The eastern edge of Far North Queensland is a low-lying narrow coastal strip. The Great Barrier Reef is close by in the Coral Sea, while to the west there are lush green rain forests populated with flocks of colourful birds. Further inland, the terrain rises steeply westward to the fertile Atherton Tableland. Thanks to generous rainfall we have gorgeous Cairns waterfalls throughout the year.
The best time to visit Cairns waterfalls is from January to March, when the monsoon season dumps vast quantities of rain throughout the region. Streams become rivers, and cascades mighty torrents raising spray into the sky. After the bounteous bonanza clears, the waterfalls become more gentle playthings. At the height of summer, some of Cairns best waterfalls like Milla Milla provide delightful natural swimming pools, with large smooth rocks the delight of families.
The Mighty Barron River Waterfall
Tinarro Falls is just below Tinaroo Dam high up on the Atherton Tableland. During monsoon season, this tributary of the Barron River sends huge volumes of tumbling water through the Barron Gorge. Barron Waterfall marks the point where the river begins a series of four cascading drops totaling 107 meters / 351 feet on its way to the Coral Sea.
At the height of the monsoon rain season these drops become thundering cascades across a width of 259 meters (850 feet). After this is over, they reduce to trickles, owing to the remaining water diverting to a hydroelectric power station. There are three great ways to view the largest of Cairns Waterfalls. First, the Kennedy Highways passes just upstream. And then we also have a skyrail cable car popular for informal weddings, and a retro passenger train providing dramatic year round views.
Onward to Mungalli Falls Near Cairns, Far North Queensland
The Barron Waterfall undoubtedly takes the cake for brute power among Cairns waterfalls in season. However Mungalli is more beautifully delicate as it drops 90 meters in several cascades over sheets of rock. There are great photo opportunities from the viewing platform. Delightfully, there is a great swimming hole at the bottom of the falls just an hour’s or so drive from our luxury accommodation rental with genuine natural rain forest at the bottom of the garden.
There’s a nice view from the top at the Mungalli Student Village, Wilderness Retreat, and Outdoor Education Centre. Thereafter, walk along the track past a wide rocky cascade to the bottom of the falls. The trail continues onward for a short distance before terminating at the viewing platform in the photo. Swimming is permitted. By all means be our guest on a summer’s day.
Millstream, the Widest Drop of All Cairns Waterfalls
There are two waterfalls to see here. This makes the 147-kilometre trip from Wanggulay even more worthwhile. Once you reach reach the old pioneering town of Ravenshoe – well worth a visit – follow the signs to Big Millstream Falls. Inquire locally for the route to Little Millstream Falls which is delicately pretty on a more minor scale.
Big Millstream Falls plunges over the edge of a columnar basalt lava flow in spectacular style. There are several walking trails in the shadow of the Great Dividing Range. There are also World War II remains to visit at this, the highest point of North Queensland. Much of them are ‘as left’ when 1,000 troops departed in 1945. Tread gently here for some of the boys who swam here never returned. A lovely, but sometimes bittersweet place …
Cascading Water at Another of Our Lovely Cairns Waterfalls
Not all waterfalls have to be that dramatic. A gentler flow often creates a larger, more generous swimming hole as is the case with Malanda Falls. It doubles as a swimming pool for the locals, so a great opportunity for the kids to meet new friends. The water from the North Johnstone River is prone to spilling over in the rainy season. This creates a great conservation area with two 20-minute trails to follow.
Malanda is an old mining town dating from the tin and copper rush, and from where Malanda Milk comes you’ll find in supermarkets in Cairns. There’s a great historic resource center in the town itself, and interesting hotels and pubs from pioneering days. Malanda Falls have another claim to fame you won’t often see. You can swim with platypus at the bottom of it if you can find one, because the water is crocodile free.
Mount Hypipamee National Park and Dinner Falls
This gorgeous national park is some 120kilometres (75 miles) from Wanggulay along the Gillies Highway but definitely worth a visit. The attraction centers around a volcanic pipe that once blasted gas, but is now a deep, tranquil lake. While the 400-metre (1,300 foot) path is longer than the other waterfalls we write about here, you will be rewarded by a viewing platform providing uninterrupted views into the crater.
The walk to the bottom of the waterfall through rain forest will take you forty-five minutes in total, but it is well worth it because of opportunities to see tree kangaroos and possums. There is also great bird life including victoria’s riflebird, bridled honeyeaters and golden and tooth-billed bowerbirds. Entrance is free but organised and commercial groups do require permits. After all this writing we are ready for a swim in another of Cairns waterfalls you should visit. See you there.