Carnarvon Gorge is the jewel in Queensland’s crown and its walking tracks are the best way to explore and discover this ancient wonderland.
Plan on spending an absolute minimum of three nights within the park. More if you can afford the time. I can assure you that you will not leave disappointed.
HOW TO GET TO CARNARVON GORGE
No matter how you end up at Carnarvon Gorge, there’s going to be a bit of driving involved. Remember on rural roads to slow down, drive to the conditions and plan not to drive at dusk and dawn.
BRISBANE TO CARNARVON GORGE
As you might’ve guessed, we love a good road trip. On our first visit to Carnarvon Gorge, while we may have started in Brisbane, we didn’t take the direct route. In fact, we went via Birdsville!
On my last visit, I had already been on the road for over two weeks, and Carnarvon National Park and Nuga Nuga National Park (which is not far from Carnarvon) were the last two places for me to visit.
If you are heading directly to Carnarvon Gorge from Brisbane, allow approximately 8 hours to cover the 720 kilometres. Yeah, you could do it in a day, but why rush?
Soak up the country hospitality in Roma with an overnight stay. Look at timing your trip to coincide with the weekly auction at the Roma Saleyards. These are not to be missed.
Head north from Roma through Injune. This will be your last opportunity to fill up the fuel tanks and get any last-minute items.
Then simply follow the signs to Carnarvon Gorge.
ROCKHAMPTON TO CARNARVON GORGE
Coming from Rockhampton, you’ve got a couple of choices.
The first is to head due west to Emerald, then point your chariot south towards Springsure. From Springsure continue south-east to Rolleston before heading south once again and following the well-signed final stretch to Carnarvon Gorge.
Alternatively, from Rockhampton head south to Biloela, then west to Rolleston via Banana, Moura and Bauhinia before turning south for Carnarvon Gorge.
In both instances, Rolleston is your last town for fuel and basic supplies before entering the national park.
CARNARVON GORGE WALKING TRACKS
Without a doubt, it is the walking tracks that draw over 80 000 visitors to Carnarvon Gorge each year. And the great thing is, most of the tracks are accessible to people with a reasonable level of fitness.
While some of the tracks will take a little more huff and puff to get to the end, the majority of the tracks are relatively flat along well-maintained paths.
MICKEY CREEK GORGE
On my last visit, I was on a tight time schedule so I had to cram in as much as I could, as quick as I could.
After arriving around lunchtime, I tackled the Mickey Creek Gorge and Baloon Cave walks on my first afternoon. Unfortunately, Baloon Cave is no longer accessible due to a fire in late 2018.
Whilst on the Mickey Creek Gorge track, for that full Indiana Jones experience, you really can’t beat taking the right-hand track to Warrumbah Creek Gorge. You’ll find yourself at the bottom of sheer sandstone walls, that continue to get closer and closer the deeper you go.
Scrambling over moss-covered rocks and climbing makeshift log ladders just adds to the sense of adventure. Soon, you’ll be at a point where you can touch both sides of the gorge with outstretched arms.
MAIN GORGE WALKING TRACKS
My second day of walking had me tackling the walking tracks of the main gorge.
Leaving camp early, I was heading off in the cool of the morning towards The Art Gallery. As far as aboriginal rock art goes, this is one of the most impressive sites you will ever see. Even though I had been here before, it was still an amazing sight to behold. A boardwalk, fencing and interpretive signage now keep idle hands away from the delicate sandstone and artworks.
Pro-tip for those playing along at home. Get up early and hit the trails. If you go early enough, there’s a good chance that you may be the only one at the Art Gallery. Being able to sit there with only the sounds of the bush around me made it all the more memorable.
On leaving the Art Gallery, I started back towards the Visitor Area. Being later in the day, I encountered fellow walkers as they made their way deeper into the gorge.
The first of the side gorges on the return to the visitor area is Ward’s Canyon. Entering Ward’s Canyon is like stepping back in time, and is home to the world’s largest fern, the king fern and is the only place in Central Queensland where these plants survive.
