Babinda Falls | Cairns – Complete Guide 2020


babinda falls

Babinda Falls is a hidden sanctuary rarely visited by even locals which gives you a great opportunity to escape the crowds at Babinda Boulders.  Whether you plan to go all the way to the falls or if you are just looking for a private water hole, this track has everything you could desire.

Where is Babinda Falls?

Babinda Falls is located 65km south of Cairns, following the signs to Babinda Boulders down the Bruce Highway.  To start the falls hike you need to walk through the playground at Babinda Boulders to the Goldfield trail. Follow the goldfield trail for 450m before deviating left to start following the classic Aussie hiking pink tags.  The first tag and many through the hike can be hard to see, so keep your eyes sharp to stay on track.

Fitness level required

This is a pretty tough hike, certainly one of the most demanding I have done around Cairns.  There are fallen trees you need to climb over or duck under, plants that try to make you wait-a-while, loose rocks, water crossings and a steady climb.  This is a hike for experienced hikers only. There is no phone signal on most of the hike, even with Telstra, so please only attempt this if you have experience hiking the Australian bush.  On that note, I would recommend taking a small first aid kit, just in case.

babinda falls

Time to go

This hike took me 2 hours 30 minutes to get up and 1 hour 30 mins to return.  The main delay on the way up was making sure we were going the right way. We backtracked a couple of times as we had lost our way and needed to find a pink tag.  The way down was much easier to see the next tag. Water crossings will always be the hardest and most time consuming the first time. You need to plan your route and on the way back, chances are you will remember where you crossed the creek.

Distance and Stats

  • ~7 Km Return
  • 16,000 Steps
  • 2,788 Kj Burnt
  • 53 Floors Climbed
  • 92 Bpm Average Heart Rate

As you can see, this hike is not small and is quite physically demanding.  The rewards are certainly worth it though.

babinda falls

When to hike Babinda Falls

This hike is only achievable in the dry season, June – October.  If it has been raining recently then forget it. The river crossings will become very dangerous due to the large water basin that the water runs from.  It is also recommended to do this when it is cool. While this hike has an immense amount of shaded area, there is little to no wind to cool you down, as you are mostly following gullies and creek beds. 

Difficulty

We give it a 6/10 for the difficulty which is based on everything you have or are about to read.

The hike…

After starting on the Goldfield trail for 450m, you will see the first pink tag on your left.

There is a tiny clearing before getting to the water’s edge, this is the first of three water crossings that you will have to do to get to the falls.  All of the water crossings are well marked with the pink tags clearly visible from the other side of the bank.

Wade through or go a little further up stream where it is a little shallower, then double back along the creek edge to where the pink tag is.  The water is roughly 1.5m deep at the main crossing point, which is why I suggest heading upstream a little to boulder hop your way across the creek to keep your shoes dry-ish.  Or do as we did, and just remove your shoes for all the creek crossings. From this point on the pink and orange tags are pretty well marked, though you will see many on the ground and it’s possible to go close to 50 meters without seeing one.  If you go further than 50 meters, chances are you have missed one and gone off course. Which is very easy to do.

Once you cross the first creek you will find yourself following a dry river bed full of largish rocks.  This river bed is really where the hike gets started. 20 minutes up the trail you will come to the first waterhole, which is incredible and comes with a bonus small waterfall.  The water moves quite quickly, so if this is your first swimming hole be careful and stay near the bank.

From here the hike starts to climb and undulate through the progressively thicker bush. After a short while, the trail will spit you out on another creek bed which you need to follow for quite some distance.  The tags on this creek bed are really spread out and you will most likely not be able to see the next one. Don’t stress though, stay in the creek bed and you cannot get lost. If in doubt, follow the creek bed back down where you came from.

After this comes the most difficult river crossing, where we stopped for lunch.  Again we went upstream at this crossing to find shallow water and boulders to hop over.  This one took a fair bit of planning and we had a very uncomfortably close encounter with a red belly black snake on the way back, but I’ll tell you about that later.       

Once you have crossed the third creek, the trail goes back into the bush and undulates again. There is a big horseshoe bend when you should veer towards the right-hand side where it becomes quite ferny and boggy. The trails become a little steeper here and then it opens up into the most beautiful swimming hole that comes out onto the boulders which are more granite. 

​On a clear day, you will get views looking out towards the North-East towards Mount Bellenden Ker, the second-highest mountain in Queensland which is quite the photo opportunity. After this pool, follow the trail between the roots of the trees on the left-hand side of the water. Be careful here because there are slippery areas and it is quite mossy in some sections. 

From this point, you will find yourself walking up a kind of naturally built road.  This wide section of smooth rock has been carved from thousands of years of water flowing over it, another reason why this hike is not possible in the wet season.   This was my favourite part of the hike… It’s kind of like walking down the high street when it’s all blocked off for a festival. It’s wide, smooth and besides a few birds and lizards…. You are the only ones there.  Four-wheel drive owners will start thinking of a way to get their car there, I guarantee it!  

