Queensland is home to some of the best swimming holes Australia has to offer. Whether you’re wanting to find a tranquil spot to set up your hammock in the middle of the rainforest, or an oceanside pool to watch the sunrise over the horizon- Queensland’s got you covered.
The biggest problem we’ve come across when visiting Queensland, is so many of these swimming holes are overcrowded with tourists. Take the fairy pools in Noosa as an example; it’s a beautiful, emerald coloured, ocean pool. In recent years however, Noosa has boomed as a tourist destination, making these pools a hot spot for visitors from sunrise to sunset. It’s still a beautiful destination none-the-less, but far less untouched than it used to be. So, if you’re looking to explore some new swimming holes which are a bit of a challenge to get to, and may not even be marked on google maps, then you’ve come to the right place! Below we’ll discuss and share all the best local knowledge of our top 5 swimming holes!
5. Boulder Creek Swimming Hole
Country: Yuwi Location: 50 minute drive (64km) from Mackay Distance from car park: 500m walk Dog Friendly: Yes Family Friendly: Yes 2WD accessible: Yes Phone reception: Optus only (strange we know) This is one of our favourites which we stumbled across by accident when looking for a place to camp for the night! Just a short drive from Queensland’s beautiful Mackay, or a 1.5hr drive from Airlie Beach, this is the perfect place to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of crowded campgrounds and instead immerse yourself in a place that you’ll most likely have all to your lonesome.
The swimming hole itself is extremely easy to get to, if you plug ‘Boulder Creek Camping’ into google maps, it will take you directly to an area where you can park your vehicle by the river. The road to get in is a dirt road, however it’s a relatively smooth road so any 2WD vehicle would be able to access it. On the side of the road where you see the toilet block, there’s a little un-official path that cuts through the long grass and trees. If you follow this path along the river for around 200 metres, you’ll come across an opening where the river bends, making for the perfect swimming spot! There’s an awesome natural swing which has been formed because of a unique low hanging tree branch, making for a fun place to climb up and relax amongst the trees. The water is beautifully clear, and is the perfect place to take the doggos for a swim if you’re travelling with them as there’s little to no current! There’s plenty of trees surrounding the water, so if you’ve got the day to spare, we recommend bringing a hammock to set up by the water! The best part about this swimming hole, is the free camp right next to it! So if you’re on the road travelling like we are, you can park up next to the creek with the sounds of the river trickling by, and wake up in the morning with a refreshing dip in the swimming hole! The camping area (opposite where the toilets are) is big enough to comfortably fit about 4-5 vans or average sized vehicles, but only suitable to fit 2 big rigs such as caravans and RV’s. There’s no water taps or electricity hookups, so make sure you are prepared for your stay. The camp isn’t listed on wikicamps, so it’s generally pretty quiet. As we mentioned above, the only reception at this place is Optus, and it’s pretty limited. So if you’re with telstra or any other phone providers, be mindful of this before you visit!
4. ‘Swimming Pool’/ 40fter
Country: Yuwi Location: 35 minute drive (30km) from Mackay Distance from car park: 1km walk Dog Friendly: Yes Family Friendly: Yes 2WD accessible: Yes Phone reception: No This multi-level swimming hole is seemingly unnamed. On google maps, it’s dubbed ‘swimming pool’, however when speaking to locals they called it ‘forty footer’. So call it what you wish! This swimming hole is not sign posted at all, and is difficult to come across on google maps as it’s only got 1 review.
Getting here is also relatively easy, as there’s a marked pin on google maps. If you do have trouble finding it though, here are the coordinates which you can plug directly into google maps to take you there: -21.01744, 148.95778. To get to the pinned location, you’ll have to drive down a dirt road for a couple hundred metres, before coming to an opening where you can park your car to the left if you’re in a 2WD. If you’re in a 4WD, you can continue driving up along the old train tracks until the road bends and you’ll see the path to get down to the hole on your right. There’s a rope that’s been tied to trees on the way down, to make the short walk down to the swimming hole easier, as it is quite steep! This swimming hole is made up of multiple different little pools, with the main hole being at the bottom. There’s plenty of rock hopping opportunities for the adventurers out there, along with an impressively makeshift rope swing off a metal beam that's been perched up in the rocks (as Aussie as it gets). Take care however, as the moss covered rocks are extremely slippery! Possibly the most unique thing about this place, is this extremely high metal beam, which sits wedged into the rock face, and spans 5 metres out over the water. This beam is extremely high up, which is where we believe the term ‘forty footer’ comes from. We witnessed a couple of locals actually walk the beam and make the giant leap, however considering the sketchiness of the walk and how many rocks are under the water's surface, we definitely have to advise against it!😬 For those of you travelling on the road, the closest camps nearby are Rowallan Park & Kuttabul Hotel. Kuttabul Hotel is free to camp as long as you purchase something from the pub! It’s dog friendly, and provides flat, grassy sites for all types of vehicles, including RV’s and caravans. There’s also toilets open all night for those who aren’t fully self contained! If you’re looking for something a bit more fancy, with drinking water and hot showers, Rowallan Park is a scouts park which charges $10 per person per night!
