Carnarvon Gorge: Part 1 (Sandstone Belt road trip)

Following our sneak peak of Robinson Gorge at Expedition National Park, we got on our way to Carnarvon Gorge, Carnarvon National Park. Our two days there were jam-packed so here’s Part 1 of our Carnarvon Gorge adventure… Just a heads-up: this is a long post, get yourself a cup of tea first. 🙂


I’m still trying to work out what the pictogram means… no side tap dancing??

Prior to moving to Queensland, and indeed prior to delving into our 4WD trip book, I’d never even heard of Carnarvon Gorge (let alone any of the other parks we explored) so imagine my surprise when we got there and I encountered lots of interstate, and what’s more, international visitors who knew all about it! Gee, are we ignorant in Victoria! 😉 (To be fair, most Queenslanders I’ve asked about Carnarvon Gorge have never heard about it either…)

Again, we followed the route outlined in the 4WD Queensland Atlas but somewhat in reverse order, which surprisingly worked quite well and meant a much more scenic drive from Rolleston to Carnarvon Gorge than we would otherwise have had on the highway (check out the map to see where we went).


Rolling through farming and grazing country along Rewan Road

The Carnarvon Gorge section around the information area has plenty of camping space available; however, in true Queensland fashion, you can only camp there during school holidays (excluding summer since it gets too hot) and who wants to do that?!

So, we plonked ourselves down for a night at the Takarakka Bush Resort, and a bush resort it is! Other places may be mere caravan parks but with prices such as $38 p/n for an unpowered site, you may rightly have different expectations.

The facilities are fine, pretty clean and all. But the best thing about Takarakka surely has to be that they serve roast dinners on alternating nights. You might wonder who would queue up for a $25 roast dinner in the middle of nowhere but the grey nomads (i.e. retirees in their caravans) were lining up a mile long (well, ok, not quite but the queue was impressively long!). If you didn’t register your interest early, you certainly missed out. It’s clearly famous because people not only flocked to it like it was for free but they talked about it as if it was the greatest meal ever (and perhaps it was; I can’t say, we didn’t try 🙂 ).

They also do nightly information talks on Carnarvon Gorge and its many walks, and offer guided walks a few times a week. Oh, and free wifi. Slow but free… aw, finally you can get back in touch with civilisation after all that nature… 😉

And… platypuses (yes, that’s the plural, I looked it up!) in the creek that runs alongside Takarakka. It’s a good thing I have a patient husband because I would never ever have seen any of them if it wasn’t for his patience and insistence to wait just a little bit longer. 🙂 No photos as evidence (it was almost pitch black dark) but at least I know I have now seen real live platypuses in real life. 😀 Yay.

Hiking Carnarvon Gorge

Next morning, we set off for our overnight hiking trip into Carnarvon Gorge, staying at the Big Bend camp site, some 9.7 km into the gorge. The walk into the gorge is relatively flat except for a few moderately steepish sections at the start, and, of course, some of the side trips.In a nutshell… the gorge is pretty spectacular!

Map of Carnarvon Gorge (Queensland Government)

The plan was to do all the side trips on our way into the gorge, which meant we got to Big Bend by about 4 pm (by now I was getting used to getting to a camp site just before dust and setting up in a hurry 🙂 ).

There’re a lot of creek crossings and hopping from rock to rock, and I mean, A LOT. I didn’t count but it was probably ten, fifteen at least. I managed to not get wet on the way to Big Bend but didn’t juggle my balance quite so well on the way back; thank goodness it was a nice, warm day and my feet were boiling in my hiking boots.


One of many crossing of Carnarvon Creek. Clear and cold but not icy, like in Victoria or Tassie. 🙂

First side track… Moss Garden. An icy pool, an intimate, tranquil waterfall, dripping moss and lots of ferns.


Ferns along the way to Moss Garden


The icy pool. A challenge to photograph and really doesn’t do it justice… very bright with lots of shadows. Oh well. 🙂

Next up… The Amphitheatre, a 60 m deep chamber inside the walls of the gorge. Eerie atmosphere and amazing acoustics! We heard a couple sing in harmony in there, it sent shivers down my spine it was so glorious. This is a special place.


Entrance to the Amphitheatre. The chamber is just through the rock crevice.


Inside the Amphitheatre (my photo so does not do this space justice) 🙁


Looking out onto the track to the Amphitheatre, about to climb down those ladders

From there, we only had to trace our steps back to the main gorge walk, pick up our packs and head some 300 m north to the start of the walk to Ward’s Canyon. It’s a beautiful side-gorge where I fell in love with the ochre-reddish water of the little creek running through it.


The red creek bed at Ward’s Canyon


King Ferns – apparently “green dinosaurs” – at Ward’s Canyon


A little furry friend we met on the way. I never knew rock wallabies like fir trees but he was munching away happily…

From Ward’s Canyon, we had some 800 m to walk to get to the next side track. This was one of the sites I’d been looking forward to: Aboriginal rock art at the Art Gallery (Bidjara and Karingbal People). There are some 2,000 engravings, stencils and free-hand paintings along a 62 m sandstone wall. Impressive.


Ochre coloured rock paintings of boomerangs, nets, hands…


Stencilled rock art, including a snake (on the right side towards the bottom) and signs of fertility


The rock wall of the Art Gallery

Most people make it as far as the Art Gallery in a day as it’s some 5.4 km from the start of the walk. We, however, had another 4 kms on our hands before we got to the last side track for the day, and from there to the Big Bend camping area.


Off to Cathedral Cave


More sandstone cliffs along the way. I couldn’t stop taking photos. 🙂

Cathedral Cave is another stunning Aboriginal rock art site. It’s a massive overhang that allows you to contemplate the art in a panoramic sense. Once you’ve made it this far, you don’t meet that many people anymore – or maybe that was because it was getting pretty late by then and most people had already come and gone hours ago.


Aboriginal rock art at Cathedral Cave

From Cathedral Cave it was but a stone’s throw to Big Bend and I was certainly ready for it! My tummy had been unhappy with me all day and it was great to set down the pack (and mind you, mine didn’t weigh a thing compared to the husband’s) but I was grateful nonetheless to sit down and enjoy a cup of tea.


Big Bend at dusk

Expedition National Park (Sandstone Belt road trip)
Carnarvon Gorge: Part 2 (Sandstone Belt road trip)
Cania Gorge (Sandstone Belt road trip)
Exploring Mount Moffat (Sandstone Belt road trip)
Quick dash through Wongi State Forest & Maryborough
Sunshine, baby turtles and waves: Deepwater NP

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