The Carnarvon National Park is located in the Queensland Central Highlands approximately 720km drive northwest of Brisbane. The Carnarvon Gorge 30km long, formed by water erosion, with magnificent colourful sandstone cliffs and breathtaking natural sites with Aboriginal cultural significance, is the main feature of the national park.
Daryl and I had not heard of the Carnarvon National Park or its gorge until we did an internet search “what to do near me” as as we traveled along the Warrego Highway. So impressed by the images we saw on the internet we decided to alter our travel plans. We are very glad we did, the Carnarvon Gorge has the true wow factor.
Where We Stayed
Cost: $23 per night per site
Can’t say strongly enough how happy we were to find out there was the pet friendly campground Sandstone Park right at the entrance of the national park. Here are somethings to know about Sandstone Park:
- All rig types (tents to buses) are welcome provided you’re self sufficient when it comes to power and water
- Booking is highly advisable and can be done online here: Sandstone Park
- Sites are not designated so for more choice arrive for check in at 2pm but all sites are great so don’t worry if you arrive later
- Sites are extremely generous with enough room for three rigs each
- The 360 views of the surrounding cliffs and escarpment are mesmerising
- For those like us traveling with your dog/s there is the option of using the onsite pet minding service where your pet is looked after in an onsite kennel or leaving them tethered at your site.
- Portaloos are provided and are the cleaninest we have ever used
- There is a dump point
- Rubbish bins are provided
- There are no powered sites
- There is no drinking water
- Grey water can go straight to the ground
- Welcome Country and Cultural Yarn with Milton Lawton a traditional custodian, held most days at 3.45pm is something not to be missed. Milton speaks with great pride and passion about his culture, his family history and generously shares his knowledge of the gorge and it’s significance to his people.
Our Visit to Carnarvon National Park
Over our three days visiting the park we walked 10 of the 16 trails.
Arriving mid afternoon we made the decision to walk two of the shorter tracks at the entry of the park – Rock Pool and Baloon.
An easy 600m return walk took us, as the name suggests is to a rock pool and a large rock. This is the only designated swimming area in the national park. There are also picnic tables overlooking the creek. To our surprise we saw a cow. We later learned that they often venture into the park from surrounding farms.
Also an easy walk, 500m return alongside a dry creek bed to what is a traditional Aboriginal meeting place. There was rock art to be seen.
After our walks which took us well under 2 hours we went back to camp where we chatted to others, had dinner and turned in early for a big day the next day.
The Main Trail is 9km long (18km return) starts at the Visitors Centre (not to be confused with the Discovery Centre) and as its name suggests it is the main track through the gorge and from it many other trails branch off. We started our walk at 8am from the Visitors Centre after picking up a map.
The strong advice provided is to decide which sites off the main trail you wish to visit and go directly to the one the greatest distance from the Visitors Centre and visit each of the other sites on your return journey. This way as the day progresses and as you tire you are getting closer to the start of the trail.
Following this advice we walked the 5km directly to the starts of the Art Gallery trail reaching it a little after 9am. From there we meandered back and taking in the sites of the Art Gallery, Wards Canyon, Ampithetre, Moss Garden and the Natural Trail on our return. All tolled we walked approximately 15 km and did it comfortably in 5 hours.
Up until the Art Gallery this is a grade 3 track (beyond it is a grade 4 track) with mostly flat well formed paths, some even steps and easy creek crossings using well placed stepping stones.
There are signs along the Main Track at the start of the tracks to the various sites. These provide information about the track, the distance to the site and distance back to the visitor centre. Take note and use the information to judge your abilities and fitness levels. That said, with varying effort and time I would say all tracks could be managed by most people, still it is for you to decide for yourself.
Art Gallery lived up to it’s name with Aboriginal rock art well worth the hike. Daryl and I spent about 20 mins admiring the art and the site.
This walk was a steep ascent up some steps to a small waterfall, more steps up to a viewing platform and then along a boardwalk to a rainforest oasis hidden from the outside world. This was our favourite site of the day. The beauty and peacefulness was wonderful.
A large cavenous casam carved out of the rock by millennia of rain and wind. To enter the site there is a 10m series of metal ladders and as someone whos terrified of heights I held on tight while telling myself it would be worth it. At the top of the ladders there is a narrow section to walk along before entring the Amphitheatre. And yes it was worth those damn ladders! Also the acoustics were fun too.
The Moss Gardens is another oasis of rainforest, this time formed by water seeping through the sandstone until it hits a layer of impenetrable shale forcing it sideways and out to where, over time a rock pool and small waterfall has formed. Because the water never stops seeping through the sandstone mosses and lush ferns have surrounded the rock pool.
When walking the trail to the Moss Garden that there is a noticable change in the topography about halfway from open bushland to rainforest.
We took the Nature Trail as an alternative back to the visitor centre carpark. The trail wanders through tall native grasses and along the Carnarvon Creek. A fairly flat walk with a few easy creek crossings while not as breathtaking as other trails of the day it was a pleasant way to finish up. Other walkers have seen platypus in the deeper pools along the track, sadly in the mid afternoon we did not; early morning or late afternoon gives you the best chance.
That ended day 2.
On our third and final day we walked the Mickey Creek and Warrumbah Creek Gorge tracks.
This is a fairly easy flat walk along side a creek ending at a small waterhole.
Warrumbah Creek Gorge
This track is not sign posted or named on the National Park’s map but it is a detour along the Mickey Creek trail at which point it is sign posted. This walk was a lot of fun and a challenge as only the first 100m is formed track then it is a matter of making your way along the creek to the gorge (there are arrows drawn on some rocks to help you to select your path). The gorge is at some parts only the width of your arms, with walls about 25m high. The walk through the gorge has it challenges, walk as far as you are comfortable. This was a favourite of ours in the entire park and if you are up to a grade 4/5 walk and able to do some climbing and scrambling give it ago.
In short our visit to the Carnarvon Gorge was one to remember with its breath taking natural beauty. It is a wonderful place for a walk/hike but if you get a chance to learn about the cultural significance from an indigenous perspective it is so much more. We thoroughly recommend you too make the effort and come and see it for yourself.