10 of the Best Waterfalls to Visit on the Atherton Tablelands, North Queensland, Australia
Follow our self-drive tour of the waterfall circuit to see our top waterfalls in the Atherton Tablelands!
What we love about road trips is the ability to stop wherever and whenever you like. You don’t feel you’re following a schedule and can be as spontaneous as you like! During our 4 week self drive trip from Cairns to Sydney, we stumbled across some amazing waterfalls to chase on the waterfall circuit in the Atherton Tablelands. Have you heard of the waterfall circuit? We hadn’t heard of the circuit till we started our road trip in our motorhome – I’m so glad we had the chance to visit these beautiful waterfalls!
Road tripping is definitely the best way to see the Atherton Tablelands waterfalls with around 20 tropical waterfalls dotted in North Queensland. If you follow our itinerary starting from Cairns, you’ll discover 10 of the top waterfalls during our road trip through Queensland.
Barron Falls is located in the rugged mountainous landscape and gorges of Barron Gorge National Park. The National Park is easily accessed by car (or motorhome in our case!) and is situated in the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, near Kuranda. Barron Gorge National Park is split into the Upper and Lower sections; the Upper section has views of Cairns and is in the tablelands whereas the lower section is located down in the gorge.
The best time to see the roaring cascades of Barron Falls is most definitely in the wet season. Unfortunately we visited during the dry season, so the falls were not as dramatic. However, we still had good views of the cascades and enjoyed wandering through the lush rainforest via the walkway. There are also many scenic walking trails of different lengths if time is a critical factor.
Tip: Beware of crocodiles as they tend to live in the waterways in the lower section of the National Park.
Here at Emerald Creek, you’ll find water tumbling over the huge granite boulders before plunging into the pools below. Drive along the 6km unsealed road (not suitable for caravans or trailers) and arrive at the eucalypt woodland. This spot is perfect to enjoy picnics or even a BBQ.
There is a 1.9km walking trail that will lead you to the open swimming pools, cascading waterfalls and beautiful valley views. We only spotted two people here in one of the pools, otherwise it’s totally peaceful to soak in the sun and take in the picture postcard views.
Malanda Falls is a small waterfall which tumbles over basalt rock. It’s very accessible by car or motorhome and is located on the North Johnstone River. We found the waterfall was not as spectacular compared to the other falls, however it has a large swimming pool at the base of the falls and is perfectly safe for swimming and/or for a cool dip.
There are two easy, short self-guided walking trails available (Tulip Oak Walk and Rainforest Walk), where you can wander through the rainforest, along the banks of the river and learn about the Ngadjon-Jii culture and lifestyle. The walks should take roughly 30 minutes or you could even join a guided walk led by a local Ngadjon guide.
If you would like to have a chance to spot the Lumholtz’s tree-kangaroo, then this is the best place to spot them. Platypus and turtles are also often seen in the area.
Little Millstream Falls
Little Millstream Falls is often overlooked as people tend to choose Big Millstream Falls, which has the widest single drop fall in Australia. Although Little Millstream doesn’t get all the attention, it’s definitely worthwhile to stop here and watch the water plummeting over the edge of the column basalt lava flow.
A short walk through the dry woodland and vegetation, will lead you to views of the waterfall. There’s also a steep walk which will take you to the base of the falls. Here you can enjoy swimming in the cool water and stop for a picnic. The entrance for the falls is separate from Big Millstream Falls.
Millstream Falls is the widest single drop waterfall in Australia – the waterfall tumbles over the edge of the old columnar basalt lava flow. Millstream Falls National Park lies on the west side of the World Heritage area. During World War II, the park was used as an army camp. To view the old camp sites, you can follow the World War II heritage walk. There are two walking trails available from Millstream Falls and one trail from Little Millstream Falls.
Millaa Millaa Falls
Millaa Millaa Falls is the most picturesque and photographed waterfall in the Atherton Tablelands and is surrounded by beautiful lush green rainforest. This waterfall will be the first waterfall you will come across on the waterfall circuit if coming from the north. You’ll find toilets and changing room facilities so you can enjoy that refreshing cool dip in the swimming hole. There’s also a picnic area for you to chill and enjoy your time here.
