Did you know that there are 24 waterfalls less than two hours’ drive from Cairns? With this list and the right weather conditions, you can spend days chasing waterfalls in Tropical North Queensland.
The climate of Tropical North Queensland creates the ideal conditions for fantastical waterfalls and fresh-water swimming holes. This provides a delightful relief to visitors who may not be used to an average yearly temperature of 29C.
As most travellers situate themselves around the Cairns CBD, we’ve put together a list of the best waterfalls near Cairns for day trips. So, tear yourself away from the world heritage listed Great Barrier Reef, grab a rental car (unless you have your own, of course) and check out our recommendations for beautiful waterfalls close to Cairns.
- What you need to know before visiting Cairns waterfalls
- 12 best waterfalls near Cairns for day trips
- Din Din (Barron Falls), Kuranda
- Stoney Creek and Old Weir Falls, Kuranda
- Crystal Cascades and Fairy Falls, Lamb Range
- Isabella Falls, Edmonton
- Wrights Creek and Millaa Millaa Waterfalls
- Zillie Falls – Wooroonooran
- Ellinjaa Falls and Millaa Millaa
- Babinda Boulders, Babinda
- Josephine Falls, Bartle Frere
- Mena Creek Falls, Germantown
- 12 more waterfalls near Cairns to explore
What you need to know before visiting Cairns waterfalls
Note – Check Queensland Parks for park alerts and warnings for each waterfall before setting off. While at the waterfalls, please stay safe and observe the signs by park management.
Where are the best waterfalls in Cairns?
The waterfalls we’ve chosen are concentrated within these areas of the Wet Tropics:
- Cairns Highlands and Atherton Tablelands
- Cairns and Central Coast
- South Central/Cassowary Coast.
See day trips from Townsville, North Queensland for waterfalls in the Southern Wet Tropics, including the highest permanent, single-drop waterfall in Australia
Interested in exploring the Northern Wet Tropics? Read 15 things to do in Cape Tribulation.
When is the best time to visit waterfalls near Cairns?
As many waterfalls rely on recent rainfall, your best bet is usually during the wet season from December to April. Keep in mind that some swimming holes and rock pools may be too dangerous to swim in after heavy rains. Make sure to check Queensland Parks for park alerts and warnings.
Local tip: You can read recent reviews on Google Maps to double-check if the falls are currently flowing. But always follow park management advice and signs on where it’s safe to swim.
Are there crocodiles in Cairns waterfalls?
It’s true that Saltwater (estuarine) crocodiles live on the beaches and around the fresh waterways of Tropical North Queensland. However, they’re not typically found at the inland swimming holes and waterfalls we’ve included on this list. Always refer to Queensland Parks for the latest updates. Park management is quick to put up warning signs when there are recent croc sightings.
What to pack for Cairns waterfalls?
- Suitable walking shoes when hiking
- Mosquito repellent
- Swimwear when swimming is possible.
12 best waterfalls near Cairns for day trips
These waterfalls near Cairns are listed in an anti-clockwise direction from north to south of Cairns. We’ve put them together this way so it’s easier to plan day trips with multiple waterfalls.
Here are suggestions from our own tried and tested itineraries:
- Day trip 1: Din Din (Barron Falls) and Kuranda
- Day trip 2: Stoney Creek, Old Weir Falls, Crystal Cascades and Fairy Falls
- Day trip 3: Isabella, Wrights Creek, Milla Milla, Zillie and Ellinjaa Falls
- Day trip 4: Babinda Boulders, Josephine and Mena Creek Falls.
Din Din (Barron Falls), Kuranda
The land around Kuranda has been home to the Djabugay Aboriginal people for over 10,000 years. The traditional names for Barrons Falls is “Din Din”, Baron River is “Buna” and Kuranda is “Ngunbay”.
Din Din is located within the Baron Gorge National Park, approximately 40 minutes by car from the Cairns CBD. This 125m high waterfall is usually visited on a half-day trip to the rainforest village of Kuranda. At this beloved destination, you’ll find art galleries, cafes, colourful souvenir shops, native animal attractions and an outdoor crafts market.
Many sightseers choose to make the return trip from Cairns on the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway and the Kuranda Scenic Railway. You can buy combo tickets to depart on the railway and return on the cableway or vice-versa.
The train to Kuranda passes Stoney Creek on the way. Both the railway and the cableway have stops at Din Din to give you time to enjoy The Edge Lookout before continuing to Kuranda or back to Cairns. If you choose to travel by car, you could add a visit to Stoney Creek and Old Weir Falls for a full day trip.
