11 Best Carnarvon Gorge Walks In Queensland (The Ultimate Guide)
We’re sharing the best Carnarvon Gorge walks today, which is an exceptional national park in Queensland everyone should go to. If you’re looking for some of the best hikes in Australia, look no further.
Expect to find some of the best Aboriginal rock paintings in Australia with over 2000 paintings, incredible canyons to walk through, and beautiful rock pools to cool off in. It honestly doesn’t get much better for anyone looking for new things to do in Queensland.
We were fortunate to visit Carnarvon Gorge National Park just last week, so I’m sharing with you everything we learnt, as well as the best Carnarvon Gorge walks. Hopefully you can understand what your limits are and how to plan your trip.
Table of Contents
Where Is It?
Carnarvon Gorge National Park is part of the greater Carnarvon National Park and is located in Central Queensland and isn’t easy to get to. It takes a good 8 hours and over 720km from Brisbane, 4h30m from Rockhampton and a good 6 hours for us from Agnes Water (you can read our Agnes Water guide here!).
On the way to Carnarvon Gorge there is literally nothing around at all. We couldn’t believe the tropical terrain within the gorge when the landscape outside of it is so sparse and dry.
Before Arriving Fuel & Food Tips
Make sure you buy fuel from the final major town before you arrive at Carnarvon Gorge. This is crucial as there’s no fuel on site. The nearest towns are Rolleston (100km north) and Injune (150km south).
Stock up on food before you arrive as well. We had to buy our food from Woolworths in Biloela which was 3.5hr away. If you’re coming from Brisbane, stop off in Roma nearly 3 hours away for the nearest IGA and Woolworths.
Watch Our Carnarvon Gorge Video!
Why Is Carnarvon Gorge Popular?
Carnarvon Gorge QLD is a really popular national park to visit because it’s always included on the best walks in Australia lists. We knew it would be amazing, but we had no idea how incredible it truely is.
It’s also home to some of the best Indigenous Aboriginal art in Australia. There’s two areas to explore with incredible rock art which will blow your mind because you really feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere. Then you’ll find more than 2,000 Aboriginal rock paintings – it’s amazing!
When To Visit
We researched as much as we could about Canarvon Gorge before we arrived so we could be well prepared. I had read not to go in Summer because it gets too hot, but we thought we would be OK at the end of November. Although the temp had creeped up on the weekend we visited, Apple weather told me it was going to be 35C, I knew we had to embrace it.
To be honest, when we arrived at the park, we had booked a camping tent and immediately asked if we could check out one of their air con rooms because we felt like it was too hot. We did a long hike the following day and it was so hard in the heat, so I would probably go in Winter next time around.
How Long To Stay For
We only had a long weekend available so we drove up on the Friday morning and arrived by mid afternoon. We were able to fit in a short hike on the first day, then did a massive long hike on the second day. On our last day we just went to gorgeous the rock pool before heading home.
Looking back on the trip, I wish we had an extra day or two to see some of the places we missed. We always try and fit in as much as possible when we go on our trips but this time around, we really did need the extra few days.
Ideally if I was visiting for the first time again, I would have stayed about five days. If you don’t have that much time off to go there, go for however long you have. You won’t regret it!
I know we’ll be back there soon!
Carnarvon Gorge Camping & Accommodation
Our camping stuff was still back in Newcastle NSW in storage at the time of visiting, so we booked ourselves a safari tent at Takarakka Bush Resort.
There is another resort slightly closer to the entrance of the hiking paths called Wilderness Lodge but it was closed due to Covid at the time of visiting.
Whilst the latter looked like a beautiful resort, you don’t get as much privacy as you would at Takarakka because it’s located next to the road which we drove past all the time to get to the entrance of the walking tracks. The drive to the start of the walks was only five minutes or so.
We Nearly Changed Rooms!
At Takarakka Bush Resort, you veer off the main road into literally a bush resort.
As I mentioned earlier on, we asked to check out one of the aircon rooms because we wanted to ensure we got a good sleep for our big hike the next day. They only had a cottage left which had a kitchen and ensuite in, for $200 a night (double to what we had paid for the safari tent).
Ironically we actually preferred the safari tent because it felt like we were closer to everyone else at the resort and we wanted to be immersed in the whole camping thing and cook with everyone at the kitchen opposite our room.
Our safari tent was quite small with a double bed, single bed and a bunk bed. We thought we were just getting a double bed so our friends could have stayed with us in our room if we had known.
The best reason to get a safari tent is having your own power, fan and fridge in the room. We brought a four way power adapter with us so we could move the fan closer to the bed and of course charge up our batteries and phone.
