Adventure

The 6 Best Waterfalls In Tropical North Queensland

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This wide brown land turns green in the north, and Cairns is the perfect gateway to some incredible places. The lush languid green of the tropics, where birds of paradise flutter and slithery things slither, and deep in the most verdant national parks, water carves out beautiful patterns against the rocks.

The waterfalls of Far North Queensland range from hammering titans to pristine, palm-flanked swimming holes. Here are six of the best to help you plan your next trip.


#1 Blencoe Falls

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Image: Tourism and Events Queensland

The drive to Blencoe is long and rough: 96km south-east from Mount Garnett on 4WD-only unsealed roads, virtually impassable in the rainy summer season. That’s three hours of grey kangaroos, cattle ranches and rolling northern skies to contend with – in both directions – but good things come to hardy souls.

On the fringes of the Girringun National Park, the falls drop a sheer 90 metres from the tail end of Blencoe Creek before cascading another 230 metres towards the Herbert River Gorge, a spectacular snaking crevice of rugged ridges and thick rainforests dotted with ancient hoop pines. From the Blencoe lookout, you can shoot epic #nofilter landscapes in two directions: the falls thundering out of the north and the gorge stretching majestically to the south.


#2 Wallaman Falls

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Image: DGriebeling / Flickr

Also in the Girringun National Park, Wallaman Falls is the highest single-drop waterfall in Australia. Water runs off Stony Creek in one long, dramatic, thunderous descent, plummeting 268m into a pool deeper than 20m.

Formed around 50 million years ago, the falls flow off an escarpment against a sheer rock face, fringed at the top and base with thick, mossy forest – part of Far North Queensland’s UNESCO World Heritage-listed Wet Tropics zone. It’s magnificent and it’s intense, as the Australian outback should be.

Wallaman Falls are roughly an hour west of Ingham on mostly-paved roads, but the path climbs steeply and it’s slippery when wet. Your mobile phone is useless here.


#3 Josephine Falls

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Image: Paul D’Ambra / Flickr

About 25 minutes southwest of Babinda, Josephine Falls is picturesque and big on fun. A tiered, cascading waterfall that tips out into a sandy swimming hole, Josephine Falls is like a natural waterslide.

You can slip around the bubbling pools, sun yourself on the rock shelves or kick about in the sandy shallows, all under the stunning reign of Mount Bartle Frere and the Wooroonooran National Park.


#4 Barron Falls

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Image: Ashley Lourey / Flickr

Barron Falls is a racehorse in the wet season and a trickle of wet ribbons when it’s dry. Located northwest of Cairns and a few kilometres south of Kuranda, the steep, cascading waterfall explodes off the rocks when the water is plentiful, creating huge clouds of mist and shimmering rainbows.

Being so close to the far north-east capital, Barron Falls is visible by a few different routes. You can make the drive from Kuranda and take an easy walk from the carpark to the lookout, or you can sail past the falls in style on either the Kuranda Scenic Railway or the Skyrail Forest Cableway, both originating in Cairns.

The train winds its way through the lush vegetation of Barron Gorge National Park and the Skyrail sails through and over the canopy. Flying past a waterfall? Whaaaaat? Yes.


#5 Millaa Millaa Falls

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Image: Markus / Flickr

Millaa Millaa Falls have that Fantasy Island quality. Fringed by lush rainforest, giant palm fronds and vibrant tropical flowers, the pattering cascade of this tidy waterfall is absolutely picture perfect. And it’s more than just a pretty face: the stream tumbles gently into a swimmable pool, filled with turquoise water and the odd platypus.

Millaa Millaa is one of the most Instagrammed waterfalls in Australia, so don’t expect to be viewing it in peaceful isolation. On the upside, it’s easy to access, just a few kilometres north of Millaa Millaa town. It’s set up with barbecue facilities and toilets, so you can dawdle long beside the river and paddle to your heart’s delight.


#6 Millstream Falls

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Image: Rob and Stephanie Levy / Flickr

The widest single drop waterfall in Australia, Millstream is the crown jewel of the Millstream National Park, the product of three million years’ of volcanic activity in the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area.  Unlike some of the other waterfalls on this list, Millstream is in a rain shadow area, so the surrounding vegetation is dominated by dry wood eucalyptus species such a stringybark, bloodwood and ironbark, all heaving with buzzards and honeyeaters.

Located 147km south-west of Cairns or 3km south-west of Ravenshoe, Millstream Falls are an easy drive and an easy walk from the carpark. The Big Millstream Falls drop off a basalt rock shelf and they’re best for your panoramic art photos. 500 metres downriver are the Little Millstream Falls, which is where you can get your swimming done. Millstream National Park was also the site of a WWII training ground and there are history-rich walking tracks nearby, if that’s your thing.

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(Lead image: Alastair Lang/Flickr)