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Crystal Cascades, Cairns: 2023 Swimming Hole & Waterfall Guide

Crystal Cascades, Cairns: 2023 Swimming Hole & Waterfall Guide

The Crystal Cascades is perhaps one of the most famous of all the swimming holes near Cairns. It features several points along the stream for swimming, as well as a nice waterfall at the end. Discover this complete guide to visiting the Crystal Cascades in Cairns, Australia.

The Crystal Cascades is a series of freshwater waterfalls located a short 25-minute drive from Cairns. There are several refreshing swimming holes that make for an incredible way to cool off in the hot tropical North Queensland climate.

This is a complete guide to visiting the iconic Cascades from Cairns. I’ve included information on how to get here, what to expect, as well as some inspiring photos from my trips.

The main waterfall at the Crystal Cascades

Where is the Crystal Cascades?

The Crystal Cascades is a local name for the many swimming holes and waterfalls along "Freshwater Creek". This creek flows year-round since it is fed by Lake Morris and the many tributaries on the Lamb Range.

The cascades have a dedicated car park which is located approximately 18.7 kilometres from Cairns CBD.

  • Google Maps Pin: "Crystal Cascades"
Map showing location of the Crystal Cascades from Cairns

How to Get to the Cascades From Cairns

Although the Crystal Cascades is a very popular spot for locals, there aren't any public transport options heading here.

So, in order to get to Crystal Cascades, you're going to need a car. If you're coming from Cairns city, then it's only a short 25-minute drive past the back of Redlynch to the outskirts of the Barron Falls National Park.

I've pinned the Crystal Cascades location on the Google Map above. This will lead you to a large car park, where you'll need to leave your car before walking the Crystal Cascades trail.

If you don't have your own car, then the best option is to just book a canyoneering tour from Cairns. This is one of the best canyoneering experiences in Far North Queensland and runs up the "Crystal Canyon".

Nearby: Stoney Creek Falls

Car in the rainforest near Cairns

Car Rentals in Far North Queensland

Cairns is one of the most popular travel destinations in Australia and car rentals quickly book out! I recommend booking well in advance. I always use as they compare the widest range of rentals across dealerships in the Far North.

Walking the Crystal Cascades Track

The Crystal Cascades walk is by no means a hiking trail. Realistically, it's more of just a short 1.2-kilometre stroll on a sealed bitumen road. This track picks up from the car park mentioned above and is well-signed and easy to spot.

While you might not need to bring your hiking boots, it's still an incredibly beautiful walk through tropical rainforest and passing fast-flowing rapids.

It'll only take you about 20 minutes to reach the end of the walk, where you'll get to see the main waterfall. However, there are many beautiful swimming spots downstream as you walk to the falls.

Great Barrier Reef aerial photograph near Cairns, Australia

50+ More Cairns Bucketlist Items

The Crystal Cascades Waterfall

The end of the line for the Crystal Cascades hiking trail is the main waterfall. This waterfall is really a series of smaller waterfalls flowing into a wide, deep pool. Officially, the name for this waterfall is Wongalee Falls.

There is access down to the waterfall, where you can relax on the large granite boulders and swim in the natural pool.

Rainforest trees hang over the edges of the waterfall and creek, which can help you cool down on a hot summer day in Cairns.

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What to Expect at the Crystal Cascades Cairns

Thinking of paying the Cascades a visit? If you're looking for things to do in Cairns, then I'd definitely recommend spending at least a day trip here.

While everything else seems so far away, this waterfall is probably one of the closest freshwater swimming areas you'll find. It's also arguably one of the most beautiful natural spots in Cairns, so take your time!

Related: 11+ Best Cairns Tours & Experiences

Finding The Best Freshwater Swimming Holes

On the walk, you'll probably see some access points to some refreshing swimming holes along Freshwater Creek. If you're looking for a more secluded place to swim, then I'd recommend walking down by the creek and picking a spot.

Most people tend to gather at the waterfall or at the first few spots, leaving some beautiful secluded pools all along the track.

There are several spots with water deep enough to swim, so go ahead and explore.


Tip: Make Sure to Monitor Water Levels

Sadly, several people have died here. While it might seem safe and innocent enough on a calm day, the Crystal Cascades can be a completely different beast in the wet season following torrential rain.

Thankfully, there are warning systems in place to alert tourists and locals alike when the water levels get too high. Still, freshwater rivers, creeks, and waterfalls near Cairns can be extremely unpredictable. Make sure you monitor the conditions and definitely don't enter the water if you have any doubts.


Cliff Jumping at the Crystal Cascades

When I was at the main waterfall at Crystal Cascades, I was shown some small 6-meter cliff jumps into the deep pool below. The main pool is adequately deep to jump on the right side, however, we did find some submerged rocks.

It can also get fairly slippery on the sloping granite edge. Missing a jump and landing on the rocks below will cause serious injury. It's best to be shown by a local where to jump before attempting. Remember, the signs advise you not to jump, so use common sense.

Are the Crystal Cascades Secluded?

A few other blogs that I read online have claimed that the Crystal Cascades are a local secret and that you'll have it all to yourself.

Unfortunately, this has never been the case for me. I've visited the Crystal Cascades countless times during my time in Cairns and have never had it to myself.

Perhaps there has been a recent spike in popularity, but it definitely seems to be more than a handful of people at the Cascades most of the time.

Before You Go: Don't Miss The Nearby Fairy Falls

If you are looking for something a little more secluded, there is another local secret waterfall located at the Crystal Cascades known as Fairy Falls. To reach it, you'll need to head back to the Crystal Cascades car park. On the left of the car park (facing the Crystal Cascades trail) is a small unmarked trail.

This trail winds through some thick rainforest vegetation before revealing a spectacular little waterfall with a deep swimming hole.


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

More Photos of the Crystal Cascades to Inspire Your Visit

Looking for more photos of the Crystal Cascades? Here are some more that I've snapped during my visits to this epic spot in Cairns!


More Cairns Adventure Articles & Travel Guides

I hope that you found this guide to visiting the Crystal Cascades in Cairns, Australia useful. I've spent close to a year exploring all of the epic things to do in Cairns, so make sure to check out my blog for more adventure inspiration and travel guides.

For adventure, don't miss my guide to the best waterfalls in Cairns, or this epic Cairns hiking guide. Otherwise, below are a few that are a great starting point.