Freshwater, a residential suburb, is 8 km north-west of central Cairns. It is immediately east of the Freshwater Creek, a stream flowing north from Redlynch and the Freshwater Creek National Park.

The suburb is on the Cairns to Kuranda railway line (1887), and residential development settled along the south side of the railway line on land rising back to the Whitfield Range.

Freshwater was a rural town in the Mulgrave Shire and, like its near neighbour Stratford, had cane farmers and a sawmill. In addition, the post office directory (1949) recorded two stores, a hotel, a butcher and a primary school (1896). Postwar urbanisation began to fill in the area around the railway station, and by the 1960s Stratford and Freshwater grew together. Twenty years later they had virtually joined as one urban area, separated from Cairns proper by the Mt Whitfield Scenic Range.

Freshwater has a mixture of Queenslander houses and modern units, looking out over the railway line to industry and canefields. The town centre has local shops, a church, a CWA hall, caravan parks and a hotel.

Freshwater's census populations have been:

Census DatePopulation
1911108
1933278
1947530
1961720
20061976
20112104