Carnarvon Gorge everything you need to know

It seems to tick so many boxes. With dramatic sandstone cliffs, incredibly lush greenery, abundant wildlife, epic hikes and some of the best indigenous rock art, it’s no surprise we loved our time here.

To make your visit to Carnarvon Gorge easier, here is everything you need to know before you go.

Why should you visit Carnarvon Gorge?

Where do I even begin? Set in Queensland Central Highlands, it offers a unique combination of tall sandstone cliffs that change colour with the sun, and below in the depth, you’ll find lush greenery.

It’s a truly spectacular place. This would be part of a harsh and dry region of Australia if it wasn’t for the gorge making it an oasis for flora and fauna due to the all-year-round supply of water.

The rain soaks through the sandstones and drips out at the bottom of the gorge creating the much-needed conditions for many living creatures to survive here.

The giant sandstones towering above help create shade that is welcomed by all living creatures, including humans.

The hiking paths will take you into different parts of the gorge: from the lush Moss Garden, across creeks via stepping stones to the Art Gallery famous for its stencil artworks.

You’ll explore more beauty around you as small wallabies hop in the distance and birds chirp above you.

You don’t need to be an avid hiker to enjoy Carnarvon Gorge as it offers something for everyone. There are easy hikes for beginners, but also some amazing multiday hikes.

The Road to Carnarvon Gorge

How to get to Carnarvon Gorge

Carnarvon Gorge is located 720km west of Brisbane in the so-called Central Highlands.

Most visitors drive to Carnarvon Gorge. You can do so by driving from Brisbane towards Roma and then head north for about 3 and a half hours.

Or you can also take the Capricorn Highway from Yeppoon and visit Emerald on the way to the gorge.

Don’t miss out on the best things to do in Yeppoon on your way through. And if you’re hungry, stop by any of these recommended places to eat in Yeppoon too.

If you are short of time, both Qantas and Virgin fly from Brisbane to Emerald, almost three hours’ drive north of Carnarvon Gorge, or alternatively fly to Roma and drive from there.

Check Skyscanner for availability and the best prices for flights.

We drove in our campervan so a 4WD car is not necessary, but it can make things easier.

Make sure you stock up in either Roma or Emerald for both food and fuel as there is not much in between those two places.

Once you take the turn off for Carnarvon Gorge, the last 45 minutes drive along is with cattle farms and plenty of animals roaming around, so it might take some time.

And plan accordingly as I would not recommend driving here at dusk or night.

Carnarvon Gorge is stunning

The best time to visit Carnarvon Gorge is during the cooler winter months.

Best time to visit Carnarvon Gorge

When planning your visit to Carnarvon Gorge, it is important to consider the weather season and school holidays.

The best time to visit Carnarvon Gorge is between April/May – September during the cooler winter months. It will make your hiking much more enjoyable. We visited at the end of August and the weather was perfect.

The nights can get pretty cold in winter so keep that in mind if you are in a campervan or camping. You might need an extra layer. It dropped to 15 degrees during the night when we were here, but it can get really cold.

If you do have to visit during the summer months in Australia, then be ready for 40-45 degrees heat. During the summer, it’s best to visit and hike early morning at sunrise and carry plenty of water.

Please consider that it rains here a lot between November – February and the access might be restricted.

The accommodation and campsites get booked out during the school holidays. Ironically, this is also the only time the camping grounds run by the National Park are available. More about that is explained below. So plan ahead.

Camping at Carnarvon Gorge

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Where to stay in Carnarvon Gorge

This is a real gem of a place in Queensland, yet the option for accommodation can be somehow limited.

Considering that the nearest town is at least a 2-hour drive away, you really want to stay at the Carnarvon Gorge when visiting.

BIG4 Breeze Holiday Park (previously known as Takarakka Bush Resort)

Most people told us that this is THE place to stay. A privately owned campsite that is open all year round. We spent a few nights here in our trusty campervan Frida.

You can choose from a range of accommodations: unpowered and powered sites for campervans/caravans, camping, glamping in already set up tents and cabins.

