Where to go wild swimming in Tropical North Queensland
Water is so central to Tropical North Queensland. Its bodies are the meeting point for many great occasions, getaways and memories.
Whether it’s the famed golden beaches, swimming holes or waterfalls, everyone who’s experienced wild swimming in Tropical North Queensland has been witness to the unique connection Queensland offers between the land and water.
A visit to one of these spots is a special milestone in any holiday itinerary. From remote oases to inland lakes, take your pick of wild swimming experiences in Tropical North Queensland this summer.
4WD enthusiasts will love: Twin, Eliot and Fruit Bat Falls in Cape York
The waterfalls along Tropical North Queensland’s renowned Old Telegraph Track are considered an unrivalled wild swimming experience.
Campers and 4WD enthusiasts will love descending on Cape York Peninsula during dry season (May to October) to tackle the Old Telegraph Track. It’s a challenging track that reaps rewards when stopping at the Cape’s croc-free swimming holes for a dip.
Both Twin and Eliot falls are accessible by 4WD. They stand side by side, their only differences being the depth of waters you drop into. Two great all-rounders for those who appreciate the adrenaline of waterfalls burbling and mist spraying, tied to a large body of water and scattered rock pools to sit and soak in. A never-ending spa bath.
Fruit Bat Falls is one of Old Telegraph Track’s most iconic sights. A spring-fed flow cascading steadily over top of flat edged walls into a broad, expansive natural lagoon. Take some time out to explore the clear pool, soak amidst the North Queensland scrub, and familiarise yourself with one of the most beautiful natural pools in Australia.
The falls are best visited during the dry season when the creeks and waterfalls aren’t swollen and dangerous. For an enchanted experience try to rise early and catch the falls as morning breaks when they’re covered in morning mist, dew, and the crowds are still sleeping. A great photo opportunity or simply a time to enjoy stillness amidst these incredible swells of inland water.
Family hotspot without the steep hike or rocky terrain: Josephine Falls
Josephine Falls is one of Queensland’s natural playgrounds to revisit the joys of water play. It starts as a trickle high on the south-east side of the summit of Bartle Frere and ends as a large creek bed.
Picture the sensation of thousand-year-old stone formations beneath you as you slide through their valleys to the waters’ edge. A family friendly hot spot with no complex hikes or climbs to access this wonder.
There are two bodies of water to visit during your stop, the top pool has an accessible viewing platform and stunning photo opportunities, while the bottom pool is a swimming hole where you can wallow about with the family as long as you’d like.
There are toilets, picnic shelters and picnic tables which are all wheelchair accessible, along with the viewing platform for the top pool. Stairs lead to the bottom pool after following an easy train, suitable for all ages and fitness levels.
Although, if you’re up for a more intermediate challenge there are a number of mountain bike trails in the area as well.
To keep your adventure simple and safe, don’t visit before or after substantial rain as the area is prone to flash flooding.
The quintessential rainforest waterfall experience: Millaa Millaa Falls, Atherton Tablelands
Just under two hours south-west of Cairns, expect to discover a cool waterhole surrounded by dense rainforest and untouched habitat that houses the heritage listed plunge. Like a picture from a story book, the mossy surrounds perfume the air with that crisp, humid aroma that is so unique to inland waterfalls and wild swimming in Tropical North Queensland. The grassy banks and cool waters are as pleasant to run your hands along as they are to dip your toes in.
Enjoy a picnic on the ferny embankment and keep your eyes peeled for the resident platypus. Leave a little time at the end of your day to complete the loop and visit Zilzie and Ellinjaa Falls. This magical trio is best enjoyed during summer.
Pleasant and playful all year round: Emerald Creek Falls, Atherton Tablelands
Cascading water washes over granite bowlers at the beautiful Emerald Creek Falls near Mareeba. While its name speaks for itself, there’s more than one reason to drop your pin in Atherton Tableland’s natural misty spas.
Picture rainforest-cloaked ranges, water delving into the creeks and exploring the large rock formations that create Emerald Creek’s tranquil pools. Surrounded by our countries famed eucalypts, there’s plenty of serenity to soak up and time to be spent playing amidst this series of pools.
A wild swimming hot spot in North Tropical Queensland that’s pleasant and playful all year around, this little corner of Atherton Tablelands is one you can spend all day uncovering.
Once you grow weary of water play, seek out the lookout that boasts views right across the valley.
A great day trip: Tully Gorge National Park
Alarming in name but certainly not in nature, Alligator’s Nest within Tully George National Park is a popular swimming hole named after a local Scout group.
The large swimming platform makes it easy to get in and out of the refreshing rainforest stream no matter your age or energy levels. A float in these still, tropical waters is an attractive hotspot for all kinds of travellers.
A rocky turquoise spot to simply float on your back and gaze awhile in stillness as your senses are heightened to the sights and smells or the surrounding bushland.
For day trippers, there’s a quaint little picnic spot with tables and gas barbecues. While it might be tempting, it’s important you don’t swim in Tully River at the Tully Gorge camping and day-use areas. There’s sometimes a possibility of saltwater crocodiles in these nearby bodies of water.
For adventure seekers and water-sports fans: Lake Tinaroo, Danbulla State Forest
Sports enthusiasts can head to Lake Tinaroo, 45 minutes from the town of Atherton. While it’s possible to swim here, this lake is best suited to kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding and water-skiing. The lake is also hugely popular for barramundi fishing for those who appreciate a sustainable catch.
There are plenty of campsites where you can pitch your tent on the shoreline. Downfall Creek camping area is a local favourite and quite popular on weekends if you don’t mind the crowd. Best time to visit the area is during the week, where you can enjoy the place to (almost) yourself and experience a wild swimming in North Tropical Queensland experience without the interruption of large crowds or major fishing competitions.
Want more freshwater swimming holes? Check out this local’s guide.