It seems almost wrong to have a holiday in Queensland without a beach nearby. But head out to the towering sandstone cliffs of Carnarvon Gorge, 720 km north west of Brisbane, and you’ll see another side of the state – a little piece of Jurassic Park, an oasis of remnant rainforest and crystal clear creeks, platypuses and echidnas and some of the country’s most impressive Aboriginal rock art. This is a 2000 km round trip, so pack plenty of in-car entertainment. We went with two other families which meant piles of kids, endless games of capture the flag, marshmallows around the communal campfire, slime fights and loads of fun.
Day 1 Brisbane to Roma: Roma is the best place to break the journey to Carnarvon Gorge. It’s the last substantial town for stocking up on fuel and supplies. There’s also an airport, which is handy for travelling companions who get caught up in Sydney and miss their ride from Brisbane. If you’ve got boys in the car you’ll also want to visit Beetson Oval, one time home ground to league legend Darren Lockyer and have a sticky beak at Lovell Street where he grew up.
Stay: The Explorers Inn is the pick of the accommodation here.
Day 2 Roma to Carnarvon Gorge: We start the day with breakfast at Bakearoma (63 McDowell St), and then drive another three hours to the Carnarvon National Park. The last section is unsealed but is generally passable in a 2WD in dry weather.
We stay in a family size tent at Takarakka, which has beds and a small fridge. The Taka tents offer a lot more privacy than the camping area. It’s not ‘glamping’ (bathrooms and the camp kitchen are communal). But there is plenty of space for the kids to roam and the chance to spot wildlife. We find two echidnas foraging at dusk near the entrance to the resort, completely indifferent to our presence. The resort also offers a spit roast every couple of nights and the lovely big fire pit is the centre of activity in the evening.
Day 3-4 Carnarvon Gorge: The Carnarvon Gorge main track is rated one of Australia’s best day walks. We set off early and follow Carnarvon Creek for almost 10 km to the picnic area at Big Bend. There are several side tracks to explore on the way – leading to caves and chasms. There’s not time for all of them, even on a full day walk, but one must is the Art Gallery, where 2000 Aboriginal paintings, stencils and engravings adorn a sandstone overhang. The other side tracks can be done on the following days or take a picnic to the rock pool for a break from walking. Get up early if you want to find a platypus (we didn’t). And walk to the lookout behind the campsite for a great sunrise.
Day 5-7 Carnarvon Gorge – Biloela – Agnes Water – Brisbane: Because it probably is wrong to completely ignore beaches while holidaying in Queensland, we head for the coast after three days at Carnarvon Gorge. We spend a night in Biloela on our way to Agnes Water, but there’s probably no need (unless you really like to visit coal mines).
Agnes Water, just south of Gladstone, has a great beach, a very laid back atmosphere and plenty of accommodation. We stay in a very spacious apartment at Edges, about ten minutes walk from the beach. Make sure you visit 1770, on the estuary side of the peninsular at sunset and stop at The Tree for dinner or a drink. Leave yourself plenty of time to get home. The highway south can get very congested at holiday time with caravans, horse floats and of course there are bound to be road works. Good luck!
How about some kids’ books for the journey.
Hazard River series
Jack Wilde and his friends come up against smugglers, dodgy developers and rogue fishermen at Hazard River. How will they survive the summer holidays?
How to get to Rio
For months Kitty MacLean has been crushing on Rio Sanchez who is probably the cutest boy in the world. But it looks like she might never get a chance to hang out with him until she makes a new friend. So, should she go camping with her best friends like she promised or go to Paradise Point with popular-girl Persephone instead?