One of our primary reasons for moving from the UK to Australia was for the climate (ironically, so that we could avoid constantly getting wet!). That said, when Queensland really pumps up the thermostat, we love nothing more than to seek some relief by taking a dip. Fortunately, there are plenty of great places between Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast where you can go for a paddle; these are some of our favourite places to get wet between Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast.
Cedar Creek, Samford
We first discovered Cedar Creek Falls, Samford section, quite by accident. On a particularly wet day whilst we had visitors (yes, even Queensland does have them!), we were scouting around for something indoor to do in order to stay dry. We decided to take our Harry Potter obsessed kids to the Store of Requirement in Samford.
After a browse around, we took a drive around the surrounding area and were delighted to discover a beautiful creek with swimming holes a plenty.
Returning on a gloriously sunny day, we drove North on Mount Samson Road then joined Cedar Creek Road and followed it all the way to the end. We parked up in the small graveled parking area before heading off to explore the rock pools.
Cedar Creek falls did not disappoint and has fast become one of our very favourite places to get wet on a hot day.
You can either stay in one place and enjoy splashing about in the wonderfully cool water, or if you’re feeling a little more energetic, you can take a walk along the creek. The picturesque route involves a combination of rock hopping and paddling with the odd small path running alongside the creek.
As you travel along the creek, you will find deeper rockpools where you can fully immerse yourself in the water, multiple waterfalls and beautiful scenery. We usually spot red and blue dragonfly’s basking on the rocks and we’ve seen a few Fishing Spiders on the rocks close to the water at the far end of the creek.
If facilities are a priority, head for Andy Williams Park. There are toilets located in the small car park, and from here you descend down a grassy bank to picnic tables and barbecues.
Kookaburras are regularly spotted at close range in the surrounding trees. These appear unperturbed by humans and have been known to swoop down and grab a sausage off the barbeque when they think no one is looking!
Just below the picnic area, accessed via a low muddy bank, you will find a shallow and shady section of Cedar Creek which is an ideal spot for children to paddle in whilst parents can either join them or find a rock to sit on and watch.
There is enough swimming, paddling, dam building, water sliding and rock hopping to keep the family entertained all day.
As is often true of the best places to visit, the amount of car parking does not reflect the popularity of this spot and you will need to arrive early.
The closest place to buy food and drinks is Samford Village, 20 minutes drive away so it is best to come prepared with a picnic and plenty of water.
South Bank Lagoon, Brisbane
You don’t necessarily have to stray from the city to find somewhere good to cool down. Brisbane’s South Bank boasts the only inner-city man-made beach in the whole of Australia in addition to a large swimming pool and an interactive splash park along a stretch of the South Bank. Best of all, these patrolled play areas are all free of charge to access!
Streets Beach features a large blue lagoon with a white sandy beach, all surrounded by beautiful tropical plants to help you forget that you’re actually in the middle of the city.
Along from this, there is a swimming pool (Boats Pool) with deeper water for those wanting a proper swim.
Finally, you will find a water play area with various interactive fountains and colourful marine characters to climb on as well as a shallow stream with smooth rocks at the bottom and interactive water powered mechanical toys where kids can explore cause and effect; this is a particular highlight for our boys.
If you’d rather remain dry whilst the kids pay, there is plenty of shaded seating around all of the different water areas.
The South Bank lagoons are truly a paradise for water loving kids with enough variety of water play to keep them entertained for hours if not all day; we certainly face much resistance if we suggest leaving, and it is now impossible for us to visit the city without packing togs and rashies!
Once you have had enough of swimming, there is a fantastic adventure playground not far from Streets Beach where the kids can expend any remaining energy.
If you wonder away from the river bank towards the bougainvillea festooned archways that snake around the South Bank, you will find the Collective Markets which are open on Fridays and over the weekend where you can buy some beautiful wares.
In December, the space is occupied by the Christmas markets which run over 8 days from around lunchtime into the evening and have a very festive feel to them with fairy lights and decorations adorning the archways. Children’s craft activities are offered as well.
Gardner Falls, Maleny
Situated just outside of Maleny, Gardner Falls is found downstream of Obi Obi creek and makes a lovely cooling off stop during a Sunshine coast Hinterland visit.
There are shallow rock pools which make an ideal playground for younger children, and as you continue along the concrete path, the pools become wider and deeper with small waterfalls.
