The summer wet season is one of the most exciting times to visit tropical north Queensland. Sure, it’s humid but the best part is tropical drenching rains that give life to the forest. Tropical rain also ensures the creeks, rivers and waterfalls are in full flow, providing the perfect excuse to head to the forest to cool down.
Here’s our pick of some of our favourite waterfalls, swimming holes and rivers to cool down in that are within driving distance from Thala.
Cairns Esplanade Lagoon
Conveniently located on the foreshore in downtown Cairns, the Esplanade Lagoon is a vast saltwater lagoon pool surrounded by landscaped gardens. Patrolled daily by Lifeguards, it’s open (and free!) every day from 6am to 9pm (except Wed mornings when it’s closed for maintenance).
Go there for… cooling off in Cairns city.
A firm favourite thanks to its close proximity to Cairns suburbs, Crystal Cascades has large pools suitable for swimming, fed by a number of gentle (or not so gentle depending on recent rain!) waterfalls. Downstream from Lake Morris (the main water supply for Cairns), there’s walking trails, shady picnic areas with gas-fired BBQ’s.
Go there for… swimming in the rainforest
Did you know that the Barron River is over 165 km long? That’s equivalent to the distance between Mission Beach and Palm Cove. Much of the catchment is included in the mountainous Wet Tropics World Heritage Area west of Cairns.
The Barron Falls tumble dramatically down a near-vertical rock face in the Barron Gorge. View them from the Din Din Barron Falls Lookout near Kuranda or via the Kuranda Scenic Railway.
Go there for… viewing Barron Falls. Keep an eye out for Lumholtz tree kangaroo & the northern bettong on the walk to the viewing platform.
Sitting in the picturesque shadow of Queensland’s highest two mountains, Mt Bartle Frere and Mt Bellenden Kerr, is the small town of Babinda (laying claim to having the highest rainfall in Australia!). Babinda Creek winds through the heart of sugarcane country, where you can drift gently downstream on a kayak hired from Babinda Kayaks beneath overhanging rainforest. They’ll even pick you up downstream a few hours later and take you back to your car!
Go there for… kayaking
A sequence of three waterfalls on the upper Barron River in Mt Hypipamee National Park in the Atherton Tablelands, the falls are found via an easy-graded walking track. Keep an eye out for cassowaries both here and at nearby Mt Hypipamee Crater
Go there for… gentle streams and rainforest-clad waterfalls.
Fed from the summit of Mt Bartle Frere 7.5km away Josephine Creek starts life as a gentle trickle. By the time it enters Russell River as a substantial creek, it’s tumbled down boulders creating three pools along the way that make up Josephine Falls.
Go there for… swimming and rock-hopping
Despite the strenuous 45 min hike at the base of a mountain called the Pyramid, Behana Gorge is worth the exertion. Lace up some sturdy walking shoes, pack a water bag, picnic lunch and your swimmers to cool off in one of the prettiest swimming holes in far north Queensland.
Go there for… picnic lunch on the rocks and swimming in a boulder-lined waterhole.
Waterfall Circuit of Atherton Tablelands
What is better than one waterfall? How about six of them! If you can’t get your waterfall fix on the Millaa Millaa Waterfall Circuit, well you’re really not trying! Milla Milla, Zillie and Elinjaa falls are on a circuitous route while Mungalli, Pepina dn Souita Falls are a little further afield from the Tablelands town of Millaa Millaa.
Go there for… waterfalls – there’s plenty of them!
Lake Barrine & Lake Eacham
On the Atherton Tablelands, twin volcanic crater lakes Lake Eacham and Lake Barrine are tranquil water holes fringed by dense rainforest. At Lake Barrine enjoy lunch in the charismatic teahouse or fire up the BBQ’s at Lake Eacham. Take an inflatable sun-lounge and laze away the days on water that is cool, clear and inviting!
Go there for… swimming and lake-floating
Launch a kayak, jetski or small boat at Tinaburra on the shores of Lake Tinaroo (which was formed by damming the Barron River). Kayakers head into shallow reaches and tributaries and lakes while power boaters tow wave riders, tubes and wake skiers behind in the deeper sections.
While drifting silently by kayak, keep an eye out for bashful turtles and platypus popping their snouts above the surface. Ducks, geese and pelicans sun themselves on sandy banks and islets while birds of prey soar overhead.
Go there for … water sports
NOTE: Creeks and rivers are susceptible to flash flooding during the wet season. Beware of weather conditions at all times and approach with appropriate caution.