Continuing back, next up is the Amphitheatre. Prepare to be blown away after you climb the metal stairs and pass through the small opening before emerging into a 60m deep chamber, cut into the sandstone by running water over millennia.
If you’ve got a voice better than me, where volume does not make up for a lack of talent, the acoustics of the Amphitheatre is said to rival that fancy white-sailed building in Sydney!
If the Amphitheatre blew you away with its size, the Moss Garden takes your breath away with its serenity. You may have heard of 50 Shades of Grey, but the Moss Garden has 1000 shades of green as water constantly drips from the sandstone above. Timber bench seating is provided, enabling you to sit back and relax, while you take in this lush environment of mosses and ferns.
From the Moss Garden, it’s a 3.5km sprint back to the visitor area, before returning to your accommodation for a well-deserved rest. And maybe an icy-cold beverage.
Also located along the Main Gorge Walking Tracks is Cathedral Cave, Boowinda Gorge and Big Bend. Unfortunately, I haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing these walks on my visits. Hopefully, I can tick them off when I return.
My third day on the trails had me rolling out of the swag well before dawn. Today I was tackling the stairs to the top of Boolimba Bluff.
Starting from the visitor information centre, the start of the track follows the main gorge track before a right-hand turn.
If you want to catch a sunrise from the top of the bluff, I recommend a good torch, or better still a head torch, as you will be climbing in the dark. And climb you do.
Boolimba Bluff rises some 200m above Carnarvon Creek and offers the only lookout from the gorge itself. The view is best experienced in the early morning, and even better for sunrise.
The lung-busting efforts of walking the steep stairs are soon forgotten as the approaching sun starts to illuminate the surrounding sandstone ridges with golden hues.
Another bonus of walking in the dark is that you get to experience the walk out in daylight for the first time. It’s a win-win really!
On arrival back at the visitor information area, I still had another two walks to complete before calling it a day, packing up my camp and heading to my next destination.
First was the 1.5km Nature Trail that leaves from the visitor area and follows Carnarvon Creek. Be quiet, and walk gently and you may be rewarded with catching a glimpse of an elusive platypus.
My final walk also happened to be the shortest of them all. The Rock Pool, also on Carnarvon Creek is the only place in Carnarvon Gorge where swimming is permitted.
GUIDED WALKING TOURS
If walking the gorge by yourself is not your thing, or perhaps you would like more information about the gorge, then I would suggest you look into booking one of the guided walking tours that are offered.
Tours can be organised through Australian Nature Guides and Takarakka Bush Resort.
CARNARVON GORGE ACCOMMODATION
For anyone visiting the region, you are blessed with a large variety of different accommodation options. All the way from basic, unpowered camping sites, to private studios with their own ensuite.
It will all come down to how you travel and your budget.
TAKARAKKA BUSH RESORT
On both of our visits to the Gorge, we have stayed at Takarakka Bush Resort, or as we choose to call it, ‘Boom-shakalakka.’
Located only a short drive from the start of the walking trails, Takarakka is a great place to base yourself for your stay.
The camp kitchens and eating areas are of a very high standard, as are the bathrooms and amenities blocks.
For those after a glamping experience after a day on the walking trails, Taka Safari Tents might be an option, with or without an ensuite.
If the idea of sleeping with only a thin layer of canvas protecting you from the outside world doesn’t appeal to you, then you can always opt for something a little more substantial. Takarakka offers cabins, cottages and studio accommodation for a little luxury in the bush.
CARNARVON GORGE CAMPING
Camping within the Carnarvon Gorge section of Carnarvon National Park is only available during the Queensland school holiday periods at Easter, June-July and September-October at the Carnarvon Gorge Visitor Area.
This camping area is better suited for tent based camping, however, there are several larger sites suitable for camper trailers or the like.
Facilities provided include drinking water (treat prior to use), toilets, gas BBQs and wheelchair-accessible picnic tables. Rubbish bins are not provided, so take out what you bring in.
For those that don’t mind carrying everything with them for a night under the stars, the camping area at Big Bend is open all year round. You must bring in everything you need and take out all of your rubbish.