3. Jayel Rockpool
Country: Yuwi Location: 15 minute drive (11km) from Mackay Distance from car park: 500m walk Dog Friendly: No Family Friendly: Not suitable for young children 2WD accessible: Yes Phone reception: Yes
If you’re a fan of tucked away ocean rock pools, then this is the place for you! Situated on a quiet rocky beach just north of Mackay, is Jayel Rockpool. Nicknamed the ‘wishing well’ due to the perfect circular shape of the pool when looking at it from a bird's eye view. To get to this location, you just need to drive up to the car park which overlooks Lamberts beach. From there, take the short path down to get to the shore of the beach. Please note this pool is only accessible at low tide, so plan your trip wisely and check the BOM app for tide information! Once you’ve arrived, you’ll see a tall standing rockpool about 50 metres from the bottom of the path. The pool itself is about 3 metres wide, and all you need to do to get there is climb up a few rocks! This rock pool has got to be one of the best spots to watch the sunrise in all of Queensland! If you can time low tide right with the sunrise, you’ve got the best of both worlds. You’re likely to have this place to yourself when you visit, no matter what time of day it is, as this place is completely un sign-posted and out of sight if you don’t know what you’re looking for. What better way to start your day than in the crystal clear water of the Queensland ocean, watching the colours of the sunrise reflect off the rocks surrounding you? This pool can comfortably fit 2-3 people in it for a dip, but any more is a bit of a crowd!
The closest place to camp nearby is Rowallan Park, which we spoke about and linked up above!
2. Camerons Pocket Swimming Hole
Location: 50 minute drive (65km) from Mackay
Distance from car park: 200m walk
Dog Friendly: Yes
Family Friendly: Yes
2WD accessible: Yes
Phone reception: No The drive into Camerons Pocket Swimming Hole will make you truly believe you’re up in Far North Queensland. The short drive weaves you between banana tree fields on either side, before you know it you're walking into a tropical, rainforest paradise! Despite this location not having a google maps pin, it’s relatively easy to find if you know the address! You’ll need to plug in ‘Brodies Road, Mount Charlton’, and google maps will take you there. Drive to the very end of the road and you’ll come across a dead end, where you can park your car just a few hundred metres from the swimming hole! The walk in is easy, and the path is easy to find. Just beware, black pythons are often spotted here, so if you have kids, make sure to keep them at arm's reach… we know that pythons aren’t super dangerous but they can still give you a major fright! They do generally stay off the main path, but it’s good to be aware.
Once you arrive at this little oasis, you will be greeted with a wide circular spot in the river, making for a 2 metre deep swimming hole. The water is a beautiful tea green colour, and there’s even a sturdy rope attached to the trees just to the right of the pool. With a lovely sandy bank, this is a great location to stop and have a picnic beneath the forest canopy. The best part about this swimming hole, is there’s multiple places down the creek where you can stop to swim. If you find the main area a little too crowded with locals, turn left and rock hop downstream for about 500 metres, and you’ll find another opening where the river widens. Here, you’ll find not only another rope swing high up on the river's cliff edge, but a rock wall opposite which is ideal for cliff jumping! The drop isn’t very high, probably around 5m, but the water is relatively deep. Just remember to check the water for rocks before you jump, so you know where the safest spot is to land! We found this our favourite spot in Cameron’s pocket, as no one generally tends to wander further down, not knowing how beautiful it is! And because of this, we can almost guarantee you’ll have this place to yourself!
The closest place to camp would be Boulder Creek swimming hole, which we spoke about above in our recommendation, so it could make for a great day out if you planned to visit both!
