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Ellenborough Falls Walk NSW: The Ultimate Guide

Ellenborough Falls Walk NSW: The Ultimate Guide

Ellenborough Falls (Ellenborough Waterfall) 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. By visiting the Main Viewing Platform and the Head of Falls Lookout you’ll enjoy magnificent views of the waterfall and Manning Valley. Although, we recommend doing the Lower Falls Walk to the base of the waterfall and the Knoll for the best experience. Anyway, besides talking about the walk, we’ll also discuss whether camping at Ellenborough Falls is an option.

So if you’re keen to chase the best waterfalls in NSW, head to Elands (inland from Taree) in the Barrington Coast area, 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. Regardless of when you visit, get ready for waterfall wanderlust during the Ellenborough Falls Walk in NSW.

For other amazing waterfalls in NSW other than Ellenborough Falls, check out our Top 10 Waterfalls in and around Sydney, 5 Best Macquarie Pass Waterfalls and our popular Gerringong Falls guide.

Ellenborough Falls, Elands, Manning Valley, NSW

The best way to experience Ellenborough Falls is by doing the walk to the base of the falls and to the Knoll – a phenomenal lookout that faces directly opposite this colossal NSW 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 in the Manning Valley area. All of these lookouts and walks are worth exploring, to experience the very best that this waterfall 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 walks. We’ll also cover information about how to get there, camping options at Ellenborough Falls and answer a bunch of FAQs.

An approximate 200 metres single-drop waterfall thunders down onto a collection of large boulders. The waterfall is framed by green bushes, leaves and ferns in the forefront. The sky is mostly clear.
Ellenborough Falls as seen from the Knoll

Ellenborough Falls Walk Map Overview of Highlights

FYI – this Ellenborough Falls NSW map shows the three main walks that we’ll detail in this article.

Main Viewing Platform

By far the quickest way to see the waterfall 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, Manning Valley and your first look at this sensational waterfall.

A tall but slender waterfall is seen from the side and slightly above it. The waterfall plunges into the gorge below.

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, which forms part of Manning Valley. 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 walks 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.

From the head of falls lookout, you can see the river stream that flows over the plateau's edge. Dense bushland covers the cliff walls and surrounding gorge.
The Head of Falls lookout

Although you can’t see much of the waterfall, there is serene bushland scattered throughout Manning Valley to enjoy. Once you’ve finished at the two viewing platforms close to the car park, it’s time to walk to the base of Ellenborough Falls! So head back to the car park to begin the quick, but epic journey to the bottom of the falls.

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 walk 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 in distance.

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, en 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!

FYI – 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.

At the base of Ellenborough Falls, there are many large boulders covering the gorge floor. A lower portion of the waterfall is in view, but the boulders block views of the pool at the base of the falls.

Being at the base of the waterfall 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!

The Knoll

In comparison to the Lower Falls Walk, the 450-metre walk 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 NSWs’ Ellenborough Falls. The Knoll Lookout is possibly the best lookout for gauging an overall perspective of the waterfall within Manning Valley. The lookout is slightly overgrown, but hopefully, you’ll still get to enjoy an unimpeded view of the waterfall.

The Knoll lookout provides one of the best viewpoints for Ellenborough Falls. Although, the lookout is slightly overgrown, you should still have exceptional views, facing directly opposite 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 the waterfall 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 (guide coming soon), we made sure to speed hike the trail leading to and from the Knoll.

WHAT’S 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 Walk 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 walks to help you appreciate Ellenborough Falls. Essentially, all you need is half a day and some energy, to enjoy a cracking visit to this waterfall. Below, we’ll talk about how to get there and Ellenborough Falls camping options.

Our drone was able to capture some epic aerial footage of above Ellenborough Falls in the Manning Valley area. The waterfall looks even more powerful from this perspective.

How to Get to Ellenborough Falls (Directions)

Ellenborough Falls is located in Elands in the Manning Valley region, which is about 80km inland from Taree. To get to Ellenborough Falls in NSW, you’re looking at a 1.5 hour drive from Taree. From Sydney, expect a 4.5–5 hour drive. 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, NSW. The main viewing platform is merely a minute’s walk from the car park.

How to Get From Port Macquarie to Ellenborough Falls

Getting from Port Macquarie to Ellenborough Falls takes around 1.5 hours. You’ll have around 85km of driving to cover to reach the waterfall.

FYI – there are no public transport options to get to the waterfall.

Ellenborough Falls Accommodation

Considering Ellenborough Falls is often seen on a half-day trip, we can’t recommend any particular accommodation options near the waterfall (other than camping). If you’re looking to stay near Ellenborough Falls in NSW and aren’t up for camping, use Booking.com 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! Otherwise, read on to find out more about camping at Ellenborough Falls.

Ellenborough Falls Camping

Officially speaking, there isn’t a campground or camping site at Ellenborough Falls. But, we saw a couple in a campervan who were camping at the end of the Ellenborough Falls Car Park. So, in reality, camping at Ellenborough Falls is possible. After all, there are picnic tables, BBQs and toilet facilities available (more on facilities below). But, without Ellenborough Falls being an official camping spot, many people don’t choose to camp there.

An alternative camping option is the free Ellenborough Reserve Camp Site; but, it’s a good 75 minutes away from the falls.

