One of the best draw cards for this area of far North Queensland is the abundance of amazing waterfalls.
My global sporting adventures took me to Melbourne, Australia, for seven months, and I recently visited Cairns and a whole section of Australia’s sunny East Coast in November, with a couple of friends during the off season for hockey. It was a perfect time to go, as the weather was hot and humid, but not unbearable. We hired a car for a couple of days and set off on a mission to smash out as many of the wonderful waterfalls and swimming holes of the Atherton Tablelands as possible!
First stop was the gorgeous and scenic Babinda Boulders, about an hour’s drive from central Cairns. The boulders have a great public swimming hole right by the car park, and although it wasn’t particularly deep, it was incredibly refreshing on a really hot day! You can take a short walk to the Devil’s Pool, which is a really photogenic spot, however swimming is prohibited here due to several accidental drownings. It is still a gorgeous spot to discover – keep an eye out for the native cassowaries!
These falls were by far my favourite of the day! Just a short walk from the car park you come across a fairly large swimming hole and natural rock slide! I was apprehensive about taking the plunge down the slide at first, as I had some rather bad sunburn for the day before exploring the Great Barrier Reef on Green Island close to Cairns, but it was extremely fun and the rock surface was surprisingly slippery. The top part of the falls are closed off to public swimming access for safety reasons, but the main section provides plenty of entertainment. The only downside is that I could imagine on a busy day you might have to wait a while for your turn to take the exhilarating slide down the rocks, but it was prefect for a swim in Queensland‘s hot tropical climate.
Millaa Millaa Falls
These falls were made famous for my generation by being featured in the Peter Andre music video – “Mysterious Girl”. Cue on arrival to the falls plenty of tourists trying to capture the perfect waterfall hair flick shot!! To be honest, we absolutely joined in on the fun! The location is stunning, and it is possible to swim out and climb onto the rocks behind the falls. This swimming hole was the coldest of the day, so make sure you have a towel and clothes ready to warm up as soon as you get out of the water!
We also stopped off at the Dinner Falls, although slightly less spectacular than the others we experienced earlier in the day, it was a nice spot to spend the last few minutes of daylight before we lost the sun. Also at this spot is the Hypipamee Crater, a deep volcanic crater hole very close to the falls. It was very interesting that the water at the bottom of this deep hole is home to a species of shrimp – yabbies – found only in this location.
We stayed the night in the historic village of Yungaburra, where we checked out some of the local sights on offer – including the local pub, Curtain Fig Tree, and some of the fantastic viewpoints during the drive into the village from the waterfalls. Yungaburra is usually a very quite town, but the days we were there it was gearing up for a folk festival, in which a few thousand extra people converge in the town centre for plenty of music, dancing and festivities. Unfortunately we missed it by a day, as we had pre-booked accommodation elsewhere. The area was particularly beautiful at the time we visited as there were plenty of jacaranda trees flowering, which added some vivid purple into the already breathtaking landscapes.
The Atherton Tablelands were a highlight of my Queensland trip, the scenery varied from tropical rainforests and stunning beaches, to dry desert expanses. The best thing about all of these locations is that they are all fairly close to one another, meaning you can discover and experience a whole heap of wicked spots easily in one day or less! Some tour companies operate in the area and offer tours which include many of these great spots, however the ease and convenience of having a rental car means you can plan your own day, and change those plans whenever the need for adventure strikes!
There is so much more to explore in and around Cairns, including the Daintree Rainforest, Great Barrier Reef and Cape Tribulation, so I will definitely be back for another visit in the future. A place in Australia not to be missed!