After a few hundred meters you will catch a glimpse of Babinda Falls in the distance.  You will need to stay to the left of the natural road to avoid the fast-flowing water. Once you get to the falls, it is pretty much a dead end.  There are rumours of the path continuing up past the falls to another waterfall, though this waterfall was far enough for us.

There is a rope swing, a beautiful swimming hole, some nice flat rocks for sunbaking and total peace and quiet.  This is a truly magical place that is definitely Instagram worthy. You really need to start the hike early in order to truly appreciate this, as you are looking towards the West when looking at the waterfall which means the sun will disappear quite quickly…. Around 2 pm in August to be precise.

babinda falls

​Aftercare

Wait-a-while vines (Calamus muelleri) are exactly what the name implies.  These vines will hook into your skin and make you wait-a-while to detach yourself from them.  These hooks will normally pull out fairly easily, though unfortunately will normally break the tips off the hooks and leave them embedded into your skin.  These need to be treated when you get home. We picked about 20 barbs out of each other when we got home which was actually quite a surprise.

To remove and treat these wounds I spoke to a local Cairns nurse who recommended taking a long hot bath to loosen the skin, taking tweezers to the wound to remove the spike then rubbing Oregano oil into the wounds to sterilize and promote healing.  A word of warning, this hurts. Both the tweezing and the Oregano will be painful. The Oregano, in particular, will burn for quite some time, It burnt me for about 4 hours. The next day after the oregano the wounds were healed and no longer painful. You could also use any sort of antiseptic topical cream, which is probably recommended to be honest. The positive of oregano oil is you smell like a pizza shop for a couple of days.

Flora

You will walk through all kinds of flora on this trail, from dense bush to creek beds.  The most important thing to remember is the wait-a-while plants and the possibility of the Gympie-Gympie plant.  It’s quite essential to stick to the trail to avoid any major injuries due to flora. Just remember, in the Australian bush, everything will hurt you if given the chance. Play it safe and wear long pants and a long sleeve shirt if you can.

Fauna

The animals along this track can vary widely.  You may encounter cassowaries, snakes, spiders, wild pigs, mosquitoes and much more.

There is plenty of advice available on what to do if you meet a cassowary on the trail, but basically, just avoid eye contact and walk slowly backwards.  These birds will mess you up if you aggravate them. They have 7-inch razor-sharp claws with the muscle power to rip through a human sternum. Basically they are modern-day Velociraptor.

Snakes are actually pretty common on this trail which is no surprise considering the trail follows the creek beds and gullies.  You may encounter red belly black (venomous), coastal taipan (highly venomous), king brown (extremely venomous) and a whole host of other species.  That reminds me, I need to tell you about my encounter.

On our way back, we were at the second creek crossing.  We recognized where we crossed over the first time and headed for it.  I was standing on the rock that I needed to leap from when my shoe slipped into the water.  Knowing I would never stick the landing with a wet shoe I backed up a little then slipped. Falling sideways I reached out to a rock and stopped my descent.  Looking me straight in the eye, no more than a foot away was a red belly black snake basking in the sunshine. The snake was clearly startled and reared up in the pre-strike ‘S’ shape as I backed away.  My girlfriend was right behind me at this point trying to catch me before I face-planted onto a rock. Not knowing there was a snake in my face I tried to push back, while she held me. It took a little while to get the word “snake” out and we quickly scurried backwards out of strike range.  

Luckily the snake did not strike as my face was well within striking range.  While not being one of the most venomous snakes we have here, it would have been at least 2 hours before reaching medical attention.  With a bite in the face, I’m guessing it would have been at least a week in intensive care. But hey, that’s what you get when you go bashing around the Australian bush.  Risk versus reward, weigh it up yourself.

babinda falls

Spider Webs

On the way up I think I picked a spider web off my face every 30 seconds.  They were small, light webs and I don’t think I had one spider on me. Regardless, it was relentless and pretty annoying.  Thinking that I had wiped them all out on the way up, I was surprised that all of the webs had been rebuilt on our way back down.  These little spiders really work quickly! Just make sure the bravest of your hiking group goes first to clear a path for the rest.

Camping

We were very eager to see if there were any good camping spots on this trail, though we really did struggle to find any.  About one-quarter of the way up, there was a small shaded area that could be suitable for a couple of people, but from there on you will find a dense bush, uneven surfaces or large rock areas.  As much as we would love to set up camp here for a night, we decided it probably wasn’t the best idea.

Summary

This is a serious trail that really should only be attempted by well prepared, physically fit and experienced hikers.  Babinda Falls is quite demanding in every way imaginable, to ensure you make it there and back, you really need to be prepared.  The scenery along the way and of course at the falls themselves is spectacular in every direction. The adventure of the terrain will keep your mind sharp while ensuring you don’t lose any agility.  

So would I recommend it?  Absolutely!

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