Carnarvon Gorge is one of Queensland's hidden treasures, with a smorgasbord of natural attractions in every direction. Driving from Brisbane, the easiest route is via Roma and Injune which takes about nine hours. Alternately, it is half the distance south west from Rockhampton. One of the best ways to enjoy a holiday in the bush is by car, as there are excellent camping facilities and you can stay as long as it takes to enjoy the beauty of this wilderness retreat.
Takarakka Bush Resort is an ideal base with excellent facilities, including a convenience store and central to all the great walks. The grounds and surroundings are fantastic for a stroll, with the Platypus Pool just around the corner and the nearby lookout a perfect location to enjoy the cliff sunset. Kangaroos and wallabies are locals here, as well as the occasional prickly echidna. The Information Center nearby also doubles as a starting point for many of the walks.
The best time to visit is between March and October, when temperatures are mild, although it does get very cold at nights. The summer months bring 40oC temperatures during the day so the waterholes are an ideal way to escape the heat, and there are not as many visitors around this time. This is also the rainy season, so come prepared to weather a few storms. The gorge is so large that you can easily feel like the only person in the world once you get off the beat track onto some of the longer walks.
I have been fascinated by this 'oasis in the desert' ever since my first school camp, and still remember the wonder I felt when we stepped off the coach into a world of eucalypt trees, kangaroos and waterholes. I still remember the exhilaration of finally reaching the gorge lookout, the eeriness of the moss gardens, and the echoes of the natural amphitheater. Every visit since then has recaptured my heart, and thankfully the natural beauty of the Gorge has stayed exactly as it was all those years ago.
The biggest attraction is the Gorge itself, and avid bushwalkers will enjoy the many walks available. Each is clearly signposted and suits most levels of fitness. The Rock Pool walk is a favorite, which takes close to an hour ending in a shady rest area and pool surrounded by ferns and casuarina trees. If you're lucky you might see a platypus or two. The Moss Gardens take a few hours return but your reward is an incredible display silky moss, ferns and rich undergrowth. The rock walls seem to tower overhead with a canopy of palms, ferns and everything green.
The Nature Trail, taking only an hour return, is a must and best enjoyed at dusk or dawn to capture the wildlife, colors and beautiful scenery along Carnarvon Creek at its best. The Boolimba Bluff Walk takes you high up to a panoramic view of the gorge. Do not forget your camera and be prepared for a lot of steps and ladders. It is well worth the trek for such incredible scenery of the gorge at its best. My favorite has always been the Amphitheater which can only be reached via a sturdy ladder leading into its sixty metro chamber. Once you are inside it is hard to believe that such an impressive attraction has been formed by the sheer force of running water.
Another great idea is to plan a day trip through the gorge combining a number of walks. For instance, the Aboriginal Art gallery, Ward's Canyon, Amphitheater and Moss Gardens can all be joined together. The walks have been designed so that a number of them branch off the main walking track. For flora and fauna lovers, a visit to Ward's Canyon is another must do with the world's largest fern proudly on display.
Why not pack a picnic lunch and hike to the Devil's signpost or The Ranch for the day? The tracks are easily marked but not used as frequently which means you often have the wilderness to yourself. Another adventure option is to walk the length of Carnarvon Gorge. This is an overnight experience which needs some planning but is worth every minute of amazing scenery.
Birdwatchers will think they are in heaven with wedge tailed eagles, peregrine falcons, rainbow lorikeets, king parrots and kookaburras just some of the birds at home here. Dusk is always noisy, with a host of birds singing to each other around the campgrounds. You can not forget the owls and tawny frogmouths which come alive at night.
You need to plan for at least three days to a week to experience the best of Carnarvon Gorge. There is something about driving through the outback for miles and finally reaching an oasis of such magnitude. Once you visit you will have to come back again and again.