Australia is home to some of the world's most spectacular natural waterfalls and rock formations.
By Georgia Rickard, Hannah Tattersall
Australia's national parks and beaches have some stunning waterfalls. Whether you're bushwalking or swimming, cruising or flying, here are some of the country's most picturesque sights, and the best ways to view them.
World Heritage Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory is Australia's largest national park, and Jim Jim Falls – along with its sister waterfall, the nearby Twin Falls – are among its leading attractions. Jim Jim Falls flow from monsoonal rains and are at their most powerful in the tropical summer months (November to March), but you can admire them via chopper or plane all year round, with scenic flights offered by Kakadu Air, North Australian helicopters and The Scenic Flight Company. During the dry season (April to October), the pool at the base of Jim Jim Falls is open for swimming, though it's only accessible by 4WD. Hire a vehicle in Darwin or join one of the area's many 4WD tours, such as the three day Kakadu 4WD tour from Kakadu Tours and Travel, on which you’ll see all the park's main attractions, including Jim Jim falls, Twin Falls and Aboriginal rock art site, Ubirr Rock.
Another gem of the Northern Territory, Wangi Falls in Litchfield National Park is easily accessible and open all year round (though swimming is not always possible due to water levels). On one side of this almost perfectly circular pool is a half-crescent rock face, down which the waterfall flows. On the other is peach-coloured sand, the amazing result of years of water erosion on surrounding rocks. Splash about, swim beneath the waterfall and snap pictures of yourself lying on the inland beach, then upload your photos using the area's free wifi. A campground is located near the falls, with amenities including toilets, showers, barbecue facilities and a souvenir shop and café (try the mango cheesecake).
Josephine Falls is popular with Instagrammers for good reason. This granite boulder formation near Cairns in Far North Queensland is home to waters that are an unusual shade of turquoise. It's a tiered cascade waterfall, meaning swimmers can gently slip and slide their way over smooth rock faces from pool to pool. Part of the scenic Wooroonooran National Park (an easy one hour drive from Cairns), the falls are fed by rains on Queensland's highest peak, Bartle Frere. A 700 metre (766 yard) walk from the car park is a picnic area where you can eat lunch. Wander along a walking track through tropical rainforest to find viewing decks with excellent photo opportunities.
Western Australia's Kimberley region is home to rugged ranges, dramatic gorges and some of the world's most isolated stretches of wilderness. Arguably among its most impressive sights are the 80 metre (262 foot) high cliff faces of the twin King George Falls, carved out by a billion years of rushing water. It's the kind of view that would be world famous, were it not for the falls' remoteness. There's really only one way to easily access them, and that's via an expedition cruise with one of the area's tour companies, departing from Broome. Several operators offer excellent cruising itineraries from eight to 14 days, including The Great Escape Charter Company, Kimberley Quest, Aurora Expeditions and Ponant. The North Star Cruises vessel, True North, has a helicopter on board.
Wattamolla is an Aboriginal word meaning “place near running water” and Wattamolla beach and picnic area, in the Royal National Park about 50 minutes by car from Sydney's centre, is home to the splendid seven metre (23 foot) Wattamolla Falls, which cascade from a rock ledge near the picnic area into a lagoon below. The tranquil waters of Wattamolla lagoon are calm and safe, making this an ideal place for families to spend the day. After a swim, relax in the shade of cabbage tree palms or go for a bushwalk among the sea eagles and oystercatchers.
The Gold Coast hinterland area is home to several pretty waterfalls in World Heritage rainforest. One of the most incredible is the Natural Bridge in Springbrook National Park. It's a picturesque rock formation formed into an arch by the force of a waterfall over a basalt cave. Take a guided nocturnal tour of the area with a tour company such as Viator or JPT to see the nearby colony of glow-worms and microbats. You might also see luminous fungi and fireflies lighting up the cave. Or simply visit on your own; the site is easily accessible from the Nerang-Murwillumbah Road car park. While you're in the area, be sure to make a stop at O’Reilly’s rainforest retreat, near Morans Falls, in Lamington National Park. The falls lookout is at the end of a track through subtropical rainforest of booyongs, figs and brush box. The entrance to the track is just down the main road from O’Reilly’s and the falls are the perfect place to relax and watch the sun set. As well as its tranquil setting, O’Reilly’s is worth a visit for its luxurious spa, Lost World.
Victoria’s Great Ocean Road is one of Australia’s greatest road trip destinations, packed with fishing villages, shipwrecks, rainforests and national parks, and home to the famous Bells Beach and the rugged limestone spires of the 12 Apostles. At the pretty seaside town of Lorne you'll find Erskine Falls, which tumble 30 metres (98 feet) down a rocky face in a rainforest setting filled with ferns. While you're here, be sure to explore around Lorne, Victoria's answer to Byron Bay. With spas, surfing, arts, bushwalking, fashion and food, there’s something for everyone. If you have time, go fruit picking at Gentle Annie Berry Gardens, a 10 acre working farm nestled in Pennyroyal Valley, offering a huge range of pick-your-own pesticide-free berry and orchard fruit. The café on site has great coffee and scrumptious berry pies and scones.