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Waterfall Wonders: Your guide to chasing waterfalls within the Scenic Rim

03 May 2024
14 mins read
Waterfalls in the Scenic Rim, near Brisbane and the Gold Coast

Just an hour’s drive from the Gold Coast and Brisbane, the Scenic Rim is packed with stunning waterfalls.  

Fill up your water bottle and lace up your hiking boots! Here’s the low down on our favourite waterfall walks within the Scenic Rim; from leisurely strolls to epic walks through ancient Gondwana rainforests, along with ideal places to stay the night and escape the world a little longer.  

Photo above: Chase your waterfall dreams at Cameron Falls on Tamborine Mountain, 📷 Lachlan Gardiner

 

Short walks to waterfalls on Tamborine Mountain

Surrounded by rainforest, a visit to Tamborine Mountain is to enter another world. Visitors are spoilt for choice with short rainforest and walks to waterfalls and lookouts in Tamborine National Park; the third oldest national park in the world.  

The mountain is blessed with meandering country roads revealing breathtaking views and covered with award-winning wineries, distilleries and breweries, great food and coffee, weekend markets and artisan shops and galleries offering a captivating blend of old and new-world charm. After a walk immersed in natural beauty, why not linger on to explore and stay overnight at one of Tamborine Mountain’s accommodation retreats, holiday houses, BnBs or cottages.  

Curtis Falls 

In Tamborine National Park, take the enchanting 1.1km, grade 3 Curtis Falls track from the Dapsang Drive carpark, down through the cool forest and past staghorn ferns (look up!) to the spectacular Curtis Falls. The first view of the falls is a sight to behold – beyond the rock pool are volcanic rocks with a gentle cascade or raging torrent of water splashing over them, depending on the season and recent rainfall. While the rock pool looks like a great place to swim or go off track, please don’t. This is home to important glow worm and platypus colonies and penalties apply. Continue on to the Lower Creek Circuit from here for a 2km return walk. Just remember, there are over 100 steps on this walk, so be prepared for the uphill return. 

Cameron Falls 

From Knoll Road, take the 2.6km, grade 4, Sandy Creek circuit track along the creek through lush pristine rainforest to the Cameron Falls lookout. On a clear day enjoy views across the valley to Brisbane and Flinders Peak. 

Witches Falls 

After recent rains, head to the Witches Falls area of Tamborine National Park, off Main Western Road, and take the 3.6km, grade 4 Witches Falls circuit track downhill through an open forest of banksia trees and into rainforest with giant strangler figs and past lagoons to the lookout platform beside Witches Falls. The waterfall flows after recent rains when you’ll be rewarded with views of cascading falls flowing over basalt cliffs into the valley below.  

Cedar Creek Falls 

With waterfalls and a grassy picnic area, it’s easy to see why this is one of Tamborine Mountain’s most popular spots. From the Cedar Creek Falls Road carpark, start with the easy 500m Cedar Creek Falls Lookout track to the Cedar Creek Falls lookout for views of the gorge and waterfalls. This grade 1 track is suitable for strollers and wheelchairs with assistance. For the more adventurous, be sure to pack your swimmers, because from here a grade 3 track leads down to the bottom of the Falls to a few rockpools where swimming is allowed. Lay out your picnic spread on the surrounding rocks, sit back to views of the waterfall, and enjoy a plunge into the crystal clear rockpools. Just remember, there are many steps on this walk, so be prepared for an uphill climb on your return.  

Please be aware that the parking at Cedar Creek is limited and the car park can fill quickly. Parking is not permitted along Cedar Creek Falls Road or Tamborine Mountain Road. 

Walks to waterfalls from O'Reilly's in Lamington National Park

For those craving a longer immersion in nature, it doesn’t get better than this. Part of the world-heritage listed Gondwana Rainforest of Australia, Lamington National Park is an actual paradise. Renowned for its sub-tropical rainforest and ancient trees, extensive walking tracks, stunning waterfalls (over 500 hundred of them!) and spectacular views, nature-lovers the world over are enchanted with this wilderness wonderland.  

Of the many waterfalls in Lamington National Park, some of the most stunning cascades can be reached from O’Reilly’s in the Green Mountains section of the national park. The following walks are half or full day hikes suitable for those with a good fitness level and navigation skills. Make sure to take a map or download a suitable app before you leave.  

To fully immerse yourself in these waterfall chasing adventures, it’s wise to stay at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat, an ecotourism icon of the Scenic Rim, having welcomed guests for nearly a century to their mountaintop haven. Here you can book to pitch a tent or reserve a safari tent at the campsite, take a room overlooking the mountain ranges, or treat yourself to a villa with an outdoor spa bath that’ll make you soon forget any aching muscles after a big day of hiking. Meals and treats are also available from the onsite café, bar and dining room. 

