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T here’s lots of amazing tours to experience if you are looking for what to do in Port Douglas, but sometimes you just want to flop in a clear freshwater creek and not have to think of anything for a while.

On a hot day, you’re more likely to find the locals escaping the heat at one of these refreshing gems than sweating it out at the beach.

The ones listed below are some of our favourites that are mostly free, easily accessible and as safe as any waterhole can be in Far North Queensland.

We’ve listed them from south to north but encourage you if you’ve got a hire vehicle to go for a drive out through Miallo and Whyanbeel just north of Mossman to discover your own favourite swimming holes if you get the opportunity.

Remember to always make sure you are not in Croc Country before entering any waterway in Far North Queensland and if you have any doubts then check with a local first.

1. Hartley’s Creek Waterfall, Wangetti

The toughest trek on our favourites list, but still achievable for the little ones if they don’t mind walking or you are easily conned into carrying them some of the way, and well worth the effort once you get there.

It takes about 1.5 hours to reach the main waterfall, but you don’t need to go that far to find a beautiful spot by the creek among the rockpools if you’re after something easier.

Great for picnics or just an afternoon adventure, the dirt trail is relatively easy to traverse although you are walking along a gently sloping ridge so there’s a little bit of up and down.

It takes about 30 minutes to reach the creek and another 15 minutes to get to a stunning series of rockpools cascading over the smooth granite boulders.

Here’s a great spot for a picnic if you’re not feeling motivated to go all the way, otherwise keep following the track for another 30 minutes to reach the base of the falls.

On the day we went we had three six-year-olds and a three-year-old so we settled in at the rockpools and loved it, but as the pictures show the extra hike is no doubt worth it.

If you can pack a cooler bag for a picnic and a cold beer for when you get there even better.

The track is accessed via a pullover off the Captain Cook Highway in the small community of Wangetti about halfway between Cairns and Port Douglas.

If you’re driving from Port Douglas, as soon as you get to the bottom of the hill after passing the Rex Lookout and cross the Hartley’s Creek bridge, pull off the highway to the right in the small carpark area. If you’re coming from Cairns, the pullover area is in Wangetti on your left just before crossing the Hartley’s Creek bridge.

To get to the track, just follow the fenceline of what was once Hartley’s Creek Crocodile Farm, now established down the road and well worth the visit if you have time. Don’t worry, they didn’t leave any big lizards behind.

Make sure you have plenty of water before you set out and do not attempt after periods of heavy rain as flash flooding can occur.

2. Spring Creek, Mowbray

Less than 10 minutes drive from Port Douglas, Spring Creek features a deep pool and a rope for kids of all ages to (relatively) safely swing off.

Situated well off the highway with plenty of informal parking and a large natural bank next to the bridge to get comfortable, you can go rock-hopping up or down the creek or simply chill out and relax.

On a nice day you will probably be sharing the swimming hole with mostly locals but there’s plenty of space for everyone unless the carpark is full.

Remember to pack your goggles or snorkel if you’ve got them, there’s usually a few curious fish swimming about as well.

You can get to Spring Creek Rd by turning off the Captain Cook Highway onto either Trezise Rd or Mowbray River Rd.

Do not visit after periods of heavy rain as flash flooding can occur.

3. Shannonvale Causeway

On a stinking hot day you might find more than 100 people, mostly well-prepared locals, seeking refuge at Shannonvale Causeway.

On one side the fresh mountain water cascades off the causeway into a rocky stream while on the other side are deeper pools and sandbanks to explore.

Find a spot in the shade and settle in for the afternoon or stop in for a quick splash and dash, the causeway is only 15 minutes drive from Port Douglas or five minutes from Mossman.

Do not visit after periods of heavy rain as flash flooding can occur.

4. Poletti’s Bridge, Miallo

One for the wooden bridge enthusiasts, Poletti’s is one of a number of pristine streams on the loop road from the highway north of Mossman through the backroads of Miallo.

Poletti’s Bridge is one of the last wooden bridges in the Douglas Shire, built in the 1970s over an idyllic tributary of the Mossman River.

You can climb down the bank for a swim in the crystal clear waters or simply stop by for a quick picture postcard moment.

The bridge is situated in the middle of cane country and it feels like you’re driving into someone’s property when you turn off Syndicate Rd, but there’s plenty of parking and you can often be the only people there.

Do not visit after periods of heavy rain as flash flooding can occur.

5. Miallo School Bridge, Miallo

A few hundred metres downstream is a fantastic little swimming hole ideal for small groups and families with young children.

Park opposite the school and then make the short steep descent down the bank to find a breathtaking stretch of the creek with a slight current to float the kids down and a comfy sandy bank to relax on.

If you get lucky to might get it to yourself, otherwise there’s plenty of room for a few groups to share.

Do not visit after periods of heavy rain as flash flooding can occur.

 6. High Falls Farm, Whyanbeel

If you couldn’t be bothered packing a picnic but still want to splash in the creek and satisfy your hunger at the same time, then High Falls Farm is the spot for you.

Situated in the rainforest surrounds of Whyanbeel Valley about 20 minutes drive north of Mossman, High Falls Farm can serve you up a delicious burger, steak, pasta or veges meal on the back deck overlooking the fruit trees.

Follow the path down to the creek a stone’s throw away and soak up the serenity.

High Falls Farm is only open from 11.30am-2.30pm on Saturdays and Sundays or by appointment.

Do not visit after periods of heavy rain as flash flooding can occur.

 7. Mason’s waterhole

Mason’s waterhole is accessed via private property next to the store and cafe of the same name on the left as you arrive in Cape Tribulation.

Grab a bite to eat or check in at least and make a donation to be rewarded with a fabulous little swimming hole in the heart of the rainforest.

There are some shallow sections easily accessible and safe for the little kids and a popular rope swing into a deep pool for the bigger kids.

8. Emmagen Creek

If you’re in a four-wheel-drive or something with good clearance, make sure to experience Emmagen Creek at the start of the Bloomfield Track.

Situated about five kilometres north of Cape Tribulation on an undulating gravel road, Emmagen Creek is an oasis within an already spectacular landscape.

The creek becomes impassable in periods of heavy rain but is usually a gentle wash over the causeway.

This area has been home to the Kuku Yalanji people for thousands of years and is an invigorating place to explore for all ages.

To make paint out of river stones, look for the light brown-coloured ones near the causeway, then rub it against a plate-sized rock to create the shade you want.

Do not attempt gravel road in a sedan hire car and do not visit after periods of heavy rain as the road may be closed for safety reasons and flash flooding can occur.

If you need more advice on what to do in Port Douglas, ask a local.

To make paint out of river stones, look for the light brown-coloured ones near the causeway, then rub it against a plate-sized rock to create the shade you want.

Emmagen Creek