Josephine Falls & Golden Hole, Bartle Frere QLD

💦 FULL GUIDE to Josephine Falls & Golden Hole, Bartle Frere QLD

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Just 28km north of Innisfail and 74km south of Cairns you will find Josephine Falls, which lie in the foothills of Bartle Frere, the highest mountain peak in Queensland.

Josephine Falls are located in the Wooroonooran National Park with a 1.2km return track from the car park, leading to viewing platforms and stairs into the lower swimming section, popular for its natural water slide.

Things to do at Josephine Falls include viewing the waterfalls and river from the three platforms, swimming in the lower pool, slipping down the natural waterslide, going for a hike and having a BBQ lunch surrounded by lush rainforest.

Just 1.2 km (3 minutes drive) down the road from Josephine Falls is the beautiful Golden Hole (Biggs Recreation Reserve). There you’ll find a massive day-use area with access to the Russel River, toilets, a picnic shelter and perfect views up to the peak of Mt. Bartle Frere. I found that heading down to Golden Hole after the hustle and bustle of Josephine Falls was a nice, peaceful spot for lunch.

Here’s everything you need to know before visiting Josephine Falls and Golden Hole in tropical Far North Queensland.

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Exploring Josephine Falls, QLD

Josephine Falls, Bartle Frere QLD
Top Waterfall, Josephine Falls QLD

What are Josephine Falls

The beautiful Josephine Falls is a section along Josephine Creek, which sits in the Wooroonooran National Park. Josephine Falls is fed by the rain that falls onto the highest mountain in Queensland, Mt. Bartle Frere (standing at 1,622 metres high).

It’s hard to picture that what starts out as a mere trickle of water, high up on the mountain, ends up as a series of cascading waterfalls around 7.5 kilometres further downstream.

Josephine Falls is nestled in one of the wettest regions in Australia with three of the local towns vying for the annual title of “wettest town in Australia.” In fact, one of those towns (Tully) even built a giant golden gumboot to pay tribute to the competition and rainfall levels! While you’re heading through the region, check out these awesome things to do in Tully.

Finding Josephine Falls is an easy 1 hour drive south of Cairns or 23 minutes west of Innisfail. The road is sealed the whole way and can be accessed with a standard 2WD vehicle. Caravans and campers can be taken right up to the Josephine Falls car park area.

Here are some great things to do in Cairns, if you’re adding that to your itinerary.

Viewing Josephine Falls

Josephine Falls, Bartle Frere QLD
View from Middle Creek platform, Josephine Falls QLD

Walking into the falls is an easy 600m (1.2km return) stroll from the car park through the lush, tropical rainforest. There are three different viewing platforms, all of which give you a really good outlook over the three drops of the falls.

At the furtherest platform, you will find a wheelchair-accessible area to view the top pool and main falls. 

3 Josephine Falls Viewing Platforms:

  • Top viewing platform (wheelchair accessible)
  • Middle Creek viewing platform
  • Bottom Pool viewing platform

Josephine Falls Map

Josephine Falls, QLD (map)
Josephine Falls Map: QLD Parks

Top Waterfall

The most spectacular waterfall at Josephine Falls can be seen from the top viewing platform and is wheelchair accessible.

However, it’s not the size of the waterfall that makes this natural wonder so beautiful, as it only has a 25-metre drop. But rather the formation and colours of the granite walls and boulders, framed by lush rainforest that make this spot such a pleasure to admire.

There’s no swimming at the top waterfall as it’s far too dangerous and people have lost their lives there.

Middle Creek

From the middle viewing platform you can gaze over the Middle Creek swimming section and watch the water as it bumbles down over the boulders and into the lower swimming area.

Bottom Pool

The Bottom Pool has an access gate leading out to the rock pools and water slide. This is the best spot for swimming, however, the rocks can be extremely slippery. Tread carefully and always keep a close eye on children.

Swimming at Josephine Falls

Josephine Falls, Bartle Frere QLD
Bottom Pool, Josephine Falls QLD

To enjoy swimming at Josephine Falls, go through the gate at the lower viewing platform at the bottom pool. From there you will need to carefully traverse the rocky boulders and make your way to the water’s edge.

Some people swim across to the granite boulder across the way and use the natural rock slide or head up to the middle swimming area. There are also lots of beautiful rock pools and places to swim in the lower pool.

Swimming locations at Josephine Falls

  • Bottom Pool
  • Middle Creek

Beware, the water temperature is that of ice! In fact, I reckon it’s the COLDEST water in Queensland, which is a close contender with the beautiful Babinda Boulders, just up the road!

Take note of the depth indicator, which is located in the bottom swimming area. If the water rises at all, hop out immediately as it could be an indication of a heavy flow of water coming from upstream.

Never attempt to swim in the top pool and climb around the waterfall. It’s super dangerous and people have died there in the past.
Penalties apply.

Josephine Falls Natural Rock Slide

Josephine Falls Natural Water Slide, Bartle Frere QLD
Natural Rock Slide, Josephine Falls QLD

The main attraction at Josephine Falls is the natural rock slide, which can be found in the bottom swimming area.