Morans Falls 

Morans Falls is sure to impress even the most seasoned waterfall fans. The 4.4km return, grade 4 Morans Falls track  starts at the Python Rock and Morans Falls trailhead a short walk from O’Reilly’s campground. The track takes walkers through subtropical rainforest to a lookout with spectacular views of Morans Falls tumbling 80m into the gorge below – a thunderous roar after rain, or a more gentle trickle in the drier winter months. Follow the track a further 400m over the crystal-clear creek to a picnic area located at the top of the falls. This was the site of a bark hut, the first home of the O’Reilly brothers when they arrived on the mountain. 
Please Note: The Morans Falls Track is closed to walkers until at least 28 June 2024. See below for other great walks to do, while the national parks team goes about their work to upgrade this track. Check park alerts for updates on this closure. 

Elabana Falls 

Perhaps the prettiest of waterfalls in Lamington National Park, the 7.1km return walk to Elabana Falls starts along the Border Track from the O’Reilly’s trailhead. After 1.7km, branch off onto the Toolona Creek Circuit and down past ancient Antarctic Beech trees into a majestic Gondwana rainforest wonderland. After another kilometre or so, turn right at the Box Forest circuit turn-off for Picnic Rock, a favourite lunch spot, and continue on a further 400m to reach the photogenic, two-tiered Elabana Falls where clear mountain water cascades into deep swirling pools and on down into the rainforest valley. From here, walkers can return the way they came or head back to the Box Forest circuit turnoff to walk the whole 10.9km, grade 4 circuit (best done in an anti-clockwise direction) and be rewarded with views of many other picturesque waterfalls such as Darragumai Falls and Yanbacoochie Falls. Or, for an even gutsier and waterfall-filled walk, experienced walkers can follow the 17.4km, grade 4 Toolona Creek Circuit on in a clockwise direction across numerous creek crossings to the Chalahn Falls and Toolona Falls, before returning to the O’Reilly’s trailhead along the Border Track. 

Walks to waterfalls from Binna Burra in Lamington National Park

Known as “Woonoongoora” in the Yugambeh language, the mountains of Lamington National Park are sacred and spiritual, places to be nurtured and respected. It is an ecologically significant site, with some plants and animals found to be survivors of prehistoric times when ferns, then pines, then flowering plants first appeared. 

For easy access to the walks in the Binna Burra section of Lamington National Park, make your base at Binna Burra Lodge, where your pick of accommodation ranges from Sky Lodges to Tiny Wild Houses, campsites to Safari tents, or at the nearby Alcheringa Holiday Houses. For pre- or post-hike meals and snacks, stop in at the Binna Burra Teahouse 

Just about every walk in Lamington National Park will pass a waterfall or two. The following walks are full day hikes suitable for those with a good fitness level and navigation skills. Make sure to take a map or download a suitable app before you leave.  

Coomera Falls  

Tucked away in a particularly lush area of Lamington National Park is the 160m high Coomera Falls.  

To view this stunning cascade, from the Binna Burra trailhead, walk 1.9km along the Border Track and then follow the scenic, grade 4 Coomera circuit through the Gondwana rainforest to the Coomera Falls’ lookout, located 5.5km from the trailhead, where you can take in the magnitude of the mighty Coomera Falls and its neighbouring Yarrabilgong Falls as they thunder into the Coomera Valley.  From here, walkers can retrace their steps for a satisfying 11km walk, or for those keen to add some extra waterfalls and kilometres to the day’s waterfall chasing, continue on to complete the full 17.4km Coomera circuit, ascending along the edge of Coomera Gorge and following the Coomera River past a series of other lovely cascades and waterfalls. The trail crosses the river several times where walkers will need to rock hop or wade through the river, before rejoining the Border Track and returning to the Binna Burra trailhead. Please note: The Coomera Circuit track beyond the Coomera Falls Lookout sustained significant damage during severe weather earlier in 2024. A high level of experience and care is needed to walk the southern section of this track until November 2024, as the track is very muddy and large fallen trees and other obstructions block the track making it challenging to navigate, particularly in wet conditions. Before visiting any national park it’s wise to check the relevant park alerts for the latest information on where you can go, along with local park conditions.

Lower Ballanjui Falls 

Lower Ballanjui Falls is a popular year-round destination that is particularly picturesque during the wetter summer months.  For the 9.8km, grade 4 return walk to the falls, start at the Saddle trailhead opposite the road entrance to Binna Burra Lodge, and head downhill along the Lower Bellbird circuit track. Along the way, be sure to stop and admire the impressive views of Turtle Rock and Egg Rock from the Koolanbilba lookout and down into the valley below from the Yangahla (Picnic Rock) lookout, before branching off to the right after 3.7km onto the Ships Stern circuit track. Continue downhill through a stand of piccabeen palm trees and take the next turnoff on the right to the base of the Ballunjui Falls where Nixon Creek tumbles over a 150m high cliff. Return to Binna Burra by the same track. Or for a 19km walk with more epic views plus a 2.4km side-trip to Upper Ballunjui Falls, continue on the Ships Stern circuit, returning to Binna Burra via Daves Creek circuit and the Border Track.  

