About Araluen Cascades (Araluen Falls)
Araluen Falls (sometimes called the Araluen Cascades) was a remote waterfall and swimming hole in the Finch Hatton Gorge area of Eungella National Park.
Generally, we’ve treated a detour to this part of the Mackay Region of the Central Coast of Queensland as an excuse to break up the long drive between Rockhampton and Airlie Beach.
Indeed, this attractive 10-15m cascade was where Finch-Hatton Creek spilled into a naturally carved rock pool making it both attractive to look at as well as a place to cool off.
It also helped that this was quite an accessible waterfall in the remote gorge, which made this place surprisingly popular despite how out-of-the-way it was.
To further drive home the point of about its accessibility, the park literature said that the walking track to Araluen Falls was 2.8km return taking about 1-1.5 hours to complete.
When Julie and I first did this excursion back in May 2008, it took us about an hour and 10 minutes to do it so we pretty much went at a pace that the park authorities had expected.
But in addition to Araluen Cascades, there was also the neighbouring Wheel of Fire Falls.
However, that waterfall required a bit of an adventure, which we delve into in a separate write-up.
Trail Description of the Araluen Cascades Hike
When Julie and I first walked to the Araluen Falls in May 2008, we endured some fairly humid and warm conditions as there seemed to even be the threat of thunderstorms.
Even though the rainforest provided ample shade throughout the easy-to-follow track, it didn’t seem to provide much in the way of relief from the heat and humidity we had experienced.
Conversely, when I came back in early July 2022, the experience was a bit different because there were some unseasonable cold front rain storms that hit the Mackay Region.
So even though the hike wasn’t as humid, the everpresent risk of flash flooding was always on my mind.
Nevertheless, the trail was well-developed and even had a toilet facility early on before continuing another 1.2km towards a signed trail junction.
Along the way, most of the track passed through a monsoonal rainforest with some interesting granite boulders as well as glimpses of the rushing Finch-Hatton Creek.
The trail was also naturesque and quiet enough to even hear some interesting and unusual birdsongs (e.g. one bird sounded like a flute while another sounded like it was shooting lasers).
Once we got to the trail junction, we then kept left to continue towards the Araluen Cascades (while the path on the right went to Wheel of Fire Falls).
After a hiking for about 250m along a mild descent, we eventually reached a lookout with a nice view of the Araluen Falls.
There were steps leading down to a rock outcrop, where it was possible to go for a dip provide the currents in Finch-Hatton Creek to be too dangerous.
Apparently, given the remoteness of this area, it was said that it might be possible to spot the endangered platypus in Finch-Hatton Creek (though we didn’t spot any in either of our visits).
So for all intents and purposes, this was the end of the out-and-back hike taking in the Araluen Cascades.
However, there was the option of extending a visit to reach the Wheel of Fire Falls, which we’ll get into in a different write-up because of how involved it was.
Just to give you a taste of what you’re in for on that excursion, the trail was actually closed during our May 2008 visit.
This was due to Finch-Hatton Creek running too high and the creek fording at the Callistemon Crossing was deemed too dangerous, especially since the bridge that was once there had been washed out.
It wasn’t until I came back in early July 2022 did I finally make this crossing, but it was definitely one of the sketchier unbridged stream crossings that I’ve done, and I even had a leech extract blood from me for my efforts…
Araluen Falls resides in the Eungella National Park near Mackay, Queensland. It is administered by the State of Queensland Department of Environment and Science. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.
Araluen Falls (or Araluen Cascades) sits in the Finch Hatton Gorge of Eungella National Park, which was a pretty remote part of the Mackay Region.
As a result, I learned the hard way that any kind of GPS satnav or routing from using GoogleMaps or AppleMaps can be VERY misleading.
So I’m going to describe the best way to go, which is well-supported with signs and wider roads, instead of leaving it up to the GPS to take you on boonie roads to “save you time taking the shortest distance”.
Trust me, trying to auto-route in this manner will only lead to slowing you down as well as more gravel roads as well as possible frustrations from non-existent routes or even road closures.
So assuming you’re driving north on the Bruce Highway (A1), you’ll want to drive towards Mackay.
When you get closer to Mackay while still on the Bruce Highway, look to leave the A1 for the Peak Downs Highway (Route 70) heading west towards Marian.
If you’re heading south on the Bruce Highway, you have the option of turning right onto the Marian-Hampden Road (Route 5) towards Marian.
And if you miss the Route 5 turnoff, then you can still continue another 21km towards the Peak Downs Highway (Route 70) near Mackay.
Both routes take you towards the agro-industrial town of Marian, where you’d then continue west on the Route 64 towards the Finch Hatton Gorge and/or Eungella (there are signs pointing the way).
At about 34km, signs will point the way towards the Finch-Hatton Gorge, so we’d turn right onto Owens Creek Loop Road, then left onto Gorge Road.
Finally, we’d follow Gorge Road for the remaining 8.5km to its end at the Finch-Hatton Gorge Trailhead, where there are quite a few parking spaces.
Note that most of the latter part of the Gorge Road was unpaved with at least 3 or 4 concrete fords of tributaries of Finch Hatton Creek.
Depending on how much rain had fallen, these fords can be scary and dangerous so definitely pay attention to the conditions before even attempting this drive.
The drive from Mackay to Finch Hatton Gorge would typically take over an hour.
Finally, to give you a sense of geographical context, Mackay was 126km (90 minutes drive) south of Proserpine, 336km (over 3.5 hours drive) north of Rockhampton, 389km (4.5 hours drive) south of Townsville, 732km (nearly 9 hours drive) south of Cairns, and 952km (11 hours drive) north of Brisbane.
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