For those who have made the quick assumption that all national parks in Australia are the same, you could not be any more wrong. In fact, the Carnarvon Gorge National Park bucks the trend.
An outback oasis that is launched in the middle of towering sandstone cliffs, over 2,000 indigenous artworks, and prehistoric cycads (to name a few), the Carnarvon Gorge is anything but typical. With over 70,000 visits a year, this 200 million year old landscape is home to over 173 species of bird, 60 varied mammals, 22 different frogs, and 90 kinds of reptiles.
This guide to exploring Carnarvon Gorge will help you plan your trip to oasis Outback Queensland the right way.
Why Carnarvon Gorge is so special
When you think of Central Queensland, images of red earth, dust, and dirt will typically fill your mind. To imagine an oasis in the middle of it, well, that’s a whole new level. Given that Carnarvon Gorge National Park is the oasis that exists, that’s worth a visit.
It’s spectacular geographical position is what draws tens of thousands of visitors to the park. Promising white sandstone cliffs that run along green creeks followed by deep (and mini) gorges, the scenic views are breathtaking.
Now, combine the picturesque exquisiteness with cultural history so deep that it makes the 2000 year old cycads appear young, and you have yourself a popular destination. Within its boundaries, stumble upon rock art, free hand paintings, and engravings left as a reminder of the Aboriginal people’s connection with the land.
Major attraction sites in Carnarvon Gorge National Park
Here is a list of the top major attractions in Carnarvon Gorge:
- Mickey Creek Gorge - a wander along the creek will lead you to narrow side gorges, turning walking into a rock-hopping adventure
- Boolimba Bluff - feast your eyes upon the towering Boolimba Bluff, reaching heights of 200 metres above Carnarvon Creek. Boolimba Bluff is the only lookout track from the gorge which passes through the diverse habitats of Carnarvon Gorge.
- Art Gallery - comprising over two thousand free hand paintings, ochre stencils, and engravings, admire the 62 metre long sandstone walls that display the magnificent history of Aboriginal culture.
- Moss Garden - a magical place where lush carpets of moss, fern, and liverworts thrive, the Moss Garden breathes life thanks to a constant drip of water falling from the sandstone walls around it.
- Nature Trail - walk along the banks of Carnarvon Creek and bring your camera in hopes for a winning snap of the local wildlife. A night walk with a torch can open your world to gliders, possums, and bush stone curlews. Take an early morning stroll to catch a glimpse of possums, platypus, and other creek wildlife among the sunrise.
- Amphitheatre - a 60 metre deep chamber, the Amphitheatre was gouged from the walls of the gorge by consistent running water. Hear the excellent acoustics reverb through the walls that surround you as you hear the echoes of your voice resonate.
- Boowinda Gorge - turn your walk into a rock-hop as the adventure climbs into this sculpted side gorge. The Boowinda Gorge rests 100 metres upstream of the Cathedral Cave.
Walking trails in Carnarvon Gorge National Park
If there’s one thing to do in a national park, it’s walking. So, lace up your bushwalking boots and prepare yourself for an adventure ahead. Home to the Great Walk, there are also half a dozen shorter trails to explore for those who are short in time.
The Big Day Out Trek
A 19.4 kilometre return trek that takes an estimated 8 hours to complete, the Big Day Out trail is one of the highlights not to be missed. Running along the Main Gorge track to the Big Bend, the big ticket attractions of this walk include lush green Moss Gardens, the Art Gallery and Amphitheatre.
You will have to start your journey early to avoid being caught after sunset.
For those who do not have the time to make the whole trek, you can easily turnaround at any point en route by walking in the same direction you came from. These are good landmarks to work from:
The Moss Garden is a 7 kilometre return, which exemplifies a beautiful botanical show of ferns, carpet moss, and elk horns. The Amphitheatre is an 8.6 kilometre return, which allows you to experience a magnificent sense of space (and acoustics) inside a cavern. The Art Gallery is a 10.8 kilometre return, which hosts over 2,000 Indigenous artworks.
A three hour return trip, the Boolimba Bluff offers spectacular views of the gorge from top down. Fitness levels must be high as the expectation is to combat nature’s version of the stair master, with the reward of panoramic landscapes that will be the envy of Instagram.
Explore beyond walking in Carnarvon Gorge National Park
If walking isn’t your strong suit, you will be pleased to hear the alternative options to explore the Caranarvon Gorge.
Go on a Heli Central Tour which lets you capture the highlights of the park in a sheer 10 minute tour (and in the comfort of a helicopter). Soar above the sandstone cliffs, look over the Twin Sisters, the Three Sisters and the Wool Pack, and absorb a geography (and historical) lesson from the pilot.
For those who love staring at the night sky, go on a guided astronomy Guide to the Galaxy tour run by the Takarakka Bush Resort. Or, take advantage of the night safari tour with Australian Nature Guides and look out for nocturnal flora and creatures of the night.
How to get to Carnarvon Gorge National Park
Carnarvon Gorge is nestled between Roma and Emerald. The quickest way is to fly from Brisbane to Emerald (or Roma), and then hire a car for the rest of your drive to Carnarvon Gorge.
For those who are in Emerald, make it a point to stop by the Maraboon Tavern for a taste of the best local food. With steaks that will have you salivating, fresh produce that will have your tummy smiling, and drinks that will have you refreshed and ready to take on Carnarvon Gorge National Park, there’s nothing better to feast upon than a hearty meal at Emerald’s favourite establishment.
Image credit: Wanderstories