Cania Gorge National Park is a place with amazing sandstone cliffs and landscapes. It is located near Monto, west of Bundaberg, and was recognised early on by Clark Bartlett who was an unofficial tourist guide from 1970. There is a memorial for Clark Barlett in the national park.
Six of the seven walks start at the southern end of the national park. There are two parking areas from where these walks can be started from. The main parking is at a picnic area with toilets, BBQs, and sheltered picnic tables. The smaller parking area 900m of the picnic area is basic but is closer to the Big Foot walk and Giant’s Chair and Fern Tree Pool walk.
There is no camping in Cania Gorge National Park directly, however, there are two tourist parks. Cania Gorge Tourist Retreat is close to most of the walks, next to Big Foot. You can get to most of the walks without driving from here making it a great place to base your visit to Cania Gorge from.
The other tourist park is BIG4 Cania Gorge Holiday Park . It is about 8km passed the majority of the walks so you will need to drive get to the walks, but it has all of the typical BIG4 park facilities that make it appealing for kids.
We did most of the walks in one day, with the Shamrock Mine Site done on a different day and we didn’t do the longer 22km Castle Mountain walk. The walks we did in one day have a lot of up and down sections so they are tiring.
Big Foot Walk
Grade 3, 1km, 20 minutes
1km return from the small parking area, Big Foot is one of the easiest walks. It is a grade 3 walk but if it wasn’t for the last big with stone steps to a viewing point to get closer it would be a grade 2. Big Foot gets its name from the exposed rock colours in the white sandstone cliff. A large brown shape with four toes above it makes it look like a giant footprint.
Big Foot Walk is good for a warm-up before tackling the harder Fern Tree Pool Circuit walk. It took us about 20 minutes return including time for some photos.
Fern Tree Pool and Giant’s Chair Circuit
Grade 3, 5.6km, 2 hours
We tackled this circuit clockwise which worked better for me, although the national park’s website suggests anti-clockwise is better. My knees prefer to go up steep sections than going down them, and the first section clockwise was a steep climb. We didn’t have to scramble anywhere, but it was constant for most of the way up, reaching about the same height as the Fern Tree Pool in 1km instead of 3kms.
The path has a lot of steps, and when there are no steps it still goes up. There is a reprieve part way with a dip after an initial peak which has a seat to stop at for a rest if needed.
My youngest (9 years old) was a little worried how high we were climbing, but it is quite safe sticking to the path (and you can cope with the steep ascent). There are cliff edges not too far from the path, so keep watch of children.
The first thing we noticed when we reached the Giant’s Chair is the thoughtfully placed picnic table. It isn’t that it is placed in a good spot to admire the view, you can’t see it from the picnic table, it is because it is there.
Then the reward, the view looks out from the high mountain cliffs we had just climbed. The road is not too far away so you can get a sense of how high you have climbed for a relatively short distance and you can appreciate the effort for the climb. I don’t think you would get the same appreciation walking the circuit the other way.
Continuing on the circuit towards Fern Tree Pool, the trail climbs further, but far less rugged, not as steep, and wide that is obviously used for vehicle access by the park rangers. The last 600m leaves the vehicle wide track to a narrow track which starts to descend quickly into the gully with the water pool at the bottom.
The water was not flowing at Fern Tree Pool, but the pool appeared to be fairly full. A slight trickle of water was dripping and running down the rocks at the back of the pool, creating ripples reflecting light onto the rocks.
The rest of the walk to return to the parking area was far easier. There were a number of crossings over the creek in Doctors Gully which may be more difficult if the water was flowing. There were stepping stones we didn’t need to use over most of the crossings.
It took us about 2 hours to complete the 5.6km grade 3 circuit walk. As an alternative to avoid the steep climb sections, you can go directly to the Fern Tree Pool for an easier 5km return walk.
Two Storey Cave Circuit
Grade 3, 1.3km, 40 minutes
Starting across the road from the picnic area, Two Storey Cave Circuit is a 1.3km return walk. It doesn’t take long for the uphill to begin. Basically, the circuit runs along the base of the sheer cliffs. Once you get to the base of the cliffs the path kind of levels out but there are still some ups and downs along the way.
Again we did this walk clockwise, but it doesn’t matter which way you go. On reaching the base of the cliffs, they tower above you. Parts of the cliff are broken off in large blocks like someone has pulled out a Jenga block.
The first major structure we came across didn’t have a signed name. It looks as though a large chunk of the cliff broke and started to fall away at the bottom and then stopped. It has left a wide and high path in between it and the cliff and makes you wonder how it all stays that way.
