The Kimberley: A trip to a fabulous ancient land

May 14, 2024
By Patrick Cros

This remote region is truly a place where the ancient past and present meet, offering visitors a once-in-a-lifetime experience to explore untouched landscapes. As one of the world's most precious wilderness places, you can witness here the raw beauty of nature, from ancient rock art to breathtaking sites like the Bungle Bungle Range in Purnululu National Park. Let’s go with Goway on the discovery of the fascinating and beautiful Kimberley.

Our Goway suggestions : 11 Days Broome, Kimberley & Darwin (Flights from Darwin > Kununurra > Darwin included) - The package operates from May to September 24 on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday (Package Code: BMEPKGOWPKABKDMOD) or 15 Day Broome to Broome - Gibb River Road Adventure (Self Drive Code: BMEPKRESSDABBSTD0)

Three times larger than England and with a population of less than 40,000, the Kimberley region—spread over Australia's entire north-western corner—is one of the world's last wilderness frontiers. Here you'll find prolific wildlife, majestic canyons, freshwater swimming holes, and several outback stations, as well as one of Australia's greatest 4WD road trips. The region boasts also one of the world's most extensive collections of Indigenous rock art, including the Gwion Gwion and Wandjina styles, which are among the oldest known figurative art forms. These artworks provide insights into the spiritual and cultural lives of the region's traditional owners.

Exceptional natural sites

The sites to explore and the activities to engage in are exceptional in the Kimberley. In Purnululu National Park, for example, you can fly over the Bungle Bungles, enchanting beehive-like rocks formed over 350 million years ago. Soar above them on a scenic flight to witness the full spectrum of this extraordinary, otherworldly landscape. These massive domes can be explored on foot or from the air on a scenic flight. Several tours will show you the best of this jaw-dropping landscape.

The Horizontal Falls are another world-unique natural marvel. You can get up-close to this natural wonder on an exhilarating boat tour where you’ll cruise through the twin gaps and over the rapid-like water or see it from above on a scenic flight. Cascading over ancient rugged red cliffs, the King George Falls, another natural wonder, are considered the highest twin falls in Western Australia. Feel the landscape's powerful energy as you cruise through the King River Gorge towards the falls.

From Broome to Kununurra

Without the discovery of pearls, Broome, at the western extremity of the Kimberley, might not even exist. Visit the historic Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm to learn about the astonishing story, meet the pioneers themselves, and even purchase pearls straight from the ocean. You can stop on the way at Matso’s, the most remote brewery in Australia, serving up quirky beers, delicious food, and good vibes all around.

Let’s also search for dinosaur footprints! Off the coast of the picturesque town, you’ll find unique rock tracks formed by dinosaurs over 120 million years ago. Feast your eyes on these fascinating fossil footprints on a guided tour. Situated in Roebuck Bay, this testimony of a bygone era faces a bay that is home to the only population of snubfin dolphins in the world. These playful pods can be spotted on a cruise along the coastline, often next to a myriad of other marine species.

You can also discover wildlife in Broome’s mangroves on Narlijia’s Mangrove tour. Listen to bush tucker tales, see native Australian animals in the wild, and cruise through the epic Buccaneer rock pools with an Indigenous guide. You can also take a camel ride along Cable Beach and the Indian Ocean.

At the eastern extremity, connected to Broome by the Gibb River Road in 4X4 or by Highway 1 for all other vehicles, lies Kununurra. This gateway town to the East Kimberley is a great base if you’d like to explore some of Western Australia’s most remarkable natural attractions, including World Heritage-listed Purnululu National Park and its beehive-shaped Bungle Bungle Range. At the gates of the small town, Mirima National Park is Kununurra’s so-called best-kept secret. This hidden valley is often referred to as the 'mini Bungles' for its 350-million-year-old sandstone cliffs, gullies, and ridges, which are similar in appearance to the Bungle Bungle Range. You can also explore further the man-made Lake Argyle, Australia's largest expanse of fresh water. It’s a wonderful place to take to the water on a lunch or sunset cruise. You can get there by car or on a cruise, taking a boat trip along the Ord River from Kununurra to the Ord Top Dam at Lake Argyle, soaking up the tranquil atmosphere and abundant wildlife including crocodiles, sea eagles, and kingfishers.

