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Carnarvon National Park/Australia

Introducing Carnarvon National Park

Carnarvon Gorge is a dramatic rendition of Australian natural beauty. Escaped convicts often took refuge here among ancient rock paintings. The area was made a national park in 1932 after defeated farmers forfeited their pastoral lease.

The 30km-long, 200m-high gorge was carved out over millions of years by Carnarvon Creek and its tributaries twisting through soft sedimentary rock. What was left behind is a lush, other-worldly oasis, where life flourished, shielded from the stark terrain. You’ll find giant cycads, king ferns, river oaks, flooded gums, cabbage palms, deep pools and platypuses in the creek.

For most people, Carnarvon Gorge is the Carnarvon National Park, because the other sections – including Mt Moffatt (where Indigenous groups lived some 19,000 years ago), Ka Ka Mundi and Salvator Rosa – have long been difficult to access.

Coming from Rolleston the road is bitumen for 75km and unsealed for 20km. From Roma via Injune and Wyseby homestead, the road is good bitumen for about 215km, then unsealed and fairly rough for the last 30km. After heavy rain, both these roads can become impassable.

The entrance road leads to an information centre and scenic picnic ground. Limited camping is available by the entrance during school holidays. The main walking track also starts here, following Carnarvon Creek through the gorge, with detours to various points of interest. These include the Moss Garden (3.6km from the picnic area), Ward’s Canyon (4.8km), the Art Gallery (5.6km) and Cathedral Cave (9.3km). Allow at least a whole day for a visit. Basic groceries and ice are available at Takarakka Bush Resort. Petrol is not available anywhere in the gorge – fill up at Rolleston or Injune.

You cannot drive from Carnarvon Gorge to other sections of the park, although you can reach beautiful Mt Moffatt via an unsealed road from Injune (4WD necessary).

Sunrover Expeditions runs a five-day camping safari into Carnarvon Gorge between March and October.

For accommodation, book ahead before entering. Big Bend Camping Ground is an isolated campground a 10km walk up the gorge. For Mt Moffatt Camping Ground, campers need to be self-sufficient and have a 4WD.

A little scrappy around the edges, Takarakka Bush Resort is still popular with families and bush whackers. The overpriced safari tents ($132) are OK for the ill-prepared. The ensuite cabins are tiring by the season but can sleep four and therefore represent decent value. Reception sells basic groceries, maps, booze, ice and fresh linen ($10). The resort is 5km from the entry to the gorge.

Outback chic is on offer at the attractive Carnarvon Gorge Wilderness Lodge, set deep in the bush. Excellent guided tours are available, plus a full-board package (from $155 to $300 per person).

There are no bus services to Carnarvon, so the best way to get here is to hire a car or take an overnight tour from the coast.