5 of the best waterfalls on the Atherton Tablelands
Rolling hills, thriving rainforest, natural waterslides and a whole lot of adventure… sound like your ideal weekend day trip? Then let me introduce you to the Atherton Tablelands.
Located inland from Cairns, there’s one thing that really sets this Tropical North Queensland region apart. The waterfalls. And in my opinion, there’s only one thing better than spending a day chasing waterfalls… and that’s photographing them.
So pack your camera bag, grab your car keys and point your vehicle south out of Cairns to start this 267km itinerary made for waterfall wanderers.
1. Natural waterslide at Josephine Falls
Just a one-hour drive south of Cairns, Josephine Falls is a great start to your day chasing waterfalls on the Tablelands. Here the waters of Josephine Creek flow like a three-tiered champagne tower, offering triple the fun at the one location.
Unpack your swimmers, shoot down a natural waterslide at the Bottom Pool, then spend the morning lazing on smooth granite boulders. Wander further along the rainforest path and get your inner Tarzan on, swinging on thick vines at Middle Creek.
Continue to the end of the path and you’ll reach the viewing deck over the Top Pool, which is a great spot to set your tripod up.
The money shot: Base yourself at the Bottom Pool to capture the joy of revellers shooting down the rock slide.
2. Best reward after a hike, ever: Nandroya Falls
If you like epic, Nandroya Falls is for you. Imagine facing a massive moss-covered concave wall, with water crashing 50 metres below into a large pool, that just happens to be perfect for swimming. Nandroya Falls is seriously impressive – we’re talking of a scale that would make even Shaquille O’Neal feel short.
Located along the Palmerston Highway, keep an eye out for the ‘Henrietta Creek’ sign. This is the car park you need to access the start of the walking track to Nandroya Falls. A dense winding rainforest trail will lead you past large buttress root trees, Silver Falls (just a taste of what’s to come) and finally Nandroya Falls. Ideal for the more adventurous weekend warrior, the reward at the end of this 2.5km hike is well worth the effort.
In the wet season the path can be slippery, so wear supportive shoes (and don’t forget to check yourself for leeches once you’re back at your car!).
The money shot: Put your wide-angle lens on and pull back to capture the full scale of this beauty.
3. Mungalli Falls, with a side of award-winning cheese
Stop at Mungalli Falls in time for lunch and after snapping a shot of this pretty cascade, continue onto Mungalli Creek Dairy (open daily 10am-4pm).
Famous for their biodynamic and natural farming practices, these guys do a killer Ploughman’s Lunch, which includes a number of the dairy’s award-winning cheeses, organic local meats and lots of warm fresh bread.
The money shot: Set up at the bottom of the falls where the cascading water widens out, ideal for a long-exposure snap.
4. Lava columns at Ellinjaa Falls
Climb up onto Mother Nature’s best-placed log and strike a pose for your most stunning Instagram photo yet at Ellinjaa Falls.
You’ll find the falls along the Waterfall Circuit – a popular 17km loop road accessible off the Palmerston Highway featuring three stunning waterfalls in a row – Ellinjaa, Zillie and Millaa Millaa.
Just a 15-minute walk from the carpark down a dense rainforest staircase, Ellinjaa is one of the best waterfalls for anyone that likes silky-white, long-exposure waterfall photos. It’s almost impossible to take a bad shot here.
The money shot: Leg it up the log and strike your best Jungle Book pose.
5. Easy access to Millaa Millaa Falls
Also located along the Waterfall Circuit, the great thing about Millaa Millaa Falls is that you can drive right up to them.
Swim out into the large pool and clamber onto the rocks under the falls for a freshwater experience that’s as invigorating as a polar bear plunge.
With a large lawn surrounded by rainforest ferns, Millaa Millaa Falls is also a great spot to take an afternoon break and stretch out with a picnic rug. There are change rooms and toilet facilities located in the car park at the falls.
The money shot: For something different at the most-photographed waterfall on the Tablelands, why not get the drone in the air?
Do it this weekend
Follow this map for all the waterfalls mentioned.