The Cardwell Spa Pools has long been a local-favourite swimming hole but is now considered a must-visit destination 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 the Cardwell Forest Drive, just a few minutes from the highway town. 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.
If you’re making your way along the East Coast, 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!
Where is Cardwell Spa Pools?
The Cardwell Spa Pools are located on the 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 from Townsville.
How to Get Here
To get here, you’ll need to first make your way to Cardwell on the Bruce Highway. The pools are located on the 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 the Forest Drive, you’ll just need to follow the road until you see the small, almost hidden parking area.
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.
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.
Almost immediately, you’ll notice the unique turquoise or almost aqua tint of the water. The entire scene didn’t really feel like it belongs 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.
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 Are the Cardwell Spa Pools 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.
Tips for an Epic Tropical North Queensland Trip
Finding Good Deals on Accommodation
Whether you’re looking for hostels, hotels, guest houses, or resorts between Booking.com and Agoda, you’ll always get the best deals. I always search using the map feature to find accommodation in the best locations. Sometimes, if I want to stay in a place a little longer, I’ll use Airbnb.
TIP: For the best hostels, I usually compare reviews on Hostelworld, then check other booking sites to compare prices and deals.
Where to Get Deals on Tours and Transport
You already know that I prefer independent travel. In saying that, sometimes the best and cheapest way to get things done is to just book a tour or package. For Australia, I always use Klook, Viator and Get Your Guide.
Finding a Car in Australia
Having a car or camper is the best way to travel Australia. You can compare rental car deals on RentalCars.com, or use Gumtree, Facebook Marketplace and CarSales to purchase a car for longer trips.
Don’t Forget Adventure Travel Insurance
If you’re reading this blog then you’re more likely to be seeking epic cairns adventures over poolside sips. By far, my two favorite companies for the most comprehensive adventure travel insurance is World Nomads and SafetyWing. If you’re on the fence, you can read the comparison article.
Are dogs allowed at the Cardwell Spa Pools?
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.
What is the water level and depth like?
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.
When is the best time to visit the pools?
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.
Where to Stay Near Cardwell
If you’d like to stay in Cardwell, a great option with good reviews is the Kookaburra Holiday Park.
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!
MY CAMERA AND PHOTOGRAPHY EQUIPMENT
- Mirrorless Camera: Canon R5
- Drone: DJI Mavic Pro 2
- 360 Action Camera: Insta360 One X2
- Landscape Lens: Canon RF 15-35mm f/2.8L
- All-Round Lens: Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L
- Telephoto Lens: Canon RF 100-500mm f/f/4.5-7.1 L
- Long Action Pole: Insta360 Invisible Pole (BulletTime)
- Landscape Lens Filter: Hoya Circular Polarizer
- Camera Backpack: F-Stop Tilopa
- Favorite Photography Accessory: Peak Design Capture Clip
For a list of all my recommended photography gear (including what I use and why) check out my guide to camera gear for travel.
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