If you’re traveling to or from Cairns, you cannot miss the opportunity to detour into the Atherton Tablelands. A short 1 hour and 30 minute drive from Cairns will get you onto the iconic Waterfall Circuit. The circuit is made up of three waterfalls within a 10 mile loop: Ellinjaa Falls, Millaa Millaa Falls, and Zillie Falls.
Simple and beautiful, Ellinjaa Falls is a short distance from the parking lot and easily accessible for travelers of all ages and abilities. However, this factor does lead to more crowds and, therefore, more people trying to “get the shot.” Since the pool is too shallow to swim and its location doesn’t lend to a lot of standing room, I would not recommend spending much time here and instead continuing down the circuit road!
Standing at the bottom of Zillie Falls looking up was truly a sight that caused me to stop dead in my tracks. Many visitors come to the viewing platform at the top of the falls, take their picture and move on. However, if you take the dirt path to the left of the platform you can actually scramble your way down to the base of this stunning waterfall. Like Ellinjaa Falls, there is not a place to swim; but, nonetheless, take a few moments to soak in the sight before moving on (plus, you might even have the falls all to yourself).
Millaa Millaa Falls
Millaa Millaa Falls is the last (or first, depending on which way you go) waterfall on the official circuit and, most definitely, the busiest. Like the other falls on the circuit, this waterfall is easily accessible and, unfortunately, popular with tour buses. We decided to take a dip in the falls, as it was the first one we had come to that had a pool deep enough for swimming. A little heads up – the water was colder than we ever could have expected! It was hilarious, refreshing, and painful all at the same time and gave us the energy boost we needed to go out in search of more falls!
While the official circuit only consists of the three waterfalls mentioned above, there are several others located nearby in the Atherton Tablelands that are a must! To be honest, all of my favorite waterfalls that we visited came after the famous “Waterfall Circuit.”
Best part? Once we left the circuit road, we had every waterfall to ourselves.
Nandroya Falls ranks up there with some of my all-time favorite waterfalls to date (my #1 still being Sekumpul Falls in Bali). Located in the Wooroonooran National Park, the waterfall is just a 15 minute drive from Millaa Millaa Falls. While this waterfall does require a two mile hike in to reach the falls, it is worth every step. The trail itself is beautiful but nothing quite prepares you for the sight at the end. Set amongst the lush and dense greenery stands the 150 foot waterfall with its huge, beckoning pool at its base. If you’re up for it, take a dip in the freezing water – if for no other reason, a good why-did-I-do-this laugh.
Like a scene straight out of a story book, Wallicher Falls causes you to wonder if you’re dreaming. While we never discovered a way to reach the base of the waterfall, having to admire it from afar only added to its allure. As with the other falls located off the official circuit, you’re bound to have this sight all to yourself.
Similar to Wallicher Falls, we admired the beauty of Tchupala Falls from a distance. While there is a path leading down to the base, the trail was temporarily closed due to damage. The adventurer in us said risk it, while the environmentalist in us guilted us both into honoring the closure. Definitely a tough decision, as well all know I’m a sucker for a good waterfall. Fingers crossed the trail is back open and running for you.
The Tablelands, while made famous by the Waterfall Circuit, is also full of off-the-beaten-path, lesser-known waterfalls. Because the Circuit is a sort of right of passage when visiting the Tablelands, by no means skip it, just don’t let your adventure end there.
Have a favorite waterfall in the Tablelands? Drop it below!
Until next time, keep adventuring x
KEEP BELIEVING. KEEP EXPLORING. AND, KEEP RELENTLESSLY TELLING THE UNIVERSE ALL IT IS YOU PLAN TO DO.