Ellenborough Falls Kiosk (Ellenborough Falls Facilities)

If you visit from Friday–Sunday, make sure to check out the Ellenborough Falls Kiosk. It’s located right next to the car park. Unfortunately, we visited during the week so we missed out on what’s apparently a very decent pie at the Ellenborough Falls Kiosk!

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 Ellenborough Falls Walk experience.

Bathroom facilities: we’re assuming, that it’ll be a fair drive for you to get to the waterfall. Thankfully, there are basic toilets located next to the car park.

Ellenborough Falls Deaths (Safety)

Unfortunately, there have been numerous Ellenborough Falls deaths reported. The Head of Falls Lookout is purposely enclosed by wooden fencing. Please respect the wishes of the local MidCoast Council and do not jump the fence. Sadly, there have been Ellenborough deaths reported, from people falling off the edge of the plateau at Manning Valley. You’ll even see in our Youtube video, from our drone footage, that some irresponsible people jumped the fence. Don’t be that person!

FYI – severe flooding of the Ellenborough River can cause 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.

FAQs

Below, we’ll answer the most frequently asked questions about Ellenborough Falls and the walk to the base of the waterfall.

The base of Ellenborough Falls, Manning Valley.

Where Is Ellenborough Falls?

Many people think Ellenborough Falls is located in Taree. But, the waterfall is actually located in Elands, which is inland from Taree. This is the official address: Ellenborough Falls Road, Elands, New South Wales, 2429, Australia.

Is Ellenborough Falls In a National Park?

No. It’s located near but not in Tapin Tops National Park.

Is the Road to Ellenborough Falls Sealed?


No. The Ellenborough Falls dirt road leading to the car park is unsealed and bumpy. This unsealed road is 14km in distance.

Is Ellenborough Falls 4WD Accessible Only?

Although a 4WD would be ideal, a 2WD will suffice, but you might just need to take it a bit easier. Certainly, 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.

Is Ellenborough Falls Open All Year Round?

Yes. But, be aware that Ellenborough Falls has closed before due to severe flooding in the Manning Valley region in NSW as the waterfall was unsafe to visit.

How High Is Ellenborough Falls?

The Ellenborough Falls height is approx. 200 metres.

Is Ellenborough Falls the Highest Waterfall in Australia?

No, it’s the second highest single drop waterfall in Australia, behind Wallaman Falls in Queensland.

Where Are the Lookouts For Ellenborough Falls?

Please refer to the illustrated map below.

Illustrated map of the Ellenborough Falls Walk, Manning Valley

How Long Is the Walk to Ellenborough Falls?

The walk to the Main Viewing Platform (160 metre return) and Heads of Falls Lookout (600 metre return walk) are extremely short walks. The walk to the base of Ellenborough Falls is around 2km return and the walk to the Knoll is around a 900 metre return walk.

How Long Does it Take to Get to the Base of the Falls?

It takes around 90 minutes to get to and from the base of the falls.

How Many Steps to Ellenborough Falls?

641 steps

What Level of Fitness Do I Need to Walk to the Bottom of the Waterfall?

Certainly, accessing the base of Ellenborough Falls is not an easy walk. You’ll have fairly steep steps to conquer. So, you’ll want to have a reasonable level of fitness. But, if you have no time constraints, most people should manage.

Can You Swim at Ellenborough Falls?

It’s possible to swim at the base of the falls. But, extreme caution and care must be taken as the rocks surrounding the bottom of the falls are very slippery.

How Cold Is the Water to Swim at the Base of the Falls?

The water is quite cold all year round.

Is Ellenborough Falls Dog Friendly?

Dogs are allowed on a leash.

Can You Camp at Ellenborough Falls?

Please read the Ellenborough Falls Camping section.

Is There a Secret Lagoon?

There is a well-hidden lagoon near the top of the waterfall and close to the car park. Swimming here is possibly an easier and safer swimming option compared with the bottom of the falls.

What Should I Wear During the Ellenborough Falls Walk?

Please read the Five Hiking Gear Essentials section.

Travelling From Overseas

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. You can usually find cheap flights with Jetstar or Tiger Airways.

Five Hiking Gear Essentials For the Ellenborough Falls Walk

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.

Bonus Tips

  • Check BOM forecast: you should always check the weather forecast and conditions before setting off to explore this waterfall. 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.
  • Trail Navigation: The trails at Ellenborough Falls are very straightforward and easy to follow. So, if you’re a reasonably experienced hiker, you won’t need any trail navigation help or maps.
  • Things to do near Ellenborough Falls: another nearby waterfall to scope out is Rawson Falls. Also, another epic waterfall to explore on the North Coast of NSW is Wollomombi Falls in the Oxley Wild Rivers National Park (guide coming soon). Otherwise, if you want to continue to explore beautiful natural attractions after doing the Ellenborough Falls Walk, we recommend heading to either Crowdy Bay National Park or Myall Lakes National Park (read our national park reviews for more information – coming soon).

Bookmark this page so that you have an easily accessible guide to help you plan your trip to this epic waterfall in the Manning Valley area.

Daniel Piggott

Physiotherapist turned travel blogger, Dan is a keen hiker, natural wonder seeker and world traveller. He loves writing travel guides to help his readers explore the most beautiful destinations in the world.

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