Byron Bay is world famous for its pristine beaches.
But at some point, we recommend you put aside your flip flops, pull out your walking shoes and head to the hills for one of the region’s most enjoyable activities – chasing waterfalls.
We have plenty of breathtaking waterfalls, which can be accessed through various trails. What you experience will of course depend on the time of year, how much rainfall there’s been (it goes without saying falls are more impressive after a deluge!) and the temperature.
Be well prepared by checking on the weather conditions beforehand. And don’t forget to pack a hat, sunscreen, insect repellent, plenty of water…and a generous spirit of adventure.
Here’s a snapshot of some waterfalls near Byron Bay well worth checking out.
1) Minyon Falls
Where: Nightcap National Park (Bangalow)
How far: a 50-minute drive from Elements of Byron
What to expect: a mix of easy and challenging walks
There’s something mystical about standing beneath a falling (with any luck, raging) sheet of water, soaking up the spray on your face amid a primeval rainforest. That’s what makes Minyon Falls one of the area’s most legendary waterfalls with visitors and locals.
The falls can be found in the eastern part of Nightcap National Park in the World Heritage-listed Gondwana rainforest. It’s the traditional land of the Bundjalung People and the world’s largest area of subtropical rainforest!
Not only are you treated to spectacular views, and the option of viewing the 100-metre-or-more waterfall either from the bottom or top. There’s also plenty of nature spotting to be done.
Lyrebirds, rare frogs, masked owls, regent bowerbirds, carpet pythons, goannas and kookaburras make up just some of the colourful cast of creatures who inhabit this majestic forest. Also keep an eye out for the nightcap oak tree, which can grow up to 40 metres high.
For a leisurely walk, head to the Minyon Falls picnic area. From the carpark, it’s a short and easy stroll to the lookout. On a clear day, you’ll have spectacular views all the way out to the coast.
If you’re seeking more of a thrill and an amazing swimming hole to cool off in, head to the base of Minyon Falls. Make sure to follow the big boulders right to the bottom.
Be warned: this is a 9km return trip and some parts of the path can be steep, so it’s definitely not for the fainthearted. As the saying goes, ‘no pain, no gain’. It’s well worth sweating it out to have this other-worldly experience in a wondrous natural environment.
Explore some other walks in Nightcap National Park.
2) Killen Falls
Where: Killen Falls Drive (Tintenbar)
How far: a 25-minute drive from Elements of Byron
What to expect: a mix of short walks
Located between Byron Bay and Ballina, Killen Falls is a great spot in a stunning piece of Australian bush.
Look for the signs heading north from the sleepy little village of Tintenbar. You might want to pick up some snacks or something light for lunch at the general store to bring with you.
The highlights at Killen Falls are a 10-metre waterfall, a refreshing swimming hole (on Emigrant Creek) and cave-like rocks which form a dramatic backdrop to the falls, ideal if you like bouldering.
The flora here is also worth noting. Killen Falls is in one of the remaining areas of intact Big Scrub local rainforest in the area.
According to Big Scrub Landcare, this type of rainforest covered Australia 40 million years ago and forms “a very important part of Australia’s rich biodiversity heritage”. However, European settlement has unfortunately led to significant clearing. Today, less than 1% remains as scattered remnants across the landscape!
Once you get to the car park (please note, parking is limited so it may be worth visiting during the week), you can either take a short, easy walk to the dam or another to a viewing platform overlooking the falls.
For a plunge in the swimming hole, or to get massaged by the waterfalls, take the dirt trail down the last bit. It’s steep and rocky, and can be slippery after rain, so take care. Another reason many people make the effort to make the 20-minute or so walk down is to sit in the cave behind the cascades and relax without getting wet.
There are rocks at the base of the pool, so it might be more comfortable to wear shoes if you want to have a dip. You can even snorkel here as there are plenty of large fish.
If you’re lucky, you might spy a turtle! Once a locals’ secret, the word is out on Killen Falls, to the delight of many visitors.
3) Protesters Falls
Where: Nightcap National Park (8kms from The Channon)
How far: over an hour’s drive from Elements of Byron
What to expect: a mix of walks in the area suitable for different fitness levels
Not only is Protesters Falls in the spectacular Nightcap National Park (on the western side), it’s also a site rich in history.
In the 1970s, a group of conservationists successfully fought to preserve the rainforest from logging, marking the beginning of a campaign to save Australia’s east coast rainforests – hence the name Protesters Falls. Read more about the protests.
While there are a heap of awe-inspiring walking trails in the area (up to 20km long), the one to the falls itself is only 1.4km return, mostly on a timber board walk. Bring binoculars if you like bird watching, and enjoy the diverse vegetation of gnarly vines and low lying to majestic trees along the way.
Swimming is not allowed at the bottom of Protesters Falls as the water there is an important habitat for the endangered Fleay’s barred frog (one of the rarest frogs in Australia).
But who cares when you’re totally engrossed by the beauty of the rainforest with it’s deep indigenous spirit? The ancient feeling of the land is palpable as the Nightcap National Park has many traditional ceremonial and sacred sites, still in use by indigenous people today.
Here are more details when planning your day-trip to Protesters Falls.
4) Marom Falls
Where: Dalwood Road (Rous)
How far: about a 50-minute drive from Elements of Byron
What to expect: accessible only after hiking through a well-worn path across a paddock
Marom Falls (or Marom Creek Falls) is a wildcard entry for its off-the-beaten-track vibe and immense beauty.
The falls themselves are stunning, and the plunge into the large swimming hole after even just as rewarding. From the car park, the walk down to the base of the falls is on an easy rock face, and should take about 15 minutes.
Don’t be surprised if you see people jumping into the water from the edge of the cliff.
Seeking a rush of adrenalin yourself? Check out our guide to more adventure activities in Byron.
Still fascinated by waterfalls? You can read some fun facts about waterfalls here.
Want more inspiration for things to do in Byron Bay? Check out our Ultimate Guide to Byron Bay.