Having two public holidays in one week (one on the Monday, the other on the Friday) seemed like the perfect excuse to us for going on a big trip around the Central Queensland Sandstone Belt and hiking into Carnarvon Gorge.
READ MORE: A road trip around the Sandstone Belt
But we figured that driving straight to Carnarvon Gorge would be a bit of a hefty drive for us (it’s some 720km away from the Sunshine Coast) so we came up with the idea of doing a circuit, with our stop being Cania Gorge National Park.
While we didn’t love Cania Gorge, here’s how you could easily spend a long weekend there (though admittedly, it might be a bit far if you live in Brisbane).
How to Get to Cania Gorge National Park
Located some 500km northwest of Brisbane, reaching Cania Gorge will take a bit of time if you’re coming from southeast Queensland. Fortunately, it’s super easy to find, which is just what you need at the end of a long day of driving.
Take the Burnett Highway (A3) and then onto Cania Road some 12km past the town of Monto (if you’re coming from the south) or 82km from Biloela (from the north). From the turnoff, it’s about another 10km to your first camping option, the Cania Gorge Tourist Retreat.
Side note: If you’re coming from the south, you’ll want to come up this way in early winter (June/July). Stop in Gayndah on the way and pick up some of the biggest and tastiest oranges, grapefruit, mandarins and lemonade fruit you’ve ever had! Totally delicious and we’ve bought bucket loads previously!
Cania Gorge: Camping Options
There’s no camping in the actual national park so we booked a couple of nights at the Cania Gorge Tourist Retreat.
This caravan park is situated right outside the national park but luckily, the start of pretty much all the walks is close by. So on that account, the location’s quite perfect.
You’re also greeted by a German flag as you enter. Not quite sure why but I guess I felt welcomed?? 🙂
As far as caravan parks go, it’s actually quite nice and the amenities are reasonably clean.
The nights in mid-June were cold though, seriously cold and damp. I really had to wrap myself up to stay at least vaguely warm. That said, we were camping and I was pretty happy about that (notwithstanding Mr. Snorer in the caravan some ten metres away…).
The only downside to camping in Queensland during winter is that it gets dark very early, and you end up cooking and eating dinner in the dark (and cold). Bit of a novel experience for us, and not one that is that flash. Needless to say that my appetite for desserts was rather low, crawling into my sleeping bag with a book seemed a much better alternative.
Another option would be to camp at the (popular) Big4 Cania Gorge Holiday Park, located at Lake Cania. Probably the perfect base if you’re into fishing and boating.
Cania Gorge Walks
Cania Gorge itself…
Well, let’s just say people there really love it and keep coming back year after year, and I wondered the whole time why. It’s not an unpleasant spot but it left me more than underwhelmed. Maybe it was the overcast weather or maybe it really is just a bit meh.
Since the national park gets pretty good reviews (a gorge, towering sandstone cliffs, Aboriginal rock art… sounds good, right?) and is said to be a “mini” Carnarvon Gorge, we did have pretty high expectations. As a result, we felt deflated the whole day as we ran up every single walk, hoping to discover something spectacular or at least something more than just nice.
Most of the walks are pretty easy and you can squeeze them all into one day. We ticked them all off, with the exception of the Castle Mountain walk (22km return), which we gave a miss.
1. Big Foot walk
Basic trail info
Distance: 1km return
Time: 20 min
Trailhead: Cania Gorge Picnic Area (or use the walking trail from the Cania Gorge Tourist Retreat if you’re staying there)
The one thing at Cania Gorge that is really cool is probably Big Foot, a giant Aboriginal painting of, guess what, a big foot on a white sandstone cliff.
From the Cania Gorge Tourist Retreat, it’s 50m off the main path and you’re there. But even from the picnic area, it’s an easy stroll to see this giant print.
Cool, huh? Probably would have looked quite spectacular with a bit of blue sky behind it but wasn’t to be…
2. Two Storey Cave circuit
Basic trail info
Distance: 1.3km return
Time: 45 min
Trailhead: Opposite the Cania Gorge Picnic Area
The other interesting walk is the Two Storey Cave circuit, supposedly to be covered in 45 min. For some reason, it took us much longer and we’re not slow walkers.
The walk itself is ok, nothing spectacular but pleasant enough as you wander around sandstone monoliths.
What’s great about this walk though is that the two storey cave has a colony of bats living in them, and a) you have to scramble into the cave, and then b) try and avoid being smacked in the head by the bats flying in and out.
3. Giant’s Chair circuit
Basic trail info
Distance: 5.6km return
Time: 3 hours
Trailhead: Giant’s Chair carpark (about 900m south of the Cania Gorge Picnic Area)
The two lookouts (Giant’s Chair and Gorge Lookout) in the park appear to be typical Queensland lookouts. You get there and you go, hm, ok, that’s it?, let’s move on. Maybe I’m being a bit harsh here but once you’ve been to Victoria and Tassie (or indeed overseas), you do have some expectations… you just can’t help it. I did get rewarded with a fantastic view at Mount Moffatt some days later, so all is not lost for Queensland lookouts! 🙂
4. Dragon Cave & Bloodwood Cave circuit
Basic trail info
Distance: 2.6km return
Time: 1 hour
Trailhead: Southern of end of the Cania Gorge Picnic Area
The trail to the two caves is initially the same one as to The Overhang but after the turnstile (!) verges right.
You can sort of climb into each caves but unfortunately, both Dragon Cave and Bloodwood Cave were a bit underwhelming.
5. Dripping Rock & The Overhang
Basic trail info
Distance: 3.2km return
Time: 2-2.5 hours
Trailhead: Southern end of the Cania Gorge Picnic Area
as was Dripping Rock, a moss-covered, dripping rock ledge (been there, done that in Tassie and elsewhere, and in more spectacular form).
The Overhang was quite nice though. I’d imagine that with more rain, the creek at the bottom of the cliffs would be quite spectacular and would make the whole area look much more interesting. And I got my first views of Aboriginal rock art along the walk, that was pretty special.
Here’s another curious Queensland thing… what’s with the turnstiles on walks?! Are they worried that a motorbike or big, fat car might try and clamour up the narrow footpath?? Or do such hordes of wild people storm up the walks that only a turnstile can bring order??
Cania Gorge also has a dam and I think that’s quite popular with people who like fishing. We only had a quick look at it as we were running out of daylight. It did look quite nice but nothing more than that.
Cania Gorge is probably not a place we’ll ever visit again and I wish we’d spent one less night there and had more time at Expedition National Park or Mount Moffatt. But such is life… and Big Foot was cool. 🙂
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