Jump into the water and swim across to the granite rock on the other side. Getting to the top of the water slide can be slippery work. Climb up the dry rock face to the right of the slide (when looking across from the entry steps). Then walk across to the top of the granite rock to the natural rock slide to the left.

Make sure you pick your line before you slide down. If you go too far to the right, you may find yourself careening into the rocks that line the slide – ouch!

Josephine Falls Walking Tracks

Josephine Falls, Bartle Frere QLD
Bitumen track leading to the three viewing platforms, Josephine Falls QLD

There are three different walking tracks departing from Josephine Falls, from an easy stroll to the viewing platforms, right up to a two day hike through the mountains.

The Josephine Falls Walking Track is the most popular walk that visitors take from the car park, into the rainforest and along the pathways leading to the three viewing platforms. Wheelchair access is available to the top viewing platform, which is where you will see the spectacular waterfall in action.

The Broken Nose Trail comprises of a section of the larger Bartle Frere Trail, which departs from Josephine Falls. This trail is very steep and only recommended for experienced hikers.

The largest walk available from Josephine Falls is the Bartle Frere Trail, which is a very steep, strenuous walk. It leaves from the falls, goes up to the summit of Bartle Frere and comes down onto the Atherton Tablelands.

Josephine Falls Walking TrackDistance – 1.2 km (return)
Time – 30 minutes
Grade – 2
Bartle Frere Trail to Broken NoseDistance – 10 km (return)
Time – 8 hours
Grade – 5
Bartle Frere Trail
(Josephine Falls to Atherton Tablelands)
Distance – 15 km (one way)
Time – 2 days
Grade – Difficult

Josephine Falls Facilities

Josephine Falls, Bartle Frere QLD
Middle Creek, Josephine Falls QLD

Facilities at Josephine Falls:

🏊 Swimming
🚶‍♂️ Hiking
👓 Viewing platforms
🚽 Toilets (wheelchair friendly)
🥪 Picnic tables (some sheltered)
🔥 Electric BBQ (coin operated)
♿️ Wheelchair Access (toilets, picnic tables, upper viewing platform)
🚗 2WD Access
❌ NO: pets or camping

Josephine Falls Safety Tips

Always keep an eye on the water conditions while visiting Josephine Falls. It’s not uncommon for the waters to rise rapidly due to rainfall further upstream (even if it’s not raining at Josephine Falls). The waterfalls and river can quickly become dangerous, so always get straight out of the water if you notice that the levels are rising or the water colour changes.

Safety at Josephine Falls:

  • Access to the top section of the falls is prohibited. Serious injuries and deaths have occurred there (observe signposted sections)
  • Strong water currents (even when the surface looks calm)
  • Unpredictable water conditions (flash flooding can occur without warning due to rain upstream)
  • Slippery rocks – tread carefully
  • No jumping/ diving – submerged objects
  • Supervise children closely
  • March flies were awful – take a fly swat!
  • Be prepared for freezing cold water

Best Time to Visit Josephine Falls

Josephine Falls, Bartle Frere QLD
Looking up to Josephine Falls from the Middle Creek platform

Wooroonooran National Park, including Josephine Falls, is in a tropical climate, meaning that the temperature during the day can be hot and humid all year round. However, the nighttime temperatures can drop to being quite cool.

The best time to visit Josephine Falls, if you’re looking for a milder experience, is during the cooler months (April to September), when the temperature sits between 23ºC to 27ºC during the day.

The best time to visit Josephine Falls if you want to see them flowing at their best is during the wet season (November to April). These are also the warmer months, with temperatures sitting around 28ºC to 30ºC.

Best times to visit Josephine Falls:

  • Driest Months – August & September
  • Wettest Months – November to April
  • Coolest Months – April to September (23ºC to 27ºC)
  • Hottest Months – October to March (28ºC to 30ºC)

Josephine Falls flow all year round, so when you decide to visit may depend on whether you’re looking for the cooler temperature or the faster flowing experience.

For the best photo opportunities, it’s recommended to visit Josephine Falls between 8am and 12pm to capture the sun hitting the falls.

Getting there early in the morning will also help to avoid the heavy crowds, which are common on weekends and during peak tourist seasons.

What to Bring to Josephine Falls

Items to pack:

  • Hat
  • Sunscreen
  • Insect repellent
  • Fly swat
  • Sturdy footwear
  • Towel & swimsuit (if swimming)
  • Food & water
  • Camera

Getting to Josephine Falls

Josephine Falls is located 75km south of Cairns and 28km northwest of Innisfail.

Josephine Falls Directions from the Bruce Highway:

  1. Turn off the Bruce Highway 2km south of Mirriwinni at Bartle Frere Road
  2. Follow the road for 7km
  3. Turn right onto Josephine Falls Road
  4. Follow the road for 700m until you come to the Josephine Falls car park
Josephine Falls Address
LOT 1, Josephine Falls Walk, Bartle Frere QLD 4861
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Josephine Falls FAQs

How long does it take to walk Josephine Falls?

