A complete guide to visiting Emerald Creek Falls, an idyllic waterfall and swimming spot near Mareeba that is easily accessible from Cairns.
Are you looking to visit an off-the-beaten-path waterfall destination near Cairns and the Tablelands? You’ve found yourself in the right place. Emerald Creek Falls is a great little waterfall and swimming spot that is a favourite amongst locals.
The waterfall offers a larger, cascading level and deep swimming holes in a drier, eucalypt basin. This makes it a perfect spot to cool off all year round and is quite a unique waterfall compared to the others around Cairns.
In this quick guide, I aim to share with you everything you need to know about visiting this waterfall. I’ll include how to get here, what to expect and I’ll throw in some photos that I hope will inspire your visit.
If this is the first time reading my blog, then make sure to read my list of epic things to see and do in Cairns. Also, after checking out this waterfall, why not explore more epic Cairns waterfalls or hiking trails, or check out this list for where to stay.
Where is Emerald Creek Falls?
Emerald Creek Falls is a multi-level waterfall located in the Dinden West Forest Reserve, near the township of Mareeba, approximately 30 kilometres from Cairns. Below I have pinned the exact location of the waterfall. However, Google is notorious for guiding people down the wrong road in search for this waterfall.
Therefore, I suggest you read on for exact directions to Emerald Creek Falls from Cairns or Mareeba.
How to Get to Here From Cairns
Since this spot is a bit off-the-beaten track, to get to Emerald Creek Falls, you’re going to need to have your own car or transport.
Driving here yourself should take approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes from Cairns.
To get here, take the Captain Cook Highway north towards Kuranda. Then, continue onto the Kennedy Highway. There are a few signposts for Emerald Creek Falls along the road. The turnoff into Davies Creek is called Tinaroo Creek Road, approximately 10 kilometres past the Davies Creek turn off.
Nearby is the small township of Mareeba, where you can stop and grab some food or refill your water bottles.
You’ll need to follow this road for about 5 minutes until you reach Cobra Road, where you turn left. This is a steep, unsealed dirt road that winds itself down into the valley. There are signs indicating that the road is not suitable for trailers and caravans.
Don’t make the mistake of allowing Google Maps to take you to Emerald Creek Falls. We took a wrong turn and ended up on private land. If you come to a dead-end section around banana plantations with a sign to turn back, then you know you’ve made the same mistake I did.
If you don’t have your own car but still want to experience some epic waterfalls near Cairns, then it’s possible to book a tour that takes you to some of the best ones. The link below is the best-rated waterfall tour in Cairns, which provides free hotel pickup and visits Millaa Millaa Falls and Josephine Falls, to name a few.
Book the best price for: Cairns Waterfall Tour
Emerald Creek Falls Walking Track
From the Emerald Creek Falls carpark, it’s a short 1-kilometer walk to both the waterfall viewpoint and swimming holes.
On the way, you’ll notice that the landscape is drier than the surrounding rainforest. You’ll see eucalyptus trees and small shrubs, as well as huge ant mounds on the side of the track.
On the way, there are several small swimming holes that are fed by the creek and waterfall above. If you want to cool off and have a private swimming hole to yourself, then just take a small detour to the left of the track and follow the creek.
Featured in: 22 Awesome Things to do in the Atherton Tablelands
What to Expect at Emerald Creek Falls
The upper level has the largest waterfall, however, in my opinion, is less impressive than the lower one. This is due to the fact that although it is larger, it cascades down large granite boulders rather than free plunging into a pool.
Emerald Creek Falls Height: The main waterfall at Emerald Creek Falls is approximately 30 meters in height. Cumulatively between all the levels, I’d say that it’s about 50 meters.
DON’T MISS THE KAHLPAHLIM ROCK HIKE NEARBY
Upper Waterfall Viewpoint
About 10-15 minutes after leaving the carpark, there is a signposted fork in the road. The right trail leads to the upper waterfall viewing platform, while the left winds down to the swimming areas.
If you want a good view of the upper section, then it’s worth taking the quick 10-minute walk to the top.
Swimming Holes at Emerald Creek Falls
At the fork, you can turn left and continue down, crossing some boulders and a creek before reaching the lower waterfall level. Here, the waterfall spills through three close channels and plunges into a deep swimming hole.
The water is deep enough to swim, and is a perfect place to relax and cool down.
A little further down from the waterfall pool are some smaller rock pools and lagoons that are also great for swimming.
ALSO NEARBY: Turtle Rock Hike, Davies Creek National Park
Finding the Private Tropical Oasis
My favourite location at Emerald Creek Falls was a small sheltered rainforest oasis at one of the creek crossings. It looked like something out of a movie set, with soft sand edges that lead into crystal freshwater swimming holes.
To top it off, there’s even a perfectly positioned palm tree and overhanging tropical plants and vines for shade.
A Dog-Friendly Waterfall Near Cairns
Dogs are permitted at Emerald Creek Falls. Since it is a State Forest, not a National Park, there are less stringent rules on bringing domestic pets here.
That means that if you’re a Cairns local or are traveling Australia with your dog, then they can enjoy the refreshing waterfall pools at Emerald Creek too. Bright Camping have a great resource on enjoying a camping trip or adventure with your dog.
Don’t Miss Davies Creek Falls Nearby
If you’re coming from Cairns, then it’s well worth stopping off at another waterfall closeby. Davies Creek Falls is a much higher waterfall, which also has its own swimming holes and lagoons.
From Emerald Creek and Mareeba, it’ll only take about 25-minutes and is on the way back to Cairns. So, why not make it a waterfall day trip and check out the other epic waterfalls near Cairns.
READ THE FULL BLOG POST: Davies Creek Falls
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 Esplanade. I’ve also written a comprehensive accommodation guide to Cairns, so make sure to check that out too before you book!
Also, if you’re looking to stay in Port Douglas, I’ve got some tips on finding great accommodation deals there too.
LUXURY RESORT WITHOUT THE PRICE TAG – Rydges Resort
This hotel offers the best bang-for-buck. In terms of an epic stay for a decent price! The location is perfect, close to the esplanade and features include three swimming pools, two tennis courts, a jacuzzi, a fitness centre and even an award-winning restaurant.
Best 5-Star Luxury Without the Price Tag: Pullman Reef Hotel Casino
If luxury and location are what you’re after, you can’t beat the Pullman. It’s rated Cairns’ best hotel and features restaurants, a pool, live music gigs and even a casino! If nightlife is your thing, don’t go past this one.
Check price & availability at Pullman
Stay on the islands: Fitzroy Island Resort
If you’d rather sleep out on one of the picturesque Great Barrier Reef Islands, look no further than the Fitzroy Island Resort. While you can get out here on a day trip, I highly recommend spending the night so you get more time to explore the reef, coral beaches and rainforest walking trails.
Check price & availability at Fitzroy Island resort
Best Budget Hostel With a Pool – Gilligan’s Backpackers
The best backpacker option for a great vibe in Cairns is Gilligan’s Backpackers. That’s because this one has a swimming pool, AC, a complete kitchen and a great common area to meet other travellers.
Check price & availability at Gilligan’s
More Epic Cairns Adventure Ideas
I hope that you’ve enjoyed this quick guide to visiting Emerald Creek Falls near Mareeba in Far North Queensland. For more epic waterfalls, hikes and adventures in the area, check out my other articles. I’m sure you’ll find something new!
Also, below are some more photos from our first trip to Emerald Creek Falls. Enjoy your visit!