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Hartleys Creek Falls – Cairns Waterfall Guide

Hartleys Creek Falls – Cairns Waterfall Guide

Hartleys Creek Falls is a cascading waterfall located at the end of a gentle walking track near Wangetti, north of Cairns.

Are you looking for a quick waterfall hike and adventure near the Northern Beaches of Cairns? Hartleys Creek Falls might be precisely what you’re after.

This waterfall is somewhat of a “local secret”, hidden at the back of Wangetti near the well-known Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures. Don’t worry though; there aren’t any crocs lurking at Hartleys Creek Falls, so you’re free to swim and cool off at the waterfall after the short but rewarding hike.

Where is the Hartleys Creek Falls Track?

Hartleys Creek Falls is located in Wangetti, just off the Captain Cook Highway, only 15 km from Palm Cove or 43 km from Cairns. Hartley’s Creek Falls is accessible by a broad and easy walking track found just off the highway.

Map of Hartley's Creek Falls near Cairns

How to Get to the Hartley’s Creek Trailhead

To get to the Hartleys Creek Falls trailhead from Cairns, you’ll simply need to head north on the Captain Cook Highway towards Wangetti. If you’re driving from Cairns, expect at least a 40-minute drive.

The Hartleys Creek Falls trailhead access is located just 500 metres past Hartleys Crocodile Adventures, near the “Hartleys Creek Retreat”. If you’re using google maps, just type in “Hartleys Creek Retreat”, and you’ll arrive just next to the trailhead.

There is a large clearing in front of the retreat where you can park your car. The trailhead access is just to the left of the front gate to the retreat and is signposted.

Park here for track access to Hartley’s Creek

About Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures

Hartley’s Creek in Wangetti is famous for the popular crocodile park known as Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures. This is one of the first places in Australia to breed crocs in captivity and their work on crocodile conservation has attracted worldwide interest for over 20 years.

This is a great stop if you’re planning a drive from Cairns to Port Douglas, Mossman, or the Daintree and want to see some salties!

Hiking The Hartleys Creek Falls Track

  • Hike Distance: 7.5 km (return)
  • Duration: Roughly 1 hour each way
  • Elevation: 290 m total gain (undulating)
  • Difficulty: Easy

Once you’ve found the trailhead using the information above, the rest is fairly straightforward. Begin by passing the fenced-off retreat and commence on a gentle climb for approximately 1.5 km.

The track is wide and easy to follow, undulating sporadically through the native scrub. The length of the trail follows the banks of Hartleys Creek all the way to the waterfall without needing to make any turns.

While there are some dips and steep sections, overall, the Hartleys Creek Falls track is very gentle and can be completed by anyone with an average level of fitness.

At roughly the halfway point, you’ll arrive at a clearing with access to a waterhole section of Hartleys Creek. Although it looks like a great camping spot, it’s unfortunately not permitted. However, if you’d like a quick dip, then this spot is perfect and makes for a very scenic rest stop.


After roughly 3.5 KM, you’ll arrive at the rocky banks leading to the waterfall. Turn left here and follow the sign to arrive at Hartleys Creek Falls.



What to Expect at Hartleys Creek Waterfall and Swimming Hole

  • Waterfall height: 16 metres (estimate)
  • Pool depth: At least 3 metres in the deep sections

As soon as you arrive at Hartleys Creek Falls, you can see why it’s such a local-favourite. It’s easily accessible, the hike is enjoyable and rewarding without being too difficult and the swimming hole is perfect!

The waterfall itself cascades gently down the steep rock face for approximately 16 metres (my estimate) into a vast freshwater basin. The pool underneath the falls makes for the perfect swimming hole on a scalding, tropical summer day.


It’s possible to climb up the lower boulder beneath the waterfall and jump into the deep pool below. It’s difficult to tell how deep it is, but I couldn’t reach the bottom after jumping off around the edge of the waterfall.

After passing the crocodile attraction just up the road, it’s difficult to the thought of crocs to the back of your mind. However, rest assured there are no crocs here (at least there hasn’t ever been a sighting).

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Also Nearby: Spring Creek Falls

Cairns Accommodation Guide – Where to Stay

Visiting Cairns? The best places to stay are near the Cairns Esplanade or on the sunny Northern Beaches. Below are the top 4 options for varying budgets.

  • Crystalbrook Riley – If luxury and location are what you’re after, you can’t beat the Crystalbrook Riley. This is the best 5-star resort in Cairns and features absolutely everything you’d expect from a Crystalbrook resort.
  • Fitzroy Island Resort – Sleep out on one of the picturesque Great Barrier Reef Islands at Fitzroy Island Resort. Spending the night on the island can work out cheaper than staying in town and means you get more time to explore the reef, coral beaches and rainforest walking trails.
  • Gilligan’s Backpackers – The best backpacker option for a great vibe in Cairns. Great place to meet like-minded travelers and has facilities including a pool. air-con, a huge shared kitchen, and a great common area!
  • Pepper’s Beach Club – stay at the best beach resort in the heart of Palm Cove on the Cairns Northern Beaches!

For a bigger list, don’t miss my Cairns accommodation guide or as an alternative stay in FNQ, read my Port Douglas Accommodation guide too.

Girl sunbathing at Crystalbrook Riley resort in Cairns
Backpacker hostel in Cairns, Australia
Great Barrier Reef aerial photograph near Cairns, Australia

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More Cairns Waterfalls and Hikes

I hope that this quick guide to visiting Hartleys Creek Falls in Cairns has proved useful in planning your waterfall adventures!

For more must-do waterfalls and hikes near Cairns, take a pick from this guide to the best waterfalls in Cairns and surrounds or this guide the best Cairns hiking trails.