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Few national parks can compare to what many describe as Queensland’s best-kept secret, Carnarvon National Park.

Why? This isn’t just one gorge, it’s a series of natural landscapes and geological phenomena, that beg visitors to explore more.

Expect to find sandstone cliffs, vibrant gorges, Aboriginal rock art, and rugged ranges; a veritable oasis in central Queensland.

The consensus from the 65,000 people who visit Carnarvon Gorge each year is - don’t underestimate its size – you’ll want days to discover it.

This year, why not give new meaning to the term ‘forest bathing’ and discover Queensland’s ‘Green Canyon’ with this guide.

How to get there

Located in the Central Queensland Highlands between Roma and Emerald, all roads lead to Carnarvon Gorge.

If you’re travelling with your own wheels, you can reach the national park by either Roma via the Western Downs in the south, or Emerald in the north taking the Great Inland Way.

With no lookouts into the gorge itself, the only way to experience it is to lace up your boots and get amongst it.

If flying, Rockhampton Airport, Roma Airport, and Emerald Airport service the national park – accessible by hire car as you’ll need to travel 400km from Rockhampton Airport, 240km from Emerald and 250km from Roma respectively.

If you're hiring a car, be aware of road conditions (they change quickly with weather); and remember to fuel up as there are no service stations after Rolleston and Injune.

Car driving on bitumen road towards mountains with dense green trees on either side.

Carnarvon Gorge, Central Queensland Highlands

What to expect

No need for a natural history museum, this gorge is a living, breathing one, playing home to a range of significant plant and animal species.

Its main attraction is undoubtedly the gorge itself, a couple of hundred metres high, packaging up rainforest, ferns, Indigenous rock art, and rock pools into one natural landscape.


On the plant front, it’s no trick of the eyes – plenty of what’s growing here points to a time when central Australia was cooler and wetter. Rainforest flourishes surprisingly out of arid country, with ferns, ancient cycads, and shrubs decorating the main gorge.


You’ll find Carnarvon National Park is just as lively with wildlife as native plants. Put binoculars and a bird book on the packing list as you have 173 species of birds to spot within the park alone.

While traversing the many walking tracks, you’ll be sharing the path with kangaroos, wallabies, and water dragons, and a keen eye may also spot more elusive Aussie icons like echidnas and platypus too.

When the sun’s away, the nocturnal animals come out to play. Don a head torch and embark on a guided night tour for your best chance at spotting possums, owls, sugar gliders, and the long-nosed bandicoot.

Rock art

Calling Carnarvon National Park a natural gallery of ancient art would be an understatement - there are over 2,000 examples of rock art here alone. A hike along the 10.8km Art Gallery trail lands you at a 62-metre-long sandstone wall of vivid red engravings, ochre stencils, and free-hand paintings.

For the keen hikers and art enthusiasts, head out on the 18.2km (return) walk to a Cathedral Cave, a towering overhang that sheltered Aboriginal people for thousands of years. Upon the cave’s walls are paintings, stencils, and engravings with the oldest of these outdating the stained-glass windows of any cathedral in the world.

Couple of hikers between two rock walls looking upwards.

Carnarvon Gorge, Central Queensland Highlands

Which walks to take

Something quick

For a walk the whole family will enjoy, set out on the Nature Trail, a 1.5km loop that begins mere metres from the Visitor Centre. Short yet exciting, this trail offers a taste of the vegetation, scenery, and wildlife that’s found within Carnarvon National Park. Keep one eye on the canopy to spot birds twittering about and the other eye on Carnarvon Creek, where if you’re lucky, you’ll spot a platypus.

Full-day hike

The creme de la crème of all Carnarvon Gorge walks is no doubt the Main Gorge Track, a 20km out-and-back hike that has it all. Eucalyptus forests, rainforests, bird life, wildlife, towering cliff faces, ancient rock art, and bubbling creek crossings, the Main Gorge Track is like a 10-for-the-price-of-one-deal on this National Park adventure. Take it from us, this one is best enjoyed with the Airpods out, phone zipped away, and eyes up to spot the movements of local wildlife.

Great Walk

Not any track can earn ‘Great Walk’ status, but the Carnarvon Great Walk is one of ten iconic treks in Queensland’s selection of Great Walks. Spanning 87km, this hike twists and turns through lush rainforests, below sandstone cliffs, along ridgelines, and deep into gorges.
Over six days, you’ll see the breadth and depth of Carnarvon National Park flora and fauna while traversing the trails, gazing from the top of lookouts or cosying up in secluded campsites under a twinkling canopy of stars.
This trail is split into six sections ranging from 9.7km to 17.3km in length – perfect distances to walk from camp-to-camp at a leisurely pace and still have time to explore the extra trails around each site.

How long to stay

Given the national park covers 2,980 km², that’s roughly a fifth of the size of Brisbane, time is a gift when discovering the park. We’d suggest a minimum of three days in the park itself if you want to see all the sights without feeling like it’s all cardio and no chit-chat.

Allocate three or four days on either side for road trip pitstops from your home destination, whether it be these 10 things to do in the Central Queensland Highlands or this Epic 6 Days Drive Through Southern Queensland Country.

