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33 Incredible Waterfalls In Cairns to Visit in 2023

33 Incredible Waterfalls In Cairns to Visit in 2023

A complete guide to the absolute best waterfalls in Cairns and surrounding Tropical North Queensland. Includes everything you need to plan epic Cairns waterfall-chasing adventures!

Located between the World Heritage Listed Wet Tropics and the incredible Coral Coast and Great Barrier Reef, there are so many epic things to do in Cairns for adventure travellers.

If you’re not on the beach or snorkelling at the Cairns island reefs, then you want to head inland for some hiking and to explore the rainforest. I’ve spent close to a year exploring the abundant hiking trails, freshwater swimming holes, creeks, rivers and of course, over 30 epic waterfalls in the Cairns region!

In this list, I’ll feature a list of 33 waterfalls that I’ve visited along the coast of Cairns–from Innisfail to the Daintree, as well as many from the nearby Tablelands. All of these are accessible if you have your own transport and base yourself in Cairns or Port Douglas.

Additionally, in this list you’ll find links to my individual guides for each Cairns waterfall. Each guide features my photography and tips to help you plan and visit all of these epic cascades.

Olly Gaspar

I'm Olly, a full-time traveler for the past 5 years. I visit every destination I write about & handpick all recommendations.

Quick Answer: My Favorite Cairns Waterfall Trips

Basing yourself in Cairns and want to visit as many epic waterfalls as possible on a day trip? Below is a list of my favorite waterfall tours that you can book in advance.


1. Tablelands Waterfall Wilderness Tour Top Pick

Explore Atherton Tableland's majestic waterfalls & rainforest, visiting some of my favourites including Millaa Millaa & Josephine Falls.

Crystal Cascades waterfall and swimming hole near Cairns

2. Epic Waterfall Canyoning Trip

An epic canyoning & zip-line tour out of Cairns through Behana Gorge or the popular Crystal Canyons (Crystal Cascades).


3. Comprehensive Tablelands Waterfall Tour Budget

A comprehensive and cost-effective World Heritage Daintree Rainforest tour to Josephine Falls, Dinner Falls, and Millaa Millaa.

Cairns Waterfall Map

While the above tour options offer a good starting point for exploring the epic Cairns waterfalls, the truth is that there are so many hidden gems here that you'll need a bit more time to see them all. To help you out, I've made the below map and pinned the waterfalls into different colour groups based on their location in relation to Cairns. These include:

  • Green: Port Douglas
  • Yellow: Close to Cairns Town
  • Blue: Tablelands
  • Red: South of Cairns

This should help you plan day trips and itineraries for chasing all of these waterfalls in Tropical North Queensland.

cairns waterfall map

Waterfall tip: Click on the Cairns waterfall map above and it will load on your Google Maps app. You can save it by clicking the grey star at the top, which will add it to "Your Places" on your Google Maps account. This way, you have a handy digital app on the go with all the waterfall locations pinned– just refer back to this article (or bookmark it) for the explanations!

The Best Waterfalls in Cairns & Tropical North Queensland

With some of the logistics and planning out of the way, let's dive right into my list of the 33 best waterfalls in and surrounding Cairns!

Whether you're looking for the perfect spot to cool down or you want to snap some pictures of a tropical waterfall at the end of a rainforest hike, the below list will have you covered.

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 near Cairns and the surrounding Wet Tropics Area.

I've visited this waterfall at least a dozen times, and have always had a different experience depending on how much rain there's been. This varies by season.

However, to see this waterfall in full force, I recommend visiting in the wet season if you have the choice. Otherwise, while the wet season might produce a more powerful waterfall, I'd still recommend a visit in the drier months too because the lookout over the gorge is spectacular.

Get to Barron Falls: Scenic Rail & Skyrail Combo

To make the most of this experience, you might want to book a complete self-guided day tour via the Skyrail & Cairns Scenic Rail in the link above. This includes pickup, a ticket to the Scenic Railway and the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway, which takes you to what I consider the best views of Barron Falls at the Edge Lookout.

