THE 9 BEST Cairns WATERFALLS (Less than 1-hour FROM TOWN)

If you’re looking for the best waterfalls near Cairns to visit during your holiday, this epic Cairns waterfalls guide will help you find the top ones in the area!

When you are up in Tropical North Queensland exploring, visiting the cascades in the area is a highlight.

In particular, the waterfalls near Cairns are not to be missed while you are up here.

Even with so many incredible things to do in Cairns, like exploring the famous Great Barrier Reef, the falls are still one of our favourite attractions.

We were blown away by some of these waterfalls with their tropical beauty and clear waters.

And we know that you’ll especially be impressed if you are looking to do some incredible waterfall photography.

There are multiple plunge pools you can take a dip in. Little swimming holes of paradise that you could spend hours lazing around in. And Instagrammable photos galore!

Most waterfalls near Cairns are within an hour drive away so it does take a bit of effort to get to them. And bring your walking shoes. For some waterfalls, you may need to take a little walk to reach their beauty.

While each one is different, all of the waterfalls near Cairns are beautiful in their own way.

Here is our list of the best Cairns waterfalls that are less than 1 hour away from the town.

Millaa Millaa Cairns Waterfalls
Ready to find the most beautiful waterfalls on your next adventure in Tropical North Queensland? Let’s dive into it!

The Best Cairns Waterfalls

Cairns waterfalls are not to be missed whether you live in Queensland or are just passing by.

After snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef and enjoying the city, definitely make a trip to see at least one or more of these falls. Here are 9 of the most beautiful waterfalls near Cairns to visit!

Crystal Cascades

  • Location – Redlynch Intake Rd, Lamb Range
  • Kilometres from Cairns – 19 km (25 mins drive)

This natural wonder is a secluded freshwater swimming hole hidden deep within the northern rainforest.

Crystal Cascades has an array of cascading waterfalls that flow over large rock pools, attracting many tourists who are eager to jump in and take a dip for some refreshing relief from the heat.

As a day trip from Cairns, this waterfall will not only be worth it but you will also be filled with hours of fun! There are lots of different swimming holes along your journey; some are shadier than others which provide great spots to relax on hot days!

There are sheltered tables and BBQs, so pack your lunch and have a picnic. And you’ll find a toilet block there too.

From Crystal Cascades car park, you can also visit Fairy Falls. Tucked away in Crystal Cascades National Park, the picturesque Fairy Falls offers just what you need for some peace and quiet from all that running around!

Fairy Falls is just down the road from the Crystal Cascade so you can visit them both on the same trip. When you are at the car park, look for the sign about the stinger plants and there is a path to Fairy Falls right there.

Crystal Cascades Waterfalls Near Cairns
Crystal Cascades is one not to miss close to Cairns. Also visit the nearby Fairy Falls! Photo Credit – Tourism Tropical North Queensland

Barron Falls

  • Location – Barron Gorge National Park, Kuranda
  • Kilometres from Cairns – 31 km (40 min drive)

This is definitely one of the most popular waterfalls in Cairns. Barron Falls is one of the highest waterfalls in Queensland, at 125m.

It descends from the Atherton Tablelands towards the Barron Gorge and lowlands near Cairns, tumbling off enormous cliffs and being a real sight to behold.

The Barron Gorge National Park is a beautiful section of the world that has many natural and cultural attractions.

Many visitors will see the Barron Falls on their day trip from Cairns. They may add in tours of the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway or the Kuranda Scenic Railway or both.

The 500m trail from the Barron Falls carpark is wheelchair friendly, so can be enjoyed by all the family.

Explore this elevated walkway, high above the forest floor as it winds through lush rainforest and open eucalypt forest canopy to Din Din Barron Falls lookouts, at the end of the trail.

One lookout is from a viewing platform near Din Din Barron (the base). And another overlooks it from “Fairy Glen” along the higher ground. Use these to catch views over either side of this gorge.

Along your journey, you have opportunities for viewing nature at its finest. From wayside signs, enjoy views over the gorge with the sometimes-misty falls thundering spectacularly down.

In the wet season the waterfall is on another level. We were lucky enough to see it during this time, and it really is a force to be reckoned with.

Barron Waterfalls
Barron Falls is 125 metres tall.

Stoney Creek Falls

  • Location – Barron Gorge National Park, Kuranda
  • Kilometres from Cairns – 13km (20 min drive)

The crystal clear water of Stoney Creek Falls attracts many people to the spectacular swimming hole.

There are plenty of rock pools to explore or you can just relax in the clean waters fed straight from the stream’s source, which runs through rapid after rapid until it reaches a creek bed below.

