the best waterfalls in Cairns. It’s certainly a very popular waterfall, primarily due to the perfect, single-drop, plunging waterfall in a very scenic rainforest oasis. This waterfall is located on the “Millaa Millaa Waterfall Circuit, which also includes two other impressive falls (below).
Millaa Millaa falls is known as the most photographed waterfall in Australia. It’s even been featured in a few historic advertisements.
I’ve nicknamed it the perfectionist’s waterfall. It looks as if the plunging water maintains a completely symmetrical shape as it gushes into the deep, round freshwater pool below.
To get to Millaa Millaa Falls, you’ll need to drive approximately an hour and a half from Cairns. While it might seem like a long distance, I’d definitely recommend the visit. Especially since nearby are several more falls on this list of the best waterfalls in Cairns.
DON’T HAVE YOUR OWN CAR? BOOK YOUR BUS TO MILLAA MILLAA WATERFALL FROM CAIRNS
READ THE FULL BLOG POST: MILLAA MILLAA FALLS – INCREDIBLE WATERFALL IN THE ATHERTON TABLELANDS NEAR CAIRNS
9. Zillie Falls
Zillie Falls is only a few minutes’ drive from Millaa Millaa Falls and part of the Millaa MIllaa Waterfall Circuit on Theresa Creek Road.
Although very impressive, this waterfall is much less-visited than Millaa Millaa. This means that if big crowds aren’t your scene, you could always head down the road to Zillie Falls.
Another sing-drop fall, this waterfall gushes dramatically off the edge of a steep, eroded basalt column onto large boulders below. There is a viewing platform above the falls, as well as a “secret” track which leads to the base for a better vantage point.
10. Ellinjaa Falls
Ellinjaa Falls is the last of the Millaa Millaa waterfall trio. This one is in my opinion, the most beautiful and one where the balance of nature and development has met a good medium.
Requiring another very short, but scenic walk along a sealed track, Ellinjaa is a dramatic, cascading waterfall that flows down a wide basalt column into a fairly large freshwater pool.
There is also a ledge behind Ellinjaa Falls which you can climb onto to sit behind the falls.
READ THE FULL BLOG POST: JOSEPHINE FALLS – WOORONOORAN NATIONAL PARK, CAIRNS
11. Nandroya Falls
Nandroya Falls has to be one of the best waterfalls in Cairns in terms of what you get. What I mean by this is that a trip to Nandroya Falls will offer an incredible rainforest hike as well as two incredible waterfalls!
Nandroya Falls is located in the Wooroonooran National Park, approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes from Cairns city. After a very scenic 40-minute walk through parts of the oldest rainforest in the world, there’s a large clearing with an impressive 50-meter spouting waterfall. Nandroya also has a lower, wider level where you can swim or snap some photos.
If you’re planning to head to Millaa Millaa Falls, then a trip to Nandroya Falls is just around the corner. It also makes sense to visit Millaa Millaa early to beat the crowds, then do a trip to Nandroya on the way back through the National Park.
READ THE FULL BLOG POST: NANDROYA FALLS, WOOROONOORAN NATIONAL PARK – CAIRNS
12. Silver Creek Falls
Silver Creek Falls isn’t the most spectacular of all the best waterfalls in Cairns. However, I’ll include it on the list because you’ll get to see if it if you visit Nandroya Falls.
Hikers will find Silver Creek Falls roughly halfway on the Nandroya Falls trail. It’s a small waterfall flowing from Silver Creek and plunging into a small, shallow freshwater pool.
You can’t swim at this one, but it’s worthy of a couple of photos.
TIP: NEED AN AIRPORT TRANSFER? – BOOK A $16 CAIRNS AIRPORT TRANSFER TO ANYWHERE IN CAIRNS OR PORT DOUGLAS
13. Tchupala Falls
Located just around the bend from the Nandroya Falls hike is a pair of incredible waterfalls in the Wooroonooran National Park. The first is Tchupala Falls, which is actually a series of three large waterfall levels.