We really liked the Takarakka Bush Resort in Carnarvon Gorge. It had a great community vibe and we loved sitting out on our balcony as well as cooking with everyone else in the open kitchen. The showers are excellent, and actually so much better than I was expecting.
There’s also plenty of wildlife around so if you’re not used to seeing kangaroos hanging about all the time, you will see them there. They are friendly and placid though and don’t really bother you, which surprised me. We actually saw an emu and his two babies cross the road on the way into Carnarvon Gorge which was pretty amazing!
There’s a swimming area at the resort and if you’re lucky, you’ll see the platypus’ in the water at sunset.
Because we visiting during Covid, the bar and tours were actually closed. We would have definitely gone on the star gazing tour but unfortunately they were all closed.
There is a seating area outside the reception/shop with a TV. I asked them if they play movies and they said they do during School Holidays. You can get free wifi from the shop and use your phone in the seating area if needed. I was actually surprised my phone worked at the resort, but just not in the gorge itself.
Takarakka Bush Resort Tip!
Bring your own kitchenware to cook with. There are BBQ areas and stove tops but you’ll need to bring absolutely everything with you to cook and eat with.
What Food To Bring With You
I actually called Takarakka Bush Resort twice about the food situation because I had no idea what food to bring with us. Although I read that they sell food in their shop, I didn’t want to rely on it. At the same time, I wondered whether it was a good idea to stock up before we arrived.
So when I found out the final town to get food from on the way to Carnarvon Gorge was a Biloela, 3.5h from our accommodation, we just stopped at the Woolworths there and picked up some food.
When we arrived at Takarakka in Carnarvon Gorge, I checked out the shop and was actually kinda glad we bought our own food. They had a basic selection but enough to get you by if you run out.
Carnarvon Gorge Packing List
I didn’t bring my hairdryer or anything like that, although there are power points next to the sink and mirrors in the bathrooms if you wanted to.
I made sure I brought extra pieces of clothing to wear on the hike. I would 100% recommend bringing a change of clothes on your big day of hiking because it gets so hot. We all changed clothes when we got to the half way point.
We wore our hiking boots although you don’t really need them. Don’t wear thongs but trainers would be OK. It just depends if you’re happy walking for so long in your trainers.
Bring your swimmers with you as you’d be mad to not swim in the rock pool after a day of hiking.
Make sure you bring mozzie spray with you, we needed it inside one of the gorges which was a shame because it was so amazing, we had to leave early.
We wore long pants at night because there were quite a lot of mozzies around, so just make sure you bring some spray with you.
I actually brought my winter pyjamas with me because I thought it might be freezing at night. It did actually get cold in the early hours of the morning, but it definitely wasn’t cold enough for winter pyjamas!
Bring loads of water with you for Carnarvon Gorge. We bought boxed water from Woolworths and had like 30 litres for the weekend. Our friends brought one 2 litre bottle with them for our big hiking day and quickly realised it wasn’t enough to compete with 35-40C temps. Whilst Steve and I took about 12 litres between us, it definitely wasn’t nearly enough to go around.
Carnarvon Gorge Walk Map
We have tried to produce a Carnarvon Gorge Map for you so you can understand what the walks look like. You basically walk up right through the middle of the gorge and take some side trips off to each section.
Best Carnarvon Gorge Walks
I did loads of research about the best Carnarvon Gorge Walks because I wanted to make sure we maximised our trip as much as possible. When I eventually worked it all out, it’s actually quite easy to understand.
There’s One Path To Follow
Carnarvon Gorge walks are basically one way in and out of the park, right through the middle of the gorge. You follow the one path which is called the Main Walking Track all the way to Big Bend which is the end point. During the walk, you’ll see loads of little turn offs to check out some of the amazing sights along the way.
It’s a great hike because it’s all so easy to follow, and it’s almost like sightseeing in the bush. I’ve not done a walk in Australia like this before! So you’ll be walking on the same track both in and out of the park.
There are a couple of separate Carnarvon Gorge walks to do as well which we’ll mention below.
We hiked to Big Bend which is the furthest point you can go on the epic Carnarvon Gorge walks. There is a basic campsite there and it’s a beautiful spot. We were told it would take between 6-8 hours return, it took us 11 hours to complete.
Be Careful With Timings
Be careful on when attempting these Carnarvon Gorge walks because we felt like we made it in really good time to Art Gallery as it took us less than two hours to reach. When you look at the map, it looks like Art Gallery is almost near to the end. It’s not. It took us another 2h20m to reach the end at Big Bend from there.
Most people tend to go to Art Gallery and turn back on their Carnarvon Gorge walks and I can now see why. The walk from Art Gallery to Big Bend at Carnarvon Gorge is a struggle. You’re not shaded by the trees anymore and it gets so much hotter being out in the open space.