Where: 31.2 km from Cairns CBD. You can reach Din Din via car, the Skyrail and/or the Kuranda Railway.
Difficulty: Easy. The Din Din (Barron Falls) lookout has a short 1.2 km return walk along a suspended boardwalk. Wheelchair-accessible with assistance.
Road Access: Gravel road suitable for all vehicles and parking available for large motorhomes and caravans.
Stoney Creek and Old Weir Falls, Kuranda
South of Din Din and still within the Baron Gorge National Park, you’ll find Stoney Creek. This can be visited on a day trip with Din Din or Crystal Cascades. Driving directly from Cairns, it’s an easy twenty-minute journey.
There is a short walk from the car park to the first swimming hole, however, keep going if you’re after an adventure. Across the footbridge, look for the dirt track with a pipeline running alongside it. This will lead to more rock pools and eventually the Old Weir Falls, after about 20-30 minutes of walking.
The track can be challenging, so wear proper footwear and if in doubt, you can stay chilling out at the first swimming hole.
Where: Stoney Creek Trail Head, Euodia Cl, Barron Gorge, Cairns Area
Difficulty: The walk is not challenging but can be slippery
Road Access: Suitable for towing, a bitumen road leads to the car park.
Crystal Cascades and Fairy Falls, Lamb Range
Experience two magical waterfalls at the same site with Crystal Cascades and Fairy Falls. Once considered a local secret near Cairns, it now garners quite a crowd. We visited late in the afternoon to try and avoid peak times but wished we’d gone earlier so we could have enjoyed the waterfalls for longer.
Crystal Cascades has easy access, making it fun for the whole family. Fairy Falls takes a bit more of a scramble over rocks and under scrub but it’s well worth it. The craggy, moss-covered rocks surrounding the slender waterfall give an otherworldly atmosphere.
These waterfalls are part of Barron Gorge National Park. You can combine it into a full day trip with both Din Din (Barron Falls) or Stoney Creek Falls. Or both if you’re short on time.
Where: 18km from Cairns CBD on Redlynch Intake Rd, Lamb Range.
Difficulty: From the car park, there is a 1.2 km sealed path to Crystal Cascades. Fairy Falls is a shorter 0.5km but is more difficult with a rocky trail.
Road Access: Suitable for all vehicles and parking available for large motorhomes and caravans.
Isabella Falls, Edmonton
This local favourite is tucked away behind suburban houses, less than 25 minutes of driving from Cairns. Isabella Falls usually runs all year and is best after rain. Keep in mind that rainfall can make the track even more slippery.
Reaching the most breathtaking sections of these multi-level falls may require some scrambling. Use the ropes, hand and footholds to help you. There are small pools you can swim in along the way.
We’d recommend adding Isabella Falls to your “waterfall circuit” itinerary (see below).
Where: 17 km from Cairns CBD on Waterfall Close, Edmonton.
Difficulty: Moderate with an uneven, rocky track to reach the waterfall. If you want to ascend to the upper levels, it’s more difficult with steep terrain.
Road Access: Street parking on Rainforest Road and Waterfall Close. Walk up Waterfall Close looking for a “Pathway” signpost to indicate the dirt track between two houses.
Wrights Creek and Millaa Millaa Waterfalls
Welcome to the waterfall circuit including Milla Milla, Zillie and Ellinjaa Falls. For an action-packed day trip, I would recommend adding Isabella Falls as well as Lake Barrine, Lake Eacham, and Yungaburra.
Local tip: For a bonus waterfall, stop on Wrights Creek Road close to Lake Eacham. The road is closed off but near the roadblock is a narrow walking track. Beware that leeches have been reported here.
Millaa Milla Waterfall is 18.3m high with a swimming hole at the base of the falls. It’s a short stroll from the car park with a paved walkway. There is a large, grassy area that is perfect for picnics.
Where: 100km from Cairns CBD on Millaa Falls Road, Millaa Millaa.
Difficulty: Easy, short walk from car park
Road Access: tarred road to car park
Zillie Falls – Wooroonooran
After Millaa Millaa Falls, it’s less than 8km to Zillie Falls. This is the only waterfall out of the three on the circuit where there is no swimming. However, it’s still exquisitely unique with cascading falls bursting over lush vegetation.
Upon arrival, you’ll get to see the falls from the top on a viewing platform. There is an option to continue down the stairs to the base of the waterfall and if there has been recent rain this can be quite impressive. The walk is not too difficult but it is uneven in places and may be wet and slippery.
Where: Theresa Creek Road Wooroonaooran
Difficulty: View from the top is minutes from the car, 10-15 minutes to the base of the falls.
