Outback Queensland’s hidden oasis

Amongst the semi-arid expanses of Outback Queensland’s central highlands is Carnarvon National Park, a mesmerising wilderness of sandstone escarpments and lush gorges that’s accessible to both road-trippers and serious explorers.

Straddling the Great Dividing Range as it arcs through Central Queensland, the park is largely made up of rolling highlands that drop into dramatic gorges carved by time and the elements. The most impressive of these is Carnarvon Gorge itself, which is a 30km highlight reel of natural diversity and spectacular scenery that’s easily accessible to visitors, with multiple attractions hanging off of it: the Amphitheatre, Moss Garden, Baloon Cave and more.

There are four sections of the Carnarvon National Park: Carnarvon Gorge, Mount Moffatt and its elevated escarpments, Ka Ka Mundi’s high plateaus and the more remote Salvator Rosa to the west – all of which are home to impressive vistas and visceral landscapes.

Getting there

Carnarvon National Park is 593km northwest of Brisbane, while the closest major town is Roma; almost 250km away. This means preparation is key, both in terms of fuel, food and other supplies, as well as prior trip planning.

If you have a 4WD, you will be able to access all areas of the park (including Salvator Rosa), though 2WD vehicles without high clearance can still access many of its highlights (including Carnarvon Gorge).

For a full off-road and off-grid exploration of the park, your fuel range must be considered, as it’s 428km from Injune to Mitchell through the extremities of the park without supply points.

Exploring the park

Carnarvon National Park

Even though Carnarvon National Park is a one-piece land allocation, moving between its four sections is a lengthy process comparatively – for instance, Mt Moffatt and The Gorge sections are only 20km apart as the crow flies, but the on-road separation between them is 300km. This means a thorough exploration of the park can take well over a week, making it the perfect destination for a localised Outback road trip.

Within the park are a variety of lookouts, campgrounds, natural attractions and walking trails to experience, which all imbue a feeling of remoteness that’s not unwarranted – a sentiment that should be noted by prospective travellers and used as fuel for their own preparation.

Park highlights

Carnarvon National Park’s brightest jewel is its eponymous gorge: a deep and lush gap in the surrounding ranges that’s filled with all manner of flora and fauna, which are drawn to this place due to its value as a year-round water supply. Largely fed by groundwater, Carnarvon Gorge presents travellers with endless opportunities for adventure – whether it’s investigating the winding course of the waterway or embedding yourself in nature at any number of the area’s hotspots. The gorge is of particular importance to local Aboriginal tribes, which is evidenced by passed-down accounts and the rock art sites that can be found in various locations throughout the park.

In the Mt Moffatt section, there is camping at Dargonelly Rock Hole and West Branch, Rotary Shelter Shed and Top Moffatt camping areas, all of which can be reached along dirt tracks where high clearance is preferable. Within Mt Moffatt are numerous sandstone formations to match its high escarpments, each one eroded over countless lifetimes into strange and wonderful shapes.

There is also bush camping in both the Ka Ka Mundi and Salvator Rosa sections for more serious adventurers in Bunbuncundoo Springs and Nogoa River respectively. Though it’s more remote, Salvator Rosa and its stunning terrain is worth the trip, with explorer Major Thomas Mitchell remarking in 1845 upon his arrival in the area: “The overhanging hills surpassed any I have ever seen in picturesque outline. It was a discovery worthy of the toils of a pilgrimage.”

With so much to see and do in this inimitable pocket of Outback Queensland, Carnarvon National Park is a truly immersive experience for all manner of travellers on any timeframe.

Content courtesy of Hema Maps. Hema Maps has been crafting folded maps, guides and digital navigation products for exploring Australia off the beaten track for over 30 years. Visit the Hema Maps website to find out where your next adventure could take you.