Babinda is a small town in the heart of North Queensland’s sugar cane area.
Location: set off the Bruce Highway 57 km south of Cairns and over 1700 km north of Brisbane.
The drive between Cairns and Babinda passes through spectacular mountainous scenery and luscious rainforest as well as sugar and banana farming communities. Queensland’s two highest mountains; Mt. Bartle Frere and Mt. Bellenden Ker are both visible along the drive.
Brief history: in 1873 George Dalrymple left Cardwell in the cutter Flying Fish to explore the many rivers and creeks of the region but mainly the Mulgrave and Russell Rivers and accomplish the ascent of Bellenden Ker. Dalrymple was the first Eurtopean through the area. Around 1882 the first land was taken up on the Russell River. In 1888 a hotel and store was established near the railway line. The Bellenden Ker sugar mill opened around 1900. Babinda Mill opened in 1915.
Babinda’s name is probably a corruption of the word ‘binda’ which meant ‘waterfall’ in the dialect of the indigenous people. One wonders whether the Aborigines were referring to the waterfalls in the nearby Bellenden Ker National Park, or the annual rainfall which is a massive 4218 mm.
To the south-west of the town, along the Bartle Frere turnoff from the Bruce Highway, are the Josephine Falls, regarded by many as the most beautiful falls in North Queensland. Certainly their beauty was enough to attract the advertising world who have used the locality as the backdrop to a number of television commercials. There is a 700-metre walk from the car park to the falls and the swimming area. A similar distance to the south-east, taking the turnoff to Bramston Beach, is the Eubenangee Swamp National Park. A 1.5-km walk, with some sections of boardwalk, allows visitors to experience the variety of flora and fauna which can be found in the tropical wetlands of the coast.
Surrounded by thick, lush rainforest, the Babinda Boulders is a popular swimming hole and tourist attraction south of Cairns. It is a classic example of the fast flowing tropical creeks in the area that are perfect for afternoon dips in the cool water to combat the tropical heat. The creek is lined with huge boulders and the clear fresh water weaves between the obstacles to fill large pools where people can swim. Visitors to the Babinda Boulders are often amazed that the water is quite cool, even during mid-summer. Below the tranquil pools of the upper section, the river turns into a torrest as it thunders through Devil’s Pool and over a series of massive granite boulders and into the valley below.
A walking track leads from the carpark through dense rainforest to two viewing platforms (at the Devils Pool lookout, a number of letters have been rubbed off the sign, leaving it to read ‘Evil Poo Lookout’) where the creek cascades down a series of spectacular waterfalls, granite boulders and washpools. Several people have died after ignoring warnings to stay clear of the fast flowing water and slippery boulders in the wet season, especially near Devil’s Pool.