Barron Falls from the Edge Lookout
Barron falls in the wet season
Visiting Barron Falls in the wet season is an amazing experience

2. The Crystal Cascades

In terms of distance to Cairns, Crystal Cascades is one of the closest on my list. This is one of the first waterfalls that I visited when I first got to Cairns in 2020 and I still make a visit every time I come back.

At the end of a short sealed walk, you'll find a decently-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, I've always seen it pretty busy. I'd say this is still one of the most popular waterfalls near Cairns.

To get here, it's only a short 30-minute drive from Cairns CBD. If it's a quick freshwater swim you're looking for, then this might be a good choice for you.

The Crystal Cascades waterfall

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.

I was told about Fairy Falls by a local when I asked what the small, unmarked trail leading out from the Crystal Cascades parking area was. It might not be the biggest waterfall in Cairns, but it's still a pretty epic little cascade that's great for escaping the crowds, since not many people know about it!

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.

Fairy Falls in Cairns
Fairy Falls Waterfall

5. Old Weir 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 looking for a place to cool down in the rainforest.

There is a wide and deep swimming hole only 5 minutes from the car park. However, it's also possible to continue for roughly 25 minutes up the sealed rainforest track to Old Weir Falls, a larger and more impressive waterfall.

Old Weir Falls

5. Stoney Creek Falls

Further up along Stoney Creek is the famous waterfall flowing behind the Scenic Rail up on the Smith's Track near Kuranda– Stoney Creek Falls.

Getting to this waterfall involves taking the short track along the Glacier Rock trail and then darting into the rainforest and rock hopping your way up to the ridge along the Scenic Rail tracks.

At the top, you'll see a huge, multi-tiered waterfall flowing behind the railway tracks. There's a deep pool at the bottom of the falls for swimming. After our visit, we decided to explore the creek, heading down off the trail where we found 5 more small unnamed cascades!

Stoney Creek Falls near Cairns

6. Isabella Falls

Isabella Falls is a secret little waterfall hidden at the back of a local suburb in Cairns.

A short, 20-minute rainforest track leads to a tall and secluded waterfall halfway 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, I found several stops at swimming holes and smaller, cascading waterfalls too. So, a trip to Isabella Falls is definitely worth it if you are chasing something close to town!

Top-level at Isabella Falls

7. Clamshell Falls

Clamshell Falls is a waterfall located at the end of the Behana Gorge Waterfall Track in the Wooroonooran National Park just south of Cairns. The walking track follows a large catchment water pipe along sealed ground. The Behana Gorge is very scenic with plenty of photo-worthy lookouts along the way.

The main waterfall, Clamshell Falls, is located right next to the Behana Gorge catchment, which supplies water to many Cairns suburbs. Don't worry though, you can still get to the waterfall and swim in the many natural rock pools along the way. Only the main catchment area is fenced off.

Check out: Behana Gorge Canyoneering Trip from Cairns

Clamshell Falls
Grayl Water Filter Bottle

Tip: Use This Water Filter for Clean Drinking Water

Enter the Grayl GeoPress Water Filter & Purifier Bottle! I take this bottle on every hike and use it as my go-to source for filtering water all over the world. I've even used it to drink tap water in India!

Compare how the GeoPress stacks up against the best water bottle filters on the market.

8. Babinda Boulders and Devils Pools

While not technically a typical waterfall destination, I've included Babinda Boulders & Devil's Pools on this list because they offer another excellent freshwater swimming location with a small cascade near Cairns.

While it's mostly considered a creek, Devils Pools also has a small waterfall, fed by the fast-flowing waters from the Bellenden Ker Range's foothills.

Babinda Boulders has beautiful, clear-flowing waters surrounded by tropical rainforest trees and plants.. While Babinda Boulders is a popular swimming spot, many advise against swimming at Devil's Pools since several deaths have unfortunately occurred here.

Devils Pools near Babinda Boulders

9. Josephine Falls

Next up on the list of the top waterfalls in Cairns for swimming and is definitely 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.