I am glad we hiked to the end because I really wanted to see Boowinda Gorge but we did miss out on some of the other places to visit in Carnarvon Gorge.
Carnarvon Gorge Walking Tips
The guys at reception told us to hike to the further point we wanted to go to, then stop off and see the attractions on the way back. We thought this was good advice but we actually missed out on some of the places we really wanted to see in the end.
Personally, I would have ticked off the most important places I wanted to see first and then continued until I knew I had to turn back.
Here’s our timings for each section we went to. In each walk below, we mention the times recommended as well as the time it took us to walk to the turn off. Most of the turn offs added an extra 200-600 metres.
We didn’t walk fast at all and we stopped to film and take photos a lot. If you’re a fast hiker, it definitely won’t take you as long.
CAR PARK TO…
TIME IT TOOK TO TURN OFF
50 minutes one way
1h15m one way
1h30m one way
2hr one way
3h30m one way (no turn off as on the path)
11hr (but minus 30 minutes for getting lost and 1 hour for trying to find crashed drone)
1. Mickey Creek & Warrumbah Bluff // 3km 1.5h return
Mickey Creek and Warrumbah Bluff are just down the road from Takarakka Bush Resort, but it would be easier to drive to, rather than hike on the main road. There’s a car park and it’s clearly signposted, taking just a few minutes to drive to.
This is a popular first day hike to get a glimpse into what the other hikes will look like. It was one of my favourite places we visited in the gorge and totally worth a visit. It’s a popular family walk because it’s one of the shorter ones to explore.
Although it says it takes 1.5h return walk, it didn’t seem to take that long for us. Unfortunately this was the only Carnarvon Gorge walk we did that I didn’t time. I think it only took us about 20 minutes to walk to Warrumbah Bluff, although we didn’t go to Mickey Creek because reception told us the first was better.
I do wish we went to see Mickey Creek as well but Warrumbah Bluff is amazing. The gorge gets really narrow and it’s one of the moments that you feel like you’ve finally hit the jackpot. I know canyons and gorges are hard to located around Australia, whilst this must have been the easiest I’ve found to date.
This is a fantastic introduction to the gorge and well worth the visit on your first day.
Bring Mozzie Spray For This Hike
We couldn’t stay for very long in Warrumbah Bluff because there were just too many mozzies around. I wish I knew to bring mozzie spray for this hike because it’s the type of place you’d want to spend a while at in awe of the place.
2. Go For A Swim At Rock Pool // 400m 20min return
Rock Pool is located a little bit further towards the Carnarvon Gorge Visitor Centre from Mickey Creek. It’s an amazing place to visit after you’ve been hiking.
From the car park, it’s a 200 metre walk to the Rock Pool area which actually consists of a few swimming spots. When you hop over the stepping stones into the pools, you’ll see one to your left which is really shallow. Keep walking around and you’ll see another with a big rock on your right.
It was only when we met someone else there that he told us to keep on walking around to a big pool. We crossed the river and found this amazing pool we could have spent the whole day at.
There’s only two places you can swim in Carnarvon Gorge, one of them being at the Rock Pool and the other at Takarakka Bush Resort. Please do not swim anywhere else in the gorge, and respect the Aboriginal land.
3. Nature Trail //1.5km 30min return
There is a walking track from Rock Pool over to the Carnarvon Gorge Visitor Centre, so if you want to continue on after you’ve been hiking through the gorge you could. Or you could start from Rock Pool car park and walk to the Visitor Centre.
4. Boolimba Bluff // 6.4km 3hr return
Many people make the climb up to Boolimba Bluff as an add on for another day’s worth of trekking. As it veers off from the main walking track about a 1km in, you’ll be climbing up to reach the top, overlooking the gorge. This is one of the best walks in Carnarvon Gorge to gain perspective on where you are. It would make a fantastic sunrise or sunset spot to climb but bring torches and be very careful.
5. Moss Garden Walk // 7km 2.5hr return
You’ll come to Moss Garden really quickly on your walk and although we actually missed it, I did hear from other hikers that it was one of their favourite places they saw out of all of the places to visit in Carnarvon Gorge.
It took us 50 minutes to walk to the sign post just as an FYI.
The rock pool is surrounded by moss in a sub tropical feel, but pleased be warned, no swimming is allowed.
6. Don’t Miss The Amphitheatre Walk // 10km 3hr return
It took us 1h15m to walk to the sign post for Amphitheatre although there was another 600m to go from the turn off. This was the one sight I was really looking forward to but we had to regrettably miss it on the way back because we had walked 30km!
Looking back on it, I would have totally gone to Amphitheatre at the beginning of the trek because it only took us just over an hour to get there. Unfortunately we assumed we were way ahead of timings at the beginning which later didn’t work out for us.