All the way along there are sections of fresher rock with beautiful red colours showing in the sandstone, contrasting with the older weather blackened cliffs.
The highlight for me was the King Orchid Crevice. The crevice is signposted along the trail so it is easy to spot, and you can climb up into the crevice and walk along it. The colours of the underside of the rocks above are stunning, and rocks that appear to be casually stacked on top of each other like a child stacking stones.
The Two Storey Cave was only a little further on. I didn’t find this as spectacular, however, I couldn’t see how it got its name so maybe I missed something. There was an Aboriginal handprint painting in the cave, although I’m suspicious of it being fake. The national park’s website mentions there are Aboriginal painting but none are accessible to the public.
The rest of the walk continues along the base of the cliffs for a while before descending back to the road across from the picnic area.
Grade 3, 900m one way, 20 minutes
There are 6 walks that start at the same point with a common 400m section before splitting in two directions. I planned to head to Dripping Rock and The Overhang first, then come back to head towards Dragon Cave and the other walks. The boys thought Dragon Cave sounds so much cooler, so that is where we went first.
The walk starts from the southern end of the picnic area and crossing over the creek that runs along it. An uphill section leads to a grassy open part before entering scrub where the path splits 400m in, about 10 minutes from the start.
The trail towards Dragon Cave first crosses a dry creek bed near the opening of Russell Gully, then continues steadily climbing through the scrub and coming up to the base of the cliffs on the other side of the gully. Steps lead up to another split, this time a short detour of 70m to reach the Dragon Cave.
The cave gets its name from a naturally formed dark shape on the back wall of the cave that looks like a dragon. The cave is very open so it doesn’t feel closed in but it still has an enclosed cave sort of feel and smell to it.
We spent around 10 minutes there before moving on towards Bloodwood Cave.
Grade 3, 550m one way from Dragon Cave, 10 minutes
The walk from Dragon Cave to Bloodwood Cave is rougher than it is to Dragon Cave as it follows along the base of the cliffs. About 250m along a junction is reached to head to Gorge Lookout and Castle Mountain Lookout, with Bloodwood Cave 300m further on.
The trail heads left, as do the cliffs, and the vegetation becomes denser and cooler from the difference in the orientation of the cliffs. There are some stairs up and down along the way until it doubles back higher up the cliffs shortly before reaching the cave.
The cave gets its name from the roots of the Bloodwood trees growing down the cliff side at the cave. Looking at the cave from the outside it is much smaller than Dragon Cave. My youngest squatted down and had a look shuffling in a squatted position.
I didn’t see the point trying to do the same, it’s harder to stand back up again these days. Then he stood up and his top half disappeared from view. A little way in from the opening, the ceiling opens up higher than you can reach.
Grade 3, 550m one way from Bloodwood Cave, 10 minutes , 500m one way from Dragon Cave, 10 minutes
The Gorge is a similar distance from either Dragon Cave or Bloodwood Cave. From the junction heading towards Gorge Lookout and Castle Mountain Lookout, the trail leads to several flights of stairs to get to the top of the cliffs.
Upon reaching the top, you realise you haven’t yet made it to the lookout and the path continues uphill. A couple who went up the stairs with us decided they had gone far enough but we continued on.
Eventually, the path starts to level out and the real start for the Castle Mountain Lookout trail is reached. Staying with the main path, Gorge Lookout is a short flat walk to a platform that overlooks the gorge.
The view from the lookout, unfortunately, was underwhelming. Too much vegetation has grown too high to get a decent view of the gorge.
We did it, but we didn’t think it was worth it. We were already becoming exhausted from tiring walks completed earlier, and we still wanted to get to Dripping Rock and The Overhang.
Grade 3, 1.1km one way, 30 minutes, 700m from the junction, 20 minutes
From the junction splitting towards either The Overhang or Bloodwood Cave, the trail heads up Russell Gully instead of across it. The trail becomes windier and narrower as the scrub becomes denser, but is easier than heading towards Bloodwood Cave.
The path is initially on flat ground and then comes close to the edge of the creek as it follows part way up the cliffs. When the path first comes next to the creek, you can climb down to explore with gigantic boulders to climb over and under.
As the path continues the gully becomes deeper and Dripping Rock is reached. The rock face is damp although I wouldn’t say it was dripping.
Like Gorge Lookout, I found Dripping Rock to be underwhelming and not worth the effort, though my youngest found it interesting. Unlike Gorge Lookout, it is on the way to The Overhang so we had to go passed it anyway, and The Overhang is worth the effort.
