This breathtaking national park is just off the Capricorn Highway, about 170km inland from Rockhampton. With hikes for a range of fitness levels, gorgeous lookouts, a waterfall to swim under and Ghungalu art work on rock faces, it’s absolutely worth a trip. Best of all, you don’t even need a 4×4! Stay overnight at the campsite, in one of the nearby towns, or get up early and do it as a day trip from Rockhampton.
The first time we got a glimpse of the tablelands from the Capricorn Highway, we were seriously impressed. Rising 900m higher than anything else around, this flat topped national park is one of the most beautiful places I’ve visited in Australia.
How to get to Blackdown Tablelands
It’s just off the Capricorn Highway, about 170km west of Rockhampton in Central Queensland. (More on the Capricorn Highway and where to stop here.)
If you don’t have all day to visit or it’s too hot to hike, I’d still recommend driving up and going to the first lookout called Yaddamen Dhina (formerly Horseshoe). It’s all on a sealed road, the lookout is just a couple of hundred metres walk from the car park, and the view is incredible. I’d say the drive up there from the highway takes around half an hour, via a winding and scenic road.
Do I need a 4×4 to visit Blackdown Tablelands?
No! There are some areas only accessible to 4x4s, but there’s plenty to see and do if you don’t have one. However the road up is very steep in parts, and once you’re at the top it’s pretty bumpy and unsealed. We took our little Kia Rio and she managed OK, but was covered in red dust by the end! I think anything too low to the ground would struggle. If you’ve got a trailer or a caravan don’t even try to get up.
When to visit Blackdown Tablelands
The temperature at the top is about five degrees cooler than at the bottom, but as it’s over 200km inland coast prepare for it to be pretty warm whenever you go. If you’re going to do a day trip from Rockhampton then I’d say only do that in the cooler months, as you don’t want to be hiking up there in the 35+ degree midday heat of summer. If you’re happy to stay overnight or camp then it’s good to go anytime, as you can get up nice and early to start your walks. Always check the latest Queensland park alerts before you set off, and bring everything you’ll need to keep yourself safe – drinking water, first aid kit, sunscreen, sensible footwear etc. There is no drinking water up three and there are no bins, so bring a bag for your rubbish and plenty of fluid.
What to do at Blackdown Tablelands
Go on some hikes, enjoy the amazing scenery and learn about the Ghungalu people who lived here for thousands of years before any Europeans showed up. There is even some indigenous art on the rock faces.
The map below shows the different lookout points and walks you can do.
If you only do one hike make it the Gudda Gumoo (formerly Rainbow Falls) one. It’s about 4km in total, and includes 240 stairs down into the gorge to enjoy the pool at the bottom of the waterfall. Obviously that means you have to do 240 steps back up, but as long as you take your time I’d say most people – even with lower fitness levels like me – are able to do it.
When we got to the top of the steps we turned left (instead of right to head back to the way we came). If you follow this route for a few minutes you’ll be able to get to the rocks and rock pools that sit above the waterfalls. It’s a little bit of a scramble down, but the views are absolutely worth it – it was our favourite spot in the whole park.
Plan your time so you can have a swim in the pool and under the waterfall – it’s a beautiful spot for a picnic too. It had been quite dry so the waterfall was relatively small and gentle, but if you’re lucky enough to go after a period of rain it would be spectacular.
Oh and a top talbaht’s travels tip for you – if you’re going to take your drone don’t let it fly out of range and be forever lost to the gorge…(still hurts).
Also it doesn’t indicate it on the map but there is a toilet at the Gudda Gumoo car park.
Read more about the different walks here.
(When we went that website helpfully informed us that the Blackdown Tableland Two Mile Walking Track was closed, but nothing on any map shows which track that actually is and none of the tracks are two miles long. Even the man at the Queensland National Parks call centre couldn’t tell us! After lots of investigating, I can confirm it’s the Goodela walk. You’re welcome.)
Where to eat at Blackdown Tablelands
I’m sure you won’t be shocked to hear that there’s no supermarket at the top of the tablelands, so you’ll need to bring a picnic or something for the BBQs. And remember there’s no drinking water, so bring lots!
We were going to use one of the picnic tables next to the Yaddamen Dhina lookout, but a big lace monitor lizard thing was trying to hunt us/play with us/chase us and so we ran away like the cowardly Poms we are. Eating in the front seat of the Kia Rio wasn’t exactly the scenic experience I’d imagined for our lunch, but needs must.
We had food the night before, and breakfast before we set off, in Blackwater.
Where to stay at Blackdown Tablelands
There is a campsite inside the national park itself. It’s basic – drop toilets and no showers – but it’s beautiful and has fire pits and BBQs. It’s only $6.55 per person per night, or $26.20 per family, but you’ll need to book before you show up.
If you don’t fancy camping, the nearest town is Dingo, which has a couple of accommodation options. We chose to go a little further and stay overnight in Blackwater – more info on that here.
All in all it’s absolutely worth exploring the Blackdown Tableland National Park – it’s beautiful.