Letho's Blog

Carnarvon Gorge

by on Aug.05, 2011, under The East Coast

August 03, 2011

Leaving Mackay we only stopped at Hay Point on our way to Rockhampton. Hay Point is one of the largest coal export ports in the world, and to be honest not one of the most gorgeous views you will find from the designated viewing platform. It is interesting to see kilometer long jetties, huge coal dumps and 30-40 big cargo ships near the wharves or on the horizon, however.

Here’s an overview of the area:

Panorama of Hay Point

Panorama of Hay Point

Close to Rockhampton we made it just in time for a tour in the Capricorn Caves before it closed for the day. As we were the only (late) visitors we got a very special tour from our tour guide and learned quite a lot about this unique system of above-ground caves in a limestone ridge.

It has e.g. a chamber called the Cathedral Cave with near-perfect acoustic properties, and we could enjoy a song along with some impressive illumination while sitting down silently for a few minutes. It is used for venues like weddings or underground operas – that’s how good it is. 😉

In Rockhampton we stayed with a lovely CouchSurfing couple who not only had already cooked a great meal for us, but also invited their friends over resulting in a really entertaining evening. What a life. 🙂

August 04, 2011

Since we had finally decided to make a (1100 km!) detour to the Carnarvon Gorge we left Rockhampton and headed for Emerald deep in the inland.

Rockhampton is located right at the Tropic of Capricorn which we had already passed a few times now on our way north or south, although this time not in tropical-like weather. In Emerald we stayed with friends we had met first in the Adelaide Hills a few months ago.

August 05, 2011

About time to get to the Carnarvon Gorge at last! It’s not only a huge gorge, but also a long drive to finally get there. Although you can recognize the escarpment from quite a distance ..

Quickly we set up our gear and began what would end up to be our longest hike by far in Australia in one day: roughly 25-30 kilometers, 10 km’s into the gorge and back and all the sidewalks to the sites on the way. Let’s start!

The distinct bright colours of the gorge’s walls and its high escarpments accompanied us all along the way and back. Our first stop was at the Amphitheatre:

These two panoramas give you a better idea of the actual dimensions. In the first one you are right before the entrance:

Entrance to the Amphitheatre

Entrance to the Amphitheatre

The second one illustrates the view from out of the crevice:

View out of the Amphitheatre's gap

View out of the Amphitheatre's gap

In the Amphitheatre we experienced the most stunning acoustics. Having been in the Cathedral Chamber of the Capricorn Cave only two days ago this was even more impressive – not a massive echo, but a crystal-clear reverb effect. It was so overwhelming that we spontaneously sang a canon – who would’ve thought that? 😉

The next stop was Ward’s Canyon, a canyon featuring palms, ferns and steep, mossy rock cliffs:

And on we went – did we mention already that it’s always a few kilometers between every site? At the Art Gallery we saw some very unique Aboriginal rock art, including boomerangs:

At this point we had not even reached the end of the main track. Meter after meter we hiked deeper into the gorge and its beautiful scenery. Next stop: Cathedral Cave.

We had expected an actual cave, but found more rock art. A few kilometers later we finally arrived at the end of the main track, and we can proove it:

Proof - we made it to the very end!

Proof - we made it to the very end!

We were happy about the toilets as well. 😉 Almost 10 kilometers, and only halway through now – this site is called the Big Bend as the creek bents sharply here:

Similar to other remote places we’ve been to before we found lots of little rock pillars. We decided to build one ourselves, of course. Let’s see if you can find out where it is:

On our way back we exlored the Boowinda Gorge as advised by a hiker along the way:

Now it was time to head back. With the last daylight we reached Moss Garden, a beautiful spot whose name comes from its high and mossy rock walls:

Here’s a panorama for you:

Panorama of Moss Garden

Panorama of Moss Garden

It was getting darker and darker with every minute, therefore we didn’t have enough time to make it up to the Boolimba Bluff and missed a possibly great view of the escarpment. Well, on the other hand we had seen quite a lot already in one day. 😉

However, our day was not yet over. To get to our next CouchSurfing host we drove another 450 kilometers and arrived in Gladstone very late at night. Totally exhausted we dropped onto our couch.. phew!

3 Comments for this entry

  • Debbie Milne

    Thanks so much for the imput and great pictures you put on here concerning canarvan gorge we were wondering weather to go or not,but you have certainly helped us to decide that it is certainly worth going.What time did you start in the morning? How many hours did it take you to do the return hike? Did you have a detailed map or is it marked well? where do we get maps from.?

    • frank

      Hi Debbie,
      we started at about 9:30am and it took us literally the whole day. We got back at about 6pm, it was already completely dark. We made about 25-30 kilometers that day and went to all the places along the way, including a short detour into Boowinda Gorge. However, we had very mild temperatures, therefore I assume it’s much harder when it’s more like hot summer.
      The track is well marked, there’s basically only one way into and out of Carnarvon Gorge. There are signs denoting how far you have already hiked and how long a detour to the next point of interest will be. Maps are available at a booth close to the starting point. There is a basic campground at the end of the track near the bend.
      However, in the end we did not make it to that famous lookout which gives you a spectacular view of the gorge’s sandstone cliff lines, although it’s located close to the start of the track. 😉 This walk is supposed to be quite steep and exhausting alone, and we didn’t want to take the risk getting caught in the dark.
      We made a huge detour to get to Carnarvon Gorge, but found it to be totally worth the effort. It’s an amazingly rich and diverse place. We loved the Amphitheatre where we couldn’t resist to chant a few canons – a stunning acoustic feature!
      All the best and enjoy the hike,

  • Glenn

    What a wonderful place 🙂 Thanks for sharing

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