This waterfall is quite popular thanks to its cool natural waterfall slide and deep swimming holes. It's also very easy to access via a short walk from the car park. I recommend visiting early, or avoiding weekends, since this one can get packed, especially on a hot day!

What's really great about this waterfall is that it has the best and clearest freshwater swimming areas near Cairns.

Book: Josephine Falls Full Day Tour from Cairns

Josephine Falls

10. Millaa Millaa Falls

Millaa Millaa Falls is probably on the top of most lists of the top waterfalls in Cairns. It's certainly a very popular waterfall and lives up to that fame too.

The single-drop, plunging waterfall lies in a hidden rainforest oasis that really makes it feel like it belongs in a fairytale. 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.

Best Price Online: Bus Tour to Millaa Millaa

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 drive, I'd definitely recommend the visit as it's truly one of the Far North's most epic locations.

Millaa Millaa Falls
Car in the rainforest near Cairns

Car Rentals in Far North Queensland

Cairns is one of the most popular travel destinations in Australia and car rentals quickly book out!

I've missed out on cars before & recommend booking well in advance. I always use DiscoverCars as they compare the widest range of rentals across dealerships in the Far North.

11. 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. Every time I've come here, I've had the entire waterfall to myself!

Another single-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.

Zillie Falls

12. 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 man-made 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 reasonably wide freshwater pool.

There is also a ledge behind Ellinjaa Falls which you can climb onto to sit behind the falls.

I've noticed that Ellinjaa is a little more popular than Zillie, but still nowhere near as crowded as Millaa Millaa Falls.

Ellinjaa Falls

13. Nandroya Falls

Nandroya Falls has to be one of the best waterfalls in Cairns in terms of natural beauty. A trip to Nandroya Falls will offer an incredible rainforest hike as well as two incredible waterfalls in one trip.

Nandroya Falls is located in the Wooroonooran National Park, approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes from Cairns CBD. 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. I recommend visiting Millaa Millaa early to beat the crowds, then make a trip to Nandroya on the way back through the National Park.

Nandroya Falls

14. Silver Creek Falls

Silver Creek Falls isn't the most spectacular out of all these epic Cairns waterfalls. However, I'll include it on the list because you'll get to see 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, at least.

Silver Creek Falls

15. Tchupala Falls

Located around the bend from the Nandroya Falls hike is a pair of incredible waterfalls called Tchupala Falls & Wallicher Falls 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 hike to. Unfortunately, the lower levels have been closed due to being classed as too dangerous.

Tchupala Falls Upper Level

16. 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.

Wallicher Falls

17. 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 rock face.

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.

Mungalli Falls

18. Cannabullen Falls

Cannabullen Falls is an epic 70-metre waterfall located deep in the Misty Mountains of the Wooroonooran National Park. Getting here requires a bit of a drive and a long hike. However, let me tell you that the view from the top of the waterfall is absolutely worth it!

Also, to add to the reward after the long journey, there are several impressive cascades just behind Cannabullen Falls waterfall to check out too.

I've climbed to the top of this waterfall (information on the link above), but it is also possible to reach the base via a separate hiking trail.

Top of Cannabullen Falls

19. Tully Falls

Once upon a time, Tully Falls was one of Queensland's largest waterfalls and a true Queensland icon. However, due to the upstream damming of the river, the once-mighty Tully Falls has been reduced to a mere trickle.

However, don't let this dissuade you from embarking on the long trip from Cairns. The Tully Gorge lookout atop where the falls once ran is now one of the most beautiful gorge lookouts in Australia.

Tully Gorge Lookout

20. Dinner Falls

Dinner Falls is a multi-tiered waterfall that sits high on the Tablelands at 900 m above sea-level, which is pretty high for Queensland! You'll find this small cascade 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 70 m deep!

Dinner Falls Cairns, waterfall circuit loop
Dinner Falls

21. Emerald Creek Falls

On the other side of the thick Wet Tropics National Parks, you'll find some more epic Cairns waterfalls and Emerald Creek Falls is one of the best if you want a deep swimming hole.

