Carnarvon Gorge is, no doubt, one of the most stunning national parks in Queensland.
This particular section of the much larger Carnarvon National Park offers some incredible day walks with the option to camp overnight in the actual sandstone gorge. A few years ago when we were first married, we trekked out to Carnarvon Gorge to do our first overnight hike here as a married couple.
But you don’t have to be into lugging your tent and sleeping bag around to be able to explore Carnarvon Gorge. There are plenty of car-based camping options around.
Camping at Carnarvon Gorge: A Quick Guide
I’m a huge fan of camping in national parks (though I wish that everyone who camped in national parks was into nature, and not loud music, but that’s a topic for another day).
Camping in national parks, especially in Queensland and New South Wales, is very affordable and you wake up right where you want to be.
But… things are a little different at Carnarvon Gorge.
Camping in Carnarvon National Park
The Carnarvon Gorge section around the visitor area has plenty of camping space available.
Carnarvon Gorge visitor area
However, Queensland Parks only opens the Carnarvon Gorge camping area during the two weeks of school holidays in April, July and September every year. And that means that you can only camp directly inside the national park, right at the edge of the gorge, for six weeks of the year.
There are 35 sites available, most of which are set out for 4-6 people, and not surprisingly, camping here is popular. So booking early would be the smart thing to do (or, of course, you could get lucky).
There are flush toilets but no showers, and you can camp here for a maximum of five days.
Outside of school holidays (and that includes the long summer holidays), you cannot camp in the national park. Instead, you will have to splurge a bit and camp outside the boundaries in a commercial caravan park.
Big Bend camping area
If you’re a hiker, a great option is to camp at Big Bend camping area. And this option is open year round!
Big Bend is at the end of the (accessible) gorge, and about 9.5km from the visitor area into Carnarvon Gorge. It’s actually the first camping area for those doing the 5-day Carnarvon Great Walk but it also makes for a perfect overnight hike into the gorge.
We did exactly that a few years back. It was brilliant (though freezing) waking up inside the gorge, and having some of the sights all to ourselves as we made our way back to the visitor area.
It’s a basic bush camp here with (unmarked) spots for about 10 people, a couple of picnic tables and a compost toilet.
Other camping options at Carnarvon Gorge
For most people who come outside school holiday times, there are two camping options if you want to stay near Carnarvon Gorge. You can either stay at Takarakka Bush Resort or camp at Sandstone Park. Both are commercial caravan parks that offer various amenities.
Takarakka Bush Resort
Takarakka Bush Resort is located just outside Carnarvon Gorge, just over 3km away.
We camped at Takarakka for a night at each end of our hiking adventure into Carnarvon Gorge, and so ended up spending three nights in the area.
Takarakka offers plenty of tent and caravan sites. You also have the option to book an ensuite cabin or safari tent. Prices for unpowered (tent) sites start at $38 p/n.
If you want a powered site, Takarakka is going to be your best options as Sandstone only provides unpowered spots.
The facilities are fine, pretty clean and all. There are also plenty of kitchen and BBQ shelters available. We enjoyed using them as cooking and cleaning is usually much easier at a shelter than with our minimalist camping setup.
Takarakka Bush Resort at a glance
PROS: Vehicle-based camping; full amenities (incl. flush toilets, showers, potable water, etc.); small café and shop on site; kitchen & bbq shelters; powered and unpowered sites available for tent, camper trailer and caravan camping
CONS: Tent sites are not clearly marked; expensive option (compared to camping in national parks); poor WiFi (in 2014); lack of privacy (but you are in a caravan park so that’s to be expected)
Not sure what the tents and mozzies mean? Check out my tents and mozzies guide.
But, one of the best thing about Takarakka 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 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…
And… platypuses (yes, that’s the plural) 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 platypus 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.
Sandstone Park didn’t exist when we visited a few years ago but with views of Carnarvon Gorge from every site, it sounds pretty good to me!
They’re a little further than Takarakka, around 5km away from Carnarvon Gorge but since they’re on an escarpment, the views could definitely be worth it.
Since they only offer unpowered sites, Sandstone Park is going to be the cheaper option with sites starting at $28 p/n.
What you also don’t get is showers so if you want full amenities, you might want to consider staying at Takarakka.
While there are only commercial options available outside school holidays, I was also really thankful to have access to a hot shower after our hike.
If you want views or bring your dog, choose Sandstone Park. If you want a hot shower or power, choose Takarakka. If you want to do an overnight hike, choose Big Bend. And if you’re going to be there during the school holidays, choose the cheap national park option (can’t beat the $6.55 pp/pn!).
But no matter where you camp, Carnarvon Gorge won’t disappoint.
For more information on camping in Carnarvon National Park, including a detailed list of the campsites or how to make a booking, check out the Queensland Park’s website.
More posts on Carnarvon National Park
If you want to hike into Carnarvon Gorge, whether as a day hike or overnight, here’s what you need to know.
Carnarvon National Park has a few other sections beyond Carnarvon Gorge. The Mount Moffatt area is one I’m particularly fond of. Here’s my camping guide to Mount Moffatt and my guide to exploring the walks, sandstone formations and Aboriginal rock art at Mount Moffatt.
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