The Ultimate Carnarvon Gorge Travel Guide

Carnarvon Gorge - The Rock Pool

Carnarvon Gorge is a stunning natural wonder located in Queensland, Australia. With its towering sandstone cliffs, crystal-clear streams, and abundant wildlife, it’s no wonder that this destination is a popular spot for hikers and nature lovers. In this travel guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know to plan your trip to Carnarvon Gorge, including how to get there, the best walks to take, where to stay, and what sights you won’t want to miss.

If you and your love are a pair of adventurers, Central Queensland’s Carnarvon Gorge is bound
to cast a magical spell. Located 720 km north-west of Brisbane, and set within the sprawling
Carnarvon National Park, the gorge is a slice of heaven for nature lovers.

Hewn by the elements and carved over millennia, Carnarvon’s spectacular geography encompasses sheer sandstone cliffs, plunging gorges, remnant rainforest, meandering creeks, and thriving native flora and fauna. An oasis within the arid outback landscape.

Indigenous cultural history adds another layer of fascination, including significant Aboriginal
rock art in sites precious to the Karingbal and Bidjara Traditional Owners. Aboriginal Dreamtime stories say the rainbow serpent Mundagurra created the gorge, carving the sandstone as he travelled through the creek system.

Imagine a natural wonderland combined with an ancient outdoor museum, and you have
Carnarvon Gorge.

Why you’ll love Carnarvon Gorge

Carnarvon Gorge is a hiker's paradise
Carnarvon Gorge is a Hikers’ Paradise (image courtesy of Tourism and Events Queensland)

It’s all about the scenery here — and the jaw-drop moments as you experience it together. The remote locale only adds to the off-grid appeal for seekers of romantic adventure or a peaceful escape from the everyday.

Carnarvon Gorge supplies an otherwise hot and dry area of Queensland with a much-needed year-round water supply, creating a lush oasis amid an otherwise arid and harsh environment. Over the millennia, rain has slowly filtered through the sandstone cliffs’ porous walls, slowly trickling out on the rock, forming hundreds of small tributaries that join the main gorge creek.

Carnarvon Gorge National Park is a uniquely Australian experience and a hiker’s paradise.

How to get to Carnarvon Gorge

On the Queensland map, you’ll find Carnarvon Gorge between Roma and Emerald, making it
perfect for a road trip. Driving from Brisbane, you could stay the night at historic Roma (approx.
5.5 hours away) to break up the trip. Though if you want to cut straight to the adventure, fly from
Brisbane to Emerald or Roma and hire a car for the rest of the drive.

Make the Carnarvon Gorge Visitor Centre (around 6 km from the park entrance) your first port
of call. Here you can lace up your boots, brush up on local knowledge with a park ranger, and
even picnic beneath the eucalypts with the resident kangaroos and wallabies. It’s also the starting
point for Main Gorge Track.

Carnarvon Gorge- The Rock Pool

Most other adventures spin off the central Main Gorge Track: a 19.4 km return walk that will take you to many of the highlights (see below). A Grade 4 listing means some areas are steep and/or uneven so be prepared. 

Carnarvon Gorge Walks

Carnarvon Gorge Walks

This dramatically beautiful region offers walks and trails for every skill level. Meaning you don’t have to be an elite trail runner to experience Carnarvon (although we have options for hardcore hikers too!).

Here are some of the best Carnarvon Gorge walks …

1.5-km return from the visitor area
Short on time? Exploring with young kids? Enjoy a CG sampler on the Nature Trail. It’s an easy 1.5-km loop along the shady creek bank. Head off from the visitor area and look for basking turtles and the elusive platypus along the way.

19.4-km return from the visitor area
The star attraction for many planning a trip to the Carnarvon National Park. The Main Gorge Track is spectacular, mostly flat, (just take care in the creek crossings), and the gateway to many other highlights, including the ancient Aboriginal artwork of the Art Gallery and Cathedral Cave.

The track starts at the visitor area and loops back at Big Bend — about ten kilometres in each direction — passing through the centre of the gorge and crisscrossing Carnarvon Creek. The landscape is ever-changing and completely compelling, with eucalypts giving way to fan palms and pockets of rainforest, and soaring sandstone cliffs dipping into dramatic canyons and verdant side gorges.

Spinning off the main track you’ll find detours to the magical Moss Garden and more, with most attractions located under 500 metres away. Descend a tiered ladder into the Amphitheatre: a 60-metre, open-top chamber with incredible acoustics. Linger over the precious engravings, stencils, and drawings in the Art Gallery. Or go the extra mile to marvel at Cathedral Cave, home to a wealth of Aboriginal artworks showcased on the towering sandstone walls. 

Leave yourselves a full day to explore the Main Gorge Track. You can also bunk in overnight at the scenic Big Bend camping area (pre-book to secure your spot). 

