Take the Plunge: seven must-see Aussie waterfalls
February 26, 2019 • Renee Nathan Helms
8 min read
Australia is well known for its beautiful beaches and stunning coastline. But venture inland a little bit, and you’ll find some unbelievable waterfalls too. We’ve travelled the length and breadth of this wonderful country and put together seven of our favourites.
Now we know Australia is a land of drought and flood, so the time of the year you visit some of these falls will greatly affect how much water is present and how they look. In dry seasons they may be nothing but a trickle, or could disappear altogether. And in wet seasons they could be an absolute raging torrent. But these contrasts are just one of the aspects that make Australian waterfalls so beautiful and unique.
You may also notice that a lot of these falls aren’t exactly easy to get to. Many will require a 4x4, a bit of preparation, and in some cases a long walk or even a seaplane journey. But again, the very remoteness of these places is what makes them so special, and I can assure you the journey is half the fun!
Wallaman Falls, Girringun National Park, QLD
Found just inland from Ingham, Wallaman Falls are the highest permanent single drop falls in Australia with water falling 268 metres straight down a sheer cliff into pools below. And as they’re only 51km from Ingham on predominantly sealed roads, they’re nice and easy to access. Not only that, there's a national park campsite a short distance from the falls. But there is a catch – although you’ll be able to drive a conventional vehicle to the falls, you’ll need to leave the caravan behind. The road up is extremely steep and winding in places, and caravans are prohibited on the road and at the national park campsite. Camper trailersare allowed, but I’d be making sure you’re comfortable towing in steep and windy conditions before taking yours up.
As for accessing the falls themselves, the main lookout is an easy walk from the carpark, and accessible for all fitness levels. Here, you'll get beautiful views of the falls from an elevated perspective as they flow over the cliff top. Then if you’re feeling a little more energetic you can get your sweat on and walk down to the base of the falls themselves. The 3.2km return Djyinda Walk takes you straight down to the bottom where you can truly appreciate the power and majesty of Wallaman Falls. The downside? You’ve got to walk all the way back up again afterwards!
Millaa Millaa Falls, Atherton Tablelands, QLD
Probably the most popular on this list is Millaa Millaa Falls, one of many beautiful waterfalls in the Atherton Tablelands. Millaa Millaa is easily accessible by any vehicle, has picnic facilities, allows swimming, and doesn’t require a long hike to get there, meaning it can get extremely busy.
The water is freezing cold, and you’ll be swimming with dozens of other tourists. But it’s still well worth a visit if you’re in the area, along with all the other beautiful falls and swimming holes that can be found in the Tablelands.
Jim Jim Falls, Kakadu National Park, NT
Jim Jim Falls are just one of many beautiful falls to be found in Kakadu National Park, but in our opinion they’re the most spectacular – although to see them at their best is actually fairly difficult. In the dry season when they’re accessible via 4x4 they dry up to barely a trickle. Then in the wet they become a roaring majestic torrent, but at that time of the year they’re no longer accessible by road, even with a 4x4. Despite these challenges we’ve been lucky enough to see Jim Jim in both the wet and the dry. In the dry we swam at the bottom after a 4x4 journey and hike, whereas in the wet we took a scenic flight over to witness Jim Jim at its best.
If you’re visiting Kakadu in the dry like most people do, and you have a 4x4, then you’ll probably want to drive in to Jim Jim and also visit Twin Falls at the same time. There's a great national park campsite about 15km before Jim Jim Falls to base yourself, from which you can drive out, park the car, and hike out to the base of the falls – a roughly 2km return hike, with a lot of boulder hopping involved. Oh, and the water at the bottom is freezing! Alternatively, if you’re feeling energetic you can take the 6km hike to the top.
If you want to also visit Twin Falls then not only will you need a 4x4, but also one with a snorkel. When we were there the water crossing was up over a metre. Then, once you’ve parked your 4x4, you need to take a paid boat shuttle up the gorge to the falls themselves. And there’s no swimming at Twin Falls due to the croc risk.
Wujal Wujal Falls, Bloomfield Track, QLD
Perhaps not so well known as some of the others on this list, Wujal Wujal Falls (sometimes called Bloomfield Falls) is one of the attractions of the 4x4-only Bloomfield Track, which runs between the Daintree Rainforest and Cooktown. It may not be as large or as spectacular as some other falls, but it’s beauty lies in its peaceful location, and its residents – keep your eyes peeled for saltwater crocs when you visit here, and definitely keep out of the water if you don’t want to become dinner!
Mitchell Falls, The Kimberley, WA
You’ll need to take a fairly large detour off the Gibb River Road to visit Mitchell Falls, followed by either a hike or a short helicopter ride. But believe me, it’s worth it – the four tiered Mitchell Falls are our absolute favourite Aussie falls. They may be hard to get to, but that’s just one of the reasons they’re so fantastic!
You can access them by detouring off the Gibb River Road and taking the Kalumburu Road north. Needless to say, this route is definitely 4x4 only, and road conditions can vary greatly, so it’s worth checking out the latest conditions before heading off. You can then camp at either the King Edward River Campsite, or the Mitchell Falls Campground (both of which are national park sites) and use these as a base for exploring the falls. If you’re physically able then the 8.6km return hike to the top of the falls (taking in some other smaller falls along the way) is the best way to see the falls in all their glory. But you can also take a helicopter flight from the campground, or take a chopper up and walk back down. Alternatively, if you’re feeling cashed up and don’t have a 4x4, or if you’re visiting in the wet season when the roads are closed, you can take a scenic flight to Mitchell Falls from Broome or Kununurra.
Horizontal Falls, Buccaneer Archipelago, WA
Technically not waterfalls at all, but instead massive tidal movements, we still think the Horizontal Falls deserve a place on this list, if only for their absolute uniqueness – you won’t find anything else quite like them anywhere else in the world.
The horizontal falls are only accessible by boat or by air, so visiting them isn’t a cheap exercise. Most people choose to do a half day trip from either Broome or Derby via seaplane, which lands at a floating pontoon right by the falls. From there you take a jetboat ride through the falls themselves. And yes, it's expensive, but in our opinions it’s totally worth the money!
Fruit Bat Falls, Cape York, QLD
One of a few falls you can visit on Cape York, Fruit Bat Falls is probably the most popular for good reason – it’s a little easier to access than some of the others, it’s crystal clear, and it offers safe swimming with no large bitey lizards (aka saltwater crocodiles) in residence.
Fruit Bat Falls is lot more accessible than its cousins to the north – Eliot & Twin Falls. To reach them you need to cross Scrubby Creek, or come down the OTT, and so a snorkel and some more serious 4x4 skills are required. But Fruit Bat Falls are accessible from the main dirt road, meaning they are certainly more popular. Plus once you arrive it’s only an easy 400m walk before you’re dipping your toes in the beautiful clear waters of Fruit Bat Falls.
As you’d expect being on Cape York, it’s still definitely 4x4 only, but Fruit Bat Falls is just one of the many and varied reasons to plan a journey up to the tip of Australia.
So our biggest tip? Get off the coast and go exploring!
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