The Josephine Falls return track is 1.2km and will only take 15 – 30 minutes to walk. However, many people spend longer than that, meandering through the rainforest track and popping out at the three different viewing platforms. From those vantage points, you’re able to take in the beautiful waterfalls and flowing river as it bumbles downstream over rocks and boulders.

How far is Josephine Falls from the car park?

The walk to Josephine Falls from the car park is 1.2 km, which is an easy 15 – 30 minute stroll.

Is it safe to swim at Josephine Falls?

Yes, it’s safe to swim in the lower and middle pools at Josephine Falls (access via the bottom pool stairs). Be aware that if the water rises or changes at all, get out immediately as flash flooding can easily occur from rainfall further upstream. Also, follow the safety signs and never jump or dive into the water. Swimming at the top waterfall is prohibited as its too dangerous and deaths have occurred there.

Are there crocodiles at Josephine Falls?

No, Josephine Falls does not have crocodiles, which makes it one of the safe swimming holes in Far North Queensland. However, there have been croc sightings just 1.9km down the road at the Golden Hole recreation reserve, which is along the Russel River.

Are there leeches at Josephine Falls?

Yes, there can be leeches at Josephine Falls. Check yourself regularly if you’re in the water and remove them immediately.

Are Josephine Falls free?

Yes, Josephine Falls is a free, natural attraction, open for everyone to enjoy at no cost.

Are dogs allowed at Josephine Falls?

No, domestic animals, including dogs, are not allowed at Josephine Falls as it is a National Park.

Are there toilets at Josephine Falls?

Yes, you can find the toilet block next to the car park at Josephine Falls, which also has wheelchair access.

Do Josephine Falls get busy?

Yes, Josephine Falls can get very busy, especially during peak tourist seasons and on weekends. To ensure a parking spot and plenty of room to explore and swim, it’s best to get to Josephine Falls as early in the day as you can.

Can you camp at Josephine Falls?

Camping is not permitted at Josephine Falls. For those wanting to camp near the falls, there is a private camp called ‘Camp Bartle,’ which can be found just past the Josephine Falls turn-off (find it on WikiCamps). There are also four camping areas along the Bartle Frere trail, however, only experienced and extremely fit walkers should attempt the trail.

Can you park a caravan at Josephine Falls?

Yes, you can park a caravan at Josephine Falls, however, I recommend getting there as early as you can. There are grassy roadside spots leading up to the car park, which are perfect for caravan parking, but if it’s busy, you might not be lucky enough to find the space you need.

What are the opening hours at Josephine Falls?

Josephine Falls are open 24 hours a day, however, it’s much safer to visit during daylight hours. You can view all Qld Park Alerts for any current closures or warnings.

What are the nearest towns to Josephine Falls for supplies?

If you need supplies for Josephine Falls, you can head to either Babinda (16 km north) or Innisfail (28 km southeast).

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Golden Hole (Biggs Recreation Reserve)

Golden Hole, Bartle Frere QLD
Golden Hole (Biggs Recreation Reserve), Bartle Frere QLD

Just 3 minutes (1.9 km) down the road from Josephine Falls is the Golden Hole day-use area. This is a fantastic spot to go for a wander and have lunch once you’re finished at the bustling Josephine Falls.

You’ll find beautiful expanses of green grass, a sheltered picnic area, toilets and water access along the Russel River. Beware though, there have been sightings of a crocodile in the water so while fishing and canoeing are popular, this is a no-swimming zone.

Being nestled right at the base of Mt. Bartle Frere, you can enjoy the spectacular views up to the peak of Queensland’s highest mountain.

Golden Hole (Biggs Recreation Reserve), Bartle Frere QLD
Russel River, Golden Hole QLD

Golden Hole Facilities

⛰ Scenic views
🚽 Toilets
🚮 Rubbish bins
🥪 Picnic tables
🐊 Crocodiles (no swimming)
🎣 Fishing
🚣‍♀️ Canoeing
📶 Telstra reception
🚗 2WD Access (sealed road)
❌ NO: camping, drinking water or swimming

Golden Hole (Biggs Recreation Reserve), Bartle Frere QLD
Golden Hole, Bartle Frere QLD

Getting to Golden Hole

If you continue another 1.5 km down the road from the Josephine Falls turn-off, you will run right into the Golden Hole parking area. There is plenty of parking for cars, caravans and motorhomes.

Josephine Falls to Golden Hole, Bartle Frere QLD
Josephine Falls to Golden Hole, Bartle Frere QLD
Golden Hole Address
Biggs Road, Bartle Frere QLD 4861

Golden Hole FAQs

Can you swim at Golden Hole Cairns?

No, swimming is not allowed at Golden Hole due to crocodile sightings. Golden Hole used to be a popular swimming hole, but since crocs have been spotted the rules have changed. Police were periodically going down to make sure no one was in the water when the croc sightings were current.

Can you camp at Golden Hole?

No, camping is not permitted at Golden Hole, making it a day-use area only.

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