6.4-km return from the visitor area
If you’re ready to tackle steeper terrain, see Boolimba Bluff: the only lookout track from the gorge and accessible via the visitor area or Main Gorge Track. Push through the steep sections, and you’ll be rewarded with incredible ridge views. Exceptional at sunrise. 

400-m return from Rock Pool carpark
Ready for a swim? Just before the visitor area, look out for the Rock Pool carpark. Head down for a refreshing dip and a shady picnic in the park’s only designated swimming area. There’s also a 1.8-km trail from the Rock Pool to the visitor area.

The multi-day Carnarvon Great Walk is the GOAT when it comes to local trails. Listed among Queensland’s ten Great Walks, this 87-km odyssey is broken into six sections and will take you around 6-7 days to complete. Follow the main track and continue beyond the gorge to the scenic tablelands of the Great Dividing Range. Be sure to pre-book your campsites, there’s one at the end of each section. Serious hikers, add to bucket-list.

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Things to see at Carnarvon Gorge

The Moss Garden is a 1.3 km return from the Main Gorge track (7 km return total from the visitor area). A lush and cool ‘garden’ of cascading water, tree ferns and other botanical beauties, carpeted with moss.

The Amphitheatre is a 1.2 km return from the main trail (8.6 km return total from the visitor area). Created by flowing water over tens of thousands of years, it requires a steep climb, but is absolutely worth it to experience the drama of the open-topped, 60-metre chasm.

Carnarvon Gorge- The Amphitheatre
Carnarvon Gorge- The Amphitheatre

The Art Gallery is a 600-metre return from the main trail (10.8 km total from the visitor area). This cultural site is home to over 2,000 Indigenous engravings, free-hand paintings, and ochre stencils. Breathtaking!

Carnarvon Gorge - Aboriginal Artwork
Carnarvon Gorge – Aboriginal Artwork

Cathedral Cave can be found 9.1 km from the visitor centre. Paintings, stencils and engravings adorn the white sandstone walls in the largest and most stunning cultural site off the main track.
And for the ultimate view of the gorge from above, head to Boolimba Bluff which is a 6.4 km return trip. The steep incline will give you both one heck of a workout, but you’ll be rewarded with majestic vistas from the gorge’s only lookout.

Carnarvon Gorge - Cathedral Cave
Carnarvon Gorge – Cathedral Cave

Where to stay at Carnarvon Gorge:

If you’re splitting your walk over two days, the Big Bend camping area is around halfway into the Gorge Walk and offers basic facilities (read: no power or hot water) year-round. The visitor centre also offers camping at selected times.

The Carnarvon Gorge Wilderness Lodge

Carnarvon Gorge Wilderness Lodge
Carnarvon Gorge Wilderness Lodge

Fancy a few home comforts? Try the Carnarvon Gorge Wilderness Lodge for a glamping experience that’s more rustic than rough, set just outside the park at the base of the Carnarvon Gorge mountain range. 

Cuddle up in one of 28 spacious safari-style cabins that balance mod-cons with back-to-nature appeal and include ensuite bathrooms, air conditioning and heating, fridges and tea prep areas, and spacious balconies. 

Carnarvon Gorge Wilderness Lodge Room
Carnarvon Gorge Wilderness Lodge Room

After a day on the trails, refresh in the lodge pool or spa and fuel up at one of two fully equipped outdoor BBQ kitchens. Cook a romantic dinner for two, mingle with the other guests or simply steal away for a well-earned hot shower. Conveniently, you can also purchase provisions from the reception area to prepare in the outdoor kitchens. They even sell ice cream, beer, and wine!

Best time to visit Carnarvon Gorge

Autumn/winter, particularly from April through September when you’re less likely to encounter rainy weather.Cool day temps are perfect for hiking and exploring, just remember to bring layers of clothing to adjust to the overnight chill. In summer, when most of the rain falls (November through February), access can be greatly restricted, and temperatures can get steamy.

3 ways to experience Carnarvon Gorge

1. On foot

A treat for the senses, Carnarvon is best explored on foot, giving you time to take in the incredible sights and sounds. Explore on your own or join a guided tour to delve deeper into the landscape and history.

2. By helicopter

The spectacular landscapes are breathtaking from above and a helicopter flight showcases the sheer scale of this area. Based in central Queensland, Heli-Central operates a one-hour Rolleston – Carnarvon scenic flight that makes for an unforgettable romantic adventure.

3. At night

The park takes on a new mood after dark when the native nocturnal cuties come out to play, including marsupial gliders, owls and echidnas. See locally owned Carnarvon Gorge Eco Tours who offers a Night Safari Tour along with a range of day adventures.

Discover more at Images supplied by Tourism and Events Queensland and The Carnarvon Gorge Wilderness Lodge.

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