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Josephine Falls Guide: Waterfall & Swimming Hole Near Cairns

Josephine Falls Guide: Waterfall & Swimming Hole 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.

A complete waterfall guide to visiting Josephine Falls, one of the most pristine swimming holes near Cairns in Far North Queensland.

Josephine Falls is a scenic rainforest waterfall flowing on Josephine Creek, a stunning rainforest water source within the Wooroonooran National Park in Far North Queensland.

This scenic waterfall boasts three main falls and is a popular picnic area and swimming spot complete with a natural water slide at the base of the falls. Although it’s a little bit of a stretch from Cairns, I consider Josephine Falls as one of my favourite waterfalls near Cairns! After visiting these falls over a dozen times, I’ve formulated this comprehensive guide to help you plan your visit.

I’ll explain how to get here, what to expect on the short walking trails and include photos that I hope will inspire your trip!

Girl walking at josephine falls

Where is Josephine Falls?

Josephine Falls is located within the Wooroonooran National Park, approximately 1 hour (75 kilometres) south of Cairns in Tropical North Queensland.

The falls flow on Josephine Creek, which is close to other attractions like Nandroya Falls, and Babinda Boulders.

Below is the correct Google Maps pin for the car park providing access to the falls.

The waterfall is fed by the rain captured by Queensland's tallest mountain, Mount Bartle Frere, which rises to 1622 metres above the waterfall and is a great overnight trip for keen hikers.

In fact, Josephine Falls shares the same car park as the Bartle Frere trailhead, as well as the nearby Broken Nose.

  • Google Maps Pin: "Josephine Falls carpark"
Josephine falls on google maps
Josephine falls main waterfall in far north queensland, australia

Josephine Falls Trip From Cairns

For those visiting Cairns and don't have their own car– you're in luck!

That's because Josephine Falls is included in the very popular Atherton Tablelands Waterfall Adventure trip, one of my personal favourite full-day inland tours you can book from Cairns.

This waterfall day trip is a great option for those who want to see the best of Far North Queensland's rainforests and waterfalls in a short amount of time. On my trip, we visited:

How to Get to Josephine Falls (Self-Drive Option)

The journey to Josephine Falls is 75 kilometers south of Cairns on the Bruce Highway. It should take roughly one hour to reach the car park to Josephine Falls from Cairns. However, in my experience, expect a little longer if you're leaving during peak traffic hours of 7-9 am and 5-6 pm.

To get here, head towards "Bartle Frere", turning off on Bartle Frere Road. There are signs on Bartle Frere Road indicating the direction to Josephine Falls.

Follow this road to the end and keep going when it forks to the left (now Price Road).

Next, continue on this road as it cuts through the cane and banana plantations and turn right when you see the signs for the waterfall car park (Josephine Falls Road). Alternatively, if you turn left here, you will arrive at the Golden Hole and the trailhead to the little-known Wankaroo Falls.

At the car park, you'll also find several facilities, including a shelter, toilets, picnic tables and coin-operated BBQs.

The car park is very large and accommodates roughly 25 vehicles. Since this waterfall is one of the most popular swimming holes south of Cairns, I've noticed that it can fill up quickly and be quite busy.

Josephine falls blue swimming hole near cairns

The Josephine Falls Walk

  • Hiking Distance: 1.2 km return
  • Duration: 25 minutes
  • Elevation: N/A
  • Difficulty: Very easy

Once you reach the car park, it's only a short walk for 600 metres on a sealed rainforest track separating you from the waterfall. The Josephine Falls walk is a beautiful spot to enjoy the tropical rainforest and is great for all ages with wheelchair access.

The track follows sealed bitumen all the way up to the main waterfall, with turn-offs to the Middle Creek viewing platform and the bottom pool. Just below is a map showing the Josephine Falls track for a better idea of the swimming hole and viewing platform locations.

By no means do you need this to get to the waterfall, I've just included it as it's useful to get an understanding of the different spots to check out at Josephine Falls.

Map showing the walking track to josephine falls
Source: QLD Parks

What to Expect at Josephine Falls

Apart from the famous Crystal Cascades or Barron Falls, Josephine Falls is one of the most popular waterfalls in the region!

Josephine Falls is a series of cascading waterfalls with 3 main drops. Each waterfall has a deep pool with crystal clear waters. However, due to flash flooding resulting in very sudden increases in water levels following heavy rain, there is only one large swimming hole serving as the designated area to take a dip.

Please be respectful when visiting Josephine Falls and the Bartle Frere area of the Wet Tropics national parks. This is and always will be noongyanbudda ngadjon land. Local aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islander peoples share a close spiritual connection to this region.

Top Pool & Waterfall

The largest waterfall at Josephine Falls is at the end of the track and visitors can admire it from a wide wooden platform named "top viewing platform".

