A complete guide to visiting Lake Eacham in the Crater Lakes National Park, Queensland. Discover a crystal clear water, extinct volcanic crater lake in the Atherton Tablelands near Cairns.
It’s safe to say that Cairns and Far North Queensland is the tropical adventure capital of Australia.
However, being situated in the tropics, things can get a little hot to say the least. Luckily, there are dozens of amazing and safe freshwater swimming holes and lakes just outside of Cairns in the Atherton Tablelands to visit.
After living in Cairns and visiting over 30 waterfalls and dozens more hiking trails in the surrounding region, Lake Eacham is still up there with one of the best freshwater swimming spots in the Tropical North.
In this guide, I’ll detail everything you need to know about visiting Lake Eacham and Lake Barrine in the Crater Lakes National Park in the Atherton Tablelands.
- How to Get to Lake Eacham & Crater Lakes National Park
- About Lake Eacham & Crater Lakes National Park
- What to Expect at Lake Eacham
- Lake Eacham Accommodation – Where to Stay Near the Crater Lakes
- Best Time to Visit Lake Eacham
- More Activities & Places to Visit in the Tablelands
- More Far North Queensland Travel Guides & Blogs
How to Get to Lake Eacham & Crater Lakes National Park
How to get to Lake Eacham from Cairns
If you’re staying in Cairns, then you’ll want to have your own car to get up to Lake Eacham and the Crater Lakes. The journey is just over an hour, following the road south through Gordonvale, passing Walsh’s Pyramid, and then climbing the steep but scenic Gillies Range Road (Gillies Highway). Once you reach the top, you’re officially in the Atherton Tablelands.
The Crater Lakes National Park is the first stop on the Gillies Range Road once you’ve made it up. You’ll first pass a turn off to Lake Barrine, which is part of the beautiful rainforest drive. However, if you continue on for a few more minutes, you’ll see the signed turnoff to Lake Eacham. Confusingly, this road is called Lake Barrine Road, but you’ll follow it only for a short stretch before turning left onto Lakes Drive. Follow this road and you’ll arrive at the car park for the Lake Eacham picnic and swimming area.
From Port Douglas
The driving distance from Port Douglas to Lake Eacham is just under two hours. But, this time you have the option of taking the back way up to the Tablelands. Take this via Mossman Mount Molloy Road, or continue south on the Captain Cook Highway towards Smithfield. From here, climb the Kuranda Range on the Kennedy Highway instead. This way, you’ll get to pass Kuranda and the impressive Barron Falls.
Either way, you’ll end up at Mareeba, where you can continue on and form a loop down to Lake Eacham via Atherton and Yungaburra. If you take this route, you’ll pass so many attractions in the Tablelands. So, I suggest making a day trip out of your visit to Lake Eacham from Port Douglas– spend an entire day exploring all the highlights in the Atherton Tablelands.
Tip: You’ll need a car to explore all the epic spots in the Far North. To get a good deal on rentals in Cairns, I suggest comparing prices on RentalCars.com for pickups at the airport or in town.
Alternative: Best Cairns Tour to Lake Eacham
Being one of the best natural attractions in the region, you’d expect to find a few bookable tours to the lake from Cairns.
To save you the effort looking, I’m going to recommend one particular tour which I believe is the best Atherton Tablelands and waterfall tour you can take. This is a massive 11-hour day that stops in some of the best areas in the region.
This Waterfall, Wildlife & Rainforest Tour includes a visit to Lake Eacham, as well as:
Book in advance: Waterfall, Wildlife & Rainforest Tour (best value tour from Cairns)
Where is Lake Eacham?
Lake Eacham is located within the Crater Lakes National Park in the Atherton Tablelands region of Far North Queensland, Australia. The second extinct volcanic crater lake is named Lake Barrine.
Below I’ve pinned the exact location of Lake Eacham on a map to help you find it (it’s very easy).
About Lake Eacham & Crater Lakes National Park
Lake Eacham belongs to the indigenous Australians and is originally called Yidyam or Wiinggina.
Both Lake Eacham and Lake Barrine in the Crater Lakes National Park are maars.
No, not the planet.
