Guide to The Best Waterfalls in Cairns, Australia
Looking for the best waterfalls in Cairns? Cairns and the surrounding Tablelands area is crammed full of amazing waterfalls and swimming holes nestled amongst lush tropical surroundings. These beautiful waterfalls give you the perfect chance to escape the tropical climate of Far North Queensland.
Most Beautiful Waterfalls in Cairns
You can book an excursion from Cairns or hire a rental car and make a day of it with a self-drive tour.
Not all waterfalls are made equal though. If you are travelling with the family, it’s hard to know which ones are safe for the kids to take a dip. To view some waterfalls it involves longer hikes and so they aren’t suitable for little legs. Well, don’t worry because we’re about to break it all down and make it easy to plan an unforgettable day trip visiting the best waterfalls in Cairns.
Find below the following list of waterfalls in Cairns:
- Safest waterfalls in Cairns for swimming with young kids
- Best waterfalls in Cairns for confident swimmers
- Best waterfalls in Cairns with hikes
- Best waterfalls in Cairns with added attractions
Safest Waterfalls for Swimming with Kids
In tropical Far North Queensland, there’s nothing better than taking a refreshing dip in crystal clear waters. But which waterfalls are the best and safest for swimming? And which can you visit when travelling with young kids? All these falls are on the smaller side, but just as beautiful, and have great shallow pools for kids or those who aren’t confident swimmers.
1. Crystal Cascades
The closest of the waterfalls to Cairns, only about 20 minutes drive from the CBD, is Crystal Cascades. These stunning falls are a favourite with locals and tourists alike. Located in Redlynch Valley, they are very well signposted and there are BBQ, toilet and changing facilities on site.
The waterfalls themselves are actually a number of smaller falls which lead down into shallow water holes towards the car-park. The path from the parking up to the main falls is about a kilometre but all along the walk, there are spots where you can get down into the shallow pools for a swim.
The only downside to Crystal Cascades is they have become so well known over the years. On weekends and school holidays, the carpark fills up fast. It’s definitely best to visit outside of those times for a more peaceful experience.
2. Emerald Creek Falls
Just outside of Mareeba, a 45minute drive from Cairns, Emerald Creek Falls is sure to be a favourite with little ones due to the popular ice-creamery!
It’s well signposted on the way to Mareeba, turn off about 3km before and there is a dirt driving track which is not suitable for caravans or trailers. Then from the carpark, it’s a short walk on a dirt track to the falls. The walk only takes about 10 minutes and it’s easy for little legs but there is a longer track up to a viewing platform if the walk doesn’t bother you.
Once you arrive at these stunning waterfalls you’ll be rewarded with the sight of crystal clear waters tumbling down smooth granite. The rockpools before the falls are shallow but take the floaties along for the little ones as the top areas at the foot of the falls are deep.
3. Davies Creek Falls
Davies Creek Falls is another great option if you are looking for the best waterfalls in Cairns to visit with kids. A 20 minute drive past the Kuranda turnoff an unassuming gravel road leads to the Davies Creek National Park. The road is unsuitable for caravans and trailers but normal cars should be fine year-round. 2km past the lower camping area there is a carpark for the falls where the trail begins.
The track is a very easy 1km walk. First, you come to viewing platforms to see the falls from above. Then you will descend down to a swimming area with picnic facilities where you may even spot a platypus if you’re lucky.
4. Millaa Millaa Falls
One of the most famous waterfalls in Cairns, Milla Milla is an impressive straight drop falls. You may even recognise them from some well-known shampoo commercials.
The falls themselves are on the Atherton Tablelands waterfall circuit and are a big attraction with tour companies but they’re also easy to find yourself from the main road. The waterfalls themselves are literally right at the carpark and there are toilet and changing facilities onsite.
The pool at the base is shallow and great for little ones who want a swim. Slightly older kids will love climbing up on the ledge behind the falls and jumping through into the deeper section.
Best Waterfalls in Cairns for Confident Swimmers
If your kids are a little older, and past the needing floaties stage, there are a few more waterfalls the area for either taking a dip or a short hike. Find below the best waterfalls in cairns for older kids and confident swimmers
5. Josephine Falls
Jospehine Falls is about an hours drive south of Cairns. Swimming is allowed in the bottom pool and definitely worth a visit in the dryer months but best avoided during the wet season when flash flooding is a concern.
