Ellenborough Falls is arguably the best waterfall in NSW. It’s the highest single-drop waterfall in the state and it’s actually one of the highest in the Southern Hemisphere. So if you’re keen to chase the best waterfalls in NSW, head to Elands (inland from Taree), to check out the tremendous Ellenborough Falls. Like most waterfalls, visiting after some decent rainfall will ensure this waterfall puts on its best display. But in saying that, all year round, this waterfall puts on a magnificent show. So regardless of when you visit, get ready for waterfall wanderlust at Ellenborough Falls.
Ellenborough Falls | Half-Day Trip Guide
The best way to experience Ellenborough Falls is by hiking to the base of the falls and to the Knoll – a phenomenal lookout that faces directly opposite this colossal waterfall. But, there are also two easy-to-reach lookouts at the top of the falls that provide top-notch views of the waterfall and the surrounding dense bushland. All of these lookouts and hikes are worth exploring, to experience the very best that Ellenborough Falls has to offer. With that in mind, this guide will help you plan your epic half-day (or day) trip to this spectacular waterfall by covering all of these lookouts and hikes.
Main Viewing Platform
By far the quickest way to see Ellenborough Falls is from the main viewing platform. It’s located around 80 metres away from the car park and takes less than a minute to reach. After you’ve passed the sheltered picnic tables, you’ll find an obvious path that descends to a wooden viewing platform. For such little effort, you’ll be rewarded with sweeping views of Ellenborough Gorge and your first look at this sensational waterfall.
This viewing platform provides a stellar vantage point of Ellenborough Falls from near the top of the falls. Actually, you’ll be facing the side of the waterfall, but far enough away to see it entirely. Here, you’ll get your first glimpse of this powerful waterfall as it forcefully plunges into Ellenborough Gorge. In fact, the run-off from the waterfall forms part of Ellenborough River, which flows through the gorge. The pool at the base of the falls is moderately sized, but only a narrow stream fights its way through the gaps in the large scattered boulders, as it flows upstream on the gorge floor.
Seeing the waterfall from this viewing platform is worth the trip to Elands in its own right. You’ll be spoiled with exceptional views of Bulga Plateau and its roughly 200-metre waterfall from the get-go. But, there are other lookouts and hikes to do, in order to enjoy Ellenborough Falls in all its glory. A tad further from this viewing platform is another lookout, located at the top of the falls.
Head of Falls Lookout
The Head of Falls Lookout is only 300 metres or so from the car park. From the main viewing platform, a wooden path and steps lead you down to another viewing platform at the top of the falls. There is even seating here to help you relax and soak in the stunning Manning Valley area. Admittedly, from this lookout, you won’t see too much of the waterfall. You’ll get a glimpse of the Ellenborough River to your left, which flows towards the edge of the plateau, pouring over its edge to create the waterfall.
Although you can’t see much of the waterfall, there is serene bushland scattered throughout the plateau and gorge to enjoy. Once you’ve finished at the two viewing platforms close to the car park, it’s time to hike to the base of the falls! So head back to the car park to begin the quick, but epic journey to the bottom of the falls.
SIDE NOTE: The Head of Falls lookout is purposely enclosed by wooden fencing. Please respect the wishes of the local council and do not jump the fence. Sadly, there have been deaths reported, from people falling off the edge of the plateau. You’ll even see in our Youtube video, from our drone footage, that some idiots jumped the fence. Don’t be that person!
Lower Falls Walk Preview
- Type: Out & Back
- Distance: 2km
- Time: 1.5 hours
- Accumulated elevation gain: 200m
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Trailhead: Ellenborough Falls Kiosk
This trail has no official grading/difficulty score. Difficulty is rated by Travel Made Me Do It.
From the car park, an obvious path leads you down some wooden steps. At the bottom of the steps, you’ll follow a flat dirt path that guides you to a sign, directing you to either the lower falls or the Knoll. It’s totally up to you to decide which hike to tackle first. Conquering the 641 steps to the base of the falls is far more challenging than the gently undulating 450-metre hike to the Knoll. Beck and I figured we’d get the hard work out of the way first, so we psyched ourselves up and began the steep descent to the bottom of the falls, which is approximately 500 metres.