Check here for the latest prices for accommodation

Our campsite at Carnarvon Gorge

At BIG4 Holiday Park after our hike

The facilities offer hot showers, a bbq area, a small shop, wifi, and really beautiful grounds. The shop sells all the basics including alcohol.

You have two camping options here- a Powered campsite (from $46 per night) or an Unpowered campsite (from $36 per night).

It’s only 4km away from the entrance to the gorge. Guides and tours can also be arranged.

Check the BIG4 website for prices/availability

Sandstone Park Campsite

Another all-year-round campsite that offers amazing views of the gorge – 360-degree views! This is for those who love to camp – all sites here are unpowered and there are no showers.

But it is the only pet-friendly place to stay and you have your own personal fire pit.

An unpowered site here is $35 per night for two people; extra adults are $15 per person per night. $7 per night for children aged 5 – 14 and children aged 5 years and under are free.

Check out for prices and availability.

The views at Carnarvon Gorge

Wilderness Lodge

For those looking for a little bit more comfort, the Wilderness Lodge is the right choice.

With a swimming pool, fully licensed restaurant, and comfortable cabins with ensuite, this is the place to treat yourself.

Check reviews and prices on Tripadvisor

Camping at Carnarvon Gorge Visitor Area

By far the cheapest option is camping offered by the Carnarvon Gorge National Park near the visitor area making it the perfect place to start your hikes from. In 2020, the cost is AUD 6.75 per person per night.

As there are only 36 places available, you must book early. Don’t forget to bring plenty of food. Water is available here and all rubbish must be taken with you.

Camping in the Carnarvon Gorge visitor area is only available during the Easter, June-July, and September-October Queensland school holidays. Big Bend camping area, reached by a 19.4km return walk, is open all year.

Hikes to do in Carnarvon Gorge

Regardless of your fitness level, the Gorge offers a hike for everyone. Most hikes start from the Carnarvon Gorge Visitor Centre and it’s up to you which one you choose and follow.

The main path runs across the gorge with multiple side paths that take you unique sites.

Definitely download a map or get a brochure from the Info Centre to choose the hike you are after.

The map of hikes at Carnarvon Gorge

Here is a list of the best hikes:

Mickey Creek Gorge 3km return (1.5hr walking time)

An easy walk along Mickey Creek to a narrow side-gorge where the path ends and you can continue hiking across stones. Beautiful scenery and the car park is before the visitor centre.

Don’t miss the turn-off for Warrumbah Gorge with stunning tree ferns. It was our highlight and getting here and back would probably only take an hour.

Carnarvon Gorge Mickey Gorge

Rock Pool 400m return (10 min walking time)

Park your car at the car park and from there is an easy walk towards the picnic area. Hop across a few stones to cross the river and you’ll find the rock pool. Perfect place to dip on a hot day.

I would recommend doing this on your second day after a day of hiking.

Note: This is the only place in Carnarvon Gorge where you can swim.

Nature Trail 1.5km return (1hr walking time)

If you are after an easy walk rather than a hike, follow this path to view the Carnarvon creek and wildlife.

Apart from birds and wallabies, this is the place to spot a platypus in the water. Your chances are better if you are here early morning or just before dusk.

Nature Trail at Carnarvon Gorge

The main gorge walking track is 19.4km return (7–8hr walking time)

The main walking track crisscrosses Carnarvon Creek a few times as it winds 9.7km to a tranquil pool at Big Bend. Explore side trails leading to narrow, hidden sites, creeks and gorgeous.

On the end, at Big Bend, the graded walking track ends and the remote hiking trail of the Carnarvon Great Walk begins.

The main walking track which is mostly flat is easy to walk. There are a few stepping stones to cross the creek. You can choose 2-3 sites to see and combine them to create a good day hike.

Consider this route: Visitor Centre – Moss Garden – Amphitheatre – Art Gallery – Wards Canyon – return back.

We have done this on our first day and covered around 15-17kms across 5-6 hours with some photo stops.