Road Access: Small car park
Ellinjaa Falls and Millaa Millaa
The third waterfall on the Cairns waterfall circuit is Ellinjaa. This waterfall has a swimming pool at the base like Millaa Millaa Falls.
In our opinion, Elinjaa has a more natural feel without the concrete and crowds at Millaa Milla. Still both stunning waterfalls in their own right.
Where: 1174 Theresa Creek Rd, Millaa Millaa
Difficulty: Short downhill walk (120 stairs) to the falls. Quite rocky and can be slippery so we recommend lace-up shoes with decent grip.
Road Access: Tarred road – narrow but fine for caravans
Babinda Boulders, Babinda
For the next group of waterfalls, we’d suggest a day trip itinerary of Babinda Boulders, Josephine Falls, Mena Creek Falls and the Canecutter Way Tourist Drive. Starting at the iconic Babinda Boulders, which we happen to see during a downpour and were in awe of the water’s power.
As you enter the park, read the signs about the Traditional Owners and legends. You can then follow the 2km rainforest walk which leads to different lookouts over the granite boulders and falls, including The Devil’s Pool. It’s incredible to see how the water pressure has carved smooth grooves into the rocks over time.
Coming back to the park entrance is the swimming hole with crystal clear water, covered picnic tables, BBQs and bathroom amenities. You can easily spend hours enjoying the natural beauty of this culturally and spiritually significant site. Dogs are not permitted inside the park.
Difficulty: Easy, walkway to lookouts.
Road Access: A bitumen road leads to the car park with parking available for large motorhomes and caravans.
Josephine Falls, Bartle Frere
Another 23km south of Babinda Boulders is Josephine Falls in Wooroonooran National Park. These falls are fed by the rains that run off Bartle Frere, Queensland’s highest peak. These funnel into Josephine Creek and then down granite boulders to form the falls. They are one of our favourite waterfalls in Cairns.
There is a short walk from the car park through the rainforest to multiple view decks of the falls. This is a multi-tiered waterfall with a top viewing platform, middle creek viewing platform and bottom pool. The top viewing platform is restricted for your safety.
Enjoy the natural rock slide and swimming holes in the lower pools. Keep in mind that the current can become stronger after recent rain. When we visited the falls were thundering at an immense force and the water levels were far too high for safe swimming. As always, follow the signs by park management.
Where: Lot 1 Josephine Falls Walk, Bartle Frere QLD 4861
Difficulty: Easy. Josephine Falls walking track is 1.2km return. Wheelchair access is available to the viewing platform at the top pool. Lots of stairs to the bottom.
Road Access: Access is possible by 2wd
Mena Creek Falls, Germantown
We visited Mena Creek after camping at Etty Bay Beach – where we saw a cassowary! However, it’s still an easy 1.5-hour drive from Cairns and can be visited as a day trip with Babinda Boulders and Josephine Falls. Mena Creek makes up the Canecutter Way Tourist Drive which includes South Johnstone Mill, Paronella Park, Mena Creek Hotel and Murering Point Winery.
The Mena Creek Falls are situated right next to Paronella Park, an eco-certified and heritage-listed Spanish castle with a fascinating history. Even if you don’t decide to pay the entrance to Paronella Park, you can still walk over the swinging bridge to view the castle and falls from above.
Where: 1648 Innisfail Japoon Rd, Germantown QLD 4871
Difficulty: Easy, paved walk to the base of the falls.
Road Access: Car park off main road with plenty of space for large vehicles
12 more waterfalls near Cairns to explore
If you’ve already explored all the best waterfalls in Cairns from our list, here are some additional falls nearby.
- Clamshell Falls: 37km from Cairns on Behana Gorge Road, Aloomba
- Davies Creek Falls: 57km from Cairns on Davies Creek Road, Mareeba
- Emerald Creek Falls: 72km from Cairns on Emerald Creek Falls Road, Mareeba
- Malanda Falls: 77km from Cairns on Malanda Atherton Road, Malanda (Atherton Tablelands)
- Windin Falls: 87km from Cairns on Gourka Road, Topaz
- Pepina Falls: 106k from Cairns on Old Palmerston Hwy, Middlebrook
- Souita Falls: 110km from Cairns on Middlebrook Road, Middlebrook
- Wallicher Falls and Tchupala Falls: 113km from Cairns on Palmerston Hwy, Wooroonooran
- Nandroya Falls: 117km from Cairns on Palmerston Hwy, Wooroonooran National Park
- Little Millstream and Big Millstream Falls: 122km from Cairns on National Highway 1, Ravenshoe. Big Millstream Falls is Australia’s widest single-drop waterfall.