Cobbold Gorge. Heard spoken? If you’re like everyone else we asked you probably aren’t, but this incredible gorge hidden in the vast outback is right here in our own state of Queensland, and it’s not even hard to get to. So why does no one know? Well it might have something to do with the long road trip you have to do to get there, but trust us when we say stand-up paddle boarding through this amazingly beautiful gorge is worth it. really the detour – in fact we would have driven twice as far.
About a six hour drive west of Cairns, Cobbold Gorge was found on a cattle pasture property in the early 1990s. It formed just 10,000 years ago, making it Queensland’s youngest gorge, but still the most spectacular. A deep stream runs through a narrow sandstone gorge that is as serene as it is breathtaking, with cliffs rising 10 meters above. Sold while traveling? Read on for everything you need to know about planning a visit.
How to get to Cobbold Gorge
You will find Cobbold Gorge along the Savannah Way in far north Queensland. We landed in Cairns and hired a car to drive the six hours west, but you can also fly to Townsville which is a seven hour drive away. Once you get past Ravenshoe there aren’t many towns so we recommend you pack plenty of snacks and water. Be warned, the last 80 miles of the ride is also mostly gravel, including a small creek crossing or two, so a 4×4 can be a good idea, although this is doable in a small car (from experience). And be sure to take the route that heads south from Georgetown, because if there is another route it involves much rougher gravel roads.
Where to stay in Cobbold Gorge
Your best option is to stay in the gorge village itself – the nearest other accommodation is an hour’s drive along this dirt road. Cobbold Gorge has plenty of options for you, from fully equipped cabins (reasonably priced at $ 160 a night) to caravans and campsites if you prefer to do it rough. There are barbecues and a camp kitchen if you remember to pack enough food, but if not, the bistro and bar on the grounds are open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and cook homemade meals. (and a hell of a good coffee). There’s even an infinity pool with a swim-up bar – talk about luxury.
How to see Cobbold Gorge
The only way to see the gorge itself is on a guided tour, with SUP and boat trips (but you really should do both). The SUP tour was our favorite part of the trip – nothing compares to slowly paddling the gorge, while enjoying – tours are limited to six people, so sometimes you’ll have sections of the gorge all to yourself (take a camera). And before you ask, yes there are freshwater crocodiles, but they are more afraid of you than you are of them and swim at the slightest disturbance, so you have nothing to worry about.
Boat tours will give you the same view from a narrow, flat-bottomed boat, and you’ll learn all about how the gorge formed, when it was discovered, and how deep the water really is. The real reason you also have to do the boat tour is that it includes a walk to the new glass bottom bridge over the gorge, which offers stunning views of the curved sandstone passage of up. Take some water – it might be the coolest season, but it is still very hot here.
See the gorges from above
It’s a once in a lifetime place, so don’t skimp and take a helicopter ride to see it from above. While you can make short 15 and 30 minute scenic flights with Cobbold Gorge helicopter pilot, we highly recommend the Sunset Heli-Picnic. You’ll jump into the helicopter (after pulling straws to see who will be in the first front seat) and fly over the gorge for a quick peek before sitting on a nearby cliff to watch the sunset from a chair camp, a drink in hand. They’ll even provide you with a cheese platter to snack on while you take in the views. Trust us, you have never seen a sunset like this before. Once the last rays have passed below the horizon, it is time to review the landscape from above, returning to the village, only now, by the soft light of the golden hour. Marvel at the perfect rows of sandstone formations so perfectly even that they seem almost man-made and, of course, take a peek down the gorge from above.
Things you should know
first of all, Cobbold Gorge is only open from April to October, during the dry season, as it is inaccessible during the rainy season, so plan your trip accordingly. Second, don’t expect to find good phone reception anywhere, well. We left 4G behind once we reached the Savannah Way and didn’t get it again until we got back to Ravenshoe. Cobbold Village has free Wi-Fi, but only around the reception and bistro building, so keep Instagramming until you get home and warn your family that they won’t be able to reach you. As good as Cobbold Gorge is a popular tourist spot, you head to the outback folks – pack plenty of water and snacks, plan your trip so that you don’t drive after dusk or before dawn (when you are more at risk hitting wildlife or livestock on the road) and let someone know your route just in case. And lastly, you should definitely stop for fries at Georgetown Roadhouse, because these are the best fries you have ever eaten. No kidding.
If you are flying to Cairns, here is the best hotels to spend the night.
Image credit: Ranyhyn Laine