The Tchupala Falls track is a little shorter than Nandroya Falls, and shouldn’t take longer than 15 minutes to reach. Unfortunately, the lower levels have been closed due to being classed as too dangerous. Regardless, Tchupala Falls would have to be one of the best waterfalls in Cairns for those looking for the complete rainforest adventure.
READ THE FULL BLOG POST: TCHUPALA FALLS AND WALLICHER FALLS, WOOROONOORAN NATIONAL PARK, CAIRNS
14. Wallicher Falls
Wallicher Falls is another large cascading waterfall flowing in the same section of the Wooroonooran National Park. In fact, the trail to Wallicher Falls begins at the same location as Tchupala Falls.
The walk to Wallicher Falls takes roughly 20 minutes. At the end, there is a main boarded viewing platform opposite the waterfall. This will offer the best views of the falls as after this, the trail continues down to the creek source, where you can’t see the main waterfall.
This waterfall is quite wide and can have some serious power in the wet season. However, Wallicher Falls isn’t quite as impressive as Tchupala Falls. That said, I’d it is certainly worth checking out, especially since they’re so close together.
You will find the link to the full Wallicher Falls post above, under Tchupala Falls.
15. Mungalli Falls
Mungalli Falls is another great waterfall in the Atherton Tablelands, approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes from Cairns. There are two levels to explore, with the tallest having a 75-meter cumulative drop down a steep rockface.
This waterfall is unique because it’s actually located within an outdoor Wilderness Retreat Complex. Luckily, the company welcomes guests to come and check out the waterfall for free.
Mungalli isn’t the best waterfall for swimming. Instead, it’s a popular place to spot wildlife. The park staff even told us that you could sometimes see glow worms at the base. Apparently, if you’re lucky, you might also spot a wild platypus near the waterfall or further down the creek.
READ THE FULL BLOG POST: MUNGALLI FALLS, ATHERTON TABLELANDS – CAIRNS
16. Dinner Falls
Dinner Falls is a multi-tiered waterfall that sits high on the Tablelands at 900M above sea-level! It can be found after a short loop hike in the Mount Hypipamee National Park.
Dinner Falls is a great waterfall if you’re chasing a quick swim and a short walk. As a bonus, you’ll also get to check out “The Crater”, a remarkable volcanic diatreme with a natural crater pool that is over 70M deep!
FULL GUIDE TO DINNER FALLS: DINNER FALLS AND MOUNT HYPIPAMEE CRATER LOOP – CAIRNS
17. Emerald Creek Falls
On the other side of the thick Wet Tropics National Parks, you’ll find some more epic Cairns waterfalls. Emerald Creek Falls is another one of the best waterfalls in Cairns, located in the Atherton Tablelands.
Compared to the other waterfalls on this list, Emerald Creek Falls differs in terms of scenery and flora. Instead of dense, wet rainforest, you’ll find a drier landscape with small pockets of tropical trees and ferns. Emerald Creek Falls has an upper cascading level and a lower plunging waterfall which falls into a deep swimming hole. There are also many more swimming holes a little further down, making it one of the best waterfalls in Cairns for swimming.
Getting here is pretty straight forward and involves a short but scenic walk up to the main swimming area and waterfall. However, google maps tends to take people coming from Cairns down the wrong road. I’d recommend reading the full blog post for exact directions and to avoid getting lost.
READ THE FULL BLOG POST: EMERALD CREEK FALLS – WATERFALL AND SWIMMING LOCATION NEAR CAIRNS
18. Davies Creek Falls
Davies Creek Falls is another waterfall closeby to Emerald Creek Falls. This is one of the larger waterfalls, with a cumulative drop of up to 75 metres into the deep gorge in the Davies Creek and Dinden National Park. There are several viewing areas, and you can even walk down to the top of the waterfall to enjoy the view from above.
