Purling Brook Falls Circuit is one of my favourite hikes and waterfalls in Springbrook National Park. The easy 4-kilometre walk through a beautiful forest takes you from the top of the 100-meter high falls to the bottom with splendid lookouts along the way.
It is a horsetail waterfall with stunning rocks and vegetation around it. The suspended bridge provides many photo opportunities from different angles. We also got to see another smaller waterfall, Tanninaba Falls, along the way.
Distance: 4 km
Time: 2 hours
Disclaimer: The hiking time and difficulty are based on our experience. We are experienced hikers with a good level of fitness, used to hiking long distances and scrambling. We possess good navigation skills and use a Garmin watch* with a GPS navigation map. Always check the park alerts and notes, as trail conditions change over time, which may affect the hike’s level of difficulty.
Tips to visit Purling Brook Falls
1. Always check the National Park website
Extreme weather doesn’t happen often but it can take weeks or sometimes months to reopen a track after it’s been damaged. It’s always a good idea to check if there is an alert on the national park website before driving all the way to the hike.
After Cyclone Debby hit the Gold Coast hinterland, Purling Brook Falls Circuit was closed for more than a year.
2. Add the 2-kilometre detour to Warringa Pool
Most groups visiting the area seem to stick to the Purling Brook Falls Circuit and skipped Warringa Pool. Purling Brook Falls is stunning and impressive. I understand they may feel like they’ve seen the best of what the area has to offer.
However, my favourite part of the hike was on the way to Warringa Pool.
I found one of the most beautiful forest landscapes I had ever seen. Fig trees had built bridges over small cascades which created an unreal, fairy landscape. We were lucky to have this place for just the two of us for a while. If it wasn’t for the mosquitoes, I could have spent the entire afternoon in this peaceful scenery. It’s one of the best rock pools near Brisbane.
3. Take your time to look for wildlife during the hike
If you’re fit, you won’t need the full two hours to complete the circuit. Still, I recommend allowing at least two hours – and even more if you want to go to Warringa Pool. You may want to stop often to enjoy the views and let noisy groups pass in front of you.
Maybe we got lucky, but we had fun wildlife encounters with a monitor, water dragons, a possum, a skink and brush turkeys.
4. Walk the Purling Brook Falls Circuit clockwise
On one side, there’s a series of steps to reach the base of Purling Brook Falls whereas it’s a gradual ascent on the other side. Hence, the hike is more comfortable when done clockwise, unless you’re after a leg workout on the stairs.
5. Take your swimming suit for Warringa Pool
You won’t be able to swim at Purling Brook Falls. However, if you push one kilometre further, Warringa Pool offers you a great opportunity for a dip.
Responsible travel tip: Did you know your sunscreen can pollute the water and harm animals? The best way to protect your body from the sun is to cover it with long sleeves and pants. If you do have to use sunscreen, choose a mineral one (like zinc) to avoid harmful substances (see the full list here) and apply it at least 20 minutes before entering the water.
6. Avoid the crowd
As it’s not far from the Gold Coast and Brisbane, Springbrook National Park is very popular. Purling Brook Falls Circuit is an easy track that attracts a lot of people. You will have a better experience if you can visit the park during the week and outside school holidays.
It’s usual in Australia to start the day early and hike during the coolest hours of the day. But we’re not as good as Australians to synch our alarm with the sunrise. When we plan a short hike on an easy path, we sometimes start hiking at the end of the afternoon, planning to come back just before sunset (always with a torch as a backup just in case!). People are often leaving when we arrive so we find a spot to park the car more easily. However, it’s rarely the best option to get the best light.
If you’re an early morning person, you could also spend the night in the area to arrive at the car park before day-trippers. There are plenty of things to do in Springbrook National Park to keep you busy for a few days and you’ll find lovely accommodation options in the area*. Check out my recommendations at the end of the article!
We once visited Purling Brook Falls on Christmas Day while most people were celebrating, which was a fantastic opportunity to avoid the crowd during the summer holidays. We only saw a few groups and were almost all by ourselves in the Warringa Pools section, which allowed us to fully enjoy the beauty of the forest and feel revigorated.
7. Go after the rain
If you can plan your visit a few days after the rain, the falls will look even more spectacular. If it hasn’t rained in a while, you won’t see much at Tanninaba Falls, the smaller falls you see on the way when descending to Purling Brook Falls.
I often use Instagram to see the latest posts taken of the falls and judge if it’s worth going or if I should lower my expectations.
8. Stick to the path
You will see signs reminding you to stick to the path in the most dangerous zones around Purling Brook Falls. They have even erected physical barriers at some spots. Those after an adventurous hike may find Purling Brook Falls frustrating.
If you have seen photos of people walking behind Purling Brook Falls or near the cliff edge, don’t expect to do the same. It’s now not allowed as after a few people took too much risk for their Instagram shot, it was deemed too dangerous. There are fences and signs to keep visitors on the track, and some have been fined when not following the directives. For a behind-the-waterfall experience, check out the Twin Falls Circuit nearby.
Rocks are slippery when wet, even on the path. It wasn’t an issue with good hiking shoes but those who chose to do the walk wearing thongs had to be extra careful a couple of times.
9. Bring a wide-angle camera
Purling Brook Falls are very tall. If you want the perfect shot with the entire falls and the blue sky at the top, it will be a lot easier with a wide-angle camera such as a Go-Pro or the new iPhones.
Do Purling Brook Falls live up to their reputation?
Purling Brook Falls are to Springbrook National Park what Wentworth Falls are to the Blue Mountains. With easily accessible stunning lookouts, they are a very popular day trip from the Gold Coast and Brisbane.
Is it worth dealing with the crowd at Purling Brook Falls?
If you have the opportunity to visit Purling Brook Falls when it’s powerful after heavy rainfalls, it is worth it. We love chasing waterfalls and have seen many of them, and we were very impressed by the beauty of Purling Brook Falls when we visited after a few days of heavy rain. But if it hasn’t rained in a while, you may be disappointed.
Most of the time, you won’t get a quiet experience to connect with nature at Purling Brook Falls. So if you’re after an opportunity to connect with nature, you may prefer to look for longer or more difficult hikes in the area. I highly recommend the Box Forest Circuit (Elabana Falls) in Lamington National Park, one of the best waterfalls near Brisbane.
If you loved Purling Brook Falls and want to explore somewhere similar, you may be interested in Queens Mary Falls, on the Falls Drive in the Scenic Rim. If you want to stay longer in Springbrook National Park, visiting Natural Bridge to see glow worms could also be a lovely experience on a hot and humid summer night.
Have you been to Purling Brook Falls? Share your experience in the comments below!
Where to stay near Purling Brook Falls
Springbrook National Parks has fantastic nature-based accommodations that can transform your visit to Purling Brook Falls into an unforgettable experience. Plus, it will allow you to beat the crowd and arrive early at the falls.
If you are lucky to find a room available and want to have a positive impact with your stay, check out these secluded accommodations with spa baths:
- The Mouses Rainforest Retreat* (ECO Certified)
- Lyrebird Retreat* (not for profit: “All ‘profits‘ are directed to rainforest restoration on Springbrook National Park”)
You may also be seduced by these other options near Purling Brook Falls:
- Purling Brook Falls Gwongorella* – a cozy glamping tent within a walking distance from the tracks
- Springbrook Mountain Chalets* with a spa bath or a hot tub
Where are Purling Brook Falls?
Purling Brook Falls is in Springbrook National Park in Queensland, about 1.5 hours by car from Brisbane and 45 minutes from Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast. There is a car park at the start of the walk that has recently been upgraded, but it’s often very busy.