Morialta Waterfalls

Morialta Conservation Park / Mount Lofty Ranges, South Australia, Australia

About Morialta Waterfalls


Hiking Distance: 1.6km round trip (first falls only)
Suggested Time: 45-60 minutes (first falls only)

Date first visited: 2006-11-21
Date last visited: 2017-11-11

Waterfall Latitude: -34.90648
Waterfall Longitude: 138.70597

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The Morialta Waterfalls (or Morialta Falls) seemed to be one of the favourite spots for Adelaide locals and visitors alike, which was very evident on our latest visit there when the place was busy with weekenders.

There was even a guide we met at Seal Bay on Kangaroo Island who (upon learning that we were into waterfalls) got nostalgic on us and said she would always come to the falls as a kid while growing up in the city.

Morialta_Falls_069_11102017 - First Falls or simply Morialta Falls
First Falls or simply Morialta Falls

As you can see from the photo above, the popularity was with good reason.

After all, the falls dropped perhaps around 40m or so surrounded by picturesque red vertical cliffs in naturesque lands within a half-hour of local driving from the city centre (see directions below).

Three Waterfalls

The Morialta Falls were actually a series of three significant waterfalls named First, Second, and Third Falls, respectively.

The waterfall you see pictured above was the First Falls, and it was said to be the largest of the three.

There were separate tracks joining in a loop that took in the Second and Third Falls as well as the top of the First Falls, but they were pretty much separate excursions from the much shorter and easier Morialta Falls Valley Walk.

Morialta_Falls_113_11102017 - In order to experience the other Morialta Waterfalls, we actually had to take separate trails leaving from the trailhead, which then climbed up to the gorge rim (like what's shown here) and proceeded further upstream from the First Falls
In order to experience the other Morialta Waterfalls, we actually had to take separate trails leaving from the trailhead, which then climbed up to the gorge rim (like what’s shown here) and proceeded further upstream from the First Falls

For the purposes of this writeup, we’re just focusing on the Morialta Falls Valley Walk since that was the only track we’ve done in our visits here.

In case you’re curious, the Three Falls Grand Hike (on the Morialta Falls Plateau) was said to be a 7.3km loop hike requiring about 3.5 hours.

Our History with the Morialta Waterfalls

As alluded to earlier, Julie and I actually made multiple visits to this waterfall.

On the first time we showed up back in November 2006, it was dry as it didn’t stand a chance against a severe multi-year drought that gripped all of Southeastern Australia for much of the decade.

Our latest visit in November 2017 was in the midst of Spring though the last heavy rainfall was probably at least a month prior to our visit.

Morialta_032_jx_11212006 - The mostly dry First Falls as seen from our first visit back in November 2006
The mostly dry First Falls as seen from our first visit back in November 2006

Thus, I’d imagine this waterfall would be best experienced in the Winter and Spring months depending on when the last significant rainfall had occurred as well as how much cumulative precipitation had fallen that season or year.

According to the park signs, the origin of the name of the falls was apparently a bastardization of the word Moriatta in the Kaurna Aboriginal language.

It was said to mean something like “ever-flowing creek”, which might have been the state of Fourth Creek when the first peoples inhabited this area.

The creek no longer has perennial flow due to dams and bores that were built since the advent of European settlement since the 1840s.

Since Fourth Creek was the watercourse responsible for the waterfalls here, this also meant that they once had perennial flow before European intervention.

Hiking to the First Falls

Morialta_039_jx_11212006 - We were lucky to spot a handful of koalas on the Morialta Valley Walk back in November 2006 but we weren't so lucky on our second visit 11 years later
We were lucky to spot a handful of koalas on the Morialta Valley Walk back in November 2006 but we weren’t so lucky on our second visit 11 years later

As for the visit itself, from the Morialta Falls car park, we followed a well-developed, well-signed, and mostly gravel track meandered on a mostly flat or gradual slope in a wide valley.

Initially, the valley was wide and the track was flanked by some bush and trees, including some taller white-barked eucalyptus trees.

While we encountered some colorful birds along the track, Julie and I were fortunate enough to see koalas on some of these gum trees the first time we were here back in 2006.

The track also gently weaved its way alongside and over Fourth Creek.

Given that this was the creek responsible for the Morialta Waterfalls, then it would be a good sign that the waterfall will have life if you happen to see the creek flowing alongside the trail.

Anyways, the further along the track we went, the more the valley walls closed in.

Morialta_Falls_037_11102017 - Approaching the Morialta Falls as the valley walls closed in
Approaching the Morialta Falls as the valley walls closed in

Soon, we found ourselves walking amongst impressive reddish cliffs hinting at the geological forces that gave rise to the waterfalls here.

There was even a spur trail going up steps to the Giant’s Cave, which was one of the accessible (albeit small) caves in the area though we noticed many more caves perched high up on other cliffs in the distance.

Eventually, the track became a boardwalk as it ultimately dead-ended at the lookout for the First Falls.

Even though the view from the lookout was good enough to get nice pictures, we did see other folks get past the railings and cool off near the plunge pool by the base of the falls.

In any case, the signage suggested that the round trip hiking time was 45 minutes to do the 1.6km out-and-back walk, but we spent closer to 90 minutes so we could relax, take our time, and even check out the Giant’s Cave.

That said, there were clearly other options for extending the excursion as numerous trails branched off throughout the Morialta Valley Walk (such as the Three Falls Grand Loop, which we’ll have to do one of these days when the conditions and timing are right).

