Carnarvon Gorge has always been on our ‘bucket list’. Our first visit was back in 2017 and prior to Brenden’s knee replacement so he missed a lot of the walks. So we were excited to finally get the chance to visit for a second time and this time we got to share the experience with some close friends.
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.
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.
Once again we chose to stay at Sandstone Park. A few things have changed since our first visit, but what hasn’t changed is the absolutely spectacular views from pretty much every site.
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.
The main gorge walking track is 9.7 kilometres long (one way) and will take you close to a full day to complete.
There are lots of sets of stairs and some of the track has deep, soft sand on it which can be tough going at times. We have been told a few times to always walk to the furthest point you intend on going to and then visit all the off-shoots on your return trip.
As always, we kept our safety in mind and carried plenty of water. We also took lunch and some snacks with us. Although a lot of the track is shady, it’s still a good idea to wear a hat and apply some 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.
There is no mobile phone reception along the walking track, so if you do have a mishap, help is going to be at best an hour or more away. Carrying a basic first aid kit may also be a good idea.
We found that some of the creek crossings had more water in them on this occasion, so the rocks were often wet. Even though I had a good pair of walking shoes on, I slipped and ended up falling into the water. Fortunately I didn’t hurt myself but had to sit for awhile to dry out! Luckily it was a nice day. I will definitely use our hiking poles all the time now!
CARNARVON GORGE MAIN ATTRACTIONS
We set off with the goal of reaching the Art Gallery but Brenden and our friend ended up going as far as Cathedral Cave. The Cathedral Cave is 9.1 kilometres from the Carnarvon Gorge Visitor Centre. There are a number of creek crossings that need to be negotiated to reach the cave. The cave itself is actually a large wind-eroded overhang so not really a cave at all. But it is spectacularly adorned with rock art.
The Art Gallery is a significant Aboriginal site with over 2000 engravings in the sandstone rock and ochre stencils. A boardwalk runs along the length of the Art Gallery so as you can view the whole of the artwork. The Art Gallery is located 340 metres off the main track, with the last 300 metres being a gradual climb.
Wards Canyon is 4.6 kilometres from the Visitors Centre and 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.
The Amphitheatre is absolutely incredible and is easily my favourite spot. 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 sandstone walls this place is was well worth the walk and climb to get to. Take a rest on the benches inside the Amphitheatre and take in this amazing spot.
THE MOSS GARDEN
The Moss Garden is 650 metres off the main track. Getting there involves a lot of stairs and another creek crossing. But once you get there you will be rewarded with the stunning oasis that is the Moss Garden. 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.
If you are unable to tackle some of the longer walks, there are a couple of shorter walks that are much easier.
The Nature Trail walk is 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 is 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.
Brenden was also lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a platypus as well.
The Rock Pools are a little hidden gem. 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 you can walk back to the Visitors area from the Rock Pools along the banks of the creek. It is a lovely walk and one is less used than some of the others. 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 at all.
OTHER THINGS TO DO
AUSTRALIAN NATURE GUIDES NIGHT SAFARI
Australian Nature Guides are accredited Savannah Guides and the only dedicated guided tour company operating in Carnarvon Gorge. If you want to really experience the Gorge when you visit you can do a guided Lower Gorge Walk. Or for a really unique experience why not go on a Night Safari like we did. We have done the Night Safari twice now and absolutely loved it both times. Guides Michelle and Simon are full of knowledge and so passionate about what they do.
When you do a Night Safari tour you will be taken around the Visitors Area of Carnarvon Gorge on the hunt for a variety of nocturnal animals. Carnarvon Gorge is home to five different species of glider including the yellow-bellied glider, sugar glider, feather tailed glider and the metre-long greater glider. The yellow-bellied glider in particular is very unique. It is very social and makes a lot of noise whilst it is gliding. It likes to let everyone know where it is. On this tour we saw multiple yellow-bellied gliders both in the trees and gliding through the air. A really special experience.
The tour goes for about an hour and a half and is suitable for adults and older children. Night time temperatures can be chilly, so you will need a warm jacket. Bring a pair of binoculars if you have them and you will need a small torch (preferably not a headlamp) just to guide your way in some places. Cost is $35.00 per adult for this very worthwhile experience.
You might think that a visit to Carnarvon Gorge is all about walking. But we can tell you it’s not. There is a little bit of ‘foodie’ heaven going on here. Located at the front of the Carnarvon Gorge Wilderness Lodge you will find the Wilderness Cafe. It is open for breakfast and lunch from Tuesday to Sunday and it has it’s very own French Patisserie.
We had breakfast here twice and also afternoon tea. The food is excellent but the sweet treats from the Patisserie are next level.
The cafe has a large indoor dining area, complete with a wood heater for those cool mornings or once the sun comes out you can enjoy sitting on the large timber deck.
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 certain we will visit again one day.