The Most Enchanting Swimming Holes Around Cairns, Australia

Are you looking for the best swimming holes around Cairns, Australia? Then you came to the right place. Cairns is located in tropical North Queensland and is best known as the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. However, the sandy beaches of Cairns can be dangerous due to the high numbers of stingers in the water, so they are often closed from November to May.

Unfortunately, the stinger season coincides with the tropical summer, and the high temperatures and humidity call for a refreshing dip in the water. Luckily, there is an alternative!

You could spend some time in the chlorinated hotel pool, but that probably isn’t why you came to Cairns. You want to see the natural beauty that the area has to offer! Thankfully, the area around Cairns is abundant with stunning natural swimming pools. Yes, unless it is otherwise indicated, you can swim in these freshwater swimming holes around Cairns! 

Keep reading for the best natural swimming holes to add to your Cairns itinerary!

How to get around Cairns

Because most of the swimming holes in Cairns are located in remote areas, you will have to rent a car to get to most of the spots on this list. All the major brands are available like Avis, Hertz, Budget, EastCoast Car Rental, and Thrifty. Additionally, you can collect rental cars from either the Cairns Airport or from the city (depending on the company). If you are driving around Australia in a motorhome or camper van, then make sure to check available camping spots ahead of time.

Overview of the best swimming holes around Cairns, Australia

The tropical rainforests around Cairns hide many stunning waterfalls, creeks and hundreds of swimming holes waiting for you to discover.

Most swimming holes on this list are in remote locations, such as national parks and might require some hiking. This means that there aren’t any facilities around. Therefore you should bring plenty of water, appropriate footwear, mosquito repellent and anything else you might need!

With a seemingly endless number of natural swimming holes in Cairns to visit, it would be hard to hit all the hotspots on one trip. So here are the best ones ranked by their proximity to Cairns:

  1. Crystal Cascades
  2. Fairy Falls
  3. Stoney Creek 
  4. Behana Gorge
  5. Babinda Boulders (Devil’s Pool)
  6. Emerald Creek Falls
  7. Josephine Falls
  8. Cardwell Spa Pools

Crystal Cascades

Crystal Cascades is one of the closest swimming holes to Cairns, which makes it very popular among locals who love to spend their weekends in the area. The creek forms several small waterfalls and pools as it cascades down, creating multiple spots for swimming along the way.

Despite being a popular spot, there are many pools of different depths for people to spread out, and it doesn’t feel as crowded. It is a family-friendly spot with some shallow pools perfect for non-swimmers.

Crystal Cascades has basic facilities like toilets, barbecues and picnic tables. The trip takes about 20 minutes by car from the city center.


Fairy Falls

If Crystal Cascades gets too crowded, more adventurous travelers might want to check out the more secluded Fairy Falls. This stunning waterfall and swimming hole is located about a 1.5km hike from the Crystal Cascades car park.

The climb to the Fairy Falls swimming hole is not suitable for children as it is steep and slippery – make sure you wear appropriate shoes! However, once you reach the falls, you will be rewarded with an almost private, fairytale-like swimming hole.

Josephine Falls

You will find Josephine Falls in the foothills of Queensland’s highest mountain range, Bartle Frere.

It is one of the most fun spots on this list, and it is nicknamed the natural playground among the swimming holes in Cairns due to the sliding rocks of the waterfall leading to the pools.

At the top of the waterfall, you will find a wheel-chair accessible viewing platform with a stunning view. Make your way down the steps to the lower pool, as swimming is forbidden in the upper pool, and enjoy sliding down these natural waterslides.

Josephine Falls is located about 75km south of Cairns. There are basic facilities like toilets, barbecues and picnic tables, but you have to bring your own food as there are no restaurants.


Stoney Creek 

Stoney Creek is another swimming hole in Cairns closely located to Palm Cove. Once you reach the car park, the main swimming hole is just a short walk away. However, you can follow the path to Old Weir Falls across the concrete footbridge for more swimming holes.

