Into the (Sandstone) Wilderness
Rivalling Tasmania in size, Queensland’s ruggedly glorious Sandstone Wilderness is home to flora and fauna found nowhere else on the planet, spectacular sandstone gorges, majestic mountain ranges and culturally significant Aboriginal art sites.
If hiking, exploring national parks, and spotting endangered species is for you, don’t let this bio-diverse wonderland remain part of your great unknown.
Where to visit
Carnarvon Gorge section, Carnarvon National Park
It’s no wonder this lush oasis is arguably the most popular national park in the region. Carnarvon Gorge is home to more than 173 bird species and shelters endemic Livistona palms, ancient cycads and fragile ferns. It really is like stepping on to the set of Jurassic Park, minus the dinosaurs.
The trick to the Carnarvon Gorge section of the National Park is to take your time. Slow down and admire every fern, trickling creek and waddling echidna.
For a complete overview of the park including where to stay and when to go, visit this post.
Isla Gorge National Park
A nature lover’s paradise, Isla Gorge National Park is home to 10 rare and threatened flora and fauna species, including the shy Herbert’s rock wallaby.
Isla’s crowning glory is the complex maze of gorges, sandstone outcrops and rock formations that transition from yellow to orange to pink as the sun departs for the evening. With the picnic and camping area only one kilometre off the highway, it’s the perfect place to break your drive for the kaleidoscopic sunset and camping atop a cliff face.
Besides the geological formations, keep an eye out for wedge-tailed eagles and peregrine falcons. If possible, plan your trip in spring to take in the colourful blooms of wildflowers.
Blackdown Tableland National Park
Just under three hours from Rockhampton, Blackdown Tableland National Park offers the best of everything – spectacular lookouts, deep gorges, plenty of wildlife spotting and swimming holes to cool off in.
Ideal for 4WD enthusiasts, the 19km loop road takes you past the Park’s highlights. You’ll go past the Mook Mook lookout (ideal for sunrise), Gudda Gumoo rock pools, and Miltha Boongulla for panoramic views to the plains below. The key areas can also be accessed on foot via short to medium walks departing the Munall camping area.
Blackdown is for the bird-lovers, with kingfishers, cockatoos, robins, peregrine falcons, thornbills and rainbow bee-eaters commonly sighted.
Mount Moffatt Section, Carnarvon National Park
Welcome to the roof of Queensland.
In the north-east of the park, sandstone cliffs lead up to the basalt-topped ridges of the Great Dividing Range. At more than 1000 metres above sea level, the Consuelo Tableland is the highest plateau in Queensland. Spectacular views reveal a sweeping landscape of mountain ranges, rugged peaks, escarpments and gorges.
This section of the park is rich in human history. Aboriginal rock art is evidence of people’s connection with the land that stretches back for at least 19,000 years. All of Mount Moffatt is a living cultural landscape of significant importance to the Traditional Custodians.
To do this section justice you’re going to need close to a week. With four camping areas, seven walks and two drive locations there is plenty to see and do including The Looking Glass, The Chimneys and Cathedral Rock.
Salvator Rosa section, Carnarvon National Park
The Salvator Rosa section is Carnarvon’s oasis, peacefully resting beneath a backdrop of rocky sandstone crags and spires.
More than four million litres of water are added to Louisa Creek and Nogoa River from crystal clear springs that range from small soaks like Belinda Springs to spurting jets.
This section of the park is the best place to relax, enjoy a soak in the rivers and embark on the two small walks. The Spyglass circuit (2km) includes Hadrian’s Wall and the Homoranthus Hill, a short 300m climb to views over the bluffs and spires.
A region steeped in history
The Sandstone Wilderness is dotted with points of historical significance, from famous explorers of the ilk of Ludwig Leichhardt and Major Mitchell to Australia’s most famous sheep shearer, Jackie Howe.
Hankering for cheekier tales? Look no further than Australia’s last legendary bush rangers, the Kenniff Brothers, who caused mischief and mayhem near Carnarvon Gorge.
The region is home to some of Australia’s most significant stories and sites for for the Traditional Custodians, ranging from habitation sites to paintings and ancient rock art. The Art Gallery and Cathedral Cave in Carnarvon Gorge draw global recognition as being home to some of the finest examples of Aboriginal stencil and engraving techniques in the world.
Belt up and pack some toe-tapping tracks. Located in the heart of Queensland’s drive routes, the Sandstone Wilderness is easily accessible via Matilda Highway to the west, Australia’s Country Way to the east or by the Great Inland Way, the Capricorn and Warrego Highways.
For more ideas, read this recent road trip blog post, covering Brisbane to the Sandstone Wilderness.