The Cardwell Spa Pools has long been a local’s favourite swimming hole but is quickly becoming a must-visit natural attraction in Far North Queensland. A complete guide to visiting that includes everything you need to know!
Cardwell Spa Pools is a naturally flowing, seasonal creek located on Cardwell Forest Drive, just a few minutes from the highway town of Cardwell. But, what’s so special about it?
It’s no secret that it’s the unique tropical colour of the water that attracts the crowds. These deep, turquoise pools within the dry eucalypt forest are a true oasis that begs to be photographed and make for a great place to swim.
If you’re making your way along the East Coast of Far North Queensland, make sure you add the Cardwell Spa Pools to the list of things to do. Here’s my complete guide to getting to the pools that should answer any questions you might have, with tips on when to visit to get the best blue colour based on my experience visiting the pools.
- Where are the Cardwell Spa Pools?
- What to Expect at the Cardwell Spa Pools
- Why Is the Cardwell Spa Pool Blue?
- Cardwell Spa Pools in the Dry Season
- My Tips For Making the Most of Your Visit
- FAQ About Visiting the Pools in Cardwell
- Where to Stay Near Cardwell
- More Far North Queensland “Must-Visits”
I'm Olly, a full-time traveler for the past 5 years. I visit every destination I write about & handpick all recommendations.
Where are the Cardwell Spa Pools?
The Cardwell blue pools are located on Cardwell Forest Drive, just 7 kilometres from the Cardwell township. Cardwell is pretty much the halfway point from Townsville to Cairns, situated approximately 180 kilometres from Cairns and 165 km from Townsville.
How to Get to the Cardwell Spa Pools
To get here, you'll need to first make your way to Cardwell on the Bruce Highway. The pools are located on Cardwell Forest Drive, which is an unsealed loop with access points from the Cardwell Golf Club and just further north on Ellerbeck Road.
Once you've made your way to the start of Forest Drive, you'll just need to follow the road until you see the small, almost hidden parking area.
- Google Maps Pin: "Cardwell Spa Pool"
Although the road is unsealed, it's well-graded and you can access the Cardwell Spa Pools with a regular 2WD sedan or hatchback. Though, if you'd rather avoid the unsealed roads, take the northern access on Ellerbeck Road (see map below) since this drive will be shorter.
You can use Google Maps to help you navigate; the pin is accurate and this is what I did to easily navigate to the car park.
Cardwell Spa Pools Map
Below I've included a map that is useful for getting to the Cardwell Spa Pools. Also, it includes some more creeks and lookouts if you're keen on exploring more of the area.
What to Expect at the Cardwell Spa Pools
Once you arrive at the small, dirt car park, you're pretty much already at the pools. Nope, there's no hike required to get here.
Parking your car is also free, and there is enough room for a handful of cars.
Almost immediately, you'll notice the unique turquoise or almost aqua tint of the water. The entire scene didn't really feel like it belonged in the dry forest landscapes of Cardwell– perhaps that's part of the charm.
There is a man-made stack of rocks that forms the "spa", as well as a tree stump that makes a perfect jumping platform into the deep, blue pools.
Unfortunately, there isn't much room to bask around the edges of the pool. However, you can walk a little further upstream, though the water level is much lower here.
I also noticed that this is some sort of breeding ground for cane toads! I saw thousands of cane toad tadpoles in the pools. It's quite disappointing since I wouldn't imagine it would be a huge effort to remove them.
If you haven't considered visiting the area, I'd highly recommend it! This unique swimming spot is just the tip of the iceberg - The Cassowary Coast and Hinchinbrook are one of the wildest places in Australia! You'll also find Australia's tallest waterfall hidden just a short drive away!
Why Is the Cardwell Spa Pool Blue?
You know what, I was wondering the same thing. Apparently, the Cardwell Spa Pools get their unique blue colour from the chemistry of the rocks and water.
The source of the creek's flow is mostly underground deposits, which are rich in minerals such as magnesium and calcium. This leads to the unique blue tint of the pools which, can range from turquoise to a milky-baby-blue, depending on the available light.
Don't Miss: Babinda Boulders (near Cairns)
Cardwell Spa Pools in the Dry Season
Although I've visited these pools several times and never seen them dry up, I've read many reports from other travellers saying that this isn't the best spot to visit when there hasn't been any rain.