There is an easy 600m paved track from the carpark to the bottom pools where steps lead down into the water. Huge vines hang over the pool and kids love climbing on them. The main appeal for kids is the natural “rockslide” into the pool below but it’s only suitable for good swimmers.
You can walk up to the viewing platform over the top pool and take a look but swimming is strictly prohibited.
6. Millstream Falls
There are actually two waterfalls within the national park, each accessed by a separate entrance nearby to the town of Ravenshoe. It’s not advised to swim at either and they involve steep uphill walks but they’re definitely worth a visit.
The bigger of the falls is thought to be the widest single drop in Australia and there is a really lovely shaded picnic area with BBQ facilities.
The walk to Little Millstream Falls involves a steep downhill scramble so it’s only suitable for steady footed, older kids. There are plenty of opportunities to view the falls from the track but the real appeal is getting to the bottom pool and trying to spot platypus in the water.
Best Waterfalls in Cairns with Hikes
For those visiting Cairns without kids, or if you have older kids who are used to hiking, there are some truly magical waterfalls around Cairns that are much more secluded. Visit some of them and chances are you will have the whole place to yourselves.
7. Behana Gorge
A bit of a secret amongst locals and rarely visited by tourists, Behana Gorge is a real gem. Definitely be sure to only visit in the dry season as the waterfall can become dangerous during the wet season when there is heavy rain.
The waterfalls are only about a 30 minute drive south of Cairns but there is a 3.5km hike from the carpark. It’s a well maintained sealed path but it’s also very steep in parts and, when you arrive, it’s a bit of a scramble down the rocks to the pool below. Keep a keen eye out to the left as the track down is easy to miss!
Once you arrive, the large pool at the top is perfect for swimming and there are plenty of opportunities to dive from the rocks above.
8. Windin Falls
Easily the most spectacular falls and scenery in the Cairns area but also the most difficult to find and get to. From where you park the car it’s about a 60 to 90 minute hike into the rainforest so it’s only suitable for much older kids.
Windin falls aren’t as well known but they are definitely worth the extra effort to find! Drive to Lamins Hill lookout using your GPS and then continue down that road (Old Cairns Track) until you reach a fork in the road. The falls are signposted from there and pretty easy to find.
The hiking trail is about 4.5km to the falls but once you arrive you will be blown away by epic views over the range and there’s an infinity pool at the top for swimming. If you have social media obsessed teens, they’ll love the opportunity to take some of the most instagrammable shots ever!
Best Waterfalls in Cairns with Added Attractions
Not all waterfalls in Cairns are good for swimming but some have great attractions on-site or right next door that are sure to entertain the kids. Check out these amazing options for some great alternatives when you don’t feel like a swim.
9. Barron Falls
Barron falls dry up outside of the wet season but when the heavy rain comes they are a truly incredible sight!
The unique thing about Barron Falls is the chance to view them from the air on the Skyrail! Take the cable cars from the Cairns station up through the rainforest where you can exit and take a walk around. There are two viewing platforms with great views over the falls as well as an educational rainforest centre.
Continue on the Skyrail up the range to take a day trip to the historic rainforest town of Kuranda. When you’re done, take the scenic railway back down the range for yet another view of the falls.
10. Mena Creek Falls
Not only are Mena Creek Falls some of the most impressive waterfalls around Cairns but they also happen to be onsite at the picturesque Paronella Park.
The park was built by Jose Paronella in the 1930’s and was a lifelong labour of love and there’s some wonderful history behind the old ruins. Take in the falls from above via the bridge, then descend the stone steps for a view from below.
Entrance into Paronella is paid and well worth it but if you don’t want to pay you can also view the falls from the viewing platform on the opposite side of the bank
Paronella park itself is a wonderful opportunity for kids to run around and explore. There is onsite camping and a twilight tour, where the old ruins and waterfall are lit by spotlights, so it’s definitely worth taking an overnight trip.
Safety Tip for Visiting Waterfalls in Cairns
There are some of the best waterfalls in Cairns with calm waters and shallow pools. We have mentioned here which waterfalls are not suitable for swimming but make sure to be cautious and use your own judgement. This is especially true during the wet season when some of the waterfalls will be flowing very fast. If you are ever unsure it’s best not to take the risk.
Recommended: Best waterfalls in Melbourne