Carnarvon Gorge is a spectacular place to visit in Queensland.
The Gorge is located in Central Queensland’s Highland Country, in what is called the Sandstone Belt. It is quite remote, about midway between Emerald and Roma (about a 3.5 hour drive from each town).
For us it was an ideal stopover on a road trip from Goondiwindi to Longreach – a place to spend a day to walk and experience the beauty of the gorge – steep sandstone cliffs, lush vegetation and Aboriginal rock art.
Camping at Carnarvon Gorge Visitor area, or at Big Bend
Carnarvon Gorge Wilderness Lodge
We decided to stay at the Carnarvon Gorge Wilderness Lodge as it had a restaurant open every day from 10am until after dinner is served.
We received a warm and friendly welcome at Reception, and booked into Lodge 1 – the closest lodge to the restaurant and the Discovery Centre.
We found the lodges to be very comfortable. The buildings are part timber, part canvas and the main room was very spacious with canvas walls and ceiling – safari style.
Our lodge featured a queen bed plus one single. The room was spacious with a small round table and two chairs, a couple of bedside tables and a sideboard with small fridge, kettle, cups, glasses, biscuits, teabags, coffee and sugar.
There was a small bathroom off the entrance hall, which featured a basin, shower and toilet. Toiletries were provided. Opposite the bathroom there was a wardrobe with shelves on one side and hanging space on the other.
There were plenty of windows in the canvas, which had insect screens, plastic zippered coverings and Roman blinds for privacy if required.
There was a smoke alarm fitted in the room.
Lighting was quite muted with two bedside lamps; a wall lamp and a hanging shaded light, as well as a light on the inside and outside landings and bright lights in the bathroom.
For hot weather there was a cooling air conditioning system on the wall, and for cooler weather there was a heater.
Walking through the room, there was another door that opened to our back deck where there were a couple of deck chairs – and a couple of kangaroos grazing on the grass!
We loved the accommodation.
Other amenities included a swimming pool, guest laundry, coin operated public phone near Reception (there was no mobile service), Wifi available at Reception ($5 for 30 minutes at the time of our visit).
Simon Ling – Australian Nature Guides (ausnatureguides.com)
We arrived at the lodge about 4pm, which was fortunate as at 4.30 there was an informative slide show and talk on Carnarvon Gorge by Simon Ling of Australian Nature Guides. Simon offers a number of tours including guided walks at night and during the day.
Simon’s guided day walk into the gorge is from 6am until about 1pm (to avoid the heat of the day), requires a minimum of 4 people, and at the time of our visit was $55 per person.
Carnarvon Gorge Walk
We had booked 2 nights and one day in the Lodge so we had just a day to spend walking in the Gorge. We picked up a Carnarvon Gorge Visitor’s Guide, which gave us good information to help plan our walk. We would have gladly joined Simon’s tour however there were not enough people booked on the day we were there, so we did the walk on our own.
Taking Simon Ling’s advice, we set off early at 7.15am (he had suggested 6am but we were late starters), with a plan to walk to the furthest point, then make our way back, stopping at points of interest along the way.
We drove down to the National Park Visitor Information Centre (just under a 10 minute drive from the Lodge) to where the Carnarvon Gorge Main Walking Track begins. Unfortunately the Centre was under renovation during our visit however we had picked up a brochure and map from the Lodge.
It was a beautiful, clear, cool morning. We decided we would walk as far as the Art Gallery, then make our way back to visit Ward’s Canyon, the Amphitheatre and the Moss Garden. All in all it was about 14 kilometres or a 5.5-hour walk, which included time spent at each point of interest.
The walk was relatively easy with a good track and mostly level walking with a few ups and downs, across creeks using stepping stones, and some steps along the way. Some of the walks off to the points of interest had steep steps.
Art Gallery Amazing Aboriginal stencils and engravings in a dramatic setting.
Ward’s Canyon A fairly steep climb is rewarded with a wonderful cool walk beneath a huge overhanging rock along a small stream and steep, narrow canyon. Beautiful tree ferns and king ferns.
Amphitheatre There are some steep ladders to climb up into a narrow opening through the rocks and then into a larger ‘amphitheatre’.
Moss Garden Also some steep steps but rewarded with a cool resting place on a hot day. A boardwalk overlooks a rock face of moss and a pretty waterfall. Quite an oasis.
We arrived back from our walk at 12.45 – very hot and tired. The temperature had reached 34 by midday.
Restaurant at Carnarvon Gorge Wilderness Lodge
The Carnarvon Gorge Wilderness Lodge restaurant provides delicious meals. There is also a well-stocked bar.
Dinner is served in the restaurant – we had a 6.30pm sitting. The menu features about 6 entrees, 8 mains and 6 desserts to choose from. Prices are a little high however we are a long way from ‘civilisation’ so perhaps transport costs account for that. The good news is that the food is excellent.
We chose the barramundi and the slow cooked lamb – both delicious. There are plenty of hot and cold drinks to choose from plus a good wine list. The service in the restaurant was very cheerful, friendly and efficient.
Lunch was available from 12 – 3pm and we had delicious burgers at one of the outdoor tables on the deck.
Breakfast is not served at the restaurant which only opens at 10am (when you can buy bacon and egg rolls), however there are breakfast baskets available for $15 per person.
Bandana Station Sunset Tours
At nearby Bandana Station, Bruce and his daughter Linda host sunset tours. Enjoy stories and songs about life on a cattle property, a couple of drinks, cheese platter and billy tea. Check that the tour is on before you visit the area as they do not run every day or during the summer months. Tours usually run from March to October, 3.30pm – 6pm. Visit the website for more information (bandanastation.com.au).
UPDATE: 2017: The Bandana Station Sunset Tours are no longer available, however the Station now offers camping – see Sandstone Park Carnarvon Gorge for details.
Takarakka Bush Resort
We took a look at Takarakka Bush Resort and were very impressed with their facilities. There are different styles of accommodation including self-contained cabins, studios, safari-style tents with or without ensuite, powered or unpowered camping sites. There is a general store and packed lunches are available everyday, and roast dinners are available on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays (April-September). The Resort also offers several tours including walks into the gorge, and a Guide to the Galaxy tour.
We were told that the best time to visit Carnarvon Gorge is between April and September – to avoid the heat and the rain. Carnarvon Gorge Wilderness Lodge is closed from 31 October to 1 March (please check their website for current information on opening dates), Takarakka Bush Resort is open all year round.
Turning off the A7 towards Carnarvon Gorge, the scenery is beautiful – cattle grazing, mountains in the distance. The first section of the road is bitumen and in good condition although you will cross stock grids and causeways (the causeways are deep and look like they would be impassable with heavy rain so best to phone ahead to check). Shortly after a T-junction where you will turn left (22kms to Carnarvon Gorge Wilderness Lodge), you will come to a gravel road. We found this gravel road very rough (there’s about 14kms of it) so best to arrive in daylight hours and take it slowly.
It’s also important to note that there is no fuel available at Carnarvon Gorge.
While Carnarvon Gorge is relatively remote, it is worth the trip – one of the best kept secrets in Queensland.