Freshwater Swimming Locations

Crystal Cascades – 30 minutes from Cairns

Crystal Cascades is one of the secrets of Cairns and Tropical North Queensland that locals wish they could hide from visitors. 

It is a secluded freshwater swimming hole, hidden in a wonderfully cool tropical rainforest accessible by self drivers or for those adventure seekers on the Cairns canyoning tours.

A series of small waterfalls flow into large pools surrounded by large impressive granite boulders.

Rainforest trees hang over the mountain water, keeping it cool and refreshing. There are also council managed and cleaned BBQ and picnic tables in the area with a toilet/change room block close-by.

Lake Barrine – 60 minutes from Cairns

Lake Barrine is no ordinary lake, but something quite special. It is, in fact, a water-filled crater left by a volcanic eruption that was around 10,000 years ago. It is a freshwater lake, home to an array of marine wildlife. You can swim the shallow borders of the lake or travel out even further on the 45-minute boat cruise of the region. With plenty of room to swim, a few walking tracks, and a picnic area, you can make a day of it in the stunning lake area. Additionally, you can even grab a snack at the nearby Lake Barrine Teahouse.

The Lake Barrine Teahouse is nestled on the shore of the lake. Enjoy their award wining Devonshire Tea, including their secret recipe scones. All meals and teas are made from local produce, so you can support the community one scone at a time.

Babinda Boulders – 60 minutes from Cairns

The Babinda Boulders is a popular tourist attraction and swimming hole surrounded by lush vibrant rainforest. The area is made up of fast flowing creeks that weave through huge granite boulders and is it any wonder how this gorgeous, tranquil destination received its name. The sparkling, cascading streams creates large pools of cool and refreshing mountain water, providing the perfect area for an afternoon swim.

The Boulders is one hour south of Cairns, travelling along the Bruce Highway, turn right into the town of Babinda. Road signs then direct the way to the swimming hole, which is seven kilometres west of Babinda. During the drive between Cairns and Babinda, you’ll pass through spectacular mountainous scenery as well as sugar and banana farming communities.

Josephine Falls – 60 minutes from Cairns

The main attraction at this popular Cairns swimming hole is the natural water slide. The action of the water over the granite rock face has worn it down over the years to form a smooth flat surface which the water runs over for around 10m and which it’s a whole load of fun to slide down. The top pool below Josephine Falls is out of bounds for swimming due to extremely slippery rocks and rapids just under the pool but there is a viewing platform from which you can see the cascading waterfall leading to several other sections of cascades and eventually the bottom pool. The bottom pool, below the slide, is a large swimming hole (around 25m) with varying depths. It’s the perfect place to while away a few hours and is child-friendly too.

Harvey Creek – 45 minutes from Cairns

Harvey Creek is a favourite swimming hole for locals. It’s just off the main highway and if heading south from Cairns, turn left at the Harvey Creek turnoff just after driving through Deeral.

Just park under the trees and find yourself a grassy spot by the river or at one of the picnic tables.

The water here is clear and you can see the bottom, which is always a bonus. There are some rocks but the bottom of the creek is mainly sandy so you don’t need to worry about sharp rocks.

There are also plenty of shallow areas and rockpools to sit in if you don’t feel like swimming. But by far the best fun here is jumping off the bridge into the water.

Local Swimming Tours

Atherton Tablelands and Waterfalls Guided Tour
Tully River Full Day White Water Rafting Adventure
Cape Tribulation and Mossman Gorge Tour
Behana Gorge Canyoning Morning Tour

Atherton Tablelands Tours

Barron Gorge & Falls 20 Minute Rainforest Scenic Flight
Boutique Tablelands Tasting Tour
KUR-Cow Horse Riding and ATV Tour with Petting Zoo
Kuranda Skyrail, Scenic Railway and Rainforestation
Kuranda Koala Gardens, Birdworld and Butterfly Sanctuary
Cairns Hot Air Balloon Flight
Kuranda Coach Tour with Rainforestation Nature Park
Outback Tasting Tour from Cairns
Kuranda Rainforest ATV Quad Bike Tour