We arrived at Millaa Millaa Falls fairly early and had the whole place to ourselves. It was so tranquil and all you cold hear was the water plummetting into the waterhole. Must say the water was a bit cool for my liking! There’s also a platform for you to walk out and take photos of the falls.
Next on the waterfall circuit is the beautiful Zillie Falls. We parked the motorhome on the side of the road so we could spot the top of the waterfall. It was a little tricky to see with the overgrown vegetation and it was not possible to view the base of the falls from the top.
Take the path to reach the base of the waterfall, but just be careful and wear proper hiking shoes. Once you reach the base, there is a platform to watch the water cascading down.
Ellinjaa Falls is the final waterfall on the waterfall circuit. This pretty waterfall is smaller compared to the other two falls. Listen out to hear the rush of the water over the lava columns. There’s a viewing platform at the base for you to enjoy watching the rapids and water cascading over the rocks. You can walk right up to the falls and no one was around when we were there. A swimming hole surrounded by rainforest … what a gem!
The three waterfalls on this waterfall circuit are easily signposted and can’t be missed.
Tip: Take care walking down the steep path as it can be slippery. Note that there aren’t any toilets or changing facilities here.
Mungalli Falls is located 15 minutes away from Millaa Milla Falls. This waterfall is a three tiered waterfall and is one of the prettiest waterfalls in the Atherton Tablelands. The middle tier of the waterfall has the longest drop with the water tumbling into the rocks below. The Mungalli cascades can be found further upstream – watch as the water ripples over the rocks. Head to the look-out to view the top of the waterfall.
There are a number of activities available at Mungalli Falls e.g. abseiling down the cliff face of the waterfall, visiting the Atherton crystal caves or you can sample some of the dairy products at the Mungalli Creek Dairy.
Mena Creek Falls
Mena Creek Falls is located inside Paronella Park which was created by José Paronella who’s dream was to build a castle on five hectares beside Mena Creek. Paronella Park is now a lush rainforest filled with a variety of tropical plants and flowers and has been open to the public since 1935. It is now listed as a National Trust property.
Mena Creek Falls tumbles over basalt rock which is more than 7 million years old! The falls are beautiful during the day, but at night is where they really stands out with the lights illuminating upon them. Walk along the suspension bridge over the falls to view the top of the waterfall. Capture the whole waterfall whilst walking along the banks of the creek.
Tip: Visit the Mamu Tropical Skywalk first and buy entrance tickets to both attractions to save money. Free stay overnight for motorhomes at Paronella Park if a combined ticket is purchased.
Best Time to Visit the Waterfalls
So when is the best time to visit the waterfalls on the Atherton Tablelands? There isn’t a best time as really anytime is a good time. We visited the above mentioned falls during October and they were still beautiful. In the northern area of Atherton Tablelands, you’ll experience dry, warm winters and wet summers. However in the southern area, you’ll notice higher rainfall.
During the green season (Summer months are from December to February) is a wonderful time to visit when the summer rain gives life to the tropics and the waterfalls are spectacular.
Tips on Visiting the Waterfalls
If like us, you love the freedom of travelling in a motorhome in Australia, then head over to our post on motorhome driving tips in Australia.
Here are a few tips to stay safe:
- Beware of cassowaries in the north-east of Queensland. Cassowaries can be dangerous and there are signs around to make you aware and avoid the risks. Do not approach them or feed them and slow down when driving through cassowary territory. Be Cass-o-wary!
- Carry water with you on walking trails and don’t be misled by the heat in Australia
- Wear a hat, put on sunscreen and wear trainers
- Stay on the walkways and boardwalks in National Parks at all times
- Beware of crocodiles, since they tend to live in waterways
We hope you’ve enjoyed reading 10 of the best waterfalls on the Atherton Tablelands. We highly recommend a self-drive tour to view the falls as these are a definite must-see if you’re visiting Cairns. Exploring the waterfalls is one of the top things to do near Cairns. Hopefully one day, we’ll venture to this part of the world again and experience the other waterfalls we missed during our roadtrip.
Have you visited the waterfalls on the Atherton Tablelands?
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