Carnarvon Gorge will blow you away. It’s one of the best places and national parks to visit, not only in Queensland but in the whole of Australia.
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 absolutely loved our time here. To make your visit to Carnarvon Gorge easier, here is everything you need to know before you go.
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.
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.
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 accommodation: unpowered and powered sites for campervans/caravans, camping, glamping in already set up tents and cabins.
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.
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.
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.
Rock Pool 400m return (10min 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 hike, follow this path to take in views of 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.
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.
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.
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 all the way to the end.
It’s cool, shady and you will be able to see the world’s largest fern, the king fern Angiopteris evecta.
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.
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.
If you make it all the way to Cathedral ave then 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.
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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A coffee lover, history junkie, former tour guide, and endless optimist. The mastermind of logistics and chief navigator for Very Hungry Nomads, two women on an adventure to visit EVERY country in the world. Marty is a social butterfly who describes her life as “just livin’ the dream".