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Hiking to Hartleys Creek Falls Near Cairns

Hiking to Hartleys Creek Falls Near Cairns

Olly Gaspar

By Olly Gaspar, full-time traveler for 6 years. I visit every place I write about & share real tips, photos, & advice from my trips.

Hartleys Creek Falls is a scenic cascading waterfall located at the end of a gentle walking track near Wangetti, north of Cairns.

Are you looking for a quick waterfall hike and adventure near the Northern Beaches of Cairns? Hartleys Creek Falls might be precisely what you’re after.

This waterfall is somewhat of a “local secret”, hidden at the back of Wangetti near the well-known Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures. Don’t worry though; there aren’t any crocs lurking at Hartleys Creek Falls, so you’re free to swim and cool off at the waterfall after the short but rewarding hike.

I’ve hiked to this waterfall several times while exploring the waterfalls of Cairns and have written this guide to help you plan your own visit, including how to get here, what to expect, and some tips for making the most of your trip.

Hartley's creek waterfall near cairns

Where is the Hartleys Creek Falls Track?

Hartleys Creek Falls is located in Wangetti, just off the Captain Cook Highway, only 15 km from Palm Cove or 43 km from Cairns.

Hartley's Creek Falls is accessible by a broad and easy walking track leading from an unofficial car park found just off the highway beside Hartleys Creek Retreat.

Google Maps Pin: "Hartley's creek trail head"

Map of hartley's creek falls near cairns

How to Get to the Hartley's Creek Trailhead

To get to the Hartleys Creek Falls trailhead from Cairns, you'll simply need to head north on the Captain Cook Highway towards Wangetti.

If you're driving from Cairns, expect at least a 40-minute drive.

The Hartleys Creek Falls trailhead access is located just 500 metres past Hartleys Crocodile Adventures, near the "Hartleys Creek Retreat". If you're using Google Maps, just type in "Hartley's creek trail head", and you'll arrive just next to the trailhead.

There is a large clearing in front of the retreat where you can park your car. The trailhead access is just to the left of the front gate to the retreat and is signposted. Parking here is free and I didn't see any signs for restrictions. I would say there's enough room for about 10 cars.

Car park near hartleys creek
Park here for track access to Hartley's Creek

About Hartley's Crocodile Adventures

Hartley's Creek in Wangetti is famous for the popular crocodile park known as Hartley's Crocodile Adventures. This is one of the first places in Australia to breed crocs in captivity and their work on crocodile conservation has attracted worldwide interest for over 20 years.

This is a great stop if you're planning a drive from Cairns to Port Douglas, Mossman, or the Daintree and want to see some salties!

Hiking The Hartleys Creek Falls Track

  • Hike Distance: 7.5 km (return)
  • Duration: Roughly 1 hour each way
  • Elevation: 290 m total gain (undulating)
  • Difficulty: Easy

Once you've found the trailhead using the information above, the rest is fairly straightforward. Begin by passing the fenced-off retreat and commence on a gentle climb for approximately 1.5 km.

The track is wide and easy to follow, undulating sporadically through the native scrub. The length of the trail follows the banks of Hartleys Creek all the way to the waterfall without needing to make any turns.

While there are some dips and steep sections, overall, the Hartleys Creek Falls track is very gentle and can be completed by anyone with an average level of fitness.

At roughly the halfway point, you'll arrive at a clearing with access to a waterhole section of Hartleys Creek. Although it looks like a great camping spot, it's unfortunately not permitted.

However, if you'd like a quick dip, then this spot is perfect and makes for a very scenic rest stop. Every time I visit Hartley's Creek I stop here for a quick swim to cool off before continuing on to the main waterfall. It isn't the deepest spot to swim, but still enough!

Swimming hole north of cairns hartleys creek

After roughly 3.5 km, you will arrive at the rocky banks leading to the waterfall. Turn left here and follow the sign to arrive at Hartleys Creek Falls.

Hartleys creek falls track
Hartleys creek walking track

3 More Hikes Near Cairns: Crystal Cascades | Saddle Mountain Hike | White Rock Hike

What to Expect at Hartleys Creek Waterfall and Swimming Hole

  • Waterfall height: 16 metres (estimate)
  • Pool depth: At least 3 metres in the deep sections (watch for submerged rocks)

As soon as you arrive at Hartleys Creek Falls, you can see why it's such a local favourite. It's easily accessible, the hike is enjoyable and rewarding without being too difficult and the swimming hole is perfect!

The waterfall itself cascades gently down the steep rock face for approximately 16 metres (my estimate) into a vast freshwater basin. The pool underneath the falls makes for the perfect swimming hole on a scalding, tropical summer day.

Swimming hole at hartley's creek falls

It's possible to climb up the lower boulder beneath the waterfall and jump into the deep pool below. It's difficult to tell how deep it is, but I couldn't reach the bottom after jumping off around the edge of the waterfall.

After passing the crocodile attraction just up the road, it's difficult to the thought of crocs to the back of your mind. However, rest assured there are no crocs here (at least there hasn't ever been a sighting).

Hartleys creek waterfall
Hartleys creek falls swimming hole
Grayl water filter bottle

Get Clean Drinking Water on Your Hike

I take the Grayl GeoPress Purifier Bottle on every hike and use it as my go-to source for filtering water all over the world. I've even used it to drink tap water in India!

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

Hartleys creek falls swimming hole

Also Nearby: Spring Creek Falls

Best Time to Visit Hartley's Creek Falls

Hartley's Creek is a permanent waterfall that is great to visit all year round. However, I have seen this waterfall in both the wet and dry season, and can confirm that it is much more impressive in the wet season!

However, I've personally found May to June to be the best time to explore waterfalls in Cairns, when the trails aren't too hot and humid.

Rocks and trees on hartleys creek walk

FAQ About Hartley's Creek Falls

How long is the Hartley's Creek Walk?

The hike to the waterfall from the car park at Hartley's Creek Retreat is 7.5 km for the return trip. Expect to take around 1 hour each eay. Leave enough time to enjoy a swim and relax at the falls too.

Can you swim at Hartley's Creek Falls?

Yes, this is one of the best waterfall swimming holes north of Cairns! With a deep, wide pool, this makes for a great spot to swim beneath the falls.

Are there crocodiles at Hartley's Creek Falls?

While there is a nearby Hartley's Creek crocodile farm, these crocs are contained within the property. There have never been reportings of crocodiles at Hartley's Creek Falls, since it's quite far up the hill from the sea.

Is there an entrance fee?

No, visiting these falls and parking your car on the main road is free.

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 Cairns Waterfalls and Hikes

I hope that this quick guide to visiting Hartleys Creek Falls in Cairns has proved useful in planning your waterfall adventures!

Before you head off, check out some of my useful travel adventure guides to Cairns and the Tropical North Below.


Hartleys creek falls – cairns waterfall guide
Thanks for Reading

I'm Olly Gaspar, adventure traveler from Australia. I’ve spent the last six years traveling the world full-time, sharing my first-hand experiences & photography in over 700 travel guides on We Seek Travel. I visit every destination I write about to bring you unique travel itineraries, epic hiking routes, fun tour ideas, travel & photography gear ideas, & interesting places to stay.

I only make genuine, worthwhile recommendations based on my experience, expertise, & research. If you buy through my links, I may get a commission, supporting this website at no extra cost to you. Read my Publishing Ethics Statement.