1. Orchid Island Rock Pool
Location: Cape Hillsborough National Park (52km from Mackay)
Distance from car park: 2km walk
Dog Friendly: No
Family Friendly: No
2WD accessible: Yes
Phone reception: No Orchid Island Rock Pool has to be one of, if not our favourite rock pool we’ve come across on our East Coast trip of Australia. It’s one of those places that you visit, only to find it’s exactly how it looks in the very few photos that you see online! Which we feel is a pretty rare occurrence these days due to how accessible photo editing apps are. This hidden rockpool is truly stunning, and boy is it a journey to get there! Now we’ve spoken about needing to go to ocean rock pools at low tide earlier, however the importance of accessing this pool at low tide is crucial. Otherwise you may be stuck out on the island until the next low tide comes about, or you’ll have a very long swim back to shore. Mind you- this is technically ‘croc territory’. So although it’s unlikely you’d encounter a croc, we personally would not want to risk it. So stick to 2 hours before low tide, and at the most 2 hours after and you should be good to go!
This rockpool is located within Cape Hillsborough National Park, less than an hour's drive north of Mackay. Despite being in a relatively well known Queensland Park, this place is not marked on google maps, and many people who visit the park end up leaving without ever knowing it was there! All you need to do is drive to the main beach at Cape Hillsborough, where they iconically feed the kangaroos and wallabies at dawn. If low tide is between 4-5am like it was for us when we visited, then its perfect timing! You’ll be able to get to the beach to see the wallabies get fed before the sun comes up, and then take the trek out to the rockpool before the tide starts coming back in!
Low tide was 5am the day we went, and we left the kangaroos at 5:15 to start to make the trek out to Orchard Island. We arrived back on the beach just before 7, and gave ourselves about half an hour to explore and film the rockpool, which ended up being great timing with the tides. We wouldn’t have wanted to get back any later, as the tide rises a lot quicker than you think!
Once you arrive on the beach, there’s an island towards the south end called ‘Wedge Island’. You’ll first need to walk here before getting to Orchid Island. During low tide, you’ll be able to see what they call a ‘land bridge’. Which is just a bridge of rocks allowing you to walk over to the island. From here, follow the beach on the west side of the island and you’ll see a path of rocks to your left, which will lead you toward Orchid Island. Follow these rocks for as far as you can go, and they’ll eventually lead you to the rock pool! The journey over there isn’t difficult, however it isn't suited for young children, elderly people, or anyone with injuries and mobility issues.
We made the rookie error of wearing thongs when making this journey, which we do strongly advise against, oops! The sand can be extremely muddy, so be careful not to ‘bust a plugger’ before you even make it over there! Along with this, once you get to Orchid Island, the rocks are SHARP! I’d recommend wearing fully enclosed boots when making the journey, otherwise runners are fine too. Once you arrive at the island, it’s absolutely heaven! The water is warm, much warmer than the ocean, and is a stunning aquamarine colour. It’s as clear as you can imagine and full of gorgeous tiny fish swimming around. From the pools, you have the beautiful horizon to one side, and the mountainous backdrop of Cape Hillsborough on the other. This picture perfect rock pool couldn’t have chosen a better location! If you have a drone, we highly recommend throwing it up in the air to have a look, as you get an entirely different perspective of the pool from above! Options to stay are plentiful in Cape Hillsborough, but if you are visiting in the school holiday period, be sure to book in advance! The 3 best options to camp are;
Cape Hillsborough tourist park; a caravan park with all the facilities you could need (including a water park for the kids), plus a general store and cabins for those not equipped to camp! It is a lot more pricey than the other camping areas however, as it is a caravan park, so you’re looking at around $40 per night for a powered site.
Smalleys beach camping area; this National Park run camping area is made up of 11 sites, and is suitable for tents, camper trailers, and small-medium sized RV’s or caravans. The only facilities here are toilets, so be sure to have enough water to last your stay. The sites are set just metres back from the beach, and at only $7 per person, per night, it’s the best value campground in our opinion!
Ball Bay campground; this campground is also just a few metres back from the beach, and is equipped with toilets, (cold) outdoor showers and shelters with BBQ’s and sinks. The sink even has hot water, which is a massive bonus! This campground is the furthest from Orchid Island, but is still only a 15 minute drive. For $10 per vehicle per night, it’s another extremely affordable option. It is cash only, so make sure you have some handy, or drive into the general store at seaforth to go to the ATM!