Almost half way between MacKenzie Falls and Zumsteins picnic area in the northern Grampians is Fish Falls.
Fish Falls is made up of a few different cascades and waterfalls stretching for about 60 metres. The MacKenzie river runs downstream from MacKenzie Falls with minimal sharp drops in elevation until it begins to break up at Fish Falls.
All year round you’ll find this waterfall in action and it’s usually pretty consistent as the flow of this part of the MacKenzie River is controlled by a nearby dam at Lake Wartook.
Getting to Fish Falls
You’ve got two main options. Either walk to Fish Falls from MacKenzie Falls or from the other way, Zumsteins Picnic Area. Otherwise, if you have two cars, you can hike from MacKenzie Falls to Zumsteins and pass Fish Falls on the way.
If you’re coming from Horsham or the Adelaide direction, turn right at the Northern Grampians Road, about 10-15 minutes after exciting Horsham. You’ll just need to enjoy the view of the mountain range and drive for about 25 minutes where you’ll then arrive at the Zumsteins picnic area.
Walking to Fish Falls from MacKenzie Falls
Once you’ve made it down the steep 250+ stairs from the Mackenzie Falls car park to the base of the waterfall, follow the well signed track pointing towards Fish Falls and Zumsteins Picnic Area. From here, it’s a beautiful walk through the dry forest along the side of the MacKenzie River until you reach Fish Falls in about 15 minutes, less than 1.5 kms.
Zumsteins Picnic Area to Fish Falls
The walk is a bit further but much easier on the legs if you start at and return to Zumsteins as you won’t need to make your way up the 250+ steep stairs from the base of MacKenzie Falls to the car park.
From the picnic area, follow the trail that heads south/upstream along the MacKenzie River. The trail is mostly flat and very easy conquer. It’s less than a 2.5 km walk from the picnic area and car park to Fish Falls which is the clear highlight of the trail, although keep in mind that MacKenzie Falls are the main highlight of the entire area. The walk from Fish Falls to MacKenzie Falls is a bit over 1km but stunning the entire way. There are a few small stair cases, but it’s still an easy trail, especially on the way back towards Zumsteins.
Hiking past Fish Falls
Swimming at Fish Falls
It’s advised that you don’t swim at Fish Falls as there are fast, powerful currents, submerged rocks and no lifeguards, so we can’t recommend that you swim here but can instead tell you how we did it.
Before and after Fish Falls, the river is narrow, deep and relatively powerful. The river is carved into the ancient sandstone and the edges are straight, vertical drops. This makes it stunning but a bit dangerous to enter and exit the water.
To the side at the base of Fish Falls is a calm pool. We entered the water by sitting down, as it’s super slippery, then shuffling and sliding slowly into the water. We felt totally safe here and made sure not to go close to the base of the waterfall, as that’s usually where the current can be tumbling under water and suck you in.
Just as we were entering the water, a Brown Snake came out from under the rocks on the edge of the pool and slithered into the shrubs. We’ve since heard that plenty of people have experienced similar encounters here.
Although it seems calm along parts of the river between Fish Falls and MacKenzie’s, it’s a dangerous place to swim. Swimming is not allowed along the entire section of the river. You’ll find that people that regularly come to the Grampians will head to the base of Fish Falls to cool off in the water, but swim no-where else along the river due to it’s tragic history and regular drownings.
No camping is allowed at Fish Falls
No camping is allowed at Fish Falls, MacKenzie Falls or Zumsteins picnic area, but there are more than a dozen campgrounds in Grampians National Park with the closest one being Smiths Mill, you can book a campsite and pay here.
In Halls Gap, there are several large private caravan and camping parks, then loads of other accommodation from nice motels and resorts to budget hostels.
In the case that you’re heading to Adelaide, there are some nice places to stay along the Northern Grampians Road between Zumsteins and Horsham, otherwise Horsham is a small city 45 minutes north with plenty of accommodation options.