10 Best Waterfalls Near Cairns For A Scenic Day Trip

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From the thunderous roar of Millaa Millaa Falls to the cascades of Josephine Creek, Cairns has no shortage of incredible waterfalls.

With its lush rainforests, beautiful beaches, and vibrant wildlife to boot, it’s no wonder this coastal city has become an iconic destination in Australia. 

Stick around for insight into our favourite waterfalls near Cairns and make sure your holiday includes visits to these spectacular displays of nature!

beautiful waterfall cascades of josephine falls south of cairns

Overview of the Best Waterfalls Near Cairns, Australia

You will find some of Australia’s best waterfalls around Cairns, giving you just one more reason to visit this part of tropical North Queensland!

While the beaches in Cairns are often closed due to the dangers of jellyfish and crocodiles, the tiled pool at your hotel isn’t your only option when it comes to swimming.

Many of the incredible waterfalls in Cairns offer a natural alternative when you are taking a break from exploring the Great Barrier Reef!

Some of them also feature some of the best freshwater swimming holes and rock pools in Tropical North Queensland, making them the perfect place to cool off on a hot, humid day in the tropics.

There’s no denying that tropical Queensland is home to some of the most beautiful places in Queensland!

And this is the ultimate guide to some of the best hidden waterfalls and more well-known waterfalls in the Cairns region and Atherton Tablelands waterfall circuit.

Here is an overview of some of the most breathtaking waterfalls near Cairns, so you’re sure to not miss out on any amazing experiences:

  • Josephine Falls
  • Barron Falls
  • Crystal Cascades
  • Millaa Millaa Falls
  • Ellinjaa Falls
  • Malanda Falls
  • Zillie Falls
  • Nandroya Falls
  • Mena Creek Falls
  • Babinda Boulders

Josephine Falls

josephine falls natural waterslide and waterfall
Josephine Falls

Josephine Falls is a must-see natural attraction located in the breathtaking Wooroonooran National Park, just an hour and a half south of Cairns.

Flowing down from the mountain stream of Josephine Creek, the waterfall consists of several cascading tiers that lead to deep, clear swimming holes below.

The area is full of outdoor activities, from hiking and picnicking to spotting birds and other local wildlife.

What makes Josephine Falls special is its naturally occurring water slide – a smooth rock surface for visitors to slide down into the pool below.

While enjoying this unique experience, nature lovers can also explore the lush rainforests that surround the waterfall.

It is just a short walk through the beautiful wet tropics rainforest from the Josephine Falls car park to the swimming area.

It’s important to note that visitors should exercise caution when visiting as under heavy rainfall conditions, currents at Josephine Falls can be strong and dangerous.

Always follow safety signs and take extra care around slippery surfaces to make sure you stay safe during your trip! If conditions aren’t safe, they will close off access to the falls area.

If sleeping under the stars not far from this beautiful spot sounds like heaven to you, be aware that you can go camping nearby at Mount Bartle Frere – just don’t forget your tent!

Location: Josephine Falls Walk, Bartle Frere, 75 km from Cairns

Barron Falls

barron falls day trip from cairns

Barron Falls is renowned for its impressive size and power during the wet season when the Barron River fills and pours over the edge of the falls.

The majestic cascading waters make their way through lush rainforests and steep ravines, creating a truly breathtaking sight. 

In addition to Barron Falls’ incredible beauty, it is also an important cultural site for local Indigenous people. Visitors can get a unique glimpse into the area’s history and culture through guided tours and interpretive signage around the falls. 

Barron Falls is located just 30 kilometres from the Cairns city centre.

Many visitors choose to take the Kuranda scenic railway ride from Cairns to see the cascading falls, while others opt for a leisurely walk that takes them through some of the most stunning scenery in Far North Queensland from the lookout point.

This is definitely one of the closest options when looking for the best waterfalls in Cairns and makes a great attraction during a Kuranda day trip.

Location: Centenary Park, Coondoo St, Kuranda, 31 km from Cairns

Crystal Cascades

crystal cascades waterfall near Cairns

Crystal Cascades, located 25 minutes away from Cairns in Tropical North Queensland, is a paradise destination for nature lovers.

The area consists of cascading waterfalls tumbling into clear turquoise swimming holes, perfect for taking an outdoor dip and getting closer to the region’s rich flora and fauna. 

