One of the largest and most-photographed waterfalls in Far North Queensland, Barron Falls is formed by the Barron River descending from the Atherton Tablelands to the Cairns coastal plain. The river starts in the rainforests of Mount Hypipamee National Park, winding 60km across the Atherton Tableland through one of Australia’s highest-altitude rainforest belts. The Barron River then plunges 260m down multiple granite tiers through the steep Barron Gorge, before reaching the coast. The falls were known as Din Din to the Djabuganydji people, who originally inhabited this area.
Most of the water over the falls is diverted for hydroelectricity generation, so for much of the year the waterfall is not particularly impressive. The best time to visit are during the summer months of December through to March (the wet season), when there is the highest rainfall. But even then, you may find the water flow is restricted.
There are a few different vantage points for the waterfall…
From the Skyrail
The waterfall can be seen from above the gorge from the gondolas on the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway, which is on the eastern side of the gorge.
From the Kuranda Scenic Railway
There is also a view from the Kuranda Scenic Railway tourist train, which stops at a platform below the Barron Falls lookout on the western side. (This lookout can also be reached by car via Barron Falls Road).
From the Barron Falls Lookout
The Rainforest Canopy Walk and lookout is the easiest one to reach by car – although you can also walk up from the Kuranda Scenic Railway platform if you have time. An easy stroll down a metal boardwalk takes you to a lookout platform, which overlooks the railway station and the waterfall.
A brief history of Barron Falls
The falls were named after Thomas Henry Bowman Barron (the Chief Clerk of Police in Brisbane in the 1860s) and were one of the most popular tourist attractions in Queensland by the 1890s.
A small hydro-electric station (the first underground power station in Australia) was constructed in 1935 to harness the force of water surging over Barron Falls. In 1963 it was replaced by the Barron Gorge Hydro-Power Station, which is situated further down the gorge.
In 2009 the Barron Falls was announced as one of the “Q150 Icons of Queensland”.
Getting to the Barron Falls lookouts?
The different vantage points over the falls can be accessed via the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway, the Kuranda Scenic Railway or by car.
Both the Skyrail and Scenic Railway take you to Kuranda, which is near the top of the waterfall. From here you can access some the best lookouts, as well as the short Barron Falls lookout track. A popular option is to combine the Skyrail and train, with either a bus transfer from Cairns or Palm Cove, or via a self-drive option where you leave your car at the Skyrail terminal. If you are driving, Kuranda is about 35min from Cairns.
The formal lookouts include:
- Edge Lookout – accessed (only) via the Skyrail “Barron Falls” station. Constructed in 2019, this steel and glass structure stretches 160m over the Barron Gorge, so you to look down onto the waterfall.
- Barron Falls Lookout – 3.5km along Barron Falls Road from Kuranda, this lookut can also be reached from the Kuranda Scenic Railway. This has great views over most of the waterfall.
- Kuranda Scenic Railway station– the train stops at a platform (just below the Barron Falls Lookout) which provides a nice view over the waterfall (almost the same as the lookout, which is just a bit more elevated).
- Wrights Lookout – 4.9km from Kuranda via Barron Falls Road and Wrights Lookout Road. Views of bottom of gorge; far less spectacular view of falls from here.