cairns waterfalls

Cairns Waterfalls Tumbling from The Tableland

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.

cairns waterfalls

Tinaroo Falls: Owen Allen: CC 2.0

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.

cairns waterfalls

Barron Falls near Kuranda, Australia One January: Ashlsimm: Use for Any Purpose If Attributed

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.

cairns waterfalls

Mungalli Falls Near Cairns, and Wanggulay: Jim Bendon: CC 2.0

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 …

Big Millstream Falls: Mike Lehmann, Mike Switzerland: CC 3.0

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.

cairns waterfalls

Malanda Falls: Joel Annesley: CC 2.0

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.

cairns waterfalls

Dinner Falls: Spalti: CC 2.0



family holidays in cairns

Family Holidays in Cairns Region

The 4,135 square kilometer (1,596 square mile) Cairns region includes the city, and the area to the south of it just short of the village of Innisfall. The Shire of Douglas was part of a larger region for a while. But that was until the folk to the north of us declared their independence in 2012. So long fellas. We love you but we think we got the better deal after we ‘exchanged a few words’. Here we share some great ideas for family holidays in Cairns Region. You will find them fun for all ages too when you let your hair down!

The Cairns Zoom and Wildlife Experience

The Cairns Zoom and Wildlife Experience is a transparent geodesic dome. So adults can watch children from outside as they enter a rain forest inside a glass bubble. It’s like a giant playground with different levels to climb to and explore. It is just as well they supply safety harnesses, for here are crocodiles, pythons, turtles, birds, and slimy frogs. This is the place to be for great family holidays in Cairns, but definitely not in your Sunday best!

family holidays in cairns

Cairns Zoom and Wildlife Experience: Cairns Zoom Wildlife Zone

An Esplanade and Swimming Pool made for Family Holidays in Cairns

After zip lining over crocodiles you may want to chill a while. In that case, Cairns Esplanade is the place to be for family holidaymakers in search of water fun. It has a salt-water swimming pool and there are ample toilet and shower facilities in this recently completed stunning outdoor experience. The Esplanade is well-managed and safe, and a magnet for backpackers. Plus couples enjoying an early morning jog, teenagers on the skateboard ramp, and families walking to restaurants for dinner in the evening.

There is also a great boardwalk along the waterfront. It leads to sculptures in a garden, an amphitheater, public barbeques, and a children’s playground. The Great Barrier Reef Departure Terminal is a hive of activity in season. It goes without saying the takeouts, diners and restaurants offer a superb choice of trad Australian and international fine dining. This place is an absolute must and complements happy family holidays in Cairns perfectly.

family holidays in cairns

Sunrise on the Cairns Esplanade: DeRass Photography: CC 2.0

Muddy’s Playground, But No Worries Mum It’s Super Clean

We have little idea where the name comes from. A Ms or Mr Muddy sound too obvious, but perhaps it is true after all. More importantly, we have this huge bright and colourful play area for kids. It may not be muddy but it is full of child-friendly water sprays and sprinklers. So kids, and optional mums and dads are definitely going to get wet. On a summery day in Cairns this is actually a blessing. Come to think of it, it is a blessing all year round.

They have a toddler area with full enclosure, plus lots of clean, white sand for kids to roll on and get their fingers in. They have a cute cafe with lawns and views across the water. Naturally sodas, chips and nuggets are available all day long. You are also most welcome to bring your own food. They have thoughtful public pub-style outdoor seating, with umbrellas to keep the sun away from baby’s soft, tender skin.

family holidays in cairns

Muddy’s Playground: Image Cairns Esplanade

Up, Up and Away in the Clear Blue Yonder on Family Holidays in Cairns

Did you ever fancy a hot air balloon ride but never quite get around to it. From what guests tell us, you were certainly not the only one. Family holidays in Cairns are a humdinger opportunity to tick this one off your bucket list while sharing adventures with the kids. Your day starts early in the morning before the birds are twittering. You enjoy a quick breakfast before the tour operator arrives, and makes double sure you have enough warm clothes for later in the day up in the sky.

Few things compare with this exciting moment westward of us, when the pilot finally inflates the balloon, and the basket clears the ground but only just. After a final check, ground staff release the restraining ropes. Sheer magic begins as you slowly float up upwards into the sky. It’s almost like drifting across a model of the real thing. You feel quite superior compared to us mere mortals on the ground below.

family holidays in cairns

A View From the Heavens: Lenny K: CC 2.0

Ride Across the Water to a Green Island in the Coral Sea

Green Island is another place for great memories of family holidays in Cairns. It is 27 kilometres off shore from Cairns, and there are half day and full day ferry rides. Once over the excitement of being on a ‘desert island’ you go snorkeling with the kids for an awesome coral reef experience. What’s more, you see the same corals and fishes as folk staying a luxury resort with prices we can only dream of affording.

Green Island formed 6,000 years ago as waves deposited coral, sand and other floating debris on a coral foundation. Today, the vegetation varies from vine-thicket rain forest to dry beach plants. Ferry access is by 45-minute catamaran ride. If you are feeling flush, you could hire a charter boat, a helicopter, or even a sea plane to get there. Come on over, as they say and enjoy the ride. There are also several other islands near Cairns to enjoy.

family holidays in cairns

Catamaran Ferry at Green Island: Photnart: CC 3.0

Family Holidays in Cairns Region Go Better by Vintage Train

The whole family will be ecstatic over a spectacular train ride up a cliff face to a village above. Their are views to die for, and comfy seats for teens to sit while they play with their aps and message their friends. The Cairns-to-Kuranda railway opened up access to the plateau above us in 1891. This kick started our trading role that lead to construction of Cairns Harbour. Without it, we could still be a quiet backwater like the other fishing villages along our coastline.

The railway climbs 327 meters over 37 kilometres affording unsurpassed views of waterfalls, dense rain forest, and steep ravines. Hundreds of men picked and shoveled through 15 tunnels, and built 37 bridges mainly out timber by hand. There are occasional stops at spectacular view sites. Finally the train arrives at Kuranda Station where a historic village waits to welcome passengers with souvenir shops, and some of the best restaurants in the region

family holidays in cairns

Stoney Creek Bridge with Spray Rising from Barron River Falls: Susan: CC 2.0

“Wanggulay Makes Family Holidays in Cairns Even Better”

We built our two private vacation rentals especially for family holidays in Cairns. In fact, we originally acquired the land for our own family breaks. We are private people ourselves, so we built directly on the edge of a national heritage rain forest.  First the one house, and then the other as visitors flocked to the Great Barrier Reef. The river out of frame in the picture of the railway line flows not far away from us towards the end of its journey from the tableland above.

Please come and see what we have when you are next in Cairns. Better still, come and stay. Our guests tell us Wanggulay makes family holidays in Cairns region even better as you will see from our reviews. We are an award-winning retreat providing a high standard of luxury. Kids love coming here because they can swim in secluded rock pools nearby.

Cairns Romantic Accommodation

A Quiet Stream Nearby Our Holiday Rental