Sponsored by Tourism Queensland
Carnarvon Gorge National Park is located in Queensland’s sandstone country. You’ll find deep, craggy gorges, jaw-dropping cliffs, and more than 2,000 pieces of aboriginal rock art.
Nestled amongst the rocks you’ll find mossy gardens and bright, emerald green plants and fauna. It’s simply a wonder to behold, and a stark contrast from other national parks in Queensland that offer a more tropical vibe.
You might even say that Carnarvon Gorge is a tropical oasis.
If you’re thinking of visiting but you’re not sure what things to do in Carnarvon Gorge National Park, then you’re in luck, as we’ve listed all the best attractions and landmarks to visit in this incredible National Park in Australia.
- How Many Days To Spend in Carnarvon Gorge NP?
- Is Carnarvon Gorge NP worth visiting?
- Things to Do in Carnarvon Gorge National Park
- 1. Hike the Nature Trail to Carnarvon Creek
- 2. Cathedral Cave and Boowinda Gorge
- 3. Take the Warrambuh Gorge and Mickeys Creek Gorge Walk
- 3. Walk the Moss Garden Walk
- 4. The Rock Pool Hike
- 5. Boolimba Bluff Walk
- 6. The Art Gallery
- 7. Galaxy Observatory and Astronomy Talk
- 8. Amphitheatre Walk
- 9. Ward's Canyon Walk
- Carnarvon Gorge Camping
- Best Time to Visit Carnarvon Gorge
- How to Get To Carnarvon Gorge
- Before Your Trip to Carnarvon Gorge
- Queensland Travel Tips
How Many Days To Spend in Carnarvon Gorge NP?
It’s a special place, and certainly worthy of more than the two nights we stayed here. One of the top things to do in Carnarvon Gorge National Park is to go hiking, and there are so many trails and rugged walks you can take.
In fact, the Carnarvon Great Walk is a whipping 87km long, and takes around 6–7 days to finish.
If you don’t plan on doing the full walk, you should allow at least 3 full days to explore some of the most famous walks and see the highlights of the park.
Is Carnarvon Gorge NP worth visiting?
When we started driving into Tropical North Queensland, the dry heat and arid landscapes soon turned into a lush, green moist oasis.
The palm trees and cooler temperatures at Carnarvon were a breath of fresh air (quite literally), and the rocky landscape combined with lush green moss made us feel like we had stepped into the Garden of Eden.
Immediately we felt as though we could collapse into a hammock with a cocktail after a long year of work.
Not only was it cooler, but it was now humid heat. I’m one of those weirdos who loves humidity. It bathes me in sweat and makes me feel sticky, but it does not drain me and wipe me out like dry heat does. That stuff just saps out all my moisture and spirit.
So before even doing much, we loved Carnarvon Gorge simply for the environment. If that doesn’t say that Carnarvon is worth visiting, then I don’t know what is.
Things to Do in Carnarvon Gorge National Park
We discovered over the next day and a half hiking through the gorge, there was so much to see and do, and so much about its natural landscape to love.
There was the lush green grass that reached your ankles, sometimes your knee. The hundreds of wild kangaroos and pretty face wallabies jumping around were just as enthusiastic about it.
I would put Carnarvon Gorge up there with one of the best places to see wild roos in Australia. There were THAT many of them and lots of joeys which our kids loved!
Here are some of the top things to do in Carnarvon National Park to make the most out of your visit.
1. Hike the Nature Trail to Carnarvon Creek
There were times walking along the nature trail to Carnavorn Creek when the palm trees, ferns, gum trees, and cycads told me were back in Cape Tribulation or the Daintree in Tropical North Queensland.
At other times, like when we were crossing the creeks on the stepping stones, I felt like I could be in Yosemite in California.
Surrounding the trail is nothing but pine trees and white steep sandstone cliffs and jaw-dropping nature.
I felt like Carnarvon was created for me, combining my favourite colours, landscapes, and trees in one place.
We didn’t do too many hikes or too strenuous ones since we were travelling with kids, but the Nature Trail was an easy 1.5km round trip.
You can follow the Main Gorge walking track from this walk and continue for another 7-8 hours of hiking, if you enjoy the stunning scenery.