While not the tallest waterfall in the area, the main waterfall is still an impressive sight. It drops 25 metres down a sharp gully before spilling over a large, wide boulder.

Due to safety reasons, swimming at the largest waterfall is forbidden as this entire pooled area is classified as restricted. But don't stress, there are plenty of great swimming holes at Josephine Falls, just a little earlier on the track (closer to the car park)

Blue water at josephine falls near cairns
Josephine Falls main waterfall: restricted area
Josephine falls waterfall near mount bartle frere

Bottom Pool Swimming Hole & The Waterfall Rock Slide

A little before the main waterfall, there is a sign indicating access to the river. This is known as the Big Pool, and is where you will find the best Josephine Falls swimming holes and even a rock slide!

On the side, there is a small cascading waterfall flowing gently into a deep pool.

This main pool is a dreamy shade of aquatic green and is deep enough to swim in (at least 1.5 metres deep). There's also a natural rock slide here which is a fun little bonus!

This area is my favourite to hang out and in my opinion, is the best place to enjoy a swim in the beautiful tropical rainforest surroundings. We usually stay here for a few hours when we visit to swim and enjoy the slide.

Blue water and rock slide at josphine falls
Natural waterslide
Josephine falls waterfall in the rainforest of far north queensland
Granite Rock slides at Josephine Falls

More Rock Pools & Swimming Holes

To find some unique spots, I walked down the creek a little along the rocks. This is where I found several smaller swimming holes with nobody in them!

So, if the main pool and rock slide is too busy for you, head a little downstream to find some isolated and secluded rainforest secluded swimming holes! Just be careful when walking on the rocks and don't do this in flood season.

Swimming hole in wooroonooran national park, australia
Beautiful granite boulders and small
Swimming hole in the rainforest of far north queensland, australia
Emerald rock pools in the World Heritage Wooroonooran NP

Deaths in Dangerous Flow At Josephine Falls

In the wet season, the flow can get very unpredictable. Unfortunately, there have been several deaths at this waterfall due to submerged rocks and dangerous currents.

There are several warning signs and river depth alarms, so it's best to be cautious. If you're concerned, you can check current warnings for all parks here. I've visited Josephine Falls countless times now on trips south of Cairns and I've yet to see it in full force. However, even in the Dry Season the waterfall, especially the top tier, generally has a decently powerful flow.

I would only ever consider swimming here if conditions allow. Depending on the time of the year, this place can be a gentle trickle or a relentless rapid.

Man on a boulder at josephine falls waterfall

Top Tips for Visiting Josephine Falls

Looking to lock in a trip to one of Far North Queenslands best waterfalls? Before you head out, read these useful tips!

  • Visit early to beat the crowds - this waterfall can get very busy, especially on weekends. I recommend getting here early in the morning if you want to take some good photos without the hordes of tourists.
  • Rent a car cheaply - while Cairns tours are great, there's no better way to explore the Far North than by your own means! The best tool for finding a great deal in Queensland is to use RentalCars.com to compare across dealers.
  • Bring your own lunch - there are coin-operated BBQs near the car park!
  • Or... stop by Babinda Bakery - one of the best bakeries in Australia, trust me!
  • Have a go at the slide - this is super safe and a lot of fun, especially for the young ones!
  • Don't swim in the top pool - there are signs for a reason.
  • Leave no trace - please remember to take your rubbish with you!
Swimming hole in wooroonooran national park, australia

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!

Commonly Asked Questions About Josephine Falls

Can you swim at Josephine Falls?

Yes, Josephine Falls is one of the most popular swimming holes south of Cairns. However, as mentioned above, you'll need to follow directional signs and monitor the conditions.

Can you park a caravan at Josephine Falls?

Yes, Josephine Falls is one of the most popular swimming holes south of Cairns. However, as mentioned above, you'll need to follow directional signs and monitor the conditions.

Are there crocodiles at Josephine Falls?

No, there aren't any crocodiles in the freshwaters of Josephine Falls and the adjacent swimming holes. However, crocodiles often wander inland and can be spotted in brackish waters closer to the sea.

Are there public toilets in the car park?:

Yes, there are toilet facilities at the parking lot adjacent to the waterfall track.

Are there public transport options to Josephine Falls?

No, there are no buses or public transport routes running to Josephine Falls from Cairns, Port Douglas, or Mission Beach. Instead, it's best to book a rainforest tour to the Atherton Tablelands to see Josephine and many other waterfalls..

Infographics for visiting josephine falls

More Far North Queensland Travel & Adventure Guides

I hope that you've found this short guide to visiting Josephine Falls from Cairns, Queensland, Australia.

I've spent a long time covering many of the epic things to do around Cairns. Read on for more of the most beautiful waterfalls in Cairns, some great hikes, lookouts and more on my blog.

Below are a few to start off with!

Josephine falls 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.