Visiting Babinda Boulders
We heard about Babinda Boulders from our Helpx hosts as well as a few places online when looking up things to do in Cairns. Since we had rented a car for a few days we put them on the itinerary. On our second day with the car we drove south from Cairns to the Babinda Boulders and Etty Bay before heading into the Tablelands and visiting the waterfall circuit and the crater lake national parks. More blog posts to follow on the other spots.
Finding Babinda Boulders
We didn’t know much about Babinda Boulders before we arrived. Our hosts had recommended them as a great (and free!) alternative to Mossman Gorge which we had been planning on visiting when we drove to Cape Tribulation the day before. Based on their advice we gave Mossman a miss since and visited Babinda Boulders instead.
The Boulders are fairly easy to find, you just turn off the highway into Babinda (it’s well signposted) and follow the road all the way there. You can see the location on the map below:
Once there you can pull into a small carpark and walk straight down to the swimming hole or take a longer walk to the boulders themselves.
Swimming at the Boulders
The swimming spot is lovely with still, clear water that’s perfect for a refreshing swim. You should definitely remember to pack your swimming stuff if you’re planning on a visit. Just to the left of the swimming hole is a path that leads you on a short walk to the other spots of interest. Near the start of this walk is a plaque dedicated to a Pat McGann that reads “He came for a visit and stayed forever.” Pat lost his life here trying to jump a small gap between the rocks in 1979 aged just 24. This and many other unfortunate deaths are where the Babinda Boulders get their other more sinister name, “The Devil’s Pool”.
The Legend of Babinda Boulders
Since 1959 there have been at least 17 deaths at the Boulders. Perhaps not that unusual for such a dangerous swimming spot, the odd thing is that all but one of these deaths were young men, some of whom weren’t even in the water at the time. One story tells of a young couple stood on the rock platform near the pool when out of nowhere the water rose up sweeping them both into the water. The girl was lucky enough to survive but the boy did not. The most recent death was just a few years ago in 2009, as described by this Townsville Bulletin newspaper article “Mr Bennett was swimming in calmer water when all of a sudden one of his friends saw him get pulled backwards, as if by an invisible hand, towards white water at the downstream end of the pool”.
There is also the Aboriginal legend of a young woman who committed suicide at the Boulders:
Oolana is chosen to marry the well-respected tribal Elder Waroonoo. After the pair are married, another tribe wanders into their valley and Oolana falls in love with a handsome young man from the visiting tribe. His name is Dyga. As their forbidden love blossoms, Oolana and Dyga run away together. When the two tribes learn of their disappearance, they go in search of them…they find the couple at Babinda Boulders.
The lovers are soon captured by members of their respective tribes. As Dyga is dragged away, Oolana breaks free of her captors and, knowing she will never be with her true love ever again, throws herself into the deep waterhole.
The legends goes that Oolana still lures young men to the deaths at the Babinda Boulders to this day… There are some doubts about the legitimacy of this legend but who doesn’t like a spooky story? I certainly didn’t plan on testing out Oolana’s curse during our visit.
The walk leads through rainforest but is well defined and isn’t too tricky. There are two spots to stop and admire the view and take a few photos. The first looks out over the main flow of water over the boulders and is quite a view! The “Devil’s Pool” that has taken swimmers lives in the past is here, it’s very deep but deceptively calm looking. It’s not hard to imagine people thinking it was safe enough to jump in. There’s now a barrier on the lookout point and more warning signs about the dangers of swimming here. Needless to say we were not tempted.
The second lookout looks down over a fairly large valley where the water flows off into the distance. It’s a lot more peaceful than the earlier lookout and another lovely view to enjoy. The scenery is spectacular and the few rainy days we’d had meant there was a good flow of water through the boulders.
The Babinda Boulders are well worth the trip, especially if you are heading that way anyway. They are only a short detour from the highway. The water is perfect for a swim and the walk and lookout points offer some of the best scenery we saw on our few days exploring FNQ. There’s also the possibility of seeing wild cassowaries in the area (although sadly we didn’t) and it’s a great place for lunch with free public barbecues and picnic benches.
Have you visited the Babinda Boulders? Have you got any more tips or seen any ghosts? We’d love to know about it in our comments below