By Oceana Setaysha
September 10, 2020 | 5 minute read
There’s something about a waterfall that enlivens the spirit. The rushing weight of the gurgling water, cascading in sheets or dripping in liquid ropes that drop gracefully over the edge. Thankfully New South Wales, and the area between the Southern Highlands and the South Coast in particular, has a wealth of stunning hiking trails with waterfalls that are easy to escape to. It’s hard to pick favourites, but these four certainly rank very close to the top.
* At the time of writing, activities and places mentioned in this guide are at varying stages of recovery from COVID-19. Please check government and business websites for specific details on opening times and any restrictions before you travel.
Fitzroy Falls are located between the Southern Highlands and Kangaroo Valley and it's well worth the drive to see this incredible natural wonder. From the unassuming entrance, you’d be forgiven for wondering if these falls are worth stopping at, but the size of the carpark is not a good indicator of what awaits.
Visiting early in the morning, or even when the sun is just easing out of sight, is a good way to avoid the crowds who come for the visitors centre which runs 9.00 am-5.00 pm. At more than 80 metres, this towering waterfall will quite literally take your breath away. From the carpark it sounds positively distant, but by the time you’re standing at the first lookouts, a toe-curling grid platform that juts out into the void above the valley, it’s easy to feel entirely overcome.
You can feel your heartbeat pulsing with the sheer volume of water as it falls, echoing out over the steep, rocky landscape. Around the rim of the Fitzroy Falls canyon are a number of beautiful walks, and while you will miss the falls entirely if the fog is up, the ethereal nature of what remains is still breathtaking.
Within easy reach of the small NSW town of Robinson, via a slightly worn dirt track, adventurers willing to take the risk will find their reward in one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the Southern Highlands.Belmore Falls has developed a reputation as a ‘must see’ attraction in the area, and for good reason. Along Barrengarry Creek the falls plunge three times down the escarpment, with each drop measuring between 70 and 130 metres.
Surrounded by native bushland, and with small pockets of rainforest still remaining in the untouched wilderness, the location is unlike any other. Hikers often attempt to (illegally and on the old closed tracks) traverse their way down to the primordial base of the waterfall, but it’s not recommended unless you want to risk a fine. Instead, enjoy it from the Hindmarsh lookout carpark, and take a wander along the 2km Belmore Falls walking track, which offers amazing views not just of the falls, but of Kangaroo Valley as a whole.
Tucked away inside Budderoo National Park, the beauty of Minnamurra Falls comes from the journey. While the falls are lovely, particularly after a good rain, the rainforest walk that takes visitors to stand beside them is the true gem of the location. The winding boardwalk weaves in and out of the lush green that is Australia’s remnant rainforests, and the steepness of some sections (rated Grade 4) keeps the track relatively quiet.
On the way you’ll see all the signs of an environment teeming with life, with heavy bird’s nest ferns and vibrant orchids. Look out for a personal favourite, the enormous tree ferns that dot along the river way, best spotted from one of the many suspension bridges on the route.
Don’t forget to take some time to gaze up into the canopy above you, or stand next to one of the enormous tree giants that seem to hold the entire enterprise on their well-supported branches. This one, well folks, it’s a true hidden gem.
There’s a reason that Carrington Falls has developed a reputation as the most beautiful waterfall on the South Coast. It’s the spot where the Kangaroo River takes the plunge, cascading some 50 metres into the picturesque gully below, the rumbling water echoing out across the bush landscape. For those wanting a view, Carrington Falls provides these in spades, with not one or two but three lookout points offering incredible views of the falls or surrounding area.
The rainforest that hides the falls is a stunning place to explore, although the summer months are often muggy and humid so every step feels like you’re swimming in the air. It’s a relief then to get out into the open, and feel the gentle breeze all that water generates as it plummets over the abyss.
Although small in comparison to the other water-filled vistas, the easy and rewarding walk to the Macquarie Pass Cascades takes you through rainforest and tall eucalypt forests, and is located along the Illawarra escarpment, near Wollongong and Kiama.
The walk begins with following the stream and it is very easy to reach the first of the cascades. The forest is home to lyrebirds, platypus and goannas, as well as large native figs, lilly pillys and lianas. This walks is a delightful experience all year-round, but is a special treat in summer when the rainforest canopy provides shade and protection.
If you're feeling adventurous you can cross the river and take the worn path upwards to the top of the falls. There are stopping points along the way the lead you back down to the water that are also worth checking out. It's important to wear good shoes for this walk if you're planning to reach the top as well as packing water.
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