New on the block for places to stay at Carnarvon Gorge is Sandstone Point.
Suitable for all types of camping, from motorhomes to swags, Sandstone Park offers drive-through flat sites all with 360˚ views of the sandstone escarpments of the gorge and surrounding countryside.
Sandstone Park offers the only Carnarvon Gorge pet-friendly accommodation and has pet kennels available for daily hire. For a couple who regularly travel with our dog, this would allow us still to visit the gorge and not have to worry about our furry friend.
There are no powered sites or showers provided, but there are toilets, potable water and dump points available.
CARNARVON GORGE WILDERNESS LODGE
Fancy an a la carte dining experience after your day of hiking Carnarvon Gorge? Then check out the fully licensed restaurant at Carnarvon Wilderness Lodge.
The Wilderness Lodge also offers safari-style cabins and is the closest accommodation to the Carnarvon Gorge Visitor Centre and the start of the walks.
CARNARVON GORGE ROCK ART
Apart from the natural beauty of the region, the other drawcard is the rock art that adorns the sandstone walls at various locations within Carnarvon Gorge.
Aptly named, The Art Gallery is home to over 2000 examples of stencil art, freehand paintings and rock carvings found on a 62m long overhanging wall. The Art Gallery contains one of the best examples of Aboriginal stencil art in the country.
Other significant rock art sites include Cathedral Cave and Baloon Cave (however Baloon Cave is no longer accessible due to a fire in late 2018).
The rock art of Carnarvon Gorge tells the stories of the local Bidjara and Karingbal people, and evidence shows the sites were in use for over 3500 years.
OTHER THINGS TO DO AT CARNARVON GORGE
I absolutely love being up in a chopper, even though I suffer from motion sickness! That’s why I always travel with a packet of Kwells in my camera bag.
So it comes as a bit of a surprise, even to myself, that I have never done a helicopter flight over Carnarvon Gorge and the local grazing country.
However, I have promised myself a flight the next time we visit.
Flights can be booked here.
Due to its location far away from the bright lights of the city, the skies above Carnarvon Gorge offer up beautiful views of the Milky Way.
Visitors to the region can join a tour run by Australian Nature Guides, or if you’re staying at Takarakka, put your name down for their ‘Guide to the Galaxy’ tour.
Unfortunately, I missed out on the Guide to the Galaxy tour on my last visit due to unseasonal cloudy conditions.
VISITOR INFORMATION SESSIONS AT TAKARAKKA
If you’re calling Takarakka home for your stay at Carnarvon Gorge, make sure you get along to their Visitor Information Sessions held every evening at 5pm.
These sessions will provide you with the latest information and give you insights into the best walks and places to visit during your stay. Do this on your first night so you can make the most out of your visit.
BEST TIME TO VISIT CARNARVON GORGE
Summer temperatures regularly approach and exceed 40˚C. Visiting Carnarvon Gorge during the cooler months of April through to September is highly advisable.
Summer rains and storms can bring flooding to the region, restricting your access to walks and attractions of the gorge. Doing a 20km walk in 40˚C heat doesn’t sound all that appealing to me either!
The winter months of June through to August are the prime months to visit. The Carnarvon Gorge weather at this time of year is typified by cold nights, cool days and brilliant blue skies. Just perfect for hiking.
In September, the nights are still cool, but the days are starting to warm up. However, the added bonus is seeing the plants of Carnarvon Gorge start to flower with the onset of Spring.
As you could expect, visitation numbers are also at their peak during the cooler months.
Peak season runs from the 1st of April through to the 31st of October.
WHAT TO BRING
Here are a couple of essential items that you will need for exploring Carnarvon Gorge.
To keep up to date with all the latest on the park itself, head to the Carnarvon National Park website.
About the Author:
Hi, I’m Matt. I camp, four-wheel drive, explore the outdoors and get paid to take photos.
I’m happiest when I’m doing all four at once.
Occasionally, I’ll even tap out a couple of words on my keyboard.
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