We did enjoy cooling off in the creek after our big hike to Moss Garden, however. It was shallow and perfect for the girls to swim and kick around on their boogie boards.
We all had a joyful moment when the locals (more roos) came down to join us and drink from the water.
2. Cathedral Cave and Boowinda Gorge
If you fancy a long walk, then you might like to do the 18km hike to Cathedral Cave, just 100 meters away from Boowinda Gorge.
This hike takes you to an overhang that sheltered the Aboriginal people for thousands of years.
This is one of the best places to see aboriginal rock art. Don’t skip seeing Boowinda Gorge after seeing the rock art. This narrow, boulder-lined gorge is an adventurers paradise.
3. Take the Warrambuh Gorge and Mickeys Creek Gorge Walk
This was a fantastic walk we did the afternoon we arrived in Carnarvon. It’s on the main walking track to Mickey Creek Gorge and you turn off to the right about 1km in.
We were told Warrambuh was better than Mickey’s, but since it’s only a short 1.5 km return walk and can be done in around an hour, we decided to give it a go.
Your kids will love this one as you walk in the steep narrow gorge and have the walls slowly close in on you.
And of course, all kids love stepping stones. It’s a bit of a hop and scramble hike, but it certainly adds to the adventure.
Be careful if you’re visiting the park after it rains.
3. Walk the Moss Garden Walk
The Moss Garden walk gives you a great perspective of the gorge and surrounding landscapes.
It’s a fairly flat and easy walk along the main Carnarvon Gorge trail and the views are spectacular. The 7km trail crosses the boulder-strewn creek several times and leads to different walking trails.
The girls again loved all the stepping stones and it was the only time Savannah eagerly agreed to walk.
Moss Garden is the perfect place to sit after your hike.
Pull out your snack and cool off in the shade by the small watering hole surrounded by towering dripping sandstone cliffs, and a lush covering of ferns, liverworts, and mosses. A small waterfall tumbles over the rocky ledge.
Ahh how’s the serenity.
4. The Rock Pool Hike
The Rock Pool hike is a short 600 metre return hike from the Rock Pool car park, so there is no excuse to miss it.
You can rest in the shade of fig and casuarina trees and look out for platypus and turtles.
And, it’s the only place in the park designated for swimming so bring your swimsuit.
5. Boolimba Bluff Walk
Get up early to start this 6.4km return hike through some steep sections of the park. The hike is moderately challenging, but the effort will be rewarded when you reach the top of the cliff for views out to the distant ranges at Boolimba Bluff, which towers 200m above Carnarvon Creek.
6. The Art Gallery
The Art Gallery is one of the highlights of the park and contains what is said to be one of the best examples of Aboriginal stencil art in Australia.
Over two thousand engravings, ochre stencils, and freehand paintings adorn the 62m-long sandstone walls of this significant Aboriginal site.
It’s a 10.8km return hike so make sure you put on your best hiking shoes and get up early for this one.
7. Galaxy Observatory and Astronomy Talk
Even though we’d only been staring at the stars in Charleville a few nights before our arrival in Carnarvon Gorge, we were so excited to experience it again with the evening star gazing talks at Takkarakka.
Actually, we all kind of skipped down the dark dirt road, with the light of our flashlight guiding us to the observatory.
“Let’s go look at the moon again girls!”
“Yeah, I hope we see Jupiter.”
We learned even more about stars and galaxies and the enormity of our Universe. We even got to look at a star they say is in the process of supernova-ring.
Because it is so many light years away, the star is actually already dead! We’re still looking at it from the past. So super cool. And some of those stars up in our sky looking back at us are seeing the earth during the dinosaur era. So freakin cool!
We got to see the moon again and our talisman, Jupiter, looking as fine as ever with his four visible moons guarding him.
Nighttime is also a great time to spot some wildlife, such as possums and yellow-bellied gliders, who prefer to come out at night.
8. Amphitheatre Walk
One of the best places to see the amazing rock formations of Carnarvon Gorge National Park, is on the Amphitheatre walk.
This 8.6km walk from the visitor centre (or just a 1.2km from the Main gorge track), takes you to this immense open-top cavern.
