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A Guide to the Beautiful Cardwell Spa Pools in Queensland, Australia

This short guide will help you discover one of the top things to do on the East Coast of Australia; the Cardwell Spa Pools. Where to find them, what they look like and what to do at the Cardwell Spa Pools – it’s all covered right here!

On the east coast of Australia, in the Far North Tropics of Queensland lies a small little town, Cardwell. Now, if you’ve been travelling north along the A1, this is probably the closest you’ll have driven to the sea for sometime. Well at least it felt like it to us. Other than a toilet stop and a place to stretch you legs, there would seem little else to do. However, this little town holds a secret. The Cardwell Spa Pools.

The Cardwell Spa Pools are absolutely beautiful and a must-see on any trip along the east coast of Australia. This is the brightest, bluest freshwater stream imaginable complete with a little jacuzzi area ideal for a bathe and a cool-down. If you’ve been road-tripping the east coast for a while now, a dip here and you’ll be feeling super fresh!


As I mentioned above, Cardwell is situated slap bang on the Bruce Highway approximately 180km south of Cairns and 175km north of Townsville. The pools are approximately 10km inland.


First things first, to visit the Cardwell Spa Pools, you’ll of course need a vehicle. We’re dealing with dirt roads here though they are well-graded and we didn’t find it too difficult at all in our Mazda E2000. Word of warning though, if you’ve hired a car or a campervan, check the small print carefully as there might be hidden charges for driving on dirt roads.

The Cardwell Spa Pools are situated on the Cardwell Forest Drive and the easiest, and maybe the most scenic, way I found to get there was (if heading north) to drive straight through Cardwell and stay on the Bruce Highway for exactly 5km. At Ellerbeck, turn left and go past the Meunga Creek Caravan Park which will be on your right. This is a tarmac road and you’ll need to take another left after 3km onto the dirt road. Follow this road towards the hill, take another left at the t-junction, go round a corner and you’ll see a little car park for the pools on your right. Easy!


When we visited, we were the only ones there (for a while at least) so we had free reign of the stream and the little jacuzzi pool. After not having a shower for a good few days on our road trip, Emma and I just sat for ages letting the cool clear water wash over us! I’ve never felt so fresh. There’s the option of swimming in the actual river section too which is an absolutely magnificent cloudy blue colour.

This is something very unique to see along the east coast of Australia; it certainly feels like a little oasis in the dry forest lands that stretch around Cardwell. This is the perfect place to just kick back and relax for a few hours before moving on again or finding a place to camp for the night.


Firstly, I would say that the best time to visit is between May and September probably not during the wet season where the pools might be overflowing! As this is a freshwater stream, you’re extremely unlikely to bump into a saltwater crocodile here. The only thing I was concerned about at the time was when an Aussie family turned up to swim but ended up leaving immediately after worrying about stonefish. I’m not sure on this one but it’s worth knowing just in case!


If you’re not looking to continue your road trip then you’ll need somewhere nearby to stay. I’m pretty confident that you’d get away with free-camping right at the pools themselves but you can never be sure these days!

If you fancy somewhere where you definitely can stay in your campervan for free, head 20kms north of Cardwell to Bilyana Rest Area. We had a comfortable, if not slightly busy, night there and you can park pretty much anywhere.

Cardwell itself has a few motels and there’s the Meunga Creek Caravan Park that I mentioned earlier.


I loved this part of Australia and would give anything to visit again! I would highly recommend visiting Wallaman Falls, the tallest waterfall in Australia, Mission Beach to search for cassowaries and Paronella Park.

If you need any more tips or more information on Cardwell Spa Pools, just leave a comment below or send me an email! Now, if you hadn’t even heard of these before, you’ll have somewhere new to add to your East Coast bucket-list.


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2 thoughts on “A Guide to the Beautiful Cardwell Spa Pools in Queensland, Australia”

  1. An interesting post. I thought stonefish were saltwater creatures, but I learned there are a few species that live in fresh water. My guess, however, is the family let their fear outweigh the actual danger — too bad for them but nice for your solitude.

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