For grey nomads who love to walk, Carnarvon National Park in Queensland’s central highlands is truly a must-hike destination.
Located some 600 kilometres northwest of Brisbane, the 298,000-hectare park is packed with spectacular scenery, incredible wildlife and some truly amazing examples of Aboriginal art.
At the heart of it all, of course, is Carnarvon Gorge. Carved from white sandstone, the narrow, steep-sided of the gorge is the most visited place in the park … and the sheer beauty of the place explains why. The gorge is the centrepiece of the 20-plus kilometres of walking trails which take visitors on a memorable tour of fresh water streams, lush tropical foliage, cascading waterfalls and much, much more.
The main gorge walking track starting from the visitor area is mostly flat and crosses Carnarvon Creek many times as it winds nearly 10 kilometres to the Big Bend camping area. However, there are numerous short side tracks to various attractions that do have steeper sections. If you are physically able, these side tours are well worth the effort … so make sure you leave early in the morning if you are planning a round trip.
These side attractions can include a climb up the Boolimba Bluff perched 200 metres above Carnarvon Creek. Spectacular. The Moss Garden is no less impressive. With water dripping constantly from the sandstone walls, a lush carpet of mosses and ferns has grown. A little further on, a 600 metre detour from the main track will bring visitors to the awe-inspiring Amphitheatre, a 60-metre deep chamber gouged from the rock by running water.
At Ward’s Canyon, you will come across the world’s largest fern, while the sandstone walls of the nearby Art Gallery reputedly has more than 2000 Aboriginal engravings, ochre stencils and free-hand paintings.
There is another truly stunning display of Aboriginal art at Cathedral Cave, and the Big Bend Camping area at the end of the main track is the perfect place to rest and recover from the rigours of the walk next to the soothing waters of Carnarvon Creek. There is a composting toilet here and tent camping is allowed.
There is a larger camping area suitable for off-road camper trailers back at the visitor area, but the Queensland Park Service says it’s not suitable for caravans or larger motorhomes. In any event, it is only open during the Easter, Winter and Spring Queensland school holidays.
An alternative is the nearby Takarakka Bush Resort which is set on 100 picturesque acres and offers powered sites.
Despite its popularity with visitors, Carnarvon National Park is very much a wilderness area and is home to more than 210 bird species, 60 species of mammals, and 90 species of reptiles.
A very special place.