As you will see, the best part about Stoney Creek is that besides the main swimming hole close to the car park, there are many tiny swimming holes along the trail to Old Weir Falls to discover.

Behana Gorge

Behana Gorge is the perfect swimming hole for hiking enthusiasts, as you have to walk quite a trail to reach it. However, this makes it a much more exclusive and private option.

Keep in mind that the hike means that it is not a swimming hole to go to if you are with small children or have mobility issues.

The trail to the swimming hole takes about 45 minutes along the creek with some steep inclines. However, it is well worth the hike, and you will be captivated as you reach the Clamshell falls and the large pool at the bottom.

There are no facilities on the trail or around the swimming hole, so bring plenty of water, sunscreen and snacks!

Behana Gorge is about a 30-minute drive south of Cairns. Once you pass Gordonvale, be on the lookout for a sign Behana Gorge Road, and follow the road to the car park.


Babinda Boulders (Devil’s Pool)

Babinda Boulders is located in south Cairns and is an iconic spot to visit in the region. It is a popular picnic site and home to one of the best swimming holes around Cairns – Devil’s Pool. Despite its name, Devil’s Pool is not dangerous as long as you use common sense!

The trail from Babinda Boulders picnic area to the Devil’s pool is under 1km long, and it will take you along two spectacular viewing platforms. From there you can see the creek cascading in a series of waterfalls. The stream is lined with large boulders, creating big pools with refreshing water to swim in.

Babinda Boulders is about an hour-long drive from Cairns, passing through the spectacular rainforest, mountains and tropical fruit farms region. The picnic area has basic facilities such as barbecues, toilets and water.


Emerald Creek Falls

Emerald Creek Falls is one of the spots that shouldn’t be missed. A visit to Emerald Creek Falls is a great whole-day activity if you want to combine hiking in the rainforest and a dip in swimming holes.

If hiking is not your thing, the first pool is just 10 minutes from the car park. Otherwise, prepare yourself for an incredible 2km walk overlooking the waterfalls. As the water rushes over large granite boulders it creates numerous pools to choose from!

You will find Emerald Creek Falls about 70km from Cairns. Keep in mind that the road leading to the car park from the highway is not suitable for campervans.

Cardwell Spa Pools

Cardwell Spa Pools rose to social media fame a couple of years back, as the photos of this stunning turquoise blue pool went viral. The vibrant blue colour of the water is unique among the swimming holes around Cairns.

The most important thing you need to know about this stunningly vivid blue pool is that it is naturally fed and extremely seasonal. To avoid disappointment, check the current water levels before embarking on a road trip!

As it is located about 185 km away from Cairns, you can best visit the Cardwell Spa Pools on a trip to Townsville or combine it with other sights in the area. Don’t try to do it on a day trip from Cairns – it’s simply too far and you’ll spend most of the time in the car!

Final thoughts about the best swimming holes in Cairns

And there they are, the best swimming holes around Cairns to discover on your next trip to Australia.

As you can see, this tropical city offers more than just sandy beaches! From stunning waterfalls to tranquil swimming holes and crystal-clear streams – there is an abundance of water activities around Cairns.

Base yourself in the Palm Cove Porto Douglas area, and you are centrally located to visit the best spots around Cairns. Keep in mind that water levels in wet season could be much higher and therefore the current stronger. Always use your common sense and stay safe!

Swimming in the freshwater swimming holes is a unique experience to add to your Australia bucket list, and now you know where to find the best natural swimming holes in Cairns!

Best tours in Cairns

Check here for the best-guided tours in Cairns. All of these tours include air-conditioned transport with hotel pick up and drop off and certified guides. Depending on the tour, lunch and entrance fees are also included. You can reserve now and pay later, with cancellation up to 24 hours in advance to receive a full refund.

More Australia travel inspiration

I hope you enjoyed this complete guide about the best swimming holes in Cairns, Australia.

For more travel inspiration about Cairns, head over to this blog post.

17 best things to do in Cairns – The Complete Guide

And for more general Australia travel inspiration, check out these guides_

10 best Sydney helicopter tours

Best Melbourne helicopter ride

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