Blackdown Tableland National Park a relatively small national park in central Queensland but it delivers a whole lot more than what I had expected.
Even though the weather was a bit crummy over the two days we spent here, there’s enough unexpected beauty to delight (almost) anybody.
To get to Blackdown Tableland, you’ll first have to wind your way up a narrow road to a plateau. And then, almost like on a platter, you’re presented with such a varied landscape that it doesn’t seem to fit in with the surrounding dry Queensland country you gaze onto from the plateau.
Blackdown Tableland is the traditional home of the Ghungalu, and you can appreciate some Ghungalu artefacts on one of the walks
BLACKDOWN TABLELAND NATIONAL PARK: KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
Ideally, plan at least two days here, especially if you’re in a 4WD-vehicle and want to do the scenic drive around the park. We had two days and managed to squeeze almost everything in but if you like to take things a bit more leisurely, plan an extra day or so.
HOW TO GET TO BLACKDOWN TABLELAND
From Rockhampton, it’s about 180km inland along the Capricorn Highway. If you’re coming from the west, Emerald is about 110km west of Blackdown Tableland.
The turnoff (Charlevue Road) to the national park is about 10km past Dingo (coming from the coast), you can’t really miss it.
Signage to the park is excellent and there really is only one road once you turn off from the Capricorn Highway.
The road up the plateau is quite narrow and steep. While it is completely paved, large vehicles or caravans may struggle to get around the switchbacks.
Past the entrance, the road becomes unsealed and is usually 2WD-accessible all the way to the campground. The scenic loop drive is 4WD-only.
WHEN TO VISIT BLACKDOWN TABLELAND
Blackdown Tableland was the first stop on our winter Queensland road trip last year, and not surprisingly, the weather was on the cold(er) side.
Being up high up, and coupled with Blackdown Tableland having its own special eco-system, we found ourselves camping in fog, mud and intermittent drizzle. It somehow added to the atmosphere though I’m sure it’s equally splendid on a blue sky day.
You may want to avoid summer as even up on the plateau, the temperatures can be steamy and might be less than comfortable. Blackdown Tableland is said to be cooler than the surrounding plains though so you might find it bearable.
WHERE TO CAMP
There aren’t a lot of options for camping in and around Blackdown Tableland. The obvious choice is to camp in the national park itself, though if you’re there in winter, the experience might be a rather wet one.
There is only one camping area (Munall camping area) at Blackdown Tableland. There are two loops, with the second one only suitable for 4WD vehicles.
Camping here is very basic and that pretty much means there are just a couple of drop toilets available. There is no water at Blackdown Tableland so come prepared. Ensure you’re camping responsibly.
READ MORE: Camping at Blackdown Tableland
Your other options include staying at the caravan park in Dingo (about 30km) or even Emerald (about 100km) if you prefer access to more amenities or don’t want to drag your caravan up the steep hill.
3 GREAT THINGS TO DO AT BLACKDOWN TABLELAND
The abundant vegetation and scenery at Blackdown Tableland really surprised me.
You’ve got everything from giant ferns, stunningly green mosses, dry eucalypt forest, clear creeks, sandstone gorges, rock pools, waterfalls to sweeping views into the surrounding plains. Together with the short walks and Ghungalu rock art, Blackdown Tableland makes for a special little stop for anyone who likes a dose of nature and history.
1. ABORIGINAL ROCK ART
When you’ve spent most of the your (Australian) life in Melbourne, you don’t realise how many rock art sites there are in Queensland.
Blackdown Tableland doesn’t have the vivid colours of Carnarvon National Park but you can still find some excellent, albeit small, examples of rock art at the Ghungalu art site. Like at any indigenous site, be respectful and leave the artwork alone.
2. SHORT WALKS & LOOKOUTS
There are only a few short walks at Blackdown Tableland but they’re all worthwhile. Gudda Gumoo Gorge is the standout but I also really enjoyed our morning walk to Mook Mook.