Compared to the other waterfalls on this list, Emerald Creek Falls differs in terms of scenery and flora. Instead of a 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 for getting a quick swim in.

Getting here is pretty straightforward and involves a short but scenic walk up to the main swimming area and waterfall. However, Google Maps tends to take people down the wrong road. Therefore, I'd recommend reading my full blog post linked above for exact directions and to avoid getting lost like I did the first time.

Emerald Creek Falls

22. Davies Creek Falls

Davies Creek Falls is another waterfall close by 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 including the epic Kahlpahlim Rock hike. 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.

Davies Creek Falls Top Viewpoint

23. Malanda Falls

Located on the outskirts of the quaint, Malanda Village near the popular Curtain Fig Tree 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.

Malanda Falls Waterfall
Malanda Falls

24. 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 an epic overflowing 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 otherworldly view. Just be careful of the steep drop!

Tip: visit for sunrise for the best views of the valley below the waterfall.

Top of Windin Falls Cairns
Windin Falls Lookout
Windn Falls Cairns

Waterfall in the Daintree: Alexandra Falls, Daintree National Park (Cape Tribulation)

25. West Mulgrave Falls

West Mulgrave Falls is perhaps one of the most underrated, or perhaps unacknowledged waterfalls near Cairns. I discovered this one on an old map when looking for new hiking trails in the Tablelands.

This incredible cascading waterfall plunges into a deep, crystal-clear freshwater swimming pool in the middle of the rainforest.

However, getting to West Mulgrave Falls involves a long and difficult trek through dense rainforest terrain. I've noticed recently that it is quite overgrown and that the track is not well-marked, so you will need some experience in the bush before embarking on this epic waterfall hike.

West Mulgrave Falls

26. Spring Creek Falls

Spring Creek Falls, also known as "Black Rock Waterfalls" is a unique set of waterfalls located within the Mowbray Valley just north of Cairns near Port Douglas. Getting here involves a scenic, yet lengthy boulder and rock-skipping journey up the Mowbray Valley.

The main waterfall is by far the largest and marks the end of the line. It's also a great way to cool off in the serenity of the National Park. Best of all, chances are you'll have it all to yourself, at least I did!

Spring Creek Falls

27. Hartley's Creek Falls

Hartley's Creek is well-known in Cairns for the popular tourist attraction: Hartley's Crocodile Adventures. Don't worry, though; there are no crocodiles at Hartley's Creek Falls! This waterfall hike is a popular walk due to the proximity to Cairns' Northern Suburbs.

At the waterfall, you'll find a wide and deep freshwater swimming hole and a tall cascade gushing down the cliff face above. Furthermore, there are multiple more freshwater swimming holes along the track where you can stop en route to Hartley's Creek Falls.

Hartley's Creek Falls

28. Souita Falls

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. This is definitely a hidden gem!

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, then put this one in your Cairns waterfall-chasing day trips!

Souita Falls

29. 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" according to the team at Queensland Parks.

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. However, I enjoyed a great view from the short lookout point above the falls.

Read More: Big Millstream & Little Millstream Falls

Big Millstream Falls

30. 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 vast, deep swimming hole underneath.

Unlike Big Millstream, there is access to the base of these falls, where you can swim or go platypus spotting. In my opinion, Little Millstream falls is more scenic than Big Millstream falls due to the several cascades around the deep pool. However, since they're so close together, you can always visit both!

Little Millstream Falls

31. Mena Creek Falls

Mena Creek Falls lies beside the tourist attraction of Paronella Park within a small country town on the Cassowary Coast, roughly 105 km south of Cairns.

This quaint little waterfall gets its fame from the adjacent castle, built by José Paronella in the 1930s. According to the story, José’s dream was to build a castle after emigrating to Australia in the early 1900s from Spain to work the cane farms.

While Paronella Park requires an entry ticket, you can check out Mena Waterfall for free at the viewing platform below the falls. However, don't get too excited about swimming here as there are croc warning signs everywhere!

Entry Ticket: Paronella Park Entry Ticket - an epic castle!