There are also a few great swimming holes just further upstream from the waterfall. However, you’ll need to monitor conditions as they can change pretty quickly in heavy downpours.
Nearby to Davies Creek Falls, you’ll also find some quick circuit tracks and walks. If you’re looking to explore the best waterfalls in Cairns on the other side of Cairns and closer to the Atherton Tablelands, then a day trip to Davies Creek Falls and Emerald Creek Falls is a great option.
READ THE FULL BLOG POST: DAVIES CREEK FALLS, DAVIES CREEK NATIONAL PARK – CAIRNS
19. Malanda Falls
Located on the outskirts of the quaint, Malanda Village, is a popular waterfall and swimming area that is very popular with locals. Malanda Falls flows from the North Johnstone River over basalt rock which was formed by lava from the Mount Hypipamee area, just a few kilometres away.
The waterfall itself is a wide, plunging waterfall that tumbles into a deep, man-made swimming pool. This is one of the most artificial freshwater swimming spots and waterfalls in Cairns and the surrounding Tablelands. However, the surrounding rainforest and delicate charm of Malanda Village make it seem like more of a hidden, local gem than a commercial establishment. In fact, swimming here is free, and you’ll often find many locals and visitors basking on the pool edges and admiring the waterfall.
20. Windin Falls
Perhaps one of the most “insta-worthy” waterfalls in Cairns, Windin Falls has to be seen to be believed. After a relatively easy, 1.5 hour hike in the Wooroonooran National Park, the Windin Falls track finishes at the top of the waterfall.
From the top of the falls, you’ll get one of the best views in Cairns and the surrounding National Parks as you look down the Jurassic valley.
There is also an infinity pool at the edge of the waterfall, where on calm days, you can swim and enjoy the otherwordly view.
Tip: visit for sunrise for the best views of the valley below the waterfall.
DIRECTIONS AND PHOTOS: WINDIN FALLS, WATERFALL AND HIKING GUIDE
21. Souita Falls
Probably one of the most off-the-beaten-path waterfalls, Souita Falls is a two-tiered cascading waterfall in a small pocket of rainforest located behind rural farmland in the Tablelands.
Souita Falls is probably one of the least-known and therefore least-visited waterfall near Cairns and the surrounding Tablelands. If you’re up for a quick walk to some secluded waterfalls with a bonus chance of spotting a wild platypus, put this one in your Cairns waterfall chasing day trips!
CONTINUE READING: SOUITA WATERFALL GUIDE
22. Big Millstream Falls
The next two waterfalls run on “The Millstream”, a watercourse carved through ancient lava flows. Big Millstream Falls was in my opinion one of the most underrated waterfalls near Cairns and actually holds the title of “Australia’s Widest Single-Drop Waterfall”.
Access to the waterfall is on a short, sealed track leading to a lookout point above the falls. Unfortunately, there is no access to the base of the falls, which means although it looks perfect for swimming, you can’t actually do. so.
FULL POST: BIG MILLSTREAM AND LITTLE MILLSTREAM FALLS
23. Little Millstream Falls
Little Millstream Falls is the second waterfall on this waterfall and is smaller than its bigger brother. However, don’t let the name deceive you. This waterfall is actually a trio of solid cascading flows, with a very wide and deep swimming hole underneath.
Unlike Big Millstream, there is access to the. base of these falls, where you can swim or go platypus spotting.
Best Time to Visit Waterfalls Near Cairns
You might be wondering, “what’s a good time to visit the best waterfalls in Cairns?” The answer is that many of these waterfalls are great for visiting year-round. However, many of the falls will vary in terms of strength and flow at different times of the year.
It’s important to know that unlike the southern regions of Australia, Cairns has two seasons; wet and dry.
Dry Season: April to November
During this time, the weather is usually dry and warm, averaging around 26-28 degrees Celcius. There isn’t much rainfall, meaning that some larger rain-fed waterfalls like Barron Falls might be reduced to more of a trickle.