The wooden steps leading you to the bottom of the gorge are incredible. Constructed in the mid-1980s, the wooden steps, which meander through the dense bushland, are still in great nick, and provide a sturdy walkway to the base of the falls. Thankfully, on-route, there are information plaques detailing the history of the walkway. These are worth a read to help you truly appreciate the craftsmanship that went into building them. Admittedly, getting down is straightforward enough, but you may start to dread the effort it’ll take to get back up!
SIDE NOTE: If it is or has been raining, be mindful of leeches. Also, during the warmer months, expect plenty of cobwebs if you’re the first to walk the path. Although, if you’re heading to the base of the falls at dusk, you may even get to share the path with some kangaroos.
The Base of Ellenborough Falls
At the bottom of the wooden steps, you’ll find a platform, and just beyond that, the awesome gorge floor which is full of huge boulders unevenly scattered and stacked. Initially, you’ll be dwarfed by the boulders, as they block your views of the bottom of Ellenborough Falls. Although, it doesn’t take too much effort to scramble up some rocks, to see the natural pool at the base of the falls.
Being at the base of Ellenborough Falls is an incredible experience. You’ll be mesmerised by the enormity of this waterfall as it plummets roughly 200 metres. Plus, the gorge itself is an adventurer’s playground. You can make your way to the base of the falls and further down the river to capture different perspectives of the waterfall. Swimming is possible, although we didn’t have time for a dip. Photography is tricky if you’re shooting up towards the sun to capture the waterfall. Arriving early might help to prevent glare from wreaking havoc on your photos!
After enjoying the base of the falls, it’s time to make your way back up the stairs. As a rule of thumb, it’ll take you roughly twice as long to get back up as it took you to get down. At least there’s one more epic lookout to enjoy. So you should have plenty of motivation to motor up those 641 steps!
SIDE NOTE: In early-2021, severe flooding of the Ellenborough River caused Ellenborough Falls to erupt in all its glory. In times like this, the waterfall can be safely enjoyed from the main viewing platform near the car park. But you shouldn’t explore the gorge floor, as it may be flooded and very dangerous to visit.
In comparison to the Lower Falls Walk, the 450-metre hike to the Knoll is a leisurely stroll. If you have completed the Lower Falls Walk already, you’ll eventually arrive back at the wooden sign, where you’ll take the clearly marked path towards The Knoll. The dirt trail gently undulates and weaves its way through the beautiful bushland. Within 5–10 minutes, you’ll arrive at another wooden platform. This time, you’ll be facing directly opposite Ellenborough Falls. The Knoll lookout is possibly the best lookout for gauging an overall perspective of the waterfall within the gorge. The lookout is slightly overgrown, but hopefully, you’ll still get to enjoy an unimpeded view of the waterfall.
Personally, the Knoll is our favourite lookout at Ellenborough Falls. Being able to face directly opposite the enormous waterfall was an absolute treat. Although, the main viewing platform, next to the car park, was a close second. The main viewing platform possibly provides an even better view of Ellenborough Gorge as a whole. Plus, this main viewing platform does provide a fascinating side-view of the waterfall. Well, in any case, both lookouts are superb and deserve a visit!
With a busy day ahead exploring Myall Lake National Park, we made sure to speed hike the trail leading to and from the Knoll.
WHAT IS SPEED HIKING? It’s high-octane hiking that provides a decent workout. Speed hiking is also useful if you have a busy itinerary planned, and don’t want to miss out on any other hikes or adventures.
Ellenborough Falls Recap
After your visit to Ellenborough Falls, we’re deadset certain that you’ll rate this waterfall as one of the best in NSW, and even in Australia. There are a couple of phenomenal lookouts and hikes to help you appreciate this spectacular waterfall. Essentially, all you need is half a day and some energy, to enjoy a cracking visit to Ellenborough Falls.