Walks to waterholes in Mount Barney National Park

Mount Barney is the second highest mountain peak in south east Queensland and the rugged peaks of Mount Barney National Park are the remains of an ancient volcano that erupted 24 million years ago. Much of this magnificent national park lies within the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area and the stories, rituals and traditions of the Scenic Rim’s indigenous inhabitants are woven around the natural environment and highlight their connection to a living landscape. 

To fully appreciate this ancient landscape, base yourself in the thick of the action at Mount Barney Lodge, where you can set up camp, park the RV, book a cabin, or stay in a Queenslander homestead. You’ll also find beautiful accommodation at the nearby peaceful hideaway, Barney Creek Vineyard Cottages. For a weekend pre or post-walk coffee and brunch, The Shed Café is a local gem (and open only on Saturdays and Sundays). For a cold beer and a counter-meal, the Rathdowney Hotel has you more than covered. And for beers brewed in this very area along with delicious meals, you can’t go past the Scenic Rim Brewery at Mt Alford. 

Many walks in Mount Barney National Park are remote and require a high level of fitness and navigational skills. If you’re unsure on navigating the walks below, why not join a guided walk with Mount Barney Lodge and let their experts be your guide. 

Lower Portals  

The 7.4km return Lower Portals track in the foothills of Mount Barney is a popular grade 4 walk. Suited for more experienced walkers, the track through an open eucalyptus forest is well-marked with some moderate to steep slopes, creek crossings and large boulders to navigate. What’s the reward after 3.7km? An impeccable swimming hole nestled in a remarkable rock canyon fed by Mount Barney Creek that’s perfect for a refreshing dip in the clear, cold water. OK, so while it’s not exactly a cascading waterfall unless it’s been raining heavily, this majestic spot is one not to miss. After spending time in this magnificent natural spot, make sure you have the time and energy to retrace your steps back to the carpark on Lower Portals Road. 

Cronan Creek Falls 

Cronan Creek Falls is a near-perfect small waterfall with a deep swimming hole and an open rocky area to catch some sun after a swim. It’s best to set aside the day for the grade 4 Cronan Creek Falls 12km return track, to enjoy the walk there and back and have ample time to relax at the swimming hole. From the Yellow Pinch trailhead, follow the track to the Yellow Pinch gate and walk through the turnstile. Stay left and follow the management trail for 5.4km as it follows the picturesque rock-tumbled Cronan Creek and crosses the creek half a dozen times. To reach the waterfall, look for the directional sign on the left that says ‘Cronan Creek Falls 100m’. Make your way down a rough track through the bush before coming out onto the creek and, from there, it’s a short rock hop along to the waterfall and swimming hole. For an unforgettable experience, talk to Mt Barney Lodge about taking their ‘Moonlit Cronan Creek Night Hike’, or a walk to other hard-to-find, off-track waterfalls in the area, with one of their expert tour guides. 

Explore Our waterfalls safely

Safety is our concern, and your responsibility. Our natural environment has many wild and remote areas and natural hazards. Be prepared and do not take risks., even on short walks, as rescue and medical help may be hours away.  

  • Walk in pairs or small groups—if a person is injured others can assist. 
  • Know your limits and choose walks suited to the fitness levels of everyone in your group – use these track grades to inform your walk choices.  
  • Always walk with trail guides and maps, and use navigational tools for long or remote walks.  
  • Walk early in the day. Don’t attempt a long walk after midday.  
  • Take extra care not to slip near cliff and waterfall edges, and when crossing creeks. 
  • Even for short walks, always wear a hat and sturdy shoes. 
  • In case of unexpected delays, take more water and snacks than you think you’ll need. 
  • Know before you go. Before visiting any national park, it’s wise to check the relevant park alerts for the latest information on where you can go, along with local park conditions. 
  • Check the weather forecast and current conditions. Never walk in or after storms or heavy rain when creek conditions can change rapidly and become dangerous and fast flowing, rising water – with strong currents – can occur. Many walks require river crossings. Do not attempt to cross the river when it is flooding or during heavy rain.  
  • Take a spare pair of socks and some warmer clothing – even in summer the temperatures in the rainforest and mountains are cooler.  
  • Watch out for leeches and ticks, especially in summer. Wear long pants and apply insect repellent.  
  • No matter how tempting, please do not swim in the national parks, unless signs say it is OK to do so. Sunscreen, insect repellent, perfume and deodorant can harm the river’s pristine ecosystems and trampling creek banks and riverbeds causes erosion and disturbs natural habitats and breeding sites for wildlife.   
  • First time visitor? Why not walk with a tour guide? For an unforgettable waterfall adventure, join local ecotourism-certified walking experts ParkTours or Horizon Guides or Mt Barney Lodge to explore these ancient, magical worlds on a day or multi-day hike. 
  • For more tips visit this handy guide and the visiting Lamington safely guide.