This refers to the geological formation of a volcanic crater which formed somewhere between the Pleistocene (10 000 years ago) or the Pliocene (2 million years ago).
This formation happened due to two massive explosions from superheating groundwater. The cause was molten magma rising from the Earth’s mantle, effectively heating the water table. The crater itself is actually a huge vent from this even, which formed the lake. Furthermore, there are no creeks, streams or rivers connecting to Lake Eacham, so the crystal clear water is its own unique and enclosed catchment.
How deep is Lake Eacham?
Lake Eacham is 65 metres deep at the deepest point. People actually go scuba diving here! The deeper water is found in the center of the lake. In saying that, you won’t notice as the water depth drops significantly as soon as you swim out a couple of metres.
Is Lake Eacham dog friendly?
Since Lake Eacham is within a National Park, dogs and other domestic animals are not allowed to enter.
What to Expect at Lake Eacham
Considering making the trip up to this epic hidden-gem in the Tablelands? Below I’ll give you a brief outline of exactly what you can expect to discover at Lake Eacham and the Crater Lakes National Park.
Lake Eacham Viewing Platform, Picnic & Lake front BBQ Area
When you pull into the car park, you’ll find a huge, cleared area with plenty of space. If you’re visiting in the peak season or on a beautiful day, you can expect this place to be quite busy. When I said it was a hidden gem, it is for travellers! But, for locals, this is one of the best spots to cool down and hang out with the family.
There’s a public toilet, cleared grass picnic area, picnic tables, and even free electric BBQ sites set up all around the eastern lake’s edge and along the crater rim. Right in front of the grassy picnic area is a steel-fenced viewing platform which provides a great vantage point of the lake.
Rainforest Walking Tracks
The Atherton Tablelands is full of amazing world heritage rainforest hikes. The Lake Eacham circuit (lake circuit track), is a 2.9 kilometer, mostly flat loop that forms a circumference around the lake. This is a beautiful track and easy for families. There’s also a huge giant tree on the western side which you’ll want to stop by.
Additionally, you can make the walk up to Lake Eacham Falls, just 30 minutes from the car park. This is a beautiful track with opportunities to spot unique bird species and other local fauna typical in these types of upland rainforests.
Lake Eacham Swimming – Crystal Clear Water
Of course, swimming at Lake Eacham is probably one of the main reasons so many people come up here. Swimming in this crystal clear water, 65 metre deep volcanic lake is incredibly refreshing. There’s a concrete staircase you can easily enter the pristine waters from just near the large picnic area.
Another popular spot at Lake Eacham is the small jetty found just to the left of the grassed picnic area. Simply continue around the lake circuit and you’ll find it. This is a great spot to hang out and jump into the water from.
Water temperature: Since the water at Lake Eacham is fresh, you can expect some variations, depending on the season. During the summer months, the water can be as warm as 28 degrees Celsius. But, in winter, the cool water can drop to around 22 degrees. Remember that the Crater Lakes are at a higher elevation than Cairns and the coast.
This results in cooler weather year-round but you can expect excellent swimming conditions regardless.
The water level can vary dramatically depending on the season. In the dry season, the water level can drop as much as 4 meters from the high point in the wet season.
Is it Safe to Swim at Lake Eacham?
Of course! Swimming in Lake Eacham is completely safe. Yes, you might of heard that there is a crocodile living here (explained further on), but this guy is a freshwater crocodile and completely harmless.
Furthermore, since there are no connecting streams or creeks, the water is always calm. Just remember that it is very deep and you will need to be able to swim of course.
The only other animals you might expect to find in the water are the Lake Eacham rainbowfish (Melanotaenia eachamensis). This is an endangered and endemic species of freshwater fish that is unique to the area.
Kayaking & Stand Up Paddle Boarding
If you’ve got a kayak or stand up paddle board (SUP), you’ll want to bring it on your trip to the Crater Lakes. Lake Eacham is a great place to explore since the lake has a huge surface area of 65 hectares!
Brining a SUP will allow you to explore the lake further and find some calm spots away from the crowds to soak in the tropical rainforest ambience.
You can easily deploy your kayak, canoe, or small boat from the boat ramp directly in front of the large picnic area.