1. GUDDA GUMOO LOOKOUT & GORGE (RAINBOW FALLS)
BASIC TRAIL INFO
Distance: 4km return (3.6km return to lookout only)
Time: 1.5-2 hours
Gudda Gumoo Gorge is, no doubt, the highlight at Blackdown Tableland.
The walk leads into a gorge abundant in fern fronds. At the base is a clear (and cold) rock pool fed by a trickling waterfall that reflects a shimmering rainbow when the light shines just right.
The walk is classified as moderate to difficult and yes, you’ll have to head down over 240 (more or less slippery) stairs to get to the base but that’s as difficult as it gets.
If that sounds too daunting, you could just head to the lookout and leave it there. You won’t see much of Rainbow Falls but you do get some views into the lush sandstone gorge and cliffs.
We spent about three hours on this walk, scrambling around rocks and exploring the gorge from all angles. The husband even braved the cold water and went for a quick dip in the beautiful rock pool.
I’d expect the rock pool to be quite busy in summer as people seek to escape the heat. (Just saying, come with the right expectations so you’re not disappointed when you’re not there by yourself. 🙂 )
2. MOOK MOOK
BASIC TRAIL INFO
Distance: 2.4km return
Time: less than 1 hour
The trail to Mook Mook Lookout is quite a pleasant little walk that starts along Mimosa Creek before crossing it. You end up at a lookout opening up into a sweeping gorge flanked by sandstone cliffs.
I figured Mook Mook would make for a great sunrise spot, and yes, while that’s technically true, the sunrise wasn’t as spectacular as it could have been. The sun creeping over the cliffs and basking them in splendid orange light was pretty stunning though.
3. GOON GOON DHINA
BASIC TRAIL INFO
Distance: 2.5km loop
Time: 0.5-1 hour
Goon Goon Dhina is an easy loop with plenty of interpretative signs along the way.
It starts at the end of the camping area and takes you into a forest full of orange stringybarks, across Mimosa Creek and to the Ghungalu art site. Near the start, you can also see some remnants of an old cattle yard, evidence that this area was used as grazing country around the turn of the century.
Don’t expect too much from the cattle yard though. There are really only a few traditional fence posts left that hint at a time when fencing was done entirely without wire.
BASIC TRAIL INFO
Distance: 3.6km return
Time: 1 hour
Goodela is another easy walk but along the escarpment at Blackdown Tableland. Unfortunately, we ran out of time for doing this walk so I’m not sure whether it’s worth or not.
5. YADDAMEN DHINA
BASIC TRAIL INFO
Distance: 200m return
Time: 5 min
Yaddamin Dhina starts from the same parking area as the Goodela track right at the entrance. It’s only 100m (one-way) so won’t take much time at all. The track leads to a lookout over the escarpment, and though we had hazy views, looking into the plains beyond with cliffs to one side wasn’t too shabby.
3. SCENIC DRIVE (4WD-ONLY)
If you’re in a 4WD-vehicle, you could also do the 19km loop drive.
It’s touted as a scenic drive but we didn’t really find it that scenic.
The track leads mostly through dry forest with almost no views, except for Mitha Boongulla (Charlevue Lookout) about half-way along. By the time we got there though, it was fairly hazy so views weren’t that exciting.
It probably took us just under a couple of hours to do the drive so if you’re short on time, give this one a miss.
Blackdown Tableland was an unexpected little gem on our Queensland winter trip last year.
I didn’t expect Rainbow Waters (Gudda Gumoo) Gorge to be as serene and stunningly beautiful as it was, and really quite enjoyed all the walks. The views around Gudda Gumoo, both from down the gorge at the rock pool and from above, were brilliant and if you’re a bit of rock scrambler, plan more than 1.5 hours to do this walk.
In winter, Blackdown Tableland was fairly foggy, drizzly and cool, though the sun did try and poke through here and there.
Camping options are mostly limited to camping at Munall camping area. Read more about what to expect in my review.
MORE POSTS ON ROCK ART IN CENTRAL QUEENSLAND
Aboriginal rock art is pretty special and there are quite a few places in Central Queensland where you can get a glimpse.
Another place is Cania Gorge, which has a giant foot print.