Looking for a relaxing weekend away where you can explore tropical rainforest and swim in crystal clear water throughout the whole year? Well, we highly recommend a trip north to Murray Falls.
Situated in Girramay National Park, about two-and-a-half hours north of Townsville (or 41km north-west of Cardwell or 36km south-west of Tully), Murray Falls is one of Queensland’s prettiest waterfalls and, when you stay the night, you get to go to sleep and wake-up to the sound of cascading water.
We went there for the first time last weekend with a couple of friends — we took our camper trailer and they had their motorhome and we created a comfy little set-up around one of the enclosed fire pits. Yes, OK, it was more like glamping.
We had a great time walking (there are a couple to do, but none are very long), swimming in the crystal clear rock pools (cue: ‘it’s-so-cold’ scream upon entry, but then it warmed up), playing games and eating — well, isn’t that what you do camping? The whole campsite, day use and walking areas are really well maintained and we’ll definitely be back.
Murray Falls is 41km north-west of Cardwell or 36km south-west of Tully. There are two roads in, so — if you’re coming from Townsville — take the first turn-off to the left. It’s bitumen road most of the way, but turns to a good quality dirt road as you get closer to the falls. Here is a map.
When to go
In summer, daytime temperatures can exceed 40C, so the cooler months — from April to September — are the best times to visit. Check the weather before you go. Spring is a great time to enjoy colourful wildflower displays.
What to do
There are two walking tracks that will help you to explore the area.
River boardwalk — 300m return (10 minutes). Grade: Easy
Take an easy walk along the boardwalk for views of the falls. The river boardwalk begins at the top end of the camping area and offers a safe way to view Murray Falls from several angles — bring your camera. The first 75m of the boardwalk is wheelchair accessible. Please note that there is no swimming in this area at the base of the falls (too dangerous).
Yalgay Ginja Bulumi walk — 1. 8km return (allow 1.5 hours). Grade: Moderate
Walk through the open forest and rainforest to the top of the waterfall, which ends at a lookout that surveys the Kirrama Range and Murray Valley, including downstream rock pools. This track includes rocky steps and uneven ground and is uphill nearly the whole way with some spots to stop for a breather. If you have a reasonable level of fitness, it only takes about 30-40 minutes, but you may want to take your time and read the signs along the way about the Girramay people and surrounding vegetation if you’re interested in finding out more about the area.
There are two dedicated swimming spots that are adjacent to the day use area. Both have spectacular water-sculpted rocks and crystal clear pools, but the one furthest from the falls has a particularly tall and curved rock that resembles a natural water slide. When we were there a group of kids were sliding down it — it looked like way too much fun, so we had to join in. And it was a quick way to warm-up in the chilly water. Just be careful of slippery rocks. And gravity-defying children.
While there are no mountain biking tracks, you could still bring your bikes and head out on the dirt road (especially if you have kids who want an easy ride); then come back for a refreshing swim in the rock pools.
Don’t forget your active games like cricket, quoits, footy and — one we were recently acquainted with — Kubb (it’s addictive). There are plenty of open spaces to let loose.
There are good facilities at Murray Falls (toilets were clean and there is an outside shower, although it’s cold so bring your own camp shower if you like a little more luxury!), but you need to book online before you arrive. A tag with your booking number must be displayed at your campsite to avoid fines. The road in is suitable for camper trailers, motorhomes, caravans, etc.
Don’t forget the camp oven — we had slow-cooked lamb shanks over the hot coals and combined it with a bed of mashed sweet potato, corn on the cob, green beans and damper — the perfect winter feast!
If sleeping out isn’t your thing, then there’s a range of holiday accommodation in and around the townships of Tully and Cardwell, including caravan parks, motels, holiday units, cabins and hostels. You can then come in for a day trip and head off to explore other areas in the region.
The day-use area is a great location for a picnic. The falls can be viewed from the boardwalk and viewing platform. There are tables and the NPSR website says gas barbecues are provided, but we didn’t see any, so maybe bring your portable gas stove if you have one just in case. The toilets are nearby.
Other things to know…
- Unfortunately pets are not allowed as it’s a National Park.
- Keep your eyes out for cassowaries as Murray Falls is in cassowary country.
- Find out more about Murray Falls’ diverse wildlife here.
- Fuel and supplies are available at Cardwell and Tully. There is a roadside fruit and veg stall on the way in, but it depends on whether it’s been stocked.
- Bring warm clothes for nighttime — the temperatures drop quite drastically.
- Fishing is not allowed.
- Girramay National Park is managed by NPSR in collaboration with the Wet Tropics Management Authority and the Girramay Aboriginal people.