Explore The World’s Oldest Art at Carnarvon National Park | Australia


This post takes place at Carnarvon National Park in Queensland, Australia. This place is just as stunning now as she was 27 million years ago.

Millennia before Australia, Aboriginal People understood, respected and treasured the land. They knew it like lovers know each other’s bodies. They learned its rhythms and seasons, every flower, bird and rivulet. Through exquisite art and music that stirs the soul, they handed down stories so that their descendants would never forget who they are and where they come from.

Australia is home to some of the oldest collections of rock art in the world, and interpreting these ancient art provides valuable insights into their history.

Aboriginal art
The Aboriginal People have for thousands of years used artistic designs and symbols to convey stories and messages which are incredibly important in their culture.

Carnavon National Park

Once you reach the grounds of this national park, you immediately feel the strong connection to the country. Bushwalking is not just about spotting the birds, kangaroos and other animals. We were fascinated and puzzled by exhibits of Aboriginal artwork that have been on show for century upon century. The tracks on Carnarvon National Park that go through the magnificent flora and fauna to reach the ancient art galleries of Carnarvon Gorge is half the fun. You will get a sense of the amazing forces that must have passed through here at times to make the gorge and this amazing landscape of sandstone cliffs, ancient cycads and ferns is a geographical sensation to support the spectacular collections of Aboriginal relics.

You will soon witness hundreds of handprints both large and small, and marvel at the plenitude of ochre and ash stencils and engravings that depict aspects of the Indigenous lifestyle.

This is Australia’s best Indigenous stencil art and the rock surface can easily erode- so please don’t touch!

Aboriginal art stencils
The fragile aboriginal art on the gorge’s sandstone walls reflects a rich culture.

Luckily this site has been preserved by not being listed on brochures and maps and having camouflaged tracks to keep any vandalism at bay. The rock art tells stories from the local Bidjara and Karingbal people.

The Art Gallery at Carnarvon

The track to the Art Gallery is 5.4km (one way) and long enough to make a bit of a day of it but easily accessible for anyone who enjoys a walk. There’s a slight hill towards the end of the trail, but the extra huff and puff are worth it to get to the shady picnic spot at the end.

art gallery carnarvon
Over two thousand engravings, ochre stencils and freehand paintings adorn the 62m-long sandstone walls


Aijon Falls & Ward’s Canyon

This was my favourite spot of all in Carnarvon National Park. Here, we came face-to-face with ‘green dinosaurs’ as Ward’s Canyon is home to the world’s largest fern – the king fern (Angiopteris evecta). There’s a short steep track at the end that will take you alongside a waterfall.

Walking into the narrow canyon is like stepping into a chilly air-conditioned office. It’s the perfect pit stop to rest your feet, cool down and watch the gentle swaying ferns.

Ward’s Canyon carnarvon
Ward’s Canyon is home to the world’s largest fern

The Amphitheatre

This one is for the slightly more adventurous walker and involves climbing up a steel ladder and through a narrow rock, crevice leads to a large chasm carved out by the water, 60 metres deep into the sandstone chamber. Ferns and mosses grow on the walls and floor. The still, eerie atmosphere here leaves many people quiet and full of wonder.

Amphitheatre in Carnarvon National Park
This is the Amphitheatre. Carved out of striking sandstone country.

Moss Garden

We escape the midday sun and make your way to the cool waterfall and green walls of the Moss Garden.

This is situated in Violet Gorge, at 3.6km from the camping area, a side gorge in the Hellhole Gorge complex. A small waterfall tumbles over a large rock overhang into an icy pool. The rock walls are dripping with water and support a prolific growth of ferns, mosses, liverworts and hornworts.

Moss Garden Carnarvon national Park
Water drips constantly from the sandstone walls of the Moss Garden

Boolimba Bluff

This is at 3.2km from the camping area. After the first creek crossing, this track is to the right, off the main gorge track. The bluff is 200 metres above the gorge floor, so a series of stone steps and ladders have been built into the track to make the steep climb easier. Boolimba Bluff has a panoramic view of the gorge and the geological components of the area can be identified.

Boolimba Bluff carnarvon
Boolimba Bluff was a pretty track

Cathedral Cave

In the shelter of this large overhang, 9.3km along the main gorge track, Aborigines once spent time feasting and painting. The lower walls are covered in carving and paintings. Do not expect to see everything at a glance. Look carefully at the paintings and many exciting figures will take shape. There are no constructed walking tracks beyond Cathedral Cave, but Boowinds Gorge nearby to the left with its narrow passages and sculptured rock walls is worth seeing.

P.S: This post was originally published on the 1/04/2016 and updated on the 29/7/2019. You might also like to read about Aboriginal art and Mossman Gorge.

FAQ’s about our trip to Carnarvon National Park

Did you go to Carnarvon National Park with the kids?

No. The last time we explore Carnarvon National Park we didn’t have children.

Would you take your kids there?

Absolutely! Carnarvon is an amazing place to explore with kids – has easy and short tracks that you can choose according to your child’s age and fitness, it’s safe and fun! Plus, there’s so much learning to take in for the whole family. We are aiming to take the kids there shortly!

Did you fly or drive?

We drove our defender there – was a great long and worthy road trip! Plus we get to sleep on our rooftop tent!

How many days do you need to explore the area?

We stayed for 3 days. However, you can easily spend 8 days there, especially if you are thinking of doing one of the multi-day walks.


I’m Sofia, a Portuguese native, who, quit my job, packed 20 kg of my life into a backpack and moved to Australia. I have been fuelled by my new life to experience more adventure rather than settle, pursing even more my desire to travel, explore and being outdoors.

This blog aims to inspire, intrigue and encourage readers around the world to travel further, longer and wider and also to share my passion for an outdoor lifestyle.

Go top
Translate »