Getting to Sydney
Flights: Of course, you’ll need to fly to Sydney to do this trip from abroad. If you’re travelling to Sydney from overseas, use Skyscanner to search for the cheapest flights. When flying abroad, we always get the ball rolling with a Skyscanner search.
Also, if you’re based in the UK or US, you should sign up to Jack’s Flight Club for the best flight deal alert service. By simply subscribing to the free weekly newsletter or buying a premium membership, you could save lots of money on international travel. If you’re interstate, subscribe to I Want That Flight for the best flight deal alerts to and from Melbourne. You can usually find cheap flights with Jetstar or Tiger Airways.
Getting to/from Ellenborough Falls
Ellenborough Falls is located in Elands, which is about 80km inland from Taree. To get to Ellenborough Falls, you’re looking at a 1.5-hour drive from Taree. From Sydney, expect a 4.5–5 hour drive. Admittedly, the last 14km to the waterfall is on a bumpy unpaved road. Although a 4WD would be ideal, a 2WD will suffice, but you might just need to take it a bit easier. Simply plug in Ellenborough Falls or Ellenborough Falls Kiosk into Google Maps, and that’ll take you to the car park situated at the end of Ellenborough Falls Road. The main viewing platform is merely a minute’s walk from the car park.
Considering Ellenborough Falls is often seen on a half-day trip, we can’t recommend any particular accommodation options near the waterfall. If you’re looking to stay near Ellenborough Falls, use Booking.com or Airbnb to search for a place to stay in either Taree or Old Bar. Personally, we went on to explore Myall Lake National Park after checking out Ellenborough Falls and camped at the Stewart and Lloyds Campground. Read our Myall Lake National Park guide (coming soon) to find out more about this awesome campground where you can hang out with chilled dingoes!
If you visit from Friday–Sunday, make sure to check out the Ellenborough Falls Kiosk. It’s located right at the car park. Unfortunately, we visited during the week so we missed out on what’s apparently a very decent pie! At the kiosk, you can also read about the history of the area. Otherwise, there are sheltered and non-sheltered picnic tables and BBQs if you wanted to cook up your own lunch – what a perfect way to end your half-day trip to Ellenborough Falls.
- Petrol: $15AUD/person ($12USD)
- Food: $5AUD/person ($4USD)
= $20AUD/person ($16USD)
Five Hiking Gear Essentials for Ellenborough Falls
For a more comprehensive hiking gear list, check out our 66 Travel Accessories That You Must Travel With. Otherwise, for a general summary of everything you’d need for a trip, visit our Ultimate Packing Checklist.
- Merrell Moab 2 Mid Goretex hiking boots – you’ll want hiking boots with decent traction, particularly if you’re scrambling the rocks at the base of the falls.
- Osprey Skarab 30L Day Backpack – Beck swears by this backpack for all of her day hiking adventures.
- Columbia Silver Ridge Convertible Trousers – if you’re visiting during or after rainfall, it’s best to wear hiking trousers to keep the leeches at bay.
- Patagonia Torentshell 3L Jacket – a fantastic waterproof jacket that’ll keep you dry when exploring waterfalls.
- DJI Mavic Air 2 – for the highest quality aerial footage, consider the DJI Mavic Air 2. This drone is easy to fly, reliable, and takes the most epic photos and videos.
The trails at Ellenborough Falls are very straightforward and easy to follow, so you won’t need any trail navigation.
- Drive slowly and safely: The final 14km of road to Ellenborough Falls is fairly bumpy and unpleasant, so make sure to take it easy to avoid any issues on the road.
- Check BOM forecast: You should always check the weather forecast and conditions before setting off to Ellenborough Falls. Heavy rain can cause flooding of the Ellenborough River, which may impact your visit. Plus, rainfall can make the steps down to the base of the falls quite slippery.
- Bathroom facilities: We’re assuming, that it’ll be a fair drive for you to get to Ellenborough Falls. Thankfully, there are basic bathroom facilities at the car park.
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