Carnarvon Gorge is one of Queensland’s hidden treasures; an Oasis nestled within the Yellow sandstone region of central Queensland. Carnarvon Gorge is part of the larger Carnarvon national park and lies between Roma and Emerald. The Gorge boasts cool rock pools, unique sandstone formations, and a long history of Aboriginal connection. The gorge and the greater national park attract visitors every year to enjoy it sights and to partake in one it is many walks and hikes that are available to bush walkers of all levels.
How to Get There
Carnarvon Gorge is some 720km from Brisbane, between Roma and Emerald. The drive will take approximately 9 hours to get there. While it takes a while to get there, it is definitely worth the trip as you get to experience the drive through regional Queensland.
When to Go
It is possible to visit the gorge year round. Summer temperatures can reach 40 Degrees Celsius, and the rock pools and water holes are very welcoming when it is this hot. Winter is more mild, and while it can get cold at night, the days are more pleasant for the outdoor activities. It should be noted that the park is much busier in the winter months than the summer months, due to the heat.
Carnarvon Gorge Camping
There are multiple options of where to stay when visiting Carnarvon Gorge, these include several camp grounds just outside the national park, Sandstone Park, Wallaroo Outback Retreat, Takarakka Bush Resort, Carnarvon Gorge Wilderness Lodge. It is also possible to camp in the gorge itself at the Carnarvon Gorge visitor area. The Gorge camping books out in school holidays and at peak times, so you need to book in advance (and it has a maximum of 5 day stay), but it does allow you to stay right where the walks start.
Aboriginal Culture/Rock Art
A walk of 10.8km return from the visitor area will allow you to visit the art gallery. The art gallery is a cultural site which has more than 2,000 Indigenous engravings, ochre stencils and freehand paintings on a 62 meter long sandstone wall. This example of aboriginal art is one of the best examples of stencil art in Australia and a must see for those visiting the gorge.
While the gorge and the national park offer lots of walks, there are a few that are nice and short for those families with small children, or those just wishing a short stroll
- The nature trail is a 1.5km loop from the visitor area along the creek bank.
- You can also visit the Rock Pool which is only a 600 metre stroll from the rock pool car park.
- Mickey Creek walk is 3km round trip from the Mickey Creek car park. This walk takes you into a narrow gorge, and becomes a bit of a rock hop clamber over rocks type stroll. Still the reward is a picturesque gorge full of ferns, orchids and brilliant green mosses.
There is quite the selection of longer walks to explore the gorge and park with. These include days walks and some that require overnight stays. Some of the popular walks are
- Main walking track is a 10km one way journey along Carnarvon creek leading to Big Bend. There are options along the way to extend this walk. The Moss gardens, Amphitheatre, Art Gallery and Wards Canyon are detours off the main walking track. If you are energetic, these four walks can all be done in a single walk to and from Big Bend.
- Boolimba Bluff walk is a 6.4km return trip that takes you to the top of the gorge and affords you great views out to the distant ranges. (beware this walk contains steps and small ladders to access the cliff top)
- Moss Garden is a 7km round trip walk to a pool full of moss rocks, rainforest and souring cliffs. The pool is fed by a small waterfall that cascades over a sandstone ledge.
- The Amphitheatre is a 8.6km return trip from the visitor centre. The Amphitheatre is accessed by climbing a small ladder and squeezing through a narrow crevice into the amphitheatre itself. Water has carved out a natural amphitheatre that is truly unique and well worth the short walk involved.
- Explore Wards Canyon with a 9.2km return trip. In the canyon you will find King Ferns, slender tree ferns and other lush gorge vegetation.
- To explore it all there is also the Carnarvon Great Walk. This 87km circuit out of the gorge and through the Great Dividing Range and back will probably take you 6-7 days to hike. You will experience the remote bushland, sandstone cliffs and wilderness of central Queensland.
Flora & Fauna
Carnarvon gorge is part of the Brigalow Belt bioregion and has a great range of plant types to enjoy. The Carnarvon Fan Palm is one of Australia’s tallest palms and is found lining the creek flats at Carnarvon. The more open areas contain eucalypt forest, with remnant rainforest sheltering beneath the towering cliffs. Also growing in the area that lends a distinct feel to the vegetation are the ancient cycads. These cycads are toxic, but were an important food source to local aboriginal people (note that they need to be detoxified before they can be eaten).
The gorge is also host to a wide range of wildlife. This is due to the permanent artesian water and high rainfall. Over 173 different bird species have been found in the gorge and at least 54 different mammals’ species have also been recorded. Quite a few of the mammals are nocturnal creatures and consequently nightlife tours are popular in the gorge to try and spy out what might out on any given night.
Carnarvon Gorge and the Carnarvon National Park are a great holiday all by themselves, or as a stopover on a larger trip. Many nomads (the grey type) and families bring their caravans out for the trip; many people will also tent camp while exploring the area. There are also many others that need more comfort and will stay in a lodge, but I would like to recommend a campervan hire from Brisbane for this trip as it is easy to drive than towing a caravan, more comfortable than sleeping in a tent.