It's hard to predict whether or not the pools will be full. However, here is a photo from Jake Richards, a visitor who uploaded a photo in September after no rainfall.
As you can see, the jacuzzi is all dried up, making this not a great place to swim. Although I've never seen it like this, this is a good representation of what it may look like.
Therefore, it's important to time your visit. While the pools can dry up in the wet season, the dry season can result in too much water which can cause the pools to flood. Locals call this the “Bubbling Spa” effect when the water rushes over the rocks in the manmade jacuzzi.
My Tips For Making the Most of Your Visit
Here are some useful tips to help you make the most of a visit to his amazing natural attraction.
- As with any naturally flowing water source, you'll want to be mindful of the weather, especially during the Wet Season. Heavy rainfall can quickly alter the flow. However, after visiting a few times in the dry season, the pools were always really calm and good for swimming, though they are known to get stagnant and dry up.
- Visit during weekdays to avoid the crowds. This is a local swimming spot but I've noticed people driving all the way from Cairns and Townsville just to swim here!
- This is a small pool, so even when there are 3-4 people here it can feel busy. I recommend visiting in the early morning to have it to yourself.
- The rocks are a little slippery, especially after people have been jumping in and wetting them. So, be careful when walking around.
- Bring a camera to get photos of the blue pools. I recommend a polarizing filter to get the clearest shots and reduce the glare.
- No, the water doesn't "bubble" like a real spa but it can look like it in the wet season when the water rushes over the rocks.
FAQ About Visiting the Pools in Cardwell
Yes. The pools are located within the Cardwell Forest Reserves and do not have a National Park designation. Therefore, you can bring your four-legged pets. However, make sure to be responsible as platypus and other forms of wildlife call this place home.
The water level at the Cardwell Spa Pools varies from season to season and after heavy downpours. In fact, in the dry season, the pools often completely dry up! During the wet season, or if there's been a bit of rain lately, you'll expect the depth to be more than 2 metres near the tree stump but much shallower upstream.
Being a seasonal creek, the best time to visit the Cardwell Spa Pools is between May and September. In the wet season, heavy rainfall can cause the creek to overflow. However, during the dry season, as mentioned, it can completely dry out if there hasn't been any rain so you'll need to check.
This is a free natural attraction with no amenities or official facilities, besides a small, free car parking area. There are no public toilets or bins, so take your rubbish with you please.
Camping Near the Cardwell Spa Pools
There isn't a designated camping spot in the Cardwell Forest Reserve or along the drive. However, there are several great spots in the vicinity.
A few waterfall camping highlights nearby are Murray Falls and Blencoe Falls.
More Far North Queensland "Must-Visits"
I hope you enjoyed this quick guide to visiting the famous Cardwell Spa Pools in Far North Queensland, Australia. Below, I've included some links to more articles I've written about epic things to do in the region. Enjoy!
- 60+ Things to do in Cairns - my ultimate Cairns and FNQ travel resource covering the best activities, hidden gems, and unmissable experiences.
- Cairns Tours - my roundup of the best tours you can book in Cairns and FNQ, from the Great Barrier Reef to the Daintree Rainforest.
- Cairns Packing List - tips on what to pack for a trip to Far North Queensland.
- Top Things to Do in Port Douglas - a comprehensive guide to the sleepy Far North Queensland town of Port Douglas.
- Epic 5-Day Cairns Itinerary - my suggested adventure itinerary if you only have 5 days to spend in Cairns.
- Cape Tribulation Travel Guide - discover where the rainforest meets the reef at one of my favourite places in Australia.
- Cairns Hiking Guide - a huge list of epic rainforest, waterfall, and lookout hikes in Cairns.
- Cairns Waterfalls - a huge list of epic waterfalls that I've visited in Cairns and the surrounding tropics.
- Cairns Islands - discover my favorite Great Barrier Reef islands near Cairns and Port Douglas.
- Magnetic Island Travel Guide - your ultimate resource for visiting "Maggie" near Townsville.
- Best Things to do in the Atherton Tablelands - my guide to one of Far North Queensland's most underrated adventure destinations.
- Accommodation Resources: Discover where to stay in Cairns, the best hotels in Port Douglas and my Cape Tribulation accommodation guide.