9 Waterfalls and Swimming Holes Worth Chasing near Cairns

Hit the Waterfall Circuit, uncover lesser-known gems and dive into the waters of the ancient Daintree Rainforest with these top nine falls and waterholes.

Toe-dippable and simply unmissable, there’s no better way to cool off in Cairns & Great Barrier Reef than to bask in the spray of a thundering waterfall or plunge into a swimming hole.

From volcanic crater lackes to the hidden magic of Fairy Falls and Indigenous significance of the Babinda Boulders — these nine waterfalls and swimming holes are well worth chasing.
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9 Waterfalls and Swimming Holes Worth Chasing near Cairns

Babinda Boulders — A boulder-hopping paradise with Indigenous significance

The Babinda Boulders’ swimming holes, located an hours’ drive from Cairns, are a sight to behold. Not only because the 1.3km walk from the carpark leads you to jade pools of cool water, but because it’s a place of Indigenous significance, where you can learn about a haunting and tragic Aboriginal love story. A swim in the emerald green water will grant panoramic views of Mount Bartle Frere, while a guided tour will teach you about the two star-crossed lovers that gave these pools their name.

Please note: swimming is only permitted in the designated areas. Take heed of warning signs and fenced off areas.

Babinda Boulders
Bartle Frere, Goldfield Road, Babinda

Fairy Falls — A hidden plunge pool close to Crystal Cascades

Tucked away near Crystal Cascades, a 25-minute drive from Cairns, hides Fairy Falls, a picturesque waterfall as magical as its name. Some rock hopping is required to reach this natural plunge pool, but the destination is worth it, the rushing waterfall is carved into the cliff, which flows into a narrow but deep blue pool. The track begins on the left side of Crystal Cascades' carpark and when the well-worn path forks, follow the creek bed for a few minutes.

Hot tip: the journey should take no more than 15 minutes — don’t be fooled by the uphill path.

Fairy Falls
Redlynch Intake Road, Redlynch, Cairns

Waterfall Circuit — The epitome of tropical waterfalls

For the ultimate ‘chasing waterfalls’ experience, pack a picnic, your swimmers, and hit the iconic Waterfall Circuit. The trail begins in the Atherton Tablelands, just under two hours from Cairns, at the Instagram-worthy Millaa Millaa, followed by the lesser-known Zillie Falls — the perfect spot to enjoy a picnic lunch.

The final stop takes you down a rainforest staircase to Ellinjaa Falls, where a hidden ledge awaits behind the fall’s spray. Keep an eye out for playful platypuses at the base here.

Waterfall Circuit
Theresa Creek Road, Millaa Millaa

Mena Creek Falls — Opposite the moss-clad Paronella Park

A site worthy of a painting — with the moss-clad Spanish castle, Paronella Park, serving as a backdrop — Mena Creek Falls is quite the spectacle. A mere hour and a half drive south of Cairns, the falls can be viewed for free from the suspension bridge above, but admission to the park itself will not only give you awe-inspiring views but abundant picnic opportunities, and spectacular winding paths and bridges.

While there’s no swimming at Mena Creek Falls, the beauty of the park itself will keep you entertained.

Mena Creek Falls
Mena Creek, Mena Creek

Nandroya Falls — A multi-tiered waterfall

Nestled in a mossy-covered alcove of the Wooroonooran National Park, Nandroya Falls is worth every step of the 6km round-trip from Henrietta Creek campground. Trickling down from what looks like a crack in the cliffs to form a multi-tiered spectacle, the falls are the perfect reward of the extensive walk required to reach it.

There are two routes to reach Nandroya Falls; we recommend the longer, right-hand fork that will take you past small rock pools, smaller waterfalls and rapid streams along the way.

Nandroya Falls
Nandroya Falls Wooroonooran

Stoney Creek — A secluded oasis with private swimming holes

To access this truly secluded paradise, you needn’t venture more than 25 minutes from Cairns. Located in Barron Gorge National Park, Stoney Creek is easy to reach from the car park. After a short walk through dense rainforest and across (or underneath) a small footbridge, you’ll find an impossibly beautiful series of private swimming holes.

If you’re up for a trek, push yourself a little further and discover the eye-catching Old Weir Falls.

Stoney Creek
Stoney Creek Trail Head, Euodia Close, Barron Gorge

Behana Gorge — Crystal-clear mountain swimming

Get hot with a trek through Behana Gorge and then cool down at Clamshell Falls, the ultimate reward after a strenuous 45-minute hike. Located 35 minutes south of Cairns running off Queensland's second highest mountain, Bellenden Ker, this incredible hike will take you past swimming holes, through lush foliage and along sandstone cliffs.

Once you’ve worked up a sweat along the 3.2km rainforest path, you’ll be more than ready to plunge into the serene waters.

Behana Gorge
Behana Gorge Road, Aloomba

Emmagen Creek — Nestled within Daintree Rainforest

Hidden away in Cape Tribulation within the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Daintree Rainforest, Emmagen Creek is another perfect excuse to visit this 180-million-old forest. The waterhole itself, is nestled away a short 800m return walk by the beginning of the Bloomfield Track.

The creek is a quiet paradise, filled with smooth rocks and crystal-clear waters where you can spend hours swimming, picnicking or relaxing.

Please note: swimming is only permitted in designated areas.

Emmagen Creek
Daintree National Park, Cape Tribulation Bloomfield Road, Cape Tribulation

Lake Eacham — A swimming hole in a volcanic crater

The Atherton Tablelands is renowned for its nirvana-like swimming havens, and yet, Lake Eacham is little spoken about — unless it comes via the word of a local. Set within a volcanic crater near Yungubarra and home to turtles, fish and 180 different bird species, it’s a wonder this family-friendly haven isn’t more well known.

Filled with crystal-clear rainwater, it’s ideal for swimming, snorkelling and kayaking. For those who don’t want to take a dip, viewing platforms offer breathtaking views over the rainforest-fringed lake.

Lake Eacham
Lake Eacham Road via Gillies Highway Lake Eacham

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