Mena Creek Falls

32. Wankaroo Falls

Wankaroo Falls isn’t listed in any hiking guidebooks or tourist information sheets. It’s very much a hidden gem, and a waterfall you’ll likely have all to yourself if you make the effort to find it.

This 35-metre single-drop waterfall lies deep in the Wooronooran National Park and boasts a beautiful, deep rainforest pool. The trail is unmarked, meaning I would only recommend this waterfall mission for those with a fair bit of experience hiking in Far North Queensland!

Wankaroo Falls, Wooroonooran National Park

33. Wallaman Falls - Australia's Tallest Waterfall

Okay, Wallaman Falls isn't exactly a "Cairns waterfall". While it does take about 3.5 hours to get here from Cairns, I feel it still deserves a spot on this list since it's easily Far North Queensland's most impressive waterfall.

In saying that, maybe even the best in Australia— it is already ranked as the biggest single drop waterfall in Australia and one of the most significant falls by GeoScience Australia!

For those visiting Cairns on a road trip or if you're a Cairns local planning a trip south to Mission Beach or Townsville, add Australia's tallest waterfall to the list— Wallaman Falls!

Wallaman Falls

Cairns Accommodation Guide – Where to Stay

Visiting Cairns? The best places to stay are near the Cairns Esplanade or on the sunny Northern Beaches. Below are the top 4 options for varying budgets.

Alternatively, check out my Port Douglas accommodation guide for more ideas on where to stay in Far North Queensland.

girl sunbathing at Crystalbrook Riley resort in Cairns

1. Crystalbrook Riley Luxury

If luxury and location are what you're after, you can't beat this 5-star resort right in the heart of Cairns Esplanade.


2. Fitzroy Island Resort Mid-Range

Sleep out on one of the picturesque Great Barrier Reef Islands! Staying at Fitzroy often works out cheaper than staying in town & means you get more time to explore the reef, beaches, and rainforest walking trails.


3. Gilligan's Backpackers Budget

The best backpacker option for a great vibe in Cairns. Great place to meet like-minded travelers & features a pool, air-con rooms, a huge shared kitchen, & a great common area.


4. Pepper's Beach Club Palm Cove

Stay at the best beach resort in the heart of Palm Cove on Cairns's Northern Beaches!

Tips & Resources For Visiting Waterfalls in Cairns

That wraps up the list of the best waterfalls in Cairns and the surrounding Tropical North! As mentioned, I've also included this brief visitor's guide to Cairns waterfalls based on my experience in the region.

This should help out travellers plan their trips and adventures in Australia's adventure capital!

1. How to Get to the Different Waterfalls in Cairns

By far, the best way to explore Cairns and the Tropical North is to rent or bring your own car.

While I understand that that won't be possible for everyone, you simply will be very limited if you don't.

So, if you're keen on checking out some epic Cairns waterfalls, I suggest renting a car.

The best way to compare prices for rental deals is to use DiscoverCars, which is similar to Skyscanner, comparing and listing deals for cars based on your travel time and budget.

rental van in cairns

2. The Best Time to Visit Waterfalls in Cairns

Many of the waterfalls in Cairns are great for visiting year-round. However, several 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, even in the drier months. This is because many of the rainforest peaks surrounding Cairns generate clouds and remain wet through a phenomenon known as a "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 Fairy Falls

3. Packing List for Cairns Waterfall Adventures

Here are some must-have items when hitting the trails to some of Cairns' best waterfalls!

  • Dry bag to keep your valuables dry
  • Mosquito and leech repellent
  • A phone with reception or downloaded maps
  • Quick-dry towel
  • Swimmers, of course!

FAQ About Visiting Cairns' Waterfalls

What are the must-visit waterfalls in Cairns?

The must-visit waterfalls in Cairns that are easily accessible for most include Millaa Millaa Falls, Josephine Falls, and Barron Falls. Each offers unique natural beauty and excellent photo opportunities. If you're feeling adventurous, check out Windin Falls, a drop I always recommend to other travellers!

Is it safe to swim in Cairns' waterfalls and swimming holes?

