The Atherton Tablelands waterfalls are some of the best within Tropical North Queensland, Australia. You can lunge down natural waterslides; trek through lush rainforest and dive in crystal clear swimming holes.
The Atherton Tablelands waterfalls have naturally become famous and are part of a popular 1-day tour. You get to see waterfalls that are a short drive away from each other such as Millaa Millaa Waterfall, Zillie Falls and Ellinjaa Falls.
It’s also popular to do a Cairns to Atherton Tablelands self-drive, soaking up the beautiful views on the way and being independent with time.
Not only is it great for waterfalls but you will have the chance to see some amazing nature and wildlife. This will make for the perfect road trip.
The walks are notorious to see an abundance of birds, reptiles, turtles. If you are lucky enough, the famous and rare Cassowary.
How to get to Atherton Tablelands
Address: Atherton, Queensland 4883, Australia
Driving from Cairns to Atherton Tablelands will take you around 1 hour 20 min.
The journey there is quite scenic as you drive on Bruce Highway, reaching Yungaburra via Gillies Range Road.
Where to stay near Atherton Tablelands
We stayed in Cairns and made a 1 day trip of it. This is the most efficient way regarding saving money on accommodation, as accommodation is not as cheap as it is nearer to Cairns.
In and around Cairns there are plenty of options for backpackers such as hostels and cheap double rooms.
We stayed in an Airbnb which worked out to be the cheapest option for us over a week. Use our code for a discount on your first stay.
However, if you intend to stay closer there are some good options nearby to stay the night or 2.
Atherton Hotel is right in the centre and would be a good place to base yourself. It has family suite options as well as couple and single rooms.
An alternative option for backpackers and families in campervans is to stay at Henrietta Creek. It is a campsite near other waterfalls such as Nandroya Falls which you can see as part of your tour.
You can view spaces and book your spot via this website.
With our own experience, we will give you the best route in which to view some of the main waterfalls coming and going back to Cairns.
The first 3 waterfalls mentioned are part of a popular Atherton Tablelands waterfall circuit, as their near one another.
The last waterfalls mentioned are those which you must see as they are less travelled and offer you things the others don’t. Things such as a natural waterslides and beautiful longer hikes through the rainforest.
1. Millaa Millaa Waterfall
The first stop of the Atherton Tablelands waterfalls is Millaa Millaa Waterfall.
This waterfall shot to fame due to featuring in Herbal Essence commercials and singer Peter Andre winding his hips singing “Mysterious Girl” in a music video. As well as this, it is also popular because of how lovely Millaa Milaa Waterfall is.
The waterfall plunges from an 18-metre drop into a refreshing pool inviting you to swim in. It features a concrete slab where you can relax and admire the view. There is also a higher platform where there is a rest area, perfect for a few snacks.
You can even spot wildlife such as platypus and turtles.
The walk from the car park to the bottom of the waterfall only takes 2 min so you don’t have to worry about a long hike.
2. Zillie Falls
Only a short 10 min drive away from Millaa Millaa Waterfall is Zillie Falls.
This waterfall packs some force as it thunders its way down the cliff. It is one of the most powerful waterfalls we saw in Atherton Tablelands.
The view from the viewing platform does not provide a clear view though. The vegetation from the surroundings covers your full view so if you want a better look you have to trek down to the falls.
The trek takes around 10 min; however, it is not the easiest of walks. Expect to push some trees out your way and have steady footing. Maybe the elderly and small children should give this a miss.
The pool at the bottom is covered in rocks and doesn’t often get full enough to swim in. Decide upon yourself if the trek would be worth it or not.
3. Ellinjaa Falls
2 min down the road you will find Ellinjaa Falls.
Again, it is only a short walk down some steps that will take around 5 min to reach the bottom.
Covered with lush greenery and flowing over lava columns, Ellinjaa Falls boasts a nice quaint atmosphere.
It is not as powerful comparing it to Zillie Falls and not as eye-catching as Millaa Millaa Waterfall but it does have a sense of tranquillity.
It is possible to swim in the falls but do so with caution as the water will be plunging on your head. The deepwater tends to be where the waterfall is dropping and as the swimming hole reaches out it gets considerably shallow, around knee-high.
Just like with Millaa Millaa Waterfall keep your eye out for those cute platypuses.
4. Nandroya Falls
A 20 min journey from Ellinjaa Falls will take you to the 50-metre awe-inspiring Nandroya Falls.
You will be taken through the gorgeous tropical rainforest as you admire the plant life that can be seen on the trek.
Weird and wonderful trees can be seen through the 40 min one-way trek including the strangler fig tree. It gets its name by doing what it says on the tin, strangling other trees as its roots slither up the host’s trees trunk.
Other trees have some obscure looking roots which are known as buttress roots, growing above the ground.
Nandroya Falls roars down 50 m before plunging into crystal clear waters which are itching to get swam in. The surrounding tropical rainforest with butterflies fluttering around is the icing on the cake.
5. Josephine Falls
Josephine Falls is a 40 min drive away from Nandroya Falls so it is ideal to regain your energy back from hiking Nandroya Falls.
Hopefully, your batteries have been recharged because you will need them here for all the fun to be had.
It is only a 1.2 km return journey to Josephine Falls and when you get there you will see what all the hype is truly about.
Josephine Falls has tiered cascades of water flowing down granite rocks. The formation of the rocks is from years of wear and tear from the waterfall.
This has made it into a fully functioning natural waterslide for you to fling yourself down as you enjoy the swimming holes created within the cascades.
6. Tchupala Falls
Situated in the Palmerston section of Wooroonooran National Park, Tchunupala is another great waterfall to visit. It is only a 3 min drive away from Nandroya Falls so if you have spare time it’s easy to access. The track towards the falls is around 600m and accessed via Palmerston Highway.
7. Malanda Falls
Last but not least to visit is Malanda Falls. We would suggest visiting Malanda Falls before Millaa Millaa if you intend to because it is on the way.
There is signage there giving you Aboriginal and European history as you take one of the many trails available there. It is not as tall and impressive as say, Nandroya Falls. However, it is something different with the nature walks and spotting the falls from a crossing bridge.
For our 1 day tour of the waterfalls, it was the perfect time to enjoy all of them and not feel rushed. If you add in any other waterfalls then we would strongly suggest taking your time and visiting them over 2 days instead of 1.
TOP TIPS for the Atherton Tablelands waterfalls
- Rent a car – This is the best option and gives you more freedom. Check out VroomVroomVromm for some cheap deals
- Plan for a full day with the main waterfalls mentioned
- Pack lunch and snacks as there are many picnic and barbecue areas at the falls to sit and eat
- Don’t forget your swimmers!
- Pack some trainers/runners – Most treks can be done in sandals/sliders but waterfalls such as Nandroya Falls will be more comfortable in alternate wear
- If you are driving from Cairns to Atherton Tablelands download Google Maps for offline use, the signal may get bad
The start of the circuit is at Millaa Millaa Waterfall 100 km away and will take 1 hour 30 min to drive.
The Atherton Tablelands waterfall circuit can take around 1 -2 hours visiting including swimming and taking photos at each one. This means plenty of time to explore other waterfalls such as Nandroya Falls and Josephine Falls.
The 3 main waterfalls are Millaa Millaa Waterfall, Zillie Falls and Ellinjaa Falls.
No, all waterfalls are completely free to enter.