Unmissable Waterfalls to visit near Cairns

Which Cairns Waterfalls should you visit? Discover the best waterfalls near Cairns for swimming and incredible views. Tropical North Queensland is a lush wonderland of dense rainforests, sandy beaches, secluded islands, The Great Barrier Reef, the rugged tablelands and Australia’s best waterfalls. From Cairns, there are plenty of waterfalls you can visit within a short drive. Here is the top 8 you need to check out!

⚠️ It can be very dangerous to swim at these spots after rainfall so I strongly advise following all signage and being cautious.⚠️

The Green Adventurers acknowledges the Gimuy Walaburra Yidinji & the Wanyurr Majay people as the Traditional Custodians of the land and waterways mentioned in this post.  We pay respect to the past, present and future Traditional Custodians and Elders of this nation and the continuation of cultural, spiritual and educational practices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

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Crystal Cascades

Hike to Crystal Cascades, Cairns Waterfall
Hike to Crystal Cascades
Swimming at Crystal Cascades

The Crystal Cascades is the easiest waterfall to access from the city of Cairns. Just a 20-minute drive will get you to the trailhead. The waterfall is an easy 1.2km walk along a bitumen road through the lush rainforest. The waterfall flows into a large pool which is a great spot to swim on a hot day.

There is another trail to access the Fairy Falls which is less well known so you might have it all to yourself!

Old Weir Falls

The Old Weir Falls are found along Stoney Creek. The Stoney Creek trailhead is less than 20 minutes drive from Cairns. There is a beautiful swimming hole just metres from the car park but for the more adventurous a 20-minute hike will get you to the Old Weir Falls.

Stoney Creek Falls

Stoney Creek Falls from Kuranda Scenic Railway

The Stoney Creek Falls situation is a bit confusing. Google images will show you a beautiful shot of the waterfall flowing behind the Kuranda Scenic Railway. If you head to the Stoney Creek Trail Head and hike to the waterfall you will end up at an entirely different place – Old Weir Falls (above).

It is not possible to get to the place by the train bridge on foot. There are no marked and maintained trails and walking on or near the train line is dangerous and illegal. You can get fined by Queensland Rail and the trails are extremely dangerous. I DO NOT RECOMMEND HIKING TO THIS PLACE.

The best way to see it is by taking the Kuranda Scenic Railway. The historic train has 13 carriages so when you go around a tight bend you can see the front of the train over the bridge in front of a waterfall. Add this one to the list for your Cairns visit! The package price includes the train & cablecar. It’s not the cheapest day out but very much worth it!⁠

Barron Falls

Barron Falls – view from Kuranda Scenic Railway

The Barron Falls are a huge set of cascading waterfalls that flow into the Barron River. The best way to see these grand falls is by taking the Skyrail & Scenic Railway to visit the town of Kuranda. ⁠The Skyrail is a cable car that takes you on a ride above the treetops. There are a couple of stops along the way, letting you experience the rainforest up close and also enjoy the views of the Barron Falls. Catching the train down provides spectacular views of the valley & commentary onboard provides fascinating historical information. ⁠The train also includes a stop to enjoy the view.

The Barron Falls are most impressive after big rainfalls when the amount of water flowing over the gorge can reach almost 265,000-megalitres in a day but the rock formations are impressive even when the water flow is lower.

Barron Falls – view from Kuranda Scenic Railway
Barron River – view from Kuranda Sky Rail

Millaa Millaa Falls

The Millaa Millaa Falls are one I missed on my trip but come highly recommended by my friend and travel photographer Sara Tai.

This spectacular waterfall is a 1 hour & 40-minute drive from Cairns but the drive is worth the effort. Just 200m from the car park you will find an 18-metre single-drop waterfall surrounded by the gorgeous rainforest vegetation.

You can combine your visit to Millaa Millaa Falls with other closeby waterfalls – Zillie Falls & Ellinja Falls.

Babinda Boulders

The Babinda Boulders are a stand out amongst Cairns best waterfalls due to the unique rock formations. The granite boulders & cascading water sure makes an impressive sight. At the trailhead, there is a wide & calm swimming hole that stays cool even on the hottest of days. To reach the boulders take the walking trail through the forest along the river to two stunning viewpoints.

The Babinda Boulders are an hour’s drive south of Cairns. You will pass through the township of Babinda where you can stop for a bite at the Kool Spot Cafe. They have a large selection of smoothies and vegan goodies like gyoza, burgers & a cauliflower parmy!

Josephine Falls

Josephine Falls are one of the most popularwaterfalls near cairns. They are found just over an hour drive from Cairns and you can combine your visit with a stop at the Babinda Boulders which are about 20 minutes away.

Thrill-seekers will love a slide on the rocks at Josephine Falls. The slippery rocks form a natural slide where you can slip down into the cool water below. The bottom pool with the slide is an easy 600m walk from the car park. Continue on to see the middle creek viewing platform and the top viewing platform.

Waterfalls Near Cairns Map

Plan your route to all the waterfalls near Cairns. They are marked here on Google Maps.

To take advantage of all the fantastic things to see near Cairns you really need to have a vehicle. If you need to hire consider renting a Spaceships Campervan. Even if you don’t plan to camp in it, the price is similar or sometimes cheaper than a standard car. The convenience of having a fridge in the car for cold drinks is 100% worth it!

Mena Falls – Paronella Park

Paronella Park, Queensland
Mena Falls, Paronella Park

The Mena Falls are the centrepiece of Paronella Park. Spanish migrant Jose Paronella constructed a castle and park around these beautiful falls in 1929. The grand castle did not stand the test of time, the structure taking a battering from the ferocious tropical cyclones and floods. The park is now a UNESCO heritage site and one of the most interesting places to visit in Australia.

Cairns Waterfalls FAQ

What is the biggest waterfall in Queensland?

The biggest waterfall in Queensland is the Wallaman Falls, the highest single-drop waterfall which plummets 268 metres into a 20-metre deep plunge pool. The Wallaman Falls are 3.5 hours from Cairns so not an easy day trip but if you are heading South this would make a great stop.

How many waterfalls are in Cairns?

There are more than 20 waterfalls within a few hours drive of Cairns so you won’t be short of things to do!

Where can you swim in Queensland?

Generally, Gladstone is considered the southern boundary of crocodile habitat although they have been spotted as far south as Agnes Water. No waterway in northern Queensland can ever be considered crocodile-free. Read up on how to be CROC WISE.

Can you swim in Tropical North Queensland?

Yes. Waterfalls and waterholes are your best bet for cooling off on a hot Queensland day. The ocean and rivers are home to crocodiles and the marine stingers are around from November to October making the ocean a dangerous place to swim. There are stinger nets at most towns to keep out the crocs and jellyfish.

Are there crocodiles in Cairns waterfalls?

Generally, the waterfalls are safe from crocodiles because the rocky surfaces & flowing water is impossible to navigate and it’s also too cold. Always pay attention to signage and be aware that strong rainfalls may give crocodiles access to places they usually can’t get to.

How can I see the waterfalls in Queensland without a car?

You can see the waterfalls close to Cairns by booking a waterfall tour like THIS ONE.

Go chase some waterfalls!

You can’t visit Cairns without visiting a waterfall or ten! Enjoy your adventures and get in touch if you have any questions.
Which one are you keen to visit first?

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