However, you’ll be excused if you initially thought that all the waterfalls weren’t flowing well in the dry season. I’ve visited many of these waterfalls in both the dry and the wet seasons. As you can see from the photos, most of the waterfalls still had great flow in the drier months. This is because many of the rainforest peaks surrounding Cairns generate clouds and remain wet through a phenomenon known as “perpetual rainforest”. Due to the rugged terrain around Cairns and the Far North, water is funneled through ancient creek systems which are often the source of many of these waterfalls.
So, while it might not be raining around Cairns, you can still expect to find healthy, flowing waterfalls!
Wet Season: December to March
During these hot and wet summer months, Cairns sees tropical rainfall almost daily. This results in some pretty powerful waterfall flows. The wet season is a great time to check out the larger waterfalls to see them at their best. However, swimming can be very dangerous due to quickly-changing conditions.
Cairns Accommodation Guide – Where to Stay
Planning a trip to Cairns and wondering where to base yourself? Below I’ve listed some of the best options near Cairns CBD, which will be a good base if you’re planning to rent a car, jump on a reef tour to the islands, or inland Cairns waterfall and rainforest tours.
BEST BUDGET HOSTEL WITH A POOL FOR $19 A NIGHT – MAD MONKEY BACKPACKERS
The best budget backpacker option in Cairns is Mad Monkey Backpackers. This one has a swimming pool, AC, a complete kitchen and even free bike hire to take you around Cairns. There are also three locations across Cairns, but we thought that the village was the best.
BUDGET HOSTEL CLOSEST TO THE ESPLANADE FOR $26 A NIGHT – YHA CAIRNS CENTRAL HOSTEL
If you’re looking to stay close to Cairns center, then you can’t beat YHA Central. It’s only a 5-minute walk to the esplanade and situated right near pubs and supermarkets. There’s also a pool and two spas, with a free breakfast included.
SLEEP ON A BOAT IN CAIRNS HARBOUR – BOATEL CAIRNS
If you’re looking for a unique stay in Cairns, then you can’t get much more unusual than staying at a “boatel”. It’s located 1 KM from Cairns and only a 6-minute walk from Cairns Rainforest Dome. The boat has free WiFi, AC, a bar and even a TV in the room.
AIRBNB near Cairns
Another great option for places to stay near Cairns is to use Airbnb. This is the best option for larger groups, or if you want to live like a local for a while. You can use this link. to get a free $76 AUD voucher on me.
MORE PHOTOS OF THE BEST WATERFALLS IN CAIRNS AND SURROUNDS
Looking for more photos to inspire your Cairns waterfall trips? Here are some photos that I snapped during my Cairns adventures. If you find any more epic waterfalls that are worthy of a mention, let me know in the comments.
More Cairns Travel Guides and Blogs
I hope that this comprehensive guide to the best waterfalls in Cairns and surrounds has been useful in planning your adventures in tropical Far North Queensland! After seeing so many amazing waterfalls in the Cairns area, you might also want to explore more of Queensland. Our mates at Spaceships have created a great, free guide for roadtripping in Queensland (things to do, see and more).
For more travel guides, inspiration and things to do and see, take a pick from my other articles in the list below. Alternatively, why not start with this mega-guide to the Best Things to do in Cairns. Alternatively, if you’re keen to check out the reef and islands, check out this guide to the Best 5 Islands Off Cairns.
Enjoy and stay adventurous!
MY CAMERA AND PHOTOGRAPHY EQUIPMENT
For a list of all my camera, hiking, and backpacking gear and where to find them at the best prices, visit my shop.
Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means We Seek Travel may be compensated if you click on them. However, I value my readers and only recommend products, tours, or experiences that I personally recommend.
PIN IT FOR LATER
Why not save this guide to the 17 Best Waterfalls Cairns for later? While you’re at it, if you follow We Seek Travel on Pinterest, then you’ll be able to stay in the loop with all the new travel guides and blogs.