Boolimba Bluff 6.4km return (2–3hr walking time)

If you are a keen hiker then make sure you walk up to Boolimba Bluff. You will need to walk up steep slopes 200m above Carnarvon Creek but you’ll be rewarded with stunning views towards faraway ranges.

Beautiful at sunrise, but you will need to have a torch and allow at least an hour to get up here. The views will be worth it.

Moss Garden 7km return (2–3hr walking time)

One of our favourites. Incredibly lush and green, beneath tree ferns, a small waterfall tumbles over a rock ledge into a pool. The walk up here is not difficult and the perfect place to seek refuge from the heat in summer.

Moss Garden at Carnarvon Gorge

Amphitheatre 8.6km return (3–4hr walking time)

We arrived here later in the afternoon and had this place to ourselves. As you walk in you will spot the ladder. Walk up to discover a secret oasis.

Hidden inside the gorge walls is a 60m deep chamber, chiselled from the rock by running water.

Carnarvon Gorge Amphitheatre

Wards Canyon 9.2km return (3–4hr walking time).

Another place worth following is the path to Wards Canyon. Make sure you enter and walk to the end.

It’s cool, shady and you can see the world’s largest fern, the king fern Angiopteris evecta.

Wards Canyon at Carnarvon Gorge

Art Gallery 10.8km return (3–4hr walking time).

An epic place to see! Explore the more than 2000 engravings, ochre stencils and freehand paintings decorating the 62m-long sandstone walls of this site of deep cultural significance to Indigenous people, the local Bidjara and Karingal groups.

Learn more about the art gallery as you walk along the boardwalk that runs along with it. Look for boomerangs, hands, feet, stone axes, shields, nets and an assortment of animal tracks.

Carnarvon Gorge The Gallery

Cathedral Cave 18.2km return (5–6hr walking time)

This cave is a massive wind-eroded overhang sheltered area that has been used by Indigenous peoples for thousands of years. Some of the rock art is thousands of years old, while some were created only 200 years ago.

The indigenous people describe the gorge as a ‘place of learning, an area of great spirituality.

Boowinda Gorge 18.4km return (5–6hr walking time)

If you make it all the way to Cathedral ave, follow up into Boowinda Gorge. Boowinda is an indigenous word and it means ‘thunder’. You can see why this name was given to the gorge once you walk in.

The gorge is quite narrow at times carved by thundering flows of water. Grey boulders form the path which can be hard to walk on. It’s one of the less-visited places here at the gorge (probably due to the distance from the visitor area).

Big Bend 19.4km return (7–8hr walking time)

Big Bend is at the end of the main gorge walking track. Visit a natural pool nestled beneath looming sandstone cliffs in Carnarvon Creek. You can camp here all year round so if you are a keen hiker you can walk across the main track and set up a camp here for the night. Book online beforehand here.

Things to know before visiting Carnarvon Gorge

Plan your stay: 3 days at the Carnarvon Gorge is the perfect stay. You can do a big hike on the first day, relax and visit Mickey Creek & Rock Pool on the second day. Last day – head back into the Gorge.

Maybe visit the upper gorge area or get up early for the sunrise at Boolimba Bluff.

Book accommodation before you get here:

Carnarvon National Park Campground 

BIG4 Breeze Holiday Park

Stock up on food/supplies before: Roma or Emerald have large supermarkets so bring enough food.

What to bring: Headlamp for the sunrise walk, good hiking shoes if you plan to do some hikes, Sunscreen & Mosquito Repellent, and warm clothes if you are visiting during the winter months. I love my NorthFace lightweight jacket.

Phone coverage: Expect limited coverage. We could get Telstra’s 3G/4G at Takkaraka resort but there is no network in the gorge. So plan to be offline for a few days. There was no wifi when we were here in 2020.

Water bottle: Water facilities are available at the campsites but you will need enough water for your day hikes so make sure you have a good size water bottle.

Drive Safe and check conditions: You also want to check the Queensland National Parks website before travelling to Carnarvon Gorge to ensure road conditions are good.

And that is everything you need to know about Carnarvon Gorge in Queensland, Australia. Let us know if we missed something in the comments below.

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