A short scramble over rocks at the end of the path will take you right down to the main Gardner falls and a deep rockpool where you can swim.
One of the best thing about this water hole is its proximity to the carpark; the water is very easily accessed via a short and almost flat walk from the car meaning no long hikes to endure when swimming is the only thing on your mind.
There is plenty of shade on the grassy banks leading down to the path and these make a perfect spot for a picnic. As usual, the bush turkeys will boldly approach any unattended bags so it’s best to keep your food under wraps.
To reach the falls, take the Landsborough Maleny Road in the Maleny direction then Obi Lane to the car park. Spaces are limited so again, an early start or a patient wait is required
Nearby Maleny with its boutique shops, cafe’s and abundant op shops is a bustling hinterland town worth a scout around once you’ve finished at the falls.
Bli Bli Aquapark
If you’re after a bit more of an active cool down, why not visit Bli Bli Aqua Park?
Of all the places we are recommending to get wet, this is the only one which costs money, but it’s always a massive hit with our boys (and us!) so it’s definitely worth the wonga and deserves a mention; it also ranks as one of our top family things to do on the Sunshine Coast
The aqua park comprises a large collection of inflatable obstacles which you can navigate around including swings, slides, trampolines, monkey bars and bridges. For the bravest visitors, the ‘death jump’ will have you plunging around 30 foot (a good guess!) into the lake below.
Safety is paramount here; it is compulsory for all guests to wear a bouyancy vest regardless of their swimming prowess, and there are lifeguards patrolling the course.
You can book a single 60 minute session or a double session for a small discount. Membership is available if you want to keep coming back (why wouldn’t you???!)
The Aqua Park is located at the Bli Bli Watersport Complex, 367 David Low Way, Bli Bli. There is plenty of car parking, toilets, picnic areas equipped with barbeques and a café.
The centre also offers wakeboarding for thrill seakers with all the kit available for hire
Serenity Falls and Martins Creek, Buderim Forest Park
If you want to combine waterholes with walking, Buderim Forest Park may be just what you’re looking for. The forest is home to beautiful Serenity falls which continue as Martins Creek as it winds through picturesque rainforest.
The call of the whip bird echoes through the trees and it’s not unusual to share the footpath with a lace monitor or to spot tiny yellow breasted robins flitting about their daily business.
In addition to the main rockpool under Serenity falls, there are several other deeper rockpools ideally suited for a paddle as well as shallower sections which make perfect splash play areas for smaller children. Small pebbles demand to be skimmed or built into dams by small hands.
For more information about Buderim Forest Park, please see our post on best family walks on the Sunshine Coast
Please note that although our family and many others enjoy swimming at Serenity Falls, Martin’s Creek passes through many urban developments and storm drains before reaching the forest. The local council therefore advises against swimming here especially following heavy rainfall and storms, although swimming is permitted.
You will have to make up your own minds but I would challenge you not to be tempted to take a dip once you’ve seen it!
Settlement Cove Lagoon, Redcliffe
Although not as quite as large or impressive as the Southbank Lagoon, Settlement Cove Lagoon at Redcliffe with it’s relaxed vibe and tropical paradise feel is nevertheless worth a visit.
Situated between Redcliffe Parade and the ocean, the lagoon provides a safe place to swim and play. It is free to access and is patrolled by lifeguards.
The main lagoon features plenty of shallow water around the edges for younger swimmers and paddlers. As you progress into the middle of the lagoon, the water becomes deeper for confident swimmers. There is a central island which can be easily accessed by climbing the rocks, making for great adventure play, and is usually where our rabble gravitate to.
At one end of the lagoon, there is a shallow sectioned off area designed for younger children where you will find fountains and colourful mushrooms and lizards.
Trees separate the lagoon from the beach which provides a pretty backdrop, and these are frequently occupied by noisy lorikeets keeping an eye on the scene below.
There are benches dotted around the lagoon and plenty of places to set up camp on the surrounding ground with good views across the lagoon for supervision purposes.
We like to combine a visit to the lagoon with a morning at the Sunday markets which are held each week. There are also some interesting shops to explore here and plenty of café’s and restaurants if you want to eat out, many with alfresco seating along the parade.
Alternatively, this would be a great way to finish the day if you choose to take a whale watching tour from the Redcliffe jetty; read about our whale watching trip from Redcliffe.
Kondalilla Falls, Montville
Kondalilla National Park boasts perhaps one of the best places on the Sunshine coast for a proper open water swim.
