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Campers are spoilt for choice in North Queensland where an abundance of creekside camping spots means you can pitch your tent in your own private slice of paradise right next to a picturesque swimming hole, lake or river.    

Swimming, fishing and kayaking are high on the ‘to-do’ lists for most campers in North Queensland so camping areas where you can roll out of your bed and indulge in these activities are definitely the most popular destinations.

These are my top 10 favourite creekside camping spots:

1. paradise waterhole


paradise waterhole

Crystal Creek flows down off the mountain, over the ‘rockslides’ and into Paradise waterhole.

This is a popular swimming hole not far off the Bruce Highway in Paluma National Park. It’s great in summer and autumn when the water flow is good.

Camping is available a few steps from the waterhole although it can get busy at weekends.


2. broadwater creek


broadwater creek

This is far enough off the beaten track that you can visit anytime for a private swim in its deep, clear waters.

The creek is wide and deep at the campground and there is some potential for a relaxing drift downstream via canoe or inflatable.

There are more cascades and pools to discover on the walking track upstream.


3. blencoe falls


blencoe falls camping

This is a great camping destination just north of Cardwell.

It has some excellent riverside campsites and big pools downstream for rockhoppers.


4. Wooroonooran National Park


palmerston creek grotto

West of Innisfail, the Henrietta Creek campground has a little pool in a nice green grotto just before you cross the bridge along the Nandroya Falls track.

Across the highway, the South Johnstone campground is the epitome of wilderness camping.

5. Babinda Boulders


babinda pool

The lush rainforest surrounding the boulders took a beating during Cyclone Larry and Yasi but the pools are as beautiful and refreshing as ever.

And what’s more, there’s a free council campground.

6. Goldsborough Valley (west of Gordonvale)


Just before you get to the Ross and Locke swimming area, another river crossing leads up the valley to the national park campground at the end of the road. The river here is not deep but it is wide and refreshing.

There are some pools below Kearney’s Falls that are accessed from the track from the campsite. For more remote campsites and wilderness pools, backpackers can walk up the road along the Goldfield Track.

7. Cape Tribulation


picture of emmagen pool, cape trib

Myall Creek, which flows past Mason’s Store, is a great little freshwater swimming hole. It is on private property but public visitors are not discouraged so grab a bite to eat or drink at the store then enjoy a refreshing dip.

Cape Trib Camping resort is a short walk away.

Further up the road, beyond the bitumen, you come to Emmagen Creek where you can take a rough 10-minute track upstream to Emmagen Pools.

8. Tinaroo Dam


lake tinaroo camping

A favourite with Cairns locals for water-skiing, the dam itself isn’t great for swimming but if you are camping at my preferred spot, Kauri Creek, it’s a short walk to clear pools and waters.


9. Tate River


creekside camping tate river

Throughout the wet season and for a few months after there are a number of streams in the west with great riverside camping.

One of the best is the beautiful big sandy stream of Tate River, which is south of Almaden, out Chillagoe way.


10. McLeod River


mcleod falls pool

For adventurous 4WDers looking for a remote camping experience with pools, the upper McLeod River is amazing.

Accessed from a steep and rough trail outside of Mt Carbine, there are pools downstream from the bushcamp sites where the road crosses the river.

For the less adventurous the lower McLeod River crossing north-west of Mt Carbine has a small number of informal campsites along the river.


Travel NQ fast facts:


  • Please camp responsibly and remove all your rubbish.
  • These places are wild and unengineered so you need to be responsible for your own safety.

Paul Curtis is the owner of NQ Wildscapes and author of The Traveller’s Guide to North Queensland. He takes small groups to some of these areas on customised tours.

All the photos on this page are thanks to Paul Curtis