Visitors will be attracted by the crystal-clear waters which allow them to see the sandy bottom of each swimming hole.

The lush rainforest setting surrounding Crystal Cascades also provides ample opportunities to explore, picnic, or just relax and take in the stunning views.

Hiking trails are also available for those looking for a bit more adventure, leading you through some of the best landscapes in this part of Australia. 

Travellers interested in visiting Crystal Cascades from Cairns can expect a 25-minute drive out of town along Captain Cook Highway towards Kuranda Village before turning off onto Upper Barron Falls Road.

Location: Redlynch Intake Rd, Lamb Range, 19 km from Cairns

Millaa Millaa Falls

millaa millaa falls near Cairns waterfall

If you’re looking for a natural wonder that will leave you in awe, the stunning Millaa Millaa Falls near Cairns is sure to impress.

Located in the Atherton Tablelands region of Tropical North Queensland and surrounded by lush rainforest, it is an ideal spot for both sightseers and swimmers alike. 

Millaa Millaa falls is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Queensland and often features in Tropical North Queensland promotional videos.

It is definitely one of the most epic Cairns waterfalls to add to your Cairns itinerary!

Millaa Millaa is one of the most photographed waterfalls in Cairns!

Picture-perfect landscapes give photographers a chance to capture unforgettable memories while those looking for a refreshing swim can head to the pool at the base of the falls. 

Millaa Millaa Falls is located approximately an hour and a half drive from Cairns, making it easily accessible both by car or by foot.

Location: Millaa Falls Road, Millaa Millaa, 101 km from Cairns

Ellinjaa Falls

Ellinjaa Falls in atherton tablelands

Ellinjaa Falls is located just a short drive from the bustling coastal city of Cairns, in Tropical North Queensland. This stunning waterfall is situated deep within the lush rainforest of Kuranda National Park and is a sight to behold! 

The falls cascade over an ancient basalt cliff face, with the water rushing down into a crystal-clear pool below.

Surrounded by towering trees and diverse wildlife, it’s easy to forget you’re so close to the city when you stand in this tranquil paradise.

The breathtaking scenery makes Ellinjaa Falls an ideal spot for both nature lovers and photographers alike.

If you decide to visit this incredible area, be sure to keep an eye out for any of the unique wildlife that inhabits the area such as wallabies, tree frogs, or even snakes!

Location: 1174 Theresa Creek Rd, Millaa Millaa, 104 km from Cairns

Malanda Falls

Malanda Falls in far north queensland with suspension bridge

Malanda Falls is one of those destinations that should be on the Queensland bucket list of every traveller and explorer!

Located just outside Cairns, it’s an easy 1.5-hour drive from the city but feels worlds apart from urban life.

Once you arrive, you can admire the spectacular views of the small Malanda waterfall from a distance, or – if you’re up to something you will remember forever – take a refreshing swim in the lagoon below.

Other attractions in the area such as Malanda Falls Conservation Park can be visited via walking trails around the falls. 

Location: Malanda Atherton Rd, Malanda, 77 km from Cairns

Zillie Falls

zillie falls in the atherton tablelands in far north queensland

At over 30 metres tall, Zillie Falls provides an unforgettable view from its lookout platform.

From the viewing platform, visitors can admire the stunning panoramic views of the surrounding landscape before descending to the pool at the base of the falls for a refreshing dip.

It’s easy to see why this place has become such a popular Instagrammable destination!

What makes Zillie Falls truly unique is its biodiversity and ecological importance within Wooroonooran National Park.

The falls act as an important habitat for a range of native species including fish, reptiles, and amphibians – making it perfect for wildlife spotting enthusiasts.

The drive from Cairns to Zillie Falls is an experience by itself, taking about 1 hour and 40 minutes for visitors to truly appreciate the stunning scenery and wild landscapes around them. 

Location: Theresa Creek Rd, Wooroonooran, 106 km from Cairns

Nandroya Falls

Nandroya falls near Cairns

We’re ending this list with an incredible natural attraction located in the heart of Far North Queensland’s Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, some 130 kilometres south of Cairns.

Nestled deep within the rainforest of the Atherton Tablelands, Nandroya Falls stands at an impressive 50 metres high.

Those lucky enough to catch sight of this roaring cascade of nature’s beauty won’t be disappointed! 

