Ancient art, clear mountain streams, and spectacular scenery. That’s Carnarvon Gorge.
“Yindi woogoo yunie thiligoo nunee bindbee – you come to see good land.” – The Ghungalu People
Arguably the most anticipated destination of our Queensland Outback trip was Carnarvon Gorge, one of Australia’s true natural wonders. Leaving Roma, we headed due north on the Carnarvon Highway through Injune to the Carnarvon Gorge turnoff, a distance of 245 kilometres. The Gorge is 40 kilometres in from the highway and on the way, you pass a memorial to the crash of an American C47 Dakota aircraft during a violent storm in 1943. The crash killed US and Australian military personnel and serves as a sobering reminder of wartime tragedy, even here in Queensland’s Outback.
Carnarvon Gorge is an incredibly beautiful part of the world, with amazing scenery and reminders of our First People who lived and prospered here tens of thousands of years ago.
We’d booked four nights at the Takarakka Bush Resort at the mouth of the gorge, at the entrance to Carnarvon National Park, one of the top 5 national parks in Queensland.
The park is characterised by its towering sandstone cliffs, strikingly diverse gorges with rare palms, relaxing waterfalls and exhilarating bush treks. Carnarvon Gorge houses an abundance of native plants and wildlife along with internationally significant aboriginal rock art that dates back tens of thousands of years.
This is a place to set your spirit free. Here you can spot platypus in the many creeks early in the morning or at dusk, watch pretty-faced wallabies grazing and apostle birds squabbling, or sneak into cool, shady side-gorges and look skyward towards the top of towering sandstone cliffs and contemplate the spiritual relationship the area’s First Nations people have with this special landscape.
Takarakka Bush Resort
The only accommodation and camping in the gorge that is open all year round, Takarakka Bush Resort is set on 100 picturesque acres, bordered by Carnarvon Creek. With the great Australian outback as a backdrop and surrounded by majestic sandstone cliffs and the expansive landscape, Takarakka is the ultimate wilderness resort and the ideal base from which to explore the gorge. There is a range of accommodation available , including Taka Safari Tents for those interested in ‘glamping’. We booked an unpowered site for our caravan, which meant that we were able to find a location that was more secluded, away from the rows of caravans you find in most caravan parks. However, whilst the site was unpowered, there was plenty of potable tap water close by and the amenities were within easy walking distance and were excellent. Indeed, visitor reviews suggest that Takarakka has Australia’s best presented camp kitchens and bathroom amenities.
For most people, Takarakka provides a base camp from which to explore Carnarvon Gorge. Having said this, there’s plenty to keep you entertained at the resort between treks into the gorge. Walks along Carnarvon Creek provide an excellent way to take in the local environment and perhaps even spot a platypus or two in the late afternoon. The well-stocked Taka Bush Bar is open every evening from 4.00 and is a great place to meet new friends. At 5.00 they play a short video presentation that introduces new arrivals to the resort and details the various treks into the gorge. There is a well-provisioned general store for essentials, camp kitchens to prepare meals, and open fires with wood provided so in the evening you can get social. If you prefer, you can enjoy a sit-down meal, a yummy two-course spit roast dinner on the balcony of the general store on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. All you need to do is book in advance and bring your own plates.
The peak time to visit Takarakka Bush Resort and Carnarvon Gorge is between April and August. A word of advice – pre-book here, and in fact, everywhere. We were told of people who had driven 40 kilometres in to Takarakka only to find there were no sites available. And that means another 40 kilometres drive back to the highway! You can contact the resort on: www.takarakka.com.au
A sandstone wilderness
Time to get those hiking boots on! The gorge is about 35 kilometres long and is a bush walker’s paradise. There are self-guided walks to suit all ages and fitness levels. Most walks start from the Carnarvon Visitor’s Centre which is a short 10 minute drive from the Resort. The Visitor’s Centre is a great place to start the Carnarvon adventure as it is full of information and displays on the region, the park, and its history. It is staffed early morning only, so the displays are all self-explanative. As a bonus, pick up a cup of excellent coffee on the way from Carnarvon Gorge Wilderness Lodge!
It’s hard not to get excited at the sight of the towering white sandstone cliffs as you enter the park. People have been drawn to this place for millennia. You’ll need sturdy shoes as the walks are over rocky terrain and are classified as follows: Class 2 track: easy level track well signed; Class 3 track: Gently sloping with some steep sections and creek crossings; Class 4 track: May be extensively overgrown, creek crossings and cliff edges. Its best to start early in the day and take plenty of water and some provisions. Walks range in duration from 1 hour to a full day. The Nature Trail is the shortest of the walks, being 1.5 kilometres return and taking about 1 hour. The longest walk, to the Big Bend camping area at the head of the gorge is 19.4 kilometres and takes 7 to 8 hours. You can camp overnight here but you’ll need to bring everything with you as it is a Class 4 track, so moderate fitness and some bushwalking experience is required. Some of the best walks such as Moss Garden, Amphitheatre and Ward’s Canyon are 9 to 11 kilometres and take 3 to 4 hours. Good for the morning or afternoon. The Art Gallery features over 2000 engravings, ochre stencils and freehand paintings dating back tens of thousands of years and are some of the best examples of Aboriginal stencil art in Australia.
If it sounds a little daunting, it’s not. There are detailed maps available and people to help you. You’ll also find the evening video presentation at Takarakka invaluable in helping plan your treks. And, in the evening you get to share your adventures with other visitors over a beverage at happy hour or around a campfire.
We stayed 4 days at Takarakka Bush Resort , which is the minimum if you really want to explore the region, relax, and take in the beauty of the natural surrounds. And remember, as the Park Rangers say:
“Leave only footprints and take home only wonderful memories.”
Main Picture: Sheer sandstone rock walls inside the Gorge. Image: 4WD Touring Australia
- Welcome to Takarakka Bush Resort
- Happy Hour at the Taka Bush Bar
- The night life is pretty good too
- Videos detail the Resort and the Gorge walks
- There is nothing better than an open fire
- Particularly on a cold night
- A great campsite away from the crowds
- Carnarvon Creek on the perimeter of the Resort
- The Gorge in all its glory
- From the lookout on the hills behind the Resort
- Abundant wildlife
- Rock paintings at The Art Gallery
- One of numerous creek crossings on the Gorge walks
- Rod and Dinah at the entrance to the Park
- Carnarvon Gorge Visitor’s Centre