Morialta_017_jx_11212006 - See?  We weren't kidding about them threatening to lock you in if you're not outta here by closing time
See? We weren’t kidding about them threatening to lock you in if you’re not outta here by closing time

Finally, if you happened to get a late start (like on the first time we did this hike back in November 2006), we had to keep an eye on our watches and the skies the whole time because the park gates were said to close 15 minutes before sunset.

So on that first visit, we started our hike at 6pm. Thus, we didn’t have the luxury of getting sidetracked as we worked to avoid getting locked in.

Authorities

The Morialta Waterfalls reside in the Morialta Conservation Park. It is administered by National Parks South Australia. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Morialta_Falls_001_11102017 - On our second visit to Morialta Falls, we actually had to park in one of the further marked lots because the nearest ones were full
Morialta_Falls_004_11102017 - Even from the road to the trailhead, we could see that Fourth Creek had water, which was a very good sign that the waterfall was going to flow
Morialta_015_jx_11212006 - Early in the hike, we encountered this sign indicating what would be required to see the other waterfalls.  That Grand Waterfall Loop was a bit too long for our situation
Morialta_016_jx_11212006 - Hiking to the Second and Third Falls required climbing out of the gorge and hiking along its rim, thus that track immediately started climbing up steps
Morialta_Falls_020_11102017 - Julie on the very wide and well-developed track to the first of the Morialta Waterfalls surrounded by white-barked gum trees and other native flora
Morialta_Falls_021_11102017 - The further we went on the Morialta Valley Walk, the more the cliffs were closing in
Morialta_Falls_022_11102017 - Around the half-way point of the Morialta Valley Walk, we encountered this detour leading up to the Giant's Cave
Morialta_Falls_106_11102017 - Julie and I spent a few minutes hiking up to the Giant's Cave, which happened to be one of several caves in the valley
Morialta_Falls_025_11102017 - Julie staying on the Morialta Valley Walk on the right of this fork, but clearly there were many opportunities to deviate from the main track and climb up to the plateau to extend this excursion and see other attractions in the area
Morialta_Falls_028_11102017 - Besides Giant's Cave, we noticed that there were other caves in the distance
Morialta_Falls_033_11102017 - Julie about to round a bend beneath tall red cliffs that had closed in on the valley just as we were getting near the first of the Morialta Waterfalls
Morialta_Falls_040_11102017 - Julie approaching the first of the Morialta Waterfalls
Morialta_Falls_042_11102017 - Some people hopped the railings and got closer to the Morialta Falls to cool off.  This photo shows how big the falls was as it towered over these weekenders
Morialta_Falls_048_11102017 - As you can see in this photo, the first of the Morialta Waterfalls spilled over a giant step in the gorge, which meant that there was no further progress on the valley walk. This was why visiting the Second and Third Falls required a separate hike that climbed out of the valley and onto the plateau
Morialta_028_jx_11212006 - When we finally made it to the First Falls (Morialta Falls), we were disappointed to see it was dry back in November 2006
Morialta_Falls_080_11102017 - Julie starting to make her way back to the car park
Morialta_044_jx_11212006 - On our way out of the park on that first visit back in November 2006 (when we realized that we could walk out with a little less haste before the gates closed), we noticed some koalas on the trees above us
Morialta_Falls_086_11102017 - Spring was a good time to see wildflowers like these in bloom alongside the Morialta Valley Walk
Morialta_Falls_103_11102017 - We didn't get to see koalas along the track on our second visit to Morialta Falls, but we did see these colorful parrot-looking birds
Morialta_Falls_128_11102017 - Back at the trailhead and now walking along the road towards our parked car

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The Morialta Waterfalls and Conservation Park was on the eastern outskirts of Adelaide in the Adelaide Hills. There are many ways of getting here, but we’ll describe our route from the Adelaide CBD.

First, we made our way towards Magill Road, which could be reached via the A11 on North Terrace Rd / Botanic Rd (we actually got there via Pirie St, Bartels Rd, Flinders St, then Fullarton Rd). Once on the Magill Rd, we continued heading east for about 5.5km before turning left onto Norton Summit Rd.

We then followed Norton Summit Rd for a little over 450m before turning left onto Glen Stuart Rd and following that residential road for a little over 1km. Then, we turned right at the roundabout onto Morialta Rd and followed it for roughly 600m before turning right at the signposted entrance to the Morialta Falls and Conservation Park. We followed this road for about 1.3km to its end.

Since we showed up at a pretty busy time of the morning on a Saturday, we actually had to find parking a little further back from the end of the road, which extended the overall walk. In any case, it took us around 35 minutes to make this drive with stoplights and some mild traffic.

Sweep around the base of the First Falls while examining the surrounding cliffs

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Tagged with: morialta, adelaide, magill, penfolds, south australia, australia, waterfall, wine, koala, adelaide hills, lofty, fourth creek



Visitor Comments:

Stuart William Walker March 1, 2011 10:30 am by Bryan McCarthy - Sadly I only have bad news on the falls. When I was a kid of eleven back in 1972, my best friend Stuart Walker was trying to climb down at Morialta Falls, he fell and died instantly. Stuart is buried at Athelstone Cemtetery in Adelaide, South Australia. ...Read More

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Visitor Reviews of this Waterfall:

Morialta Falls May 6, 2009 8:19 am by Grant Hugo - The walk from the car park to the base of the falls takes around 15 to 20 minutes, has a slight gradient all the way, and is very enjoyable in all seasons. There is a boardwalk and platform at the falls. It is also wheelchair accessible and the paths are smooth all the way with… ...Read More

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