Not to mention, Nandroya Falls is one of the few in the area to have a continuous flow all year round. So no matter when you visit, you’re sure to experience an unforgettable wonder. 

A drive through this unique landscape and its vibrant greenery will make for an amazing day trip from Cairns.

With its pristine natural environment, Nandroya Falls is well worth taking time out of your busy itinerary to visit.

Location: Bunda St, Wooroonooran, 119 km from Cairns

Mena Creek Falls

mena creek falls from the banks of Paronella Park

A little further south from Cairns is one of our favourite day trips, to Paronella Park where you will find the beautiful Mena Creek Falls.

While it is around a 2-hour drive from Cairns, it is well worth the time if you love chasing waterfalls!

During the wet season, the falls flow with impressive force and sometimes result in flash flooding the banks of picturesque Paronella Park.

Paronella Park was built back in the 1930s by visionary Jose Paronella and today is a popular cultural and historical destination in the region.

Here you can explore the beautiful tropical gardens, take a tour of the old castle-like ruins and even have a picnic near Mena Creek Falls.

You can’t swim here though – there have been quite a few croc sightings over the years!

Paronella Park is a paid attraction, with free camping included in your entrance ticket. But that’s not the only way you can enjoy views of the falls!

Mena Creek Environmental Park is accessible by the public at all times, located on the south side of Mena Creek Falls, with public toilets, informative signs, picnic tables and access to the suspension bridge that takes you over the top of the picturesque falls.

Location: 1648 Innisfail Japoon Rd, Germantown, 108 km from Cairns

Babinda Boulders

babinda boulders devils pools and rock formations

While not a cascading waterfall like the other waterfalls near Cairns mentioned so far, Babinda Boulders deserves a mention on the list too!

Located near the Wooroonooran National Park and less than half an hour from Cairns, this is a popular spot to visit!

The Babinda Boulders are a series of giant granite boulders sitting in the middle of the pristine Babinda Creek.

The Devil’s Pools area is absolutely stunning and has great cultural significance to the local Aboriginal People, but this is not a place for swimming!

Instead, head to the swimming hole area closer to the car park which has shallow waters and no strong currents. This is a popular swimming hole for locals and visitors alike after admiring the fast-flowing waters cascading over the boulders!

Location: 1 Munro St, Babinda, 65 km from Cairns

Tropical North Queensland Waterfall Circuit

Visiting all of the best waterfalls near Cairns is a great way to explore the region and get to know it intimately. Whether you have time for the full circuit or just a day trip, there’s plenty to explore on this amazing journey.

The Cairns waterfall circuit is approximately 100 km one way and stops at the following:

  • Millaa Millaa Falls
  • Zillie Falls
  • Ellinjaa Falls

There are plenty of other circuits that will take you to more of the waterfalls in the area though. It all depends on how much time you have to go chasing waterfalls!

Some other notable waterfalls near Cairns include:

  • Old Weir Falls at Stoney Creek
  • Fairy Falls
  • Harleys Creek Falls
  • Spring Creek Falls
  • Davies Creek Falls
  • Emerald Creek Falls
  • Vision Falls
  • Windin Falls
  • Little Millstream Falls
  • Halls Falls
  • Murray Falls

Travel Insurance: Make sure you don’t leave home without travel insurance. Trust us, it’s one of those things you don’t want to skip, especially when travelling with kids. Check out SafetyWing to make sure you’re covered!

Final Thoughts

With its lush, tropical rainforest and dramatic escarpment coastline, Cairns represents one of the best destinations to experience Australia’s stunning waterfalls.

Whether you’re looking for a stroll or a more intense hike with incredible views at the end, you won’t be disappointed! Take some time to explore this gorgeous part of the world; we promise you won’t regret it.

Plan Your Cairns Visit

  • Flights – We use Skyscanner or WayAway to research, set price alerts and book flights.
  • Car hire – compare the best car rental prices.
  • Trains & Buses – We book with Omio
  • Accommodation – We use Booking.com or Agoda to book most of our hotel accommodation when we travel.
  • Travel insurance – Protect yourself and your belongings with Hey Mondo.
  • Tours & attractions – Our preferred attraction and tour booking sites are Get Your Guide and Viator. Booking ahead will mean you don’t miss out on popular tours!


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