The Sunshine Coast has so many things to offer; a myriad of markets, heaps of delicious food, stunning beaches and reefs, great surfing, mangroves, multicoloured sand dunes, and breathtaking lush tropical rainforests. But did you know that tucked away within the rainforests are also some very beautiful waterfalls?
Around 30km west of Maroochydore you’ll find the Kondalilla Falls, just past Montville in the Blackall Ranges. ‘Kondalilla’ is an aboriginal word meaning ‘rushing water’ and the water drops about 90m into the rainforest valley.
Leave your car at the Kondalilla Falls car park and it’s only a short 20-minute walk to the Falls. There are 2 ways you can go; along part of the Sunshine Coast Hinterland Great Walk, or take the Kondalilla Falls Circuit. They are both around the same distance and run parallel. You can even do a round trip and take one there and the other one back. The circuit is a 5km walk but it does include a lot of steps. It’s downhill all the way to the Falls, so be prepared to walk uphill on the way back!
But don’t let that put you off. Right near the Falls is a lookout and a rockpool where you can enjoy a dip in pristine water. It’s not large enough to swim far, but it’s a great place to jump in and cool off, so bring some swimwear!
There are also a number of walking tracks of various lengths if you’d like to explore the rainforest a bit further while you’re there.
After you’ve had a swim or simply enjoyed the beauty of the Falls, stop at the picnic ground just before the car park. There are picnic tables and toilets where you can have a bite to eat before heading back.
Only 16km to the south of Kondalilla Falls lies Gardners Falls in Maleny. If you prefer a shorter walk from your car to a waterfall, this is the place for you. It’s an easy flat 300m walk along the banks of the Obi Obi Creek on a sealed path to the waterfall and a large swimming hole.
This freshwater swimming hole is wide and deep and has rope swings at one end if you feel like launching yourself into the water! The hole is also deep enough if you’d like to dive (or jump) into the water from a greater height. If you’re not so adventurous, there’s plenty of room just to paddle or swim.
If you have smaller children, there are also a number of shallow rock pools where they’ll be happy to just have a splash.
There is a small grassy area where you can have a picnic, but there are no facilities. For toilets you’ll need to head into nearby Maleny.
One tip; this spot is a favourite with the Sunshine Coast locals so it can get pretty busy. Best to get there early in the day so you can enjoy the waterfall and rock pool before it gets too crowded.
Mapleton is an area lucky enough to have two waterfalls.
Mapleton Falls plunges 120m into a valley and is one of the most impressive waterfalls in the region. Unfortunately, it is difficult to see because of its location. The good news is that there is a viewing platform at Mapleton Falls Lookout which is only 50 metres from the car park. You can see the falls when you look straight down.
Mapleton Falls lies in the Mapleton Falls National Park and the lookout can be found at the end of Mapleton Falls Road.
If you continue up the road about 5km out of Mapleton, you’ll see a sign on Delicia Road pointing to Gheerulla Falls. You’ll need to park your car on the road and walk to these falls. It’s only about 1.5km, but it’s downhill – which means it’s uphill back to your car!
But it’s worth it. You’ll be rewarded by enjoying a dip in crisp clear water with very few (if any) people around.
If you love hiking, you can hike along this section of the Sunshine Coast Great Walk. It is 16km return walk between Mapleton Falls to Gheerulla Falls. The track includes 3 lookouts.
Like Gardner and Kondalilla Falls, Wappa Falls also has a beautiful waterfall and a swimming hole. Unlike Gardner Falls, however, caution must be taken when jumping off high rocks here as the rocks are quite slippery.
Wappa Falls is located near Wappa Dam only 5 minutes from Yandina, a short distance west of Coolum. It’s only a short walk round the rocks from the Wappa Dam car park. There are no toilets here but there are some at Wappa Dam, only 2 minutes away.
Note that it can also be dangerous to swim when the water is fast-flowing. The dam lies just upstream and spills occur regularly. When water is released the water is squeezed into a tight space between rocks and at these times the water in the fall can be very powerful.
However, that is not to say you can’t enjoy it. At other times the falls and rock pools are quite tranquil. There are safe rock pools to swim in and some deeper ones further along the path you can dive into.
Wappa Falls may not be as big as Kondalilla or Gardners, but it is a very beautiful place nonetheless and not as busy.
If you don’t want to travel far from the coast, the Buderim Forest Waterfalls (also known as Serenity Falls) is only a few kilometres from Mooloolaba and Maroochydore. This fall features a 600m long elevated wooden boardwalk where you can walk between the trees and look down on the creeks and waterways below. You can take a dip in the swimming hole or admire the beauty of the waterfall from an arch bridge which spans the creek.
Please note these falls are located in Buderim Forest Park and no dogs are permitted.
There are also waterfalls at Booloumba in Kenilworth State Forest, Artists Cascades just outside Kennilworth, Robinson Falls just outside of Nambour and Baxter Falls located north of Flaxton.
Whichever waterfall you choose, you cannot be disappointed. Come and enjoy the variety and beauty of the waterfalls in the Sunshine Coast.