The cavern was created more than 10,000 years ago by running water. It’s really a marvel to witness.
9. Ward’s Canyon Walk
There are many canyons in Carnarvon Gorge but none are as impressive as Ward’s Canyon. It’s located just a 540 meter detour from the Main gorge track, up a steep incline past the Lower Aijon Falls.
Once at the top, you’ll be greeted by the world’s largest ferns, King ferns, and other lush vegetation.
The rock here is a vivid orange colour, which is caused by the algae that cover it. It’s a stunning, naturally air-conditioned spot that reveals some of the best of nature.
Carnarvon Gorge Camping
There are around 35 campsites in the park, some open all year round. But most of them are suitable for tents, and only a few have faciltiies for a caravan or camper trailer.
You do need a camping permit to camp in the park, which can be obtained here.
If you prefer a little more luxury, The Big4Breeze campground (formerly known as Takarakka Bush Resort) is in such a beautiful setting just minutes away from the National Park.
Surrounded by green jungle and Carnarvon Creek, we lapped it up after weeks, and months in the dry, barren Outback and Top End of Australia.
It comes with all the facilities you need such as a hot shower, picnic area with picnic tables, and clean toilets.
There’s plenty of space and shade and beautiful, clean amenities. There’s a small store for supplies and free wi-fi (slow) near the store. Otherwise, you’re unplugged. Which causes anxiety for us, but for you, it’s perfect!
If we didn’t have our online business, we’d be lapping up that natural unplugged serenity. Truth is we still did!
It was so great to return to sit outside the camper with our dinner with little rufous bettong, or rat-kangaroo jumping around. The size of a rabbit, the bettong is the smallest of the kangaroo species in Australia.
It’s not the only shy, elusive Australian wildlife you have a very good chance of seeing here. It’s highly likely you’ll see a platypus as well. They hang out in the creek just behind the campsite. (Visit Eungella National Park to see wild platypi)
They’re pretty easy to find if you are quiet and still. We didn’t and are still yet to see them in the wild.
The campground also has many other fun activities and programs during the season, like Sunday roast dinners, guided tours, and helicopter flights. The helicopter takes you over Carnarvon and Moolayember Gorge, which cannot be accessed by land.
The nearby Bandana Station has sunset tours. Reflect upon the timelessness of the ranges whilst splashes of colour illuminate 30km of the escarpment. Enjoy it with instrumental music, a glass of wine, a cheese platter, and a billy tea and damper to wrap up the evening.
No one does billy tea and damper like the Queenslanders!
Best Time to Visit Carnarvon Gorge
The best time to visit the national park is during the dry season, which runs from April until September. During the wet season, the trails can be slippery and muddy, which is not much fun.
Another thing to consider is that camping is only available around the Carnarvon Gorge Visitor Area during the Easter holidays in April, June-July, September, and October.
Basically, all the school holidays.
However, camping near Big Bend is open all year, as is the Big4 Breeze Holiday Park.
How to Get To Carnarvon Gorge
To get to Carnarvon Gorge you’re going to need a car, since it’s quite a trek and remote.
If you’re travelling from Brisbane, head 720km northwest via the Warrego Highway/A2 and Carnarvon Highway. The drive takes around 8 hours.
From Rockhampton, it’s 400km southwest via Capricorn Highway/A4 and Fitzroy Developmental Road/State Route 7, which takes about 4.5 hours.
We recommend you fill up your gas tank in Rolleston as there’s no petrol station in the park, and this is the nearest town.
Before Your Trip to Carnarvon Gorge
So there you have it, those are the top things to do at Carnarvon Gorge National Park. As you can see, there’s a lot of great walks to do and some refreshing places to swim.
The park is all about disconnecting from the stresses of daily life and reconnecting with nature.
We hope this guide helped you plan your visit and gave you some ideas for what to do.
Disclaimer: We visited Carnarvon Gorge in partnership with Tourism Queensland as part of our Outback Queensland drive and we’re so grateful we finished off our 18-month road trip through the Outback. Carnarvon Gorge is a place we’d love to explore more of. Check out this 5 Night Sandstone Wilderness Itinerary!
Queensland Travel Tips
Are you planning on visiting other parts of Queensland? Then you may find these resources helpful…