Isabella Falls is located 42km North West of Cooktown. The road in is bitumen all the way so you should have no problem if you are planning to visit for the day. However, you will need a 4×4 to get into the Isabella Falls camping area.
If you plan to visit for the day and not stay over night then you can pull up on the layby’s just outside of the camping area. This is also a great place to pull into and check out the camp area before driving in. The layby’s are on both sides and is wide enough for a car towing to do a U-turn.
If you’re camping there, I can honestly say you’ll have an amazing time but remember you’ll need a 4×4. We took our 19.6ft off road caravan and personally I think we did really well…
Our experience of parking up at Isabella Falls
I drove in to begin with… That’s right, ‘to begin with’. Richard guided me in from the front as we have done before. We decided to take an immediate right as we turned into the Isabella Falls camping area which was a bit steeper, but we thought it was wider so made sense. Plus, we had planned to park at the top of that steep climb.
We did really well getting up there, we had to use 4×4 low ratio but made it up there with no real problems. When it came to getting in the right spot, Richard got annoyed at me not following his directions, so we swapped over! This was just the beginning.
We hadn’t had any lunch and it was around 2pm at this point. So, we may have been starting to get a little hangry! After 3 or 4 attempts of getting the van level, our levellers were just not high enough so we had a think and decided we would then drive down to another part of the camping area, what looked like a more level patch. Richard made it very clear to me that to clear the tree to my left I’d need to hug the right-hand side the best I could. That is exactly what I did!
But the car couldn’t clear the other tree in front! So, we were essentially stuck. At this point Ava is starting to get extremely bored! Richard is stressing because ‘I got us stuck’!. So, we now have a Ute that can’t go forward because of the tree and can’t reverse because the drawbar is now at a 90 degree angle with the car! What it’s like to be towing learners!
Bad start to our time at Isabella Falls
Having got ourselves into quite a mess in the corner of the campsite I jumped into action. I went around the front and right of the car and re-arranged some of the branches which were rather close to the car from ‘hugging the side’. Then in very small movements edged my way out away from the tree and then finally used the space I had just made to straighten up the drawbar. Managed to reverse the van almost back to the top of the hill, got out and said ‘right, you do it’.
To be fair, he did. But of course, in true Richard style, went in a completely different way!
Anyway, we finally got sorted, lifted one side of the van with the levellers and realised we still couldn’t get level. Then in dawned on us. It’s sand, dig! Just an FYI, we could have dug in the other spot too! Just, of course, neither of us had thought of it! But I am pleased to say, things could only get better!
Isabella Falls Camping Area
The camping area itself is fantastically located. One of the downsides for us is the dirt. The ground outside wasn’t sand, nor was it grass or mud. It was just dust. It was filthy. You couldn’t go to bed without washing your feet, Ava couldn’t go inside the van without being rinsed down either in the falls or being carried straight into the shower. This and the bugs are what drove us away after 4 days. We put up our mozzie tent, so we had somewhere cleaner to spend some time during the day. Ava made some bracelets, necklaces and rings out of beads and flowers out of pipe cleaners, beads and tissue paper. It kept her out of trouble for at least 5 minutes!
The bugs! This was interesting. We commented on how good Isabella Falls were for bugs when we were there for a day or 2. However, the third night was a bit of a nightmare, there seemed to be cockroaches flying around all over the place. One managed to fly into the van and we luckily saw it fly in and caught it. Anyone that knows me will know that cockroaches are far worse for me than any snake or spider!
How busy is Isabella Falls Camping Area?
During the day you will find buses are coming in and out all the time. From school trips to organised tours. Nice to see lots of different people there and gives the place a fun atmosphere. But sometimes it can get a little overcrowded. We usually waited until late afternoon before going into the water as it seemed to quieten down around 3.30pm.
At the time when we were there (June) camping area at Isabella Falls was super quiet for campers. 2 of the 4 nights, we were on our own. The other 2 nights there were a couple of other campers. All very friendly. One couple made banana bread on their camp stove and gave some to Ava and gave us some bananas which was lovely of them. They were thoroughly enjoyed by Richard!
Friendly atmosphere at Isabella Falls
We met a family like us who love travelling and had a little girl called Daisy who Ava absolutely loved. They Played together in the water all afternoon, Ava gave Daisy a flower and a bracelet that she had made just the day before. The next day they also played together in the morning before Daisy and her family where heading north towards Cape York. This is the first time Ava has ever cried when saying goodbye. She cuddled up to me as we waved to them whilst they drove out and cried ‘Daisy, come back’. Ava Still talks about Daisy now so she obviously left a good impression.
That same afternoon another family came by just for an hour and Ava played with their eldest son Cooper. It was when they left Ava said, ‘I’ll never see him again’. This was also a bit sad and has made me even more keen to find other traveling families with kids a similar age to do a little bit of traveling together. It’s so important for children to socialise which they do all the time traveling, however, it’s also not the same for them to not have actual friends.
Signal at Isabella Falls and the camping area
It’s simple. There is no signal around the falls or the camp area. If you want / need signal, then you’ll need to drive a kilometre up the road. We had to do this once, otherwise we enjoyed being off grid for a few days. There’s something about not being contactable and just not being able to worry about anything else. Including where you’re off to next!
Facilities and features at Isabella Falls Camping Area
Isabella Falls camping area has no facilities or amenities. You must be fully self-sufficient and take everything with you, including your rubbish.
Fires are permitted. At around 4pm every day, before it got dark, we went and collected firewood for our evening fire. Ava helped us collect the wood, she helped Richard with building the fire and throwing wood on. Then after her dinner she toasted marshmallows on the fire before we settled her for the night.
The site is rather shaded, which is something to bear in mind for your solar. We did get some light during the day, but we probably also had the sunniest spot. Another campervan left their van out on the laybys to get more sun before they brought the van in to the camp area in the early evening.
Fun in Isabella Falls and swim hole
From the Isabella Falls camping area, you can take 3 different ways to the falls and swim hole. There are 2 ‘bush’ routes to take, one leading to the swim hole and the other to the top of the falls. The road crossing. The other way is to walk back out the way you’d have driven in and head down to the water crossing (top of the falls).
Isabella Falls is a very beautiful waterfall. It offers sand to sit and chill and a swim hole to swim. I am pleased to say there are no crocs in the water. Well, we didn’t see any on the 4 days we were there and there are no signs to say there have been any sightings. The water is cool but refreshing. I even got in 1 day and washed both mine and Ava’s hair!
The water is mostly shallow, but we did make Ava wear her armbands as we weren’t always in the water with her and there are a couple of deeper spots which would be too deep for her and she’s 1.2 metres. The Rocks both in the swim hole and at the top of the falls are very slippery so do bear that in mind before climbing them, especially for little ones.
Although we didn’t do it, there were older kids swimming and playing on the other side of the water crossing. There was also a rope type swing they were playing on too. It is darker over there and likely deeper. Be careful that there are others nearby, you don’t want to have an accident, and no one is able to see you.
Here is the google maps link which will take you straight to Isabella Falls. As I mentioned at the beginning the road is now bitumen all the way with the exception of the camping area (this has not been updated in google street view yet!). As soon as you pass the water crossing the camping area is immediately to your left and the laybys are up ahead in front. Thank you so much for reading my blog on Isabella Falls and camping area.
Overall, we had a lovely time and really enjoyed Isabella Falls being on our doorstep. Ava spent time in the water everyday we were there.