Carnarvon Gorge has been on our ‘bucket list’ for a long while so we were excited to finally get the chance to visit for the first time. I say the first time, because we will most definitely be back again!
Carnarvon Gorge is located within the Carnarvon National Park in Central Queensland. The park was gazetted in 1932 and covers an immense area of 298,000 hectares. It is about a 740 kilometre drive north-west of Brisbane. We took a leisurely two days to drive there from the Gold Coast with stop-overs in Warra and Injune.
The main reason that people visit Carnarvon Gorge is to bush walk and enjoy the peace and quiet and the spectacular scenery that abounds here.
We chose to stay at the newly established Sandstone Park, which has spectacular views all of its own. You can pick your own site so we chose a west facing one so as we could enjoy the sunsets.
BEFORE YOU WALK
We suggest that before you walk any of Carnarvon’s numerous tracks, that you visit the Queensland National Parks office to find out a bit more info on the walks.
There are short, medium and long walks that you can take. All tracks in Carnarvon Gorge, bar one, are class 3, 4 or 5 tracks which means they require a reasonable level of fitness up to a high level of fitness.
We also highly recommend stopping at the Carnarvon Gorge Discovery Centre for a presentation by Michelle from Australian Nature Guides. Here we learnt so much about the amazing diversity of the gorge. This presentation also gave me a really good insight into what walks would be manageable for me. We also booked into their Night Safari Tour at the same time.
CARNARVON GORGE WALKING TRACKS
The main gorge walking track is 9.7 kilometres long and will take you close to a full day to complete. I chose to walk the first half of the track with Wards Canyon being the furthest point that I reached. I found the walk to be quite physically challenging as I’m certainly not as fit as I could be. There are lots of sets of stairs and some of the track has deep, soft sand on it which I found tough going at times. But the end result is so worth it.
Prior to setting off on my walk I was advised to walk to the furthest point you intend to go first. So I headed straight for Wards Canyon which is about 4.6 kilometres from the Visitors Centre.
Wards Canyon is 270 metres off the main track. There are a number of stairs to climb up to reach Wards Canyon. The track takes you around a waterfall and across the creek before entering the canyon itself. It was beautiful and cool inside and very quiet and peaceful with only the sound of running water able to be heard. This beautiful enclosed canyon has a permanent creek running through it. It is also home to the only in-land population of the world’s largest fern – the king fern.
As I started my return journey my next stop was the Amphitheatre. Located 630 metres off the main track this is another steep climb before you reach the entrance to the Amphitheatre. To access the Amphitheatre you will need to climb up steel ladders before walking through a narrow opening and entering the Amphitheatre.
With towering sand stone walls this was well worth the walk and climb to get to. Plus there were lovely benches to rest on and take in the view.
THE MOSS GARDEN
My next stop was the Moss Garden. The Moss Garden is 650 metres off the main track. Getting there involved a lot of stairs and another creek crossing. As I was getting tired, my legs were really starting to protest. But once again I was rewarded at the end with a stunning oasis. A small waterfall runs into a pool below it and on all sides moss, ferns and lichen grow on the cool, moist rocks. A boardwalk leads over the rocks and seats are provided in the middle so as you can sit and contemplate the peacefulness of the area.
I really enjoyed the challenge of this walk. Although I was walking on my own I wasn’t worried as there were lots of other walkers around. As always I kept my safety in mind and carried plenty of water, took some snacks with me and remembered a hat and sunscreen. I would also recommend that you wear a sturdy pair of lace up shoes as the tracks are rocky, sandy and undulating. Plus there are a number of occasions where you need to use stepping stones to cross the creek.
If for whatever reason you are unable to head off on some of the longer walks there are some awesome shorter walks that I recommend you take.
Just 500 metres from the main road along a formed track and boardwalk is the Baloon Cave. Here you will find a small Aboriginal stencil art site. Stencil art is created by blowing ochre and water out of the mouth onto the rock around the object being stencilled. Each one has a symbolic meaning and purpose.
You will also see a variety of vegetation including fan palms and cycads. Birds flit through the trees everywhere as well.
I loved the Nature Trail walk. A short 1.5 kilometre walk which starts and finishes in the Visitor area, the walk starts when you cross Carnarvon Creek for the first time. It then meanders along the banks of the creek before you cross back over. This would be the perfect walk if you have younger children with you as it was an easy walk and there was so much wildlife to see. I saw wallabies, kangaroos, turtles sunning themselves on a rock and loads of different birds.
Our final walk and perhaps our most favourite was to the Rock Pools. Just a short 300 metre walk from the main road this would be the perfect spot to cool off on a hot day. Carnarvon Creek opens up here and forms two large pools perfect for swimming in. There are also picnic tables nearby so you can stay and enjoy the stunning scenery a little bit longer.
If you are still feeling energetic after all the walking you have done then I recommend walking back to the Visitors area along the banks of the creek. It was a lovely walk and clearly one that is not well-known as I saw little evidence of other walkers. The diversity of the vegetation and the beautiful views of Carnarvon Creek made this 3.6 kilometre walk very worthwhile.
Plus I got to see this gorgeous Pretty Faced Wallaby….she didn’t seem to mind me taking her photo.
April to October are the best times to visit Carnarvon Gorge as after those times it is the wet season. Rain fall can be heavy and unpredictable and the area is prone to extreme flooding. Also many of the accommodation providers close over that period of time.
If you are planning a trip to Carnarvon Gorge there are a couple of other accommodation options include Carnarvon Gorge Wilderness Lodge, Takkarakka Bush Resort or camping is available within the National Park at Easter and during the June/July and September/October Queensland School holidays.
We loved Carnarvon Gorge so much that we are planning a return visit in the very near future.