Updated: Dec 14, 2021
It's beautiful, it's rewarding and it's for the average to experienced walker.
We drove from Brisbane. About 720km. Thanks to Covid we couldn't explore south, as we usually would, so we decided to go round the block 'Brisbane - Carnarvon Gorge - Rockhampton - Bundaberg and back to Brisbane' . More on the trip itself in following posts, right now I want to talk about Carnarvon Gorge and just how special it is.
“The last time I was there, was in 1969. It hasn't changed, but then it hasn't really changed for thousands of years.”
There's accomodation and facility updates at the bottom of this blog. So we cover all of that later. The first thing you should do is go online and find a map of the gorge before you arrive. (that's not bad advice for anywhere you're headed). The best we could find was on the Qld parks and forests website. (link below).
As you can see, the Art Gallery, the cavern with the beautiful indigenous stencil art, is a round trip of 8-12k. Distances vary from one source to another. It's the furtherest a newbie - semi experienced walker should attempt in a day. Depending on the heat, it may be a stretch for some. Overall the entire Carnarvon Gorge Great Walk is approx 87 kms and takes 6-7 days to compete. It's definitely not for the feint of heart.
The best advice for a day's walk.
Walk as far as you think you can along the main walking track in the time you have allotted. Then branch off to the other attractions on the trek back.
We went as far as the Art Gallery and veered off to the Amphitheatre on our return.
Thanks to time constraints we missed the Moss Garden, but it's waited thousands of years for us, so I'm sure another couple of months or so won't make a difference.
The walk itself is a mixed bag of difficulties - from flat sandy paths to steepish inclines with staggered steps, and rocky dry creek beds which can be a challenge for the newbie.
Depending on how far you go, there are a few creek crossings. If you walk to the Art Gallery and only branch off to the Amphitheatre there are six in total. Each has varying degrees of difficulty. No matter how experienced you are, it doesn't take much to tip you into the water - a wobbly or muddy rock will do the trick, just fine. We passed experienced walkers with wet, bloody knees and amateurs without a scratch. The best advice is to take hiking sticks, they really can help your balance walking across rocks in a flowing stream.
To lull you into a false sense of security, the first creek crossing past the visitors centre is made of wide flat rocks evenly spaced a small distance apart. Don't be fooled, things get a little trickier the further you trek.
(Hiker's Hint: If you're carrying a camera, put it in your back back when creek crossing. When you use your hands to balance, you use your hands to break your fall. You'll also break your camera)
A stunning walk in and an inspiring place to visit.
There's a good sized landing to help you catch your breath and take a seat before climbing into the Amphitheatre itself.
The climb is a fixed metal stair up the sheer canyon wall. It's not as difficult as it looks, but remember on the way back climb down backwards, not forwards, it's easier and safer.
Once inside its impressive and inspiring, sheer cliffs surround you as do mossy ferns and cool breezes. Sit, relax and take it all in.
The Art Gallery.
Back in the day, before we all became sensitive to indigenous cultures, some troglodytes scrapped graffiti on the rock wall. It's not a large disfigurement, but it's there nonetheless.
(On my travels I've never wanted to desecrate another's culture, you know like climbing over the walls and roof of Notre Dame Cathedral or write graffiti on the frescos inside. But hey, to each his own)
When you arrive at the Art Gallery, don't rush off. Take some time to sit and ponder. We arrived at about 12:30 and when we arrived there were only three other people there. Not a crowd at all.
So we could sit and take in a few thousand years of indigenous culture. Art Gallery is a misnomer, it's actually a place of private men's and women's business, possibly a place of initiation rites. It's quiet and inspiring.
We stayed at Takarakka Bush Resort. Good facilities - toilets, camp kitchen, camping areas for tents, caravans and mobile homes as well as Safari Tents with ensuite and Kookaburra Studios and a cottage. Something for everyone! It's about 4 km from the Gorge entrance.
3 Km from the Gorge is Wilderness Lodge. It's a step up with 28 luxury safari cabins, a licensed restaurant and a French patisserie. (Camping can be hell!)
There's camping available at the National Park, but not all year and not without a permit, so check before you arrive.
A 360˚ Panorama sample of Takarakka Campsite