Amphitheatre is an amazing opening into the cliffs towering above you. As you walk through a tiny slot into the gorge, you’ll feel like you’ve entered into a spiritual hidden gem. It looks so remarkable and something I doubt you’ll find anywhere else in the world!
7. Ward’s Canyon // 11.7km 4 hours return
Although it’s less than about 1km between Amphitheatre and Ward’s Canyon, it took us less than 15 minutes to walk between the two turn offs. Expect to walk up hill to find the canyon which we have heard is really nice.
8. Art Gallery Walk // 14km 5hr return
When we timed it, it took us just under 2hrs to walk to the sign post for Art Gallery, which is also 25 minutes from Ward’s Canyon. Then it’s another 5-7 minute walk up a gradual staircase to the Art Gallery.
And, it’s not called Art Gallery for nothing. The incredible Aboriginal rock art is believed to be over 3,000 years old and you’ll find more than 2,000 paintings along the cliff edge. It really is a remarkable sight to be seen.
This is where most people turn around and start heading back to the main car park. I think the timings are probably right being a 5hr walk in total to Art Gallery. It took us 2 hours to walk there, plus with side trips, I would probably say 6 hours would be a good enough time to allow for this hike including Moss Garden, Amphitheatre and Wards Canyon as well.
9. Cathedral Cave // 22km 8 hr return
We we said earlier on in this post, we felt like we were walking ahead of time at the beginning because we came to all of the turn offs for the sights within the first two hours. It’s quite deceiving because we thought Art Gallery didn’t look that far from Big Bend.
It actually took us another 1h30m to walk from Art Gallery to Cathedral Cave. The temperature felt like it was increasing the further we walked and you’re no longer shaded by the trees anymore. As the walking path opens up into the gorge, it is beautiful and a sight to be seen.
When we arrived at Cathedral Cave, it’s an impressive sight with a huge cliff face over hanging. We only saw one other couple here at Cathedral Cave and it felt like a truely special and spiritual place.
There’s no turn off to Cathedral Cave as it’s literally on the Main Walking Path.
10. Boowinda Gorge // 22km 9 hours
I was really looking forward to going to Boowinda Gorge because it looked so beautiful.
Just around the corner from Cathedral Rock you’ll come to the turn off for Boowinda Gorge. It only takes about five minute of walking before you enter the gorge which was easily my favourite part about the whole hike.
The beautifully carved rock curve throughout the gorge looked so stunning, it reminded me a bit of the famous Antelope Canyon in USA. Yet this time, we weren’t all squashed in with thousands of other tourists, it was just us in this magical gorge.
As we walked through it being the only people there, we did spend a while in awe of its beauty. I have read that the first 1km is the best part of the gorge and we only walked through the first bit completely overwhelmed by its beauty.
11. Big Bend // We walked 30km // 11 hours
Although it does say the walk to Big Bend with stop offs to Moss Garden and Boowinda Gorge takes 21km and 7 hours, we timed it on my Garmin 235 watch which is pretty accurate and we walked more than 30km in 11 hours to Big Bend and back with side trips to Art Gallery, Cathedral Cave and Boowinda Gorge.
However, we did get lost on the way to Big Bend after Boowinda Gorge because we missed the red arrow sign and ended up walking in a bit of a bush bash next to the rock. That took a good 30 minutes out of our time.
Steve also crashed our beloved drone somewhere in the gorge which also took up at least an hour of our time as we failed to find it. Technically it would have taken us about 9 hours to do the trip.
When we got to Big Bend we were all so relieved. It’s a stunning spot with the most gorgeous turquoise water with the cliffs almost protecting the area. There is a campsite there although there weren’t any campers at the time of visiting. We did meet one other who told us last time he came the campsite was full.
If you want to camp at Big Bend, you have to walk in the same way as we did with your camping gear. Personally I couldn’t do it, especially in the heat.
There is a toilet at the campground and a picnic table. That is about as much as you’ll get, but I reckon it would be a magical experience with a sky lit full of stars. We could see shooting stars from our campsite so I can only imagine how much more remarkable it would have been staying at Big Bend.
We’re glad we walked to Big Bend and it did feel worth it, but we’re sad we missed out on some of the other side trips. On the way back, we debated about whether we could walk another 600m off track to Amphitheatre but none of us could do it.
When we got back to the car park, we saw another hiker walking without his shoes on. I think he looked as delirious as we did. It was a struggle by the end because it was just so hot. The air is super dry so you constantly want to drink water. Because we almost ran out, we knew we had to make a beeline back to Takarakka Bush Resort as soon as we could.
We had an amazing time at Carnarvon Gorge QLD and we will be back again to check out some more of these incredible and special places!
Don’t Forget To Watch Our Carnarvon Gorge Walks Video!
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