One of the biggest drawcards of the Cairns Tablelands in Far North Queensland is the abundance of beautiful waterfalls. In fact there are so many that there is even an official ‘Waterfalls Circuit’.
The best time of year to see the waterfalls near Cairns in the Tablelands (also known as the Atherton Tablelands) is during or after the wet season. From January-March the monsoonal trough literally dumps torrential rain across the region, which swells the creeks and creates spectacular full waterfalls.
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Barron Falls in Kuranda is probably the most spectacular and the closest to Cairns. This video shows what it looks like after big rains in the wet season:
You can’t swim at Barron Falls but many of the other waterfalls on the Cairns Tablelands have swimming holes that are safe to swim in, although take extra care when the creeks are in full flow.
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This icon of the Cairns Tablelands is the most photographed waterfall in Australia. It has even featured in a few TV commercials, so there’s a good chance you will recognise it when you see it.
At the bottom of the 18.3 metre plunge of water at Millaa Millaa there is a swimming hole. Although it’s pretty cold it is very refreshing on a hot tropical day. There are toilets, picnic and barbecue facilities.
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The actual waterfall cascades in sections down over rocks. You can walk down to a viewing platform, which gives a great view and perfect photo opportunity to get a picture with the waterfall behind you.
There is also a swimming hole at the bottom of the falls and a teahouse close by for those feeling like a Devonshire tea or coffee.
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Holding the title as Australia’s widest single-drop waterfall, Millstream Falls really is quite spectacular as the water drops over the edge of a columnar basalt lava flow before it hits the water below.
There is a sealed walking track to the viewing area over the falls, but the walk can be a little steep in some areas.
It takes about 10 minutes to reach the lookout and for those wanting to stop here for morning tea or lunch, there are barbecue/picnic facilities and toilets. This waterfall is about 3.5 kms south west of Ravenshoe and about 150 km from Cairns (taking the Gillies Highway).
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In fact you can drive right over the waterfall as there is a bridge at the top.
The water from the waterfall cascades over basalt rock and then spills out into a large swimming pool.
This is actually the town swimming pool and is a great place to hang out on hot days.
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This is a really picturesque, cascading waterfall leading to rapids. There is also a walking track and viewing platform so you can get a good look.
Unfortunately there isn’t access to the bottom of the falls though.
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There is a well-worn walking track to the falls and another zig-zag track down to the bottom where you get another perspective of this giant waterfall.
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10 km from Millaa Millaa is Pepina Falls where if you are lucky to be there early in the morning or late in the afternoon you may see a platypus in the pool at the bottom of the falls.
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Some parts of the walking track are a little uneven but it is definitely worth the visit when stopping off at Hypipamee Crater.
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The waterfall is 50 metres high and drops to a swimming hole at the bottom.
The walking track is just as picturesque as you are surrounded by tremendous, giant fig trees as you follow the track through the Wooroonooran National Park.
Nandroya Falls are not far from Innisfail and the Tchupala and Wallicher Falls.
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These waterfalls are about 20 minutes from Innisfail (between Innisfail and Millaa Millaa).
Tchupala Falls is known as a segmented waterfall as the cascading water from Henrietta Creek spills over the basalt rocks in individual but distinct waterfalls, creating more than one waterfall. It is a pretty waterfall but many say Wallicher Falls, which is a short walk away, is more spectacular.
Wallicher is a much wider waterfall and seems to cascade down over the rocks and fall in misty streams rather than surge down the mountainside. Some sections of the track have been closed in the past due to cyclone damage but you can check with tourist information before heading out to the falls.
Most of the photos on this page are thanks to Paul Curtis from NQ Wildscapes. To find out more about his photo tours go to his website at www.nqwildscapes.com.