Far North Queensland is home to Queensland's highest mountains, an incredible amount of biodiversity, pristine rainforest, and of course the Great Barrier Reef. What many may not realise, is that some of Australia's best waterfalls are located between the northern cities of Townsville and Cairns.
Blencoe Falls is one of these, and probably one of Australia's lesser known and underrated waterfalls in the remote backcountry of the tropical north, but is undoubtedly one of the regions best kept secrets. Located inland from Cardwell, and east of Mt Garnet, Blencoe Falls features an impressive 90 metre drop, which then drops a further 230 metres to the base of the Herbert River gorge.
Blencoe Falls frequently makes Australia's best waterfall lists, and according to the website World of Waterfalls, started by a couple dedicating their life to chasing the world's best waterfalls, Blencoe Falls, in the Hitchinbrook Shire, came in at number 6 for Australia's top 10 falls. Despite its appreciation by waterfall aficionados, Blencoe is often overlooked in favour of its more famous cousin, Wallaman falls. The main reason is because Wallaman happens to be Australia's highest single drop waterfall. Height aside though, Blencoe may not be quite as dramatic, but the way the water funnels down the cliff face over several drops and into the Herbert River below, gives it a unique quality that is unrivalled by other falls in the region.
Hoop pines, she-oaks and open eucalypt forest and kangaroos and emus all call the area home.
It was the TV show Survivor that brought me to Blencoe Falls, as the show's second season was filmed in the area. Although it was dubbed 'Survivor: The Australian Outback' Survivor's second instalment was actually shot along the Herbert River at a 48,000 acre cattle ranch. Hardly what you could call 'outback' but as I found out, the area was extremely remote and difficult to get to. You can read more about my adventures visiting the filming location for Survivor here.
For those wanting to combine their visit viewing the falls with a outdoors hiking experience in the wet tropics, I'd recommend camping at the designated campsites near the falls and possibly embarking on some of the walks that encompass the falls and the dramatic Herbert River Gorge.
The spectacular Herbert River gorge near where Survivor the Australian Outback was filmed
At the carpark – if you can call it that (it's pretty much a gravel cul-de-sac) there are two viewing points. One is towards the Herbert River gorge, and another overlooking Blencoe Falls, at the confluence of Blencoe creek and the Herbert River. I'd recommend bringing a picnic – or as we did – some snacks. It's a place you need to just sit and absorb the surroundings for a while.
Sitting at the edge of a rock precipice overlooking the falls. Not for the faint hearted.
After appreciating the falls, seeing the surrounding countryside and the cliffs of the Herbert River gorge is s popular pastime. In terms of hiking there are numerous options, mostly depending on your appetite for adventure, fitness level and how much time you have. There's the short 5km walk between the Blencoe Falls campsite and the viewing platform that we completed which passed through open eucalypt forest, but for keen bushwalkers, undoubtedly some of Australia's greatest hikes are located in Girringun National Park. The first is the epic 43-kilometre Juwan Walk, covering tropical savannah woodlands that then turn into rainforest that is typical to the wet tropics. The Juwan trail follows Herbert River and is home to cassowaries and crocodiles and takes a recommended 4-6 days to complete.
There's also the easier but still impressive 20km overnight Jambal walk where trekkers camp overnight at the Blanket Creek bush camp before returning the same way the next day. Of course course for day-trippers like myself, there was the easier 5km return Jabali walk which was distance enough, between the Blencoe campsite and the waterfall viewing platform encompassing she-oaks, hoop pines and open eucalypt forest covering rugged and rocky terrain.
We saw scores of Kangaroos and even an emu on our drive to Blencoe Falls via the inland tin mining town of Mt Garnet. Be prepared for cattle on the roads too. This is cattle station territory after all.
HOW TO GET TO BLENCOE FALLS
A 4WD is strongly recommended for accessing Blencoe falls from the inland town of Mt Garnet or the coastal township of Kennedy
There are two options to get to Blencoe Falls, one via the inland town of Mt Garnet or via the Kirrama Range Road, both are at least 3 hours drive from Cairns, and require driving on unsealed roads.
If travelling via Mt Garnet, take a left at Gunnawarra Road about 4kms outside of town and follow the road following until it turns into Cashmere-Kirrama road. For another 45 kilometres take this road.
Now that the Kirrama range road has reopened, the quicker way to Blencoe falls is likely to be from the coast at Kennedy, about 60kms south of Tully. Be prepared for a windy ascent up the range. It may only be a 50 odd kilometre journey but the speed at which you can travel will make the 50kms take a lot longer than you may expect.
Check creek crossings for Blencoe Creek and the Herbert River before travelling as they often flood, especially during the wet season.
• Both the Kirrama Range road at Blencoe Creek, and the Cashmere crossing over the Herbert River are prone to flooding during the wet season (November-April) Be sure to check river heights of the Herbert River via the BOM website as roads may be inaccessible.
• While its possible to access without a 4WD, its strongly recommended as other motorists have damaged the undercarriage of their cars from the undulating terrain on some of the dirt roads.
• Be sure not to swim in the Herbert River downsteam from Blencoe Falls. As tempting as a dip might be along the walks, saltwater crocodiles (the dangerous kind) can be found in these parts.
• Check the maps and other camping information for Girringun National Park including weather alerts
• There's no mobile phone reception, so if you're exploring these parts, make sure someone knows where you are going, and when you plan on returning.
For everyone else who love to chase waterfalls, or for anyone that appreciates the rugged majesty of a good view, and a valley of canyon-like dimensions, Blencoe Falls is a must visit place of breathtaking beauty. Next time you're in the tropics, take a detour to appreciate some of the rugged land around the Herbert River and discover one of Australia's most spectacular waterfalls in the process.