Stoney Creek Falls is a safe place to swim, but it’s important not to venture downstream towards the Barron River as it is not safe.

Stopping off at Stone Creek Falls on your way to visit Barron Falls is an option as they are both in the Barron Gorge National Park.

Stoney Creek Falls
Stoney Creek Falls. Photo Credit – Tourism and Events Queensland

Davies Creek Falls

  • Location – Davies Creek Rd, Mareeba
  • Kilometres from Cairns – 57 km (1-hour drive)

Located on the other side of Lamb Range, Davies Creek Falls is another one of the best waterfalls near Cairns.

For those who have time and want to explore more than just their landmark-of-choice, this waterfall offers an opportunity for exploration.

It has a natural infinity pool – a large rock face that plunges into deep crystal clear waters below. And it is only accessible through hiking or climbing down slippery rocks which can be muddy too.

So if you’re up for some adventure make sure your shoes are sturdy enough as they will get dirty while exploring Davies Creek Falls!

READ MORE: Don’t miss our expert list of the top places to visit in Australia!

Additionally, there are many trails leading to hidden pools that are perfect for cooling off during summer heatwaves.

Along the way, have a look at the other rock formations as they appear so surreal that you’re sure to have an Instagram-worthy experience here.

There is a carpark at the top. The walk is about 800m return down to the lookout at the top of the waterfalls. The views looking out over the Great Dividing Range from the top are beautiful.

The road out there is gravel but ok for your typical 2WD in the dry season. And you can camp out here if you are keen.

Davies Creek Falls
Davies Creek Falls

Emerald Creek Falls

  • Location – Mareeba
  • Kilometres from Cairns – 75 km (Just over 1-hour drive)

Emerald Creek Falls is a hidden gem of the Atherton Tablelands. The waterfall offers both cascading waterfalls and deep swimming holes for you to cool down from all year round.

This makes it quite different than its other creek-side counterparts in Cairns that only have one or two features either way.

The creek erupts from the rainforest, tumbling over granite boulders into eucalypt trees.

The picturesque falls plunge here to form small pools before continuing on its journey towards Mareeba.

Alongside Emerald creek is a walking track that takes you past these cascades to a lookout with gorgeous valley views – perfect for a picnic!

The trail out to the Emerald Falls is 2.9km out and back. The walk up isn’t too difficult. There are two trails that branch off in the middle; one to the top lookout and the other to the swimming hole at the bottom.

Make sure you have sturdy shoes as the trail is gravel with uneven ground, lots of stairs and slippery rocks.

There are picnic tables at the parking lot so enjoy your lunch before embarking onto this beautiful hike.

The road in can be rough but just take your time. To get there you have to drive on a dirt road but it’s easily done in a 2WD. Avoid during the rainy season.

Emerald Creek Falls
Emerald Creek Falls is a hidden gem of the Atherton Tablelands. Photo Credit – Tourism Tropical North Queensland

Josephine Falls

  • Location – Josephine Falls Walk, Bartle Frere
  • Kilometres from Cairns – 75 km (1-hour drive)

Josephine Creek starts as a small stream near the summit of Bartle Frere, the highest mountain in Queensland located in Wooroonooran National Park.

By the time the water has flowed 7.5 km to Josephine Falls, it is an awe-inspiring torrent that is truly stunning to see.

From the Josephine Falls carpark head down the 700m track through World Heritage Listed rainforest for viewing decks over picturesque falls at the end.

Don’t forget your bathers as you can jump in for a dip here. Do be careful on the rocks around the waterfalls as they are slippery when they are wet.

In the wet season, flash flooding can occur and the strong currents formed can be deadly. You have been warned.

Josephine Falls
Josephine Falls is one of the best waterfalls near Cairns.

Clamshell Falls

  • Location – Behana Gorge Rd, Aloomba
  • Kilometres from Cairns – 37 km (55 mins drive)

The Clamshell Falls is another one of the best waterfalls near Cairns, located along Behana Creek with a number of deep, green pools.

This fresh rainforest river supplies Cairns with water and provides you with enough cool refreshment for hours of fun!

Located at the end of Behana Gorge Waterfall Track, a 6km return hike from Innisfail & Cairns region, this waterfall is not to be missed!

The falls are fed by rainwater that rushes down into three tiers before crashing over rocks and flowing downstream with thunderous applause.

There is an amazing view upstream towards Walsh’s Pyramid, which is framed beautifully on its south face thanks to cane fields surrounding it.

You may even see turtles around here as they often nest near fresh-running streams.

