The Oasis of Boodjamulla (Lawn Hill) National Park (NP) against the backdrop of the harsh, dried and tough existence which surrounds it, has a magnetic feel. It explains why when I was talking to an 87 year old neighbour about our Honeymoon, she spoke so vividly and enthusiastically about her trip to Lawn Hill with her late Husband some 17 years ago. This is not an uncommon reaction from others I have talked with. It truly is a magical place to visit, which many regard as their highlight on a trip in the North of Australia.
A midday departure from Cairns saw Kari and I stop at Georgetown (a great destination in its own right) with a clear night sky full of stars to relax under before driving into Lawn Hill NP and staying at Adels Grove for 3 nights.
There are so many ways to enjoy this spectacular Gorge and surrounds. The Upper Gorge walk (graded difficult) is a long loop which also includes some of the shorter highlight walks of Indarri Falls and Duwadarri Lookout. It’s a 7km walk and takes between 3.5hrs and 4.5hrs but show cases some magical contrasting landscapes and limestone/sandstone colours before arriving at the lookout over the amazing Upper Gorge. The walk to this point really demonstrates the harshness of the land surrounding the Gorge, making the arrival at the Upper Gorge lookout all the more impressive. Sitting near the edge of sandstone cliffs taking in the view never gets tiring, despite the limited shade to this point of the walk. This walk then winds its way down to the beautiful Lawn Hill Creek which is shaded by so many different species of plants. It provides a welcome spot to take in the Gorge for lunch or morning tea under the presence of sandstone cliffs.
The walk continues beside Lawn Hill Creek providing an opportunity to stop at the Indarri Falls and take a welcome dip to cool off and relax as you look back through the Middle Gorge. Indarri Falls is formed from Tufa which is a variety of Limestone. From here you head up again to the top of the sandstone cliffs which raise vertically on either side of Lawn Hill Creek, a sight to behold from Duwadarri lookout. A steep downhill section on rough steps is your way back to the National Park Camping and Day use area. A truly enjoyable walk which even in the dry season will take it out of you, so make sure you take plenty of water and leave early, as the sun will require plenty of hydration.
The Creek provides two excellent water based opportunities which Kari and I did. From the National Park entry you can organise to go on a cruise with a guide (this is run by Adels Grove) and is an excellent way to see the Middle Gorge and obtain an understanding of the flora, fauna and history of the area from the guide. It’s also a great opportunity to obtain photos and video. The small viewing boat is completely solar powered, so very quiet letting you peacefully enjoy the Middle Gorge.
For me the best way is to take your own canoe/kayak or hire one from Adels Grove hire site at the National Park as Kari and I did. The tranquil paddle through the Middle Gorge will leave you amazed by the Sandstone cliffs rising out of the water on either side of you. The changing light and shadow throughout the day showcases colour variations in the Sandstone as you wonder how some plants manage to grow from seemingly small cracks in the vertical cliffs. Continuing the paddle (I should say mainly I paddled while Kari sat in the front resting her single paddle to promote improved steering she tells me) will bring you to the end of the Middle Gorge at Indarri Falls. From here you need to drag the canoe up to the Upper Gorge. Rails have been put in at the entry/exit of each Gorge to assist.
The Upper Gorge paddle is well worth the effort and leaves the majority of other tourists behind to provide you an isolated experience where fresh water turtles are less likely to have been disturbed on their morning bake in the sun. The Australian Freshwater crocodiles (Crocodylus Johnstoni) are elusive within the Gorge, but one should keep a keen eye out, for these reptiles prefer to stay away from humans. The Upper Gorge provided that opportunity to just take in the environment as if you were the only ones present; pure enjoyment!
There are many more walking track options including the Wild Dog Dreaming track which is an easy track down to some ancient Aboriginal paintings and rock art in the area. Platforms exist for viewing and this is an easy short walk, but no video or photography is allowed here. Walks such as the Island Stack and Constance Range are also available, but like many trips you find you can’t quite do it all, allowing for a good excuse to revisit in the future.
Adel’s Grove do provide a number of guided walking tours and Kari and I decided to enjoy the Harry’s Hill Sunset Tour which heads to what is affectionately known as Harry’s Hill after a well loved Adel’s Grove Guide. This is a pleasant and information packed outing providing plenty of education on local flora and fauna as well as canapes with wine/beer to enjoy a sunset over the Constance Range.
These opportunities also allow you to hear stories from the pioneering days and we were fortunate to hear the story of Senior Constable Alfred Wavell who was murdered in the line of duty by Joe Flick while attempting to recapture him on the 27 October 1889. One of the unique and engaging pioneering stories from the early years of Lawn Hill Station and one worth seeking out on a visit.
There are two options for Campers, Camper Trailers or Caravans at Lawn Hill. There are the National Park sites which are right at the entry to the park with good facilities, however a lack of shade. These are the cheaper option but book out frequently. The bigger facility is Adels Grove situated approximately 10km down the road. Adels Grove offers excellent shaded sites in “the grove” and a couple of swimming holes which cater for kids big and small. Adels also offer cabin/room options as well as sites for generators and animals. The facilities are very clean and well maintained. They have a range of meal options, phone reception (Telstra) at the bar and a number of guided tour options for those interested.
While we could happily have kicked back for a week at Lawn Hill it was time to head towards the Northern Territory border and further towards the Red Centre.