Grade 3, 500m one way from Dripping Rock, 20 minutes
From Dripping Rock the cliffs along Russell Gorge begin to liven up, displaying colours or reds and yellows, and the cliff overhangs the trail. I kept wondering if we were already looking at The Overhang, but we were only witnessing teasers on the way.
The walk itself becomes more rugged although it isn’t difficult. There are sections where the path is close to the edge, so care is needed with young children.
After a few stops to admire the colours in the cliffs we reached a part of the cliff that towers above with a straight edge and a slight lean that makes you believe it could have been deliberately cut this way in some ancient past time.
Beside the wall is stairs that lead down to return you to the level of the creek in Russell Gully. When you reach the bottom you see the start of the overhang around the corner where the creek flows beneath it. At least it would be if the water was flowing.
Continue further up the creek, either under the overhang or on the opposite bank, and the walls reveal stunning bright yellow and orange colours coming out of the rock.
The Overhang may not have a cool name like Dragon Cave, but this was my favourite
Castle Mountain Lookout
Grade 4, 22km return from the picnic area, 8 hours
We didn’t do this walk as we had too many things to do and this needs a whole day dedicated for it, although you could do Dragon Cave and Gorge Lookout as you pretty much go passed them anyway, and perhaps Bloodwood Cave for a short detour.
Castle Mountain Lookout continues from near Gorge Lookout for another 10kms to reach the lookout. There are resting seats along the way and a picnic table at the lookout to have lunch in some comfort. The view looks over Cania Dam off the cliffs that can be seen from the Scenic Lookout near the dam.
Ensure you have good walking shoes, plenty of water, and food, as this walk is remote and a long way from supplies or help.
Picnic Area Circuit
Grade 2, 300m, 15 minutes
The Picnic Area Circuit is a walk between Three Moon Creek and the picnic area. It is easily accessible from either end of the picnic area, and possibly the only walk that is easier than Big Foot Walk.
Three Moon Creek was flowing quite well, and the crystal clear water looked so refreshing and pristine. In the short walk, we were greeted with birds including a Kookaburra and a Kingfisher. I didn’t have the camera ready for the Kingfisher and proved to be too shy afterwards to reappear. The Kookaburra was happy to pose for a couple of shots though.
The picnic area has free gas BBQs for use, picnic tables, and toilets, making it a great spot to have lunch between walks.
Shamrock Mine Site
Grade 3, 1.4km return, 45 minutes
Gold was discovered at the Kroombit Diggings in 1870, and gold was soon discovered in Cania and a town grew quickly. The largest nugget weighed nearly 3kg at 96 ounces in 1879.
Shamrock Mine is in Paddy’s Gully, named after ‘Paddy’ who worked the area for gold. Paddy tried to camouflage his diggings claiming his efforts were unrewarded, but word spread and miners flocked to the area and was christened ‘The Shamrock’.
In 1910, Shamrock Mine was the principle mine on the Cania goldfields. During the 1920s the gold mining industry at Cania collapsed, with only sporadic gold mining continuing until the 1940s.
In 1974, a dam on Three Moon Creek was approved, and the old town now lies beneath the water of Cania Dam.
The Shamrock Mine Site has remnants of the gold mining history remaining. Information boards at the entrance of the walk and along the trail provide history and information about Shamrock Mine and the Cania goldfields.
A two-head stamper and other artefacts are located part way up to a mine shaft. The mine shaft has a grate over it so you can see down into it.
It is a deep hole and you can’t see too far. However, with the flash on my camera, I was able to see the lens cap I accidentally dropped into it, proving when I got home that it hadn’t fallen to the bottom after all.
To get there:
From Monto, head north along the Burnett Hwy for 9.2km and turn right into Cania Rd. Follow Cania Rd for 12.5km, passing through Moonford, to reach the entrance of the Cania Gorge National Park.
From Thangool, head south along the Burnett Hwy for 69.9km and turn left into Cania Rd. Follow Cania Rd for 12.5km, passing through Moonford, to reach the entrance of the Cania Gorge National Park.
The picnic area is 1.2km further on Cania Rd from the entrance on the right. The smaller parking area for Big Foot 350m from the entrance on the left.
Hours: Anytime, walks should be during daylight hours only for safety
Toilets: Yes, at the picnic area
Bins: Yes, at the picnic area
Tables: Yes, at the picnic area
Seating: Yes, at the picnic area
Water: Yes, at the picnic area, not potable
Wheelchair accessible: No
BBQ: Yes, at the picnic area