If you visit after lots of rainfall the waterfalls are even more spectacular.

This trail features stunning natural beauty as it winds through shallow streams, granite gorges and swimming holes.

With so many twists and turns on your journey down the mountain there’s no way you’ll get bored.

If you want to explore Behana Gorge more, you can do an adrenaline-pumping canyoning tour!

You’ll abseil down cliffs from high up in the air, plunge into crystal clear pools, slide over smooth rocks and jump from heights that will make your heart pump.

Clamshell Falls
Clamshell Falls, one of the best waterfalls in Cairns. Photo Credit – Tourism Tropical North Queensland

Spring Creek Falls (Black Rock Waterfalls)

  • Location – Mowbray Valley, Mowbray
  • Kilometres from Cairns – 60 km (1.5 hour drive)

Spring Creek Falls has long been a favourite for those looking to enjoy the outdoors and swim or cool down on a hot summer day when in Cairns.

It was initially known as “Black Rock Waterfalls”, but today it is known as Spring Creek Falls.

It is a little bit of a mission to get out to Spring Creek Falls, taking about 1.5 hours one way from Cairns to reach these beautiful waterfalls.

We definitely recommend that you start early in the morning and only in the dry season. The wet season can be a little dodgy.

The path to the waterfall is full of rocks and requires some rock hopping/scrambling, which makes this place stand out from other waterholes in Mowbray Valley.

After passing through lush green tunnels created by tree canopies and small pools along the way and near the end you will have to do a little scrambling to reach the waterfalls.

It is a great swimming hole so do not forget your bathers. It is deep so be careful and there are yabbies in there.

Check the walkout or All Trails to get the right coordinates.

READ MORE: Check out our recommendations for all the best things to do in Queensland!

Babinda Boulders

  • Location – 1 Munro St, Babinda
  • Kilometres from Cairns – 19 km (25 mins drive)

The Babinda Boulders is a hotspot for tourists located near the Wooroonooran National Park, not too far from Cairns. This spot is surrounded by all of the lush rainforests that Tropical North Queensland has to offer.

The creek running through this spot is lined with huge boulders that create small, yet elegant pools where visitors can swim or play.

Even during mid-summer when temperatures are hot, these waters remain surprisingly cold offering refreshing relief any time you need it!

The Babinda Boulders holds great significance for local Aboriginal people in the area, the Yidinji people. Please respect the waters and the area.

Babinda Boulders
Babinda Boulders is one not to miss. Bring your bathers. Photo Credit – Tourism Tropical North Queensland

Which Waterfalls Near Cairns Should You Visit Next?

There is so much more to explore further from Cairns. You can head to the north or south or west.

If you are into waterfalls and being in nature, then check out our list of the Atherton Tableland Waterfalls.

READ MORE: Check out our post on the Waterfalls in the Atherton Tableland.

You can do a loop from Babinda Boulders, heading inland back up to Cairns. Explore the waterfall circuit as there are so many more to see.

Or you can venture further to visit:

  • Wallicher Falls and Tchupala Falls 
  • Nandroya Falls and Silver Falls
  • Mungalli Falls 
  • Mena Creek Falls
  • Ellinjaa Falls
  • Millstream Falls

Then onwards to drive the Waterfall Circuit near the town of Milla Milla Falls. You will visit Millaa Millaa Falls, Zillie Falls and Ellinjaa Falls.

Millaa Millaa Falls is one of the most popular waterfalls near Cairns in the Atherton Tablelands!

From there you can head back towards the coast to visit Mena Creek Falls, a waterfall that cascades over basalt rock that is millions of years old.

Or you can head out to visit Millstream Falls, then up and across to see Malanda Falls and back to Cairns.

There are so many waterfalls in Cairns and Atherton Tableland area. It is hard to choose the best waterfalls and the waterfalls with the best swimming spots.

Don’t have a lot of time? You can book a tour where you go see the best waterfalls and explore the rainforest. Check it out.

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Alesha and Jarryd

Hey! We are Alesha and Jarryd, the award-winning writers and professional photographers behind this blog. We have been travelling the world together since 2008, with a passion for adventure travel and sustainable tourism. Through our stories and images we promote exciting off-the-beaten-path destinations and fascinating cultures as we go. As one of the world's leading travel journalists, our content and adventures have been featured by National Geographic, Lonely Planet, CNN, BBC, Forbes, Business Insider, Washington Post, Yahoo!, BuzzFeed, Channel 7, Channel 10, ABC, The Guardian, and plenty other publications. Follow our journey in real time on Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.

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