Before moving to Queensland at the end of 2013, I’d never even heard of Carnarvon Gorge.
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! Though to be fair, most Queenslanders I’ve asked about Carnarvon Gorge have never heard about it either.
We explored Carnarvon Gorge as part of our Sandstone Belt road trip where we jam-packed four different national parks into a mere 8 days. The national park is about 720 km west of Brisbane so it’s a fair trek out and you should at least plan 2-3 days there to experience all that Carnarvon has to offer.
Following our extremely brief stopover near Robinson Gorge at Expedition National Park, we got on our way to Carnarvon Gorge, Carnarvon National Park. Our two days there were choc-a-bloc so here’s Part 1 of our Carnarvon Gorge adventure.
We followed the route outlined in the 4WD Queensland Atlas but somewhat in reverse order, which worked surprisingly well. Leaving Expedition National Park and travelling to Carnarvon Gorge via Rolleston and then Rewan Road meant a much more scenic drive than we would otherwise have had on the highway (check out the map to see where we went).
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 spectacular!
The plan was to do all the side trips on our way into the gorge, which meant getting to Big Bend by late afternoon. We managed but had to race a bit in the end. And all because we seem to have a habit of getting to a campsite just before dust and setting up in a hurry before it’s utterly dark. 🙂
Because Carnarvon Creek sneaks its way into the gorge, there are lots of creek crossings and you’ll have to hop from rock to rock. I didn’t count them all but it was probably ten, fifteen at least. Walking poles will help if you’re a bit unsteady on your feet.
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.
There are some six tracks off to the sides that take you to special places. They’re all worth checking out, each one offers something different.
First side track… Moss Garden. An icy pool, an intimate, tranquil waterfall, dripping moss and lots of ferns.
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.
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.
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.
READ MORE: Incredible Aboriginal rock art in Queensland (if you’re keen to see more photos)
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.
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.
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. 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.
For details on what to expect at Carnarvon Gorge, walking trails, how to get there, etc., check out Queensland National Park Carnarvon Gorge.
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