The Boulders Scenic Reserve – informally called the Babinda Boulders – is a popular swimming hole to the south of Cairns. The indigenous name for Babinda Boulders is Bunna Binda, which means “waterfall” or “water over your shoulder”. Located in the foothills between Mount Bartle Frere and Mount Bellenden Ker (Queensland’s highest and second-highest mountain peaks), Babinda Creek has a good flow of water year-round. As well as few places where you swim, Babinda Boulders offers a couple of short walks and lookouts over Babinda Creek.
Babinda Boulders Main Pool
A concrete walking track descends a short distance from the carpark to the the main swimming hole. The creek gets deep towards the opposite side, and is surrounded by dense rainforest.
I found the concrete platform detracted a little from the natural feel of the place – but it’s great for small kids, with easy access to the water and a shallow, sandy bank. It can also get very busy here; I arrived at the same time as a thunderstorm was rolling in, and a lot of people were making a hasty exit.
If you want to avoid the crowds, take the Goldfield Trail from the north-western end of the carpark, which heads upstream along Babinda Creek. (The Goldfield Trail continues for 19km over a saddle in the Bellenden Ker Range to the Goldsborough Valley.)
Ignore the first junction, which goes to some shallow rapids, and take the second side track down to the river, which is only about 200m down the main track.
Here you’ll find a deep section of the river, with some of the enormous boulders for which the area is known.
Devils Pool Walk
The Devils Pool Walk takes you a short distance downstream to some of the more dramatic sections of Babinda Creek. You can’t swim anywhere along the walking track – while you used to be able to enter the water at Devils Pool, this is no longer allowed as it’s too dangerous (20 deaths have occurred here since 1959).
There are a few fenced lookouts over Babinda Creek along the paved trail; the first one gives you a good view of the rapids, where the water has polished and sculpted the rocks into interesting shapes.
The second lookout is perched over the infamous Devils Pool; you can no longer swim here, and there is no track down to the river (although if you were really determined, you could scramble down). I’m generally not one to follow rules, but with multiple signs warning of the dangers and the most recent death less than six months ago, I was happy to admire the deep pool from above.
Perhaps one of the reasons for so many deaths here is the Aboriginal legend from the Yidinji people (the original custodians of this land) which surrounds Devils Pool, and perhaps still haunts it today?
A beautiful young girl named Oolana married a respected elder from her tribe named Waroonoo. Shortly after their union another tribe moved into the area and a handsome young man came into her life. His name was Dyga and the pair soon fell in love. Realising the adulterous crime they were committing, the young lovers escaped their tribes and fled into the valleys.
The elders captured them, but Oolana broke free from her captors and threw herself into the still waters of what is now known as Babinda Boulders, calling for Dyga to follow her. As Dyga hit the waters, her anguished cries for her lost lover turned the still waters into a rushing torrent and the land shook with sorrow. Huge boulders were scattered around the creek and the crying Oolana disappeared among them.
Aboriginal legend says her spirit still guards the boulders and that her calls for her lost lover can still be heard. Now this area is known as Devil’s Pool.
From the Devils Pool lookout, the track continues downstream through the rainforest.
At the end of the Devils Pool walking track is a large lookout, which provides another nice view of the rapid, cascades and rugged landscape around Babinda Creek.
From here you need to return the same way; it’s about 1.6km in total for the walk and you can easily do in half an hour.
Getting to Babinda Boulders
Babinda Boulders is about an hour south of Cairns, along the Bruce Highway. Turn right into the town of Babinda and follow signs to the swimming hole (which is about is seven kilometres west of Babinda). There are a few options to get food and drinks in Babinda, and Babinda Boulders has toilets, showers covered picnic tables and gas barbeques.
As the area can get very busy, if possible go early or late in the day. There are also a number of tours out of Cairns that visit Babinda Boulders if you don’t have a car or your own transport.
Best time to visit
With a large catchment area that receives some of the heaviest rainfall in Australia, you can visit Babinda Boulders for a swim year-round. The water flow will be highest and the cascades most spectacular in the Wet Season (December to March).
More information on Babinda Boulders
- Cairns Atractions – Babinda Boulders
Visit Waterfalls and Swimming Holes around Cairns and Far North Queensland for more spectacular falls and picturesque swimming holes.