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Emerald Creek Falls – Waterfall & Swimming Hole Near Cairns

Emerald Creek Falls – Waterfall & Swimming Hole Near Cairns

Emerald Creek Falls is an idyllic waterfall and swimming spot near Mareeba that is easily accessible from Cairns.

The Emerald Creek waterfall is quite different from the other waterfalls in Cairns and the Tablelands. It features a large cascading level and deep swimming holes in a drier, eucalypt basin. This makes it a perfect spot to cool off all year round.

So, ifyou are looking to visit an off-the-beaten-path waterfall near Cairns and the Tablelands, this is a great pick.In this quick guide, I aim to share with you everything you need to know about visiting this waterfall based on my trips. I’ll include how to get here, what to expect and throw in some photos that I hope will inspire your visit.

Swimming holes at emerald creek atherton tablelands near cairns
Olly gaspar

By Olly Gaspar, full-time traveler & adventure photographer for 6 years with 700+ published travel guides. I visit every place I write about & share real tips from what I learn.

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 of this waterfall and we actually got lost using Google's directions the first time we came out here.

Therefore, I suggest you read on for exact directions to Emerald Creek Falls from Cairns or Mareeba.

  • Google Maps Pin: "Emerald Creek Falls" - Mareeba

Don't make the mistake of allowing Google Maps to take you directly 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. Read on for better directions.

Map of emerald creek falls

How to Get to Emerald Creek 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 in regular traffic conditions.

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 turnoff.

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.

Tip: There are plenty of fun things to do in the Atherton Tablelands if you're making the trip to this waterfall from Cairns. Very close to this waterfall is the popular Davies Creek Falls, as well as the Kahlpahlim Rock hike and the lesser-known Turtle Rock hike.

Emerald creek falls main waterfall and swimming area
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.

Alternative Option: Cairns Waterfall Tour

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.

Emerald Creek Falls Walking Track

From the Emerald Creek Falls car park, it's a short 1-kilometer walk to both the waterfall lookout 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.

Emerald creek falls ant hill cairns
Big ant hills on the track to Emerald Creek Falls
Emerald creek falls walking track
The start of the Emerald Creek Falls track

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.

The big pool is great for swimming!

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.

Emerald creek falls main waterfall and swimming area

Don't Miss: Kahlpahlim Rock Hike (very close by)


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Get Clean Drinking Water on Your Hike

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

Upper Waterfall Viewpoint

About 10-15 minutes after leaving the car park, 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.

Emerald creek waterfall cascades top viewing platform lookout
Emerald creek falls from the top waterfall near cairns

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 in 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.

Swimming holes at emerald creek atherton tablelands near cairns

Finding the Private Tropical Oasis at Emerald Creek

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.

Swimming holes at emerald creek atherton tablelands near cairns
Swimming holes at emerald creek atherton tablelands near cairns

Is Emerald Creek Dog-Friendly?

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 has a great resource for enjoying a camping trip or adventure with your dog.

Emerald creek falls main waterfall and swimming area

Related: Wallaman Falls (tallest in Australia)


FAQ About Visiting Davies Creek Waterfall

Is it safe to swim at Davies Creek?

Yes, you can swim! The plunge pool at the base is a popular spot. Just keep your eyes peeled for signs warning about flooding waters.

What should I pack for Davies Creek Falls?

I recommend bringing sunscreen, insect repellent, plenty of water and snacks. If you're planning on swimming, bring a towel and maybe a change of clothes.

Is camping allowed?

Yes, there is a campsite here but the road is not recommended for big campervans or motorhomes.

Is there an entrance fee?

No, visiting this waterfall and park is free.

Swimming holes at emerald creek atherton tablelands near cairns

Don't Miss Davies Creek Falls Nearby

If you're coming from Cairns, then it's well worth stopping off at another waterfall close by. 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.

Davies creek falls viewpoint

Davies Creek Waterfall
Davies creek falls swimming area
Swimming area near Davies Creek

Where to Stay In Cairns

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.

Fitzroy island wharf

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.

Gilligans backpacker resort

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.

Peppers beach club four mile beach port douglas

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 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!

Swimming holes at emerald creek atherton tablelands near cairns
Swimming holes at emerald creek atherton tablelands near cairns
Emerald creek falls pinterest
Thanks for Reading

I'm Olly Gaspar, adventure travel journalist & photographer. Traveling non-stop since 2018, I've published over 700 travel guides on We Seek Travel. These draw on my personal experience to share unique itineraries, accommodation tips, & fun adventure guides covering hikes, viewpoints, beaches, waterfalls, & tours. Read my Publishing Ethics Statement.

Your feedback & updates are crucial to keep my guides factual & current. Got new info or updates? Drop a comment below or contact me directly.

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