Cobbold Gorge
Experience | bushwalking | gorge | nature | outback | Far North | Queensland

Cobbold Gorge

A breathtaking natural wonder

by Susie Baber  |  2 August 2022

From Georgetown to Cobbold Village was on again, off again, dirt road with varying degrees of corrugations. Past the final turn off the last 7km were a welcome bitumen relief.

After passing through the village gate we joined the queue of caravans waiting to check in at reception, slowly making our way past the pool, bar and restaurant. Outside reception was a crowd of people waiting for the 1.30 tour – that will be us in the morning. It is a condition of staying here that you do at least one tour. We chose a boat tour of the gorge at 10.00am tomorrow, Andrew is a little sceptical – he doesn’t think anything can beat Lawn Hill Gorge and his aversion to crowds and commercialism is coming to the fore.

By 2.30 we are all set up and have had some lunch. Time for a bit of relaxing before we do a bush walk – and hoping it might cool down a bit. Four walks to choose from: three grade 1 loops and a 4.7km grade 3 up to Russell’s Lookout – of course we chose the grade 3. The walks are colour coded and splashes of green spray paint mark our way. The track meanders through the scrub and gives us an opportunity to inspect up close some of those termite mounds we have been driving past for days. The late afternoon light was lovely and it was nice to stretch our legs. From the camp ground the walk is easy to follow and mostly flat, until it’s not – the last 800m climbs steeply to a clearing at the top of the hill. From this vantage point you can see through the trees back down to the camp ground as well as sandstone outcrops and escarpments that surround the park.

This area has been a cattle station since the beginning of the 1900’s and still is today. While the existence of the gorge has been known for a long time, no one had really explored it and discover how amazing it was until the early 1990’s. Tours were begun in 1994 and the business has been growing and evolving since then. In 2009 a 4,720-hectare Nature Refuge was established to allow tourism to be developed with minimal impact on the environment. There is no public access to Cobbold Gorge, the only way you can see this unique geological treasure is on a tour and you have a choice of the more sedate boat tour or if you are feeling a bit more adventurous you can try stand up paddle boarding. Access to the gorge is only in the dry season – April to October.

One of the selling points for the resort is the infinity edge pool, we don’t often stay anywhere fancy enough to have a swim up bar! To avoid the crowds, we wait until after dinner and stroll down for a swim, there was no one else in the pool which was nice. Disappointingly the swim up bar was not open (didn’t look like it had been for a while) but the water was very cold we did achieve our objective of cooling off quite fast.

In the morning we pack up and move the van off our camping site and into the visitor parking before joining our tour group. We are up, breakfasted, packed and ready to go EARLY! We are getting better at these early starts! Time for a hot beverage at the bar before we meet our guide, and a browse of the book exchange selection – optimistic me thinks I will have time for reading.

There must be about 60 people booked for tours this morning. We get broken up into groups of about a dozen and herded on to buses for the drive out to the gorge. Our guide is Wayne. It is a few km in the bus through savannah and across what I would have thought was a bone-dry river, but Wayne informs us it is still running underground and points out the large pump sitting in the middle of the riverbed. This is where all the water for the campground and resort comes from. Makes me rethink the dozens of dry rivers and creeks we have crossed in the last week.

When all the buses arrive at a large shelter, we are given a talk about the history of the station and the gorge. Some groups start with the boat tour and others with the walk up to the glass bridge. Our group starts with the escarpment walk which takes about an hour. The walk wasn’t long in distance, there were regular stops to learn about the geology of the area and the various bush tucker plants. It wasn’t even strenuous enough to set off the activity tracker on my watch.

After the climb to the top of the escarpment we reached the glass bridge which spans 11m over the gorge. To protect the glass from scratches and dirt everyone puts fabric booties over their shoes, not very environmentally friendly, but I guess it has been judged more appealing than cleaning or replacing the glass regularly. At 19m above the creek, the bridge is a fabulous viewing platform of the red, twisting rocks below.

After our walk we board an electric powered flat-bottomed boat for a peaceful glide up the gorge. This is the part I have been looking forward to. We saw two crocs sleeping on the banks of the creek, one tiny one about 25cm and one about a metre long. The rock formations are stunning as the gorge gets narrower and narrower and our little boat has to be skilfully manoeuvred so as not to hit the sides. When the chasm eventually becomes too tight to go any further Wayne switches to the other end of the boat and we make the return journey back the way we came. Being able to see the gorge from both perspectives is fabulous. The view from above on the glass bridge and then being able to get up close to the twisted rocks from the water. An opportunity not to be missed if you are traveling in outback FNQ.

Share this story