Above the main waterfall after which the National Park is named, there is a smaller waterfall which feeds into a large rockpool plenty deep enough for a swim. It doesn’t hurt that it’s also quite pretty.
The water here tends to be cold even on the hottest of days making it very refreshing if a little bracing at times! For the ultimate cooling experience, be sure to head right under the waterfall to experience mother natures power shower!
There are a couple of walking options within the National Park if you want to work up a sweat before a cooling swim. For more details about the National park and the walking tracks, our post about best family walks on the Sunshine Coast will tell you more.
Fairy Pools, Noosa
For a truly beautiful swimming spot, try your luck at finding the Fairy Pools located off the main path from the Noosa Costal Walk, which is features in our top family things to do on the Sunshine Coast post.
These natural tidal rockpools are only accessible at low tide but well worth seeking out. Whilst most of our swimming spots are family friendly, the Fairy pools in Noosa are probably best left to older kids and adults; there is no formed access path and reaching the pools is potentially dangerous.
To locate the pools, follow the Noosa costal path from Main beach around past Granite Bay and you will find a seat under the shade of a tree at a point where the path bends round to the right. Here, you will need to leave the path and head down the side of the cliff between the rocks. The descent is a little steep but 9 year old Daniel managed it easily.
After a few minutes walking, you will see a large, crystal clear rockpool nestled amongst the cliffs, topped up periodically by the waves. You won’t be disappointed!
We didn’t take our swimming togs on our first visit to the pools, but Daniel, overwhelmed by the lure of the sparkling waters wasn’t going to let a little thing like that stop him from taking the plunge!
Whilst beautiful, these pools can be hazardous. Never attempt to find them at high tide or when there is a large swell as the waves could easily sweep you off the cliffs. Take care when entering the water as the rocks are very slippery. On the right day though, there really is no better place to get wet!
Wappa Falls, Yandina
A recent discovery for us, Wappa Falls situated close to Wappa Dam and Yandina is a beautiful secluded water hole.
There is a deep rockpool for keen swimmers and shallower pools for those who just want a paddle, separated by the Wappa falls themselves.
Access to the water requires some rock scrambling and great care since there are some very steep drops into the deeper rockpool. We favoured the shallower pools to the left of the waterfall which were somewhat easier to access.
There is a car park right by the falls with limited parking, or you can take a 10 minute stroll along a bush track from nearby Wappa Dam to reach the rockpools.
Whilst beautiful, Wappa falls must be approached with caution and careful judgement. Perfectly safe on a calm day, fast flowing waters after heavy rainfall can be treacherous with strong undercurrents and have claimed more than one young life (please read our safety notes below). There is signage warning of the dangers of the site in view of the deaths and you should exercise your own judgement as to whether or not it is safe to swim. For us, it’s a yes, but only on a calm day.
Just around the corner from Wappa falls, you will find a beautiful parkland area surrounding Wappa dam and reservoir.
There is no swimming here for safety reasons (the dam isn’t the mother of all waterslides that it may appear to be!) but there is plenty of greenspace to enjoy, public barbecues and picnic areas, a small playground, and the all important toilets that any family will understand the need for.
Enjoy views across the reservoir, look out for black swans and other native birds and bring along your canine companion for a walk.
A note on safety …
Whilst our family all enjoy a refreshing dip in natures swimming pools, we are always very safety conscious and strongly encourage our readers to put the safety of themselves and their families first. Everything you are about to read is common sense, but a gentle reminder never hurt anyone.
Please read signage at all swimming holes with great care before entering the water and follow the recommendations and rules closely. You will be best placed to judge yours and your families safety in these locations.
Always be especially careful after heavy rainfall when water can become fast flowing and may contain debris. It may not be safe to swim after heavy rain and the inconvenience of having to make a return trip is infinitely preferable to drowning both for yourself and your loved ones.
We frequently see people jumping from some height into water from overlying rocks. This is something that we personally would advise strongly against doing due to the risks of serious injury, paralysis or even death if you encounter hidden rocks, tree trunks or other submerged objects. The same applies if the water is not as deep as you’d anticipated. If you do choose to jump, please check out your landing zone before you do so and be mindful of other swimmers.
Wet rocks can be very slippery so take your time and watch your footing.
The Queensland sun is very strong so take care to protect yourself against burning. Rash vests and sun screen are a must here.
Have fun, but please do so safely! Enjoy!