Many waterfalls in Cairns have designated swimming areas. However, always read and follow posted signs and guidelines and remember to be croc wise.

Do I need a guide to explore these waterfalls?

A guide is not strictly necessary for any waterfalls or to explore any National Park in Far North Queensland. There are also no entrance fees to any of the waterfalls or parks. However, jumping on a tour with a local guide can enhance your experience by providing unique insights.

What are the easy access waterfalls close to Cairns?

In my opinion, the Crystal Cascades is the easiest waterfall to access from the city of Cairns if you have your own car. However, due to the lack of public transport to the cascades, you might want to check out Stoney Creek instead.

What is the famous waterfall slide near Cairns?

This is Josephine Falls and its easy to access once you get there, although it is at least one hour drive from Cairns. The best option is to book this Atherton Tablelands tour if you don't have your own car.

Plan a Trip to Cairns

Still in the planning stages of your trip to Cairns and the Tropical North? Here's a quick list of essential travel resources that I use to plan and book all my travels around the world independently.

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Flights: Find & compare flight deals to Cairns International Airport using Skyscanner. Use the "search by month" feature to discover the cheapest day to fly.

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Hotels: Travelers will find the best hotel deals in Cairns and Port Douglas by booking online on or Expedia. I recommend using the map feature to find the best places to stay.

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Hostels: When it comes to scoring epic deals on hostels and cheap stays your secret weapon is Hostelworld. If you're traveling to Cairns to meet people, use the “See Who's Going” function.

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Travel Insurance: HeyMondo is my top recommendation for travel insurance for Cairns and the Wet Tropics. They've got your back with comprehensive coverage, from unexpected flight hiccups to those "oops" moments. Click the link to get 5% OFF your policy.

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Internet & Connectivity: Stay connected as soon as you land in Queensland with Airalo's eSIMS. Aussie sims will work. But if you're coming from overseas, I'd download their app and grab an eSIM before you set foot on Australian soil.

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Tours & Unique Experiences: Use GetYourGuide and Viator to plan ahead and lock in those must-see experiences & tours in Cairns. So, whether you're exploring the Great Barrier Reef or the Daintree Rainforest, these two sites have got you covered.

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Car Rental: Don't overpay for a rental at the airport. Compare rental car prices across all dealerships in Cairns and Port Douglas. Use DiscoverCars to choose the perfect ride for your journey, whether it's a compact car or an SUV for off-road adventures.

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Transportation: Public transport is limited to the natural attractions around Cairns and its best to use tour companies or rent a car. However, if you're arriving at the airport, or need a transfer between Cairns and Port Douglas, use the popular Cairns & Port Douglas shuttle.

To learn more about independent travel to anywhere else in the world, read my ultimate step-by-step guide on how to plan a trip.

More Cairns & FNQ Travel Guides

I hope that this comprehensive guide to the best waterfalls in Cairns and its surrounds has been useful in planning your waterfall-chasing adventures in tropical Far North Queensland!

For more travel guides, inspiration and things to do and see, take a pick from my other articles in the list below. If you have any questions or any recommendations for waterfalls that you think I should visit and add to my list, contact me and let me know, or drop a comment in the form below.

Cairns Waterfalls


Friday 16th of July 2021

Thanks for these guides I’ve been using this one and the hiking one as a reference while I’m here and they’ve been so useful

Olly Gaspar

Sunday 18th of July 2021

No worries Javan, hope you're enjoying TNQ


Wednesday 30th of June 2021

Thanks so much for the comprehensive and detailed guide!

Olly Gaspar

Thursday 1st of July 2021

No problem, enjoy the epic waterfalls around Cairns


Saturday 22nd of May 2021

Amazing guide. Very thorough and super instigating...can't wait to hit this trip to Cairns!

Olly Gaspar

Saturday 22nd of May 2021

Thanks Deb, you'll love it!


Tuesday 18th of May 2021

Excellent guide, thank you

Olly Gaspar

Tuesday 18th of May 2021

No problem I'm glad it was useful!