Where to stay

Carnarvon National Park may be a great wilderness area, but it isn’t without lodges, holiday parks, and campsites that come with all your creature comforts or give you ample space to set things up the way you like.

Base yourself conveniently close to the best trailheads at these central Carnarvon Gorge accommodation options:

Carnarvon Gorge Wilderness Lodge

Check into large safari-style tents that can fit up to a family of four at the Wilderness Lodge. You’ll be sharing the site (but not your bed) with the friendly kangaroos who graze just off your patio in the evening. Treat yourself to delicious dishes from their on-site restaurant or refuel on your own culinary creations thanks to the facilities within their two fully stocked kitchens.

Cabins with tent material for walls, surrounded by green grass and trees.

Carnarvon Gorge Wilderness Lodge, Central Queensland Highlands

BIG4 Breeze Holiday Parks - Carnarvon Gorge

Accommodation options at BIG4 Breeze Holiday Parks range from cottages to cabins and pre-erected tents that fit up to five people. For those with their own set up, there’s powered and unpowered campsites to choose from too. Pack a picnic on your travels to lay out in their green picnic area, or grab some tasty snacks from the mini-mart onsite.

Couple walking along path next to cabins surrounded by bushland.

BIG4 Breeze Holiday Parks - Carnarvon Gorge, Central Queensland Highlands

Sandstone Park

For those with a preference for portable accommodation, pull up the rig on one of the 41 drive-through sites at Sandstone Park. The limited amenities allow for 360-degree views of the surrounding ranges and a stay here places you a convenient five-minute drive from the national park entrance. Sandstone Park is the only pet-friendly accommodation option in Carnarvon Gorge, providing day-rate kennels to look after your fury-friend while you explore the national park at your leisure.

National Park campsite

Bring yourself back to nature and test out your best campaign gear at the designated National Park campsite – a wide grassy campground that places you at the doorstep of Carnarvon’s greatest one-day walk: the Main Gorge Track.

Canvas tent lit up from inside with a backdrop of trees and starry skies.

Carnarvon Gorge, Central Queensland Highlands

Best time of year to go

Like most of our country – the temperature highs are high and the lows low, so timing your trip for April to October is best.

Summer days frequently sit around the mid-thirties, so it is best to start your walks early to beat the heat, before relaxing at your campsite in the afternoon enjoying the scenery and wildlife.

To see it at its most vibrant, verdant green, Easter School Holidays usually deliver with the creeks full and flowing.

No matter the date of your trip, be sure to check the Bureau of Meteorology as the region is known to experience high rainfall, which can close the park due to impassible roads and unsafe walking / driving conditions.

How to see Carnarvon National Park with a guide

Carnarvon’s bold scenery and dense greenery are stunning, but it’s the flora, fauna, and places that hide out of sight that make it especially captivating.

Luckily, the owners of Carnarvon Gorge Eco Tours, Simon and Michelle, have over 20 years of experience hiking, mapping, and researching Carnarvon National Park, ultimately curating a set of tours that let you enjoy rare and otherwise inaccessible experiences without an expert on hand.

Trust the team to teach you how to tread lightly and preserve your natural surroundings while you head off-track to explore caves, creeks, and trails that require special permission to walk on their ‘Off The Beaten Track’ tour.

Tick off the must-see Carnarvon natural attractions and have Simon or Michelle all to yourself on a VIP Lower Gorge Explorer tour. For the adventurous night hikers, sign up for a night safari tour to spot the park’s resident aerial acrobats in action; marsupial gliders.

Alternatively, Central Queensland Nature Tours offer a range of tours in both 4WD tag-along format or guided hikes. Their signature Carnarvon walking tour covers some 14km across eight hours, ticking off the Moss Garden, Amphitheatre, Ward’s Canyon and Art Gallery to name a few highlights of the adventure.

Short on time, but long for the Carnarvon experience? Get to the choppa! Heli-Central offer aerial flights of the national park, dishing up bird’s eye views of the rock formations that make the park so famous. It’s from this perspective you’ll really understand how Carnavorn Gorge earnt the title of “green canyon”, passing the otherwise flat and arid grazing country that gives way to the green of the national park.

Tour guide with two hikers along national park trail surrounded by walls of rock.

Carnarvon Gorge Eco Tours, Central Queensland Highlands

Must remembers!

Put simply, you must be prepared when visiting Carnarvon Gorge. It’s regional and remote, and there are no shops anywhere near the park to fuel your adventure. All food and water must be brought into the park – best picked up before leaving your departure-base whether that be Roma, Emerald or Rockhampton.

Oh, and don’t forget to leave your pooch at home – or arrange kennelling at the only pet-friendly accommodation in the vicinity, Sandstone Park. Domestic animals are not permitted anywhere in Carnarvon National Park.

Local’s only tips

Word has got out and this ‘best kept secret’ isn’t so hush-hush any more. Accommodation bookings are essential, especially over school holiday periods, even if you intend on camping. Please be aware the national park camping area isn’t open year-round, so if you plan on going on your own schedule – look for private accommodation options.

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Acknowledgement of Country

Southern Queensland Country Tourism acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the lands and waterways that run through these regions. We pay our respects to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders past, present and emerging.