About the Lake Eacham Crocodile
Are there crocodiles in Lake Eacham?
Yes, there is one crocodile living in Lake Eacham. This guy is a freshwater crocodile and is completely harmless. These crocodiles feed on small fish and will never attack a human unless stepped on or attacked.
Chances are, you won’t spot this guy, he’s very good at hiding!
Lake Eacham Accommodation – Where to Stay Near the Crater Lakes
Do you like the sound of the region and up for staying near Lake Eacham for a night or two. Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered with the three below suggestions. All are situated very close to the lakes, as well as everything you’d need from supermarkets to restaurants like the Lake Eacham Roadhouse.
Far North Queensland Accommodation Tips
Cabins & camping: Lake Eacham Tourist Park & Cabins
Best for: Couples & young families
Lake Eacham Tourist Park (Lake Eacham Cabins) is the closest Lake Eacham accommodation (3 minutes drive). They offer self contained cabins with a kitchen, bathroom and is set upon 10 acres of lush rainforest and gardens. There’s also an outdoor wood fire and communal kitchen that you can enjoy with the family.
Beautiful rainforest lodges: Chambers Wildlife Rainforest Lodges
Best for: Two person trip or family outing
If you’d rather accommodation that’s a little more private and luxurious, consider staying at Chambers Wildlife Rainforest Lodges. This hotel offers private rooms with multiple bed set ups up to 7 people. There’s also a swimming pool, pool table, free wifi, BBQ area and native animal viewing platform where you can spot possums, turkeys, platypus and kangaroos. Again, this is only about 3 minute’s drive from Lake Eacham.
Best rated Hotel Nearby: Sharlynn by the River
Best for: Young families
Hidden amongst lush rainforest is this amazing lodge offering free wifi, room service, free parking and an outdoor swimming pool and BBQ area. This one is great for young families visiting FNQ who want a luxury rainforest experience. It’s very close to the lakes, just 4 kilometres away from Lake Eacham and the Crater Lakes National Park.
Tip: This lodge has a spa and wellness centre which offer spa treatments with a hot tub, with 9.9 for reviews and 9 for location. Truly a perfect place to relax.
Camping At lake eacham tourist park
If you’re on a road trip or prefer to stay at campsites and campgrounds, then you can also camp at the Lake Eacham Tourist Park. Here you’ll find cool mountain air and plenty of powered sites with concrete slabs for caravans and campers, as well as grassy sites for tents.
Best Time to Visit Lake Eacham
I’d say that Lake Eacham is worth a visit all-year round. I’ve driven up to this spot multiple times, in the dry seasons and in the wet seasons. It’s always a great place to relax and to enjoy the Far North’s ancient rainforest.
Nevertheless, here’s a quick run-down on the seasons to help you plan your trip.
Dry Season: April to November
During typical dry seasons, the weather is dry and warm, averaging around 22-25 degrees Celcius. This is a great time to visit as there is less rain. However, expect much cooler waters!
Wet Season: December to March
During these hot and wet summer months, the Tablelands can see tropical rainfall almost daily. This makes visiting Lake Eacham an excellent choice since it’s the perfect place to cool off. However, be prepared for rain!
More Activities & Places to Visit in the Tablelands
Looking for more epic adventures and must-see spots in the Tablelands? Below are some of my favourite waterfalls, hikes, or attractions nearby.
- Windin Falls
- Millaa Millaa Waterfall Circuit
- Innot Hot Springs
- Turtle Rock Hike
- Millstream Falls
- Danbulla National Park and State Forest – Lake Euramoo
More: Below I’ve linked to some of the most comprehensive lists which will be a great free resource for your travels in Far North Queensland
More Far North Queensland Travel Guides & Blogs
I hope you’ve enjoyed this guide to visiting Lake Eacham in the incredible Crater Lakes National Park of the Northern Queensland Wet Tropics World Heritage Area.
While you’re here on my blog, make sure to check out some of my other articles. I’ve spent a great deal of time exploring the Tropical North after living here. I’ve detailed all the best spots and adventure locations on this website. So, I’m sure you’ll find something new and worth visiting.