The Crystal Cascades is perhaps one of the most famous of all the swimming holes near Cairns. It features several points along the stream for swimming, as well as a nice waterfall at the end. Discover this complete guide to visiting the Crystal Cascades in Cairns, Australia.
The Crystal Cascades is a series of freshwater waterfalls located a short 25-minute drive from Cairns. There are several refreshing swimming holes that make for an incredible way to cool off in the hot tropical North Queensland climate.
This is a complete guide to visiting the iconic Cascades from Cairns. I’ve included information on how to get here, what to expect, as well as some inspiring photos from my trips.
- Where is the Crystal Cascades?
- How to Get to the Cascades From Cairns
- Walking the Crystal Cascades Track
- The Crystal Cascades Waterfall
- What to Expect at the Crystal Cascades Cairns
- Cliff Jumping at the Crystal Cascades
- Before You Go: Don’t Miss The Nearby Fairy Falls
- More Photos of the Crystal Cascades to Inspire Your Visit
- More Cairns Adventure Articles & Travel Guides
Where is the Crystal Cascades?
The Crystal Cascades is a local name for the many swimming holes and waterfalls along "Freshwater Creek". This creek flows year-round since it is fed by Lake Morris and the many tributaries on the Lamb Range.
The cascades have a dedicated car park which is located approximately 18.7 kilometres from Cairns CBD.
- Google Maps Pin: "Crystal Cascades"
How to Get to the Cascades From Cairns
Although the Crystal Cascades is a very popular spot for locals, there aren't any public transport options heading here.
So, in order to get to Crystal Cascades, you're going to need a car. If you're coming from Cairns city, then it's only a short 25-minute drive past the back of Redlynch to the outskirts of the Barron Falls National Park.
I've pinned the Crystal Cascades location on the Google Map above. This will lead you to a large car park, where you'll need to leave your car before walking the Crystal Cascades trail.
If you don't have your own car, then the best option is to just book a canyoneering tour from Cairns. This is one of the best canyoneering experiences in Far North Queensland and runs up the "Crystal Canyon".
Nearby: Stoney Creek Falls
Car Rentals in Far North Queensland
Cairns is one of the most popular travel destinations in Australia and car rentals quickly book out! I recommend booking well in advance. I always use RentalCars.com as they compare the widest range of rentals across dealerships in the Far North.
Walking the Crystal Cascades Track
The Crystal Cascades walk is by no means a hiking trail. Realistically, it's more of just a short 1.2-kilometre stroll on a sealed bitumen road. This track picks up from the car park mentioned above and is well-signed and easy to spot.
While you might not need to bring your hiking boots, it's still an incredibly beautiful walk through tropical rainforest and passing fast-flowing rapids.
It'll only take you about 20 minutes to reach the end of the walk, where you'll get to see the main waterfall. However, there are many beautiful swimming spots downstream as you walk to the falls.
50+ More Cairns Bucketlist Items
- Visit the Cairns Islands
- Kuranda Railway & Skyrail
- Rusty's Markets
- Day trip to Cape Tribulation
- ... +51 more things to do in Cairns!
The Crystal Cascades Waterfall
The end of the line for the Crystal Cascades hiking trail is the main waterfall. This waterfall is really a series of smaller waterfalls flowing into a wide, deep pool. Officially, the name for this waterfall is Wongalee Falls.
There is access down to the waterfall, where you can relax on the large granite boulders and swim in the natural pool.
Rainforest trees hang over the edges of the waterfall and creek, which can help you cool down on a hot summer day in Cairns.
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What to Expect at the Crystal Cascades Cairns
Thinking of paying the Cascades a visit? If you're looking for things to do in Cairns, then I'd definitely recommend spending at least a day trip here.
While everything else seems so far away, this waterfall is probably one of the closest freshwater swimming areas you'll find. It's also arguably one of the most beautiful natural spots in Cairns, so take your time!
Related: 11+ Best Cairns Tours & Experiences
Finding The Best Freshwater Swimming Holes
On the walk, you'll probably see some access points to some refreshing swimming holes along Freshwater Creek. If you're looking for a more secluded place to swim, then I'd recommend walking down by the creek and picking a spot.
Most people tend to gather at the waterfall or at the first few spots, leaving some beautiful secluded pools all along the track.
There are several spots with water deep enough to swim, so go ahead and explore.
Tip: Make Sure to Monitor Water Levels
Sadly, several people have died here. While it might seem safe and innocent enough on a calm day, the Crystal Cascades can be a completely different beast in the wet season following torrential rain.
Thankfully, there are warning systems in place to alert tourists and locals alike when the water levels get too high. Still, freshwater rivers, creeks, and waterfalls near Cairns can be extremely unpredictable. Make sure you monitor the conditions and definitely don't enter the water if you have any doubts.
Cliff Jumping at the Crystal Cascades
When I was at the main waterfall at Crystal Cascades, I was shown some small 6-meter cliff jumps into the deep pool below. The main pool is adequately deep to jump on the right side, however, we did find some submerged rocks.
It can also get fairly slippery on the sloping granite edge. Missing a jump and landing on the rocks below will cause serious injury. It's best to be shown by a local where to jump before attempting. Remember, the signs advise you not to jump, so use common sense.
Are the Crystal Cascades Secluded?
A few other blogs that I read online have claimed that the Crystal Cascades are a local secret and that you'll have it all to yourself.
Unfortunately, this has never been the case for me. I've visited the Crystal Cascades countless times during my time in Cairns and have never had it to myself.
Perhaps there has been a recent spike in popularity, but it definitely seems to be more than a handful of people at the Cascades most of the time.
Before You Go: Don't Miss The Nearby Fairy Falls
If you are looking for something a little more secluded, there is another local secret waterfall located at the Crystal Cascades known as Fairy Falls. To reach it, you'll need to head back to the Crystal Cascades car park. On the left of the car park (facing the Crystal Cascades trail) is a small unmarked trail.
This trail winds through some thick rainforest vegetation before revealing a spectacular little waterfall with a deep swimming hole.
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.
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!
More Photos of the Crystal Cascades to Inspire Your Visit
Looking for more photos of the Crystal Cascades? Here are some more that I've snapped during my visits to this epic spot in Cairns!
More Cairns Adventure Articles & Travel Guides
I hope that you found this guide to visiting the Crystal Cascades in Cairns, Australia useful. I've spent close to a year exploring all of the epic things to do in Cairns, so make sure to check out my blog for more adventure inspiration and travel guides.