Drive the Gibb River Road

One of Australia’s most epic road trips, the Gibb River Road stretches over 600 kilometers of pure adventure. Feel the energy of the open unsealed road as you discover the awe-inspiring landscapes of the Kimberley wilderness. Your first stop is Derby, an easy two-hour drive on a sealed road from Broome. From Derby, your next stop is Windjana Gorge National Park, situated within the Napier Ranges, an area partly made up of an ancient reef system formed around 350 million years ago. The best way to explore the gorge is by foot : a 3.5-kilometer walking trail will bring you to the spellbinding water-streaked walls, where you’ll see ancient fossils of primeval lifeforms embedded within the 100-meter high limestone. Keep an eye out for natural pools along the way where wildlife, including freshwater crocodiles, fruit bats, cockatoos and galas typically hang out.

Leave Windjana Gorge for Lennard River Gorge, a 1.5-hour drive away. Follow the two-kilometer walking track from the car park along a creek line and up to the King Leopold sandstone, before reaching a lookout with dramatic views over the gorge and waterfalls. The track to the car park is 4WD only.

Discovering the Gorges

Further along the Gibb River Road is picturesque Bell Gorge, the road's most famous gorge. To reach it, take a short walk and then cross pretty Bell Creek. Watch waterfalls cascade 100 meters down perfect U-shaped cliffs, into a deep pool, which is popular for swimming. It’s another 100 kilometers from Bell Gorge to the horseshoe shaped Galvans Gorge, the most accessible gorge along the Gibb River Road. Swim in the Isdell River, swing over it on a rope or simply sit under the waterfall and look at the boab trees clinging to the escarpment above.

From there, it’s a short 21-kilometer drive, via the Mount Barnett Roadhouse, to the Manning Gorge campground, which sits next to the tranquil pools of Lower Manning Gorge. Walk along the winding track to reach the spectacular waterfall (best between May and July) and Yallamia Pool of Upper Manning Gorge, discovering Aboriginal rock art along the way.

Rise early and take a detour off the Gibb River Road towards Kimberley’s northwest, home to the beautiful and biodiverse Mitchell River National Park.

From Drysdale River to El Questro

Stop en route for a morning swim at the Gibb River crossing before continuing to Drysdale River Station, 171 kilometers from Manning Gorge. Here you can choose from cabin-style accommodation or campsites on the station grounds. Before the day is up, take the afternoon to explore the rainforests and open woodlands surrounding the station on foot, or go fishing on the riverbanks. From Drysdale River, take a scenic flight (from May to August) over the Prince Regent River—a haven for more than half the Kimberley’s native mammal and bird species—and Mitchell Falls, for a bird’s-eye view of the dramatic Kimberley coastline. Flights run for two hours and can seat five passengers in each aircraft. If you have a few days to spare, continue your drive up to the Mitchell Plateau, where you can bushwalk and see Aboriginal rock art; you’ll need at least two nights at Mitchell Falls campground. Helicopter flights are also available from the campground to Mitchell Plateau.

From Drysdale River Station, head 236 kilometers east to Home Valley Station, at the foot of the majestic Cockburn Range, crossing the Durack River on the way. It’s there that part of Baz Luhrmann’s film "Australia" was shot, and discover what moved Nicole Kidman's character to embark on her outback adventure. Indulge in incredible experiences like fishing, helicopter, and hiking tours.

From Home Valley, it's only a short 45-kilometer drive south to El Questro Wilderness Park, a working cattle station and holiday destination on the Kimberley's eastern edge. On the way, you'll cross the Pentecost River, known as one of the best places for barramundi fishing and a delightful spot to take a dip. With four major river systems criss-crossing the park, you'll see a plethora of native animals, birds, and fish in the rivers, as well as freshwater springs and gorges.

Set on a million acres, El Questro Wilderness Park extends deep into the unexplored heart of the Kimberley. For the perfect introduction, take a sunset cruise to Chamberlain Gorge. Stay in accommodation ranging from a deluxe El Questro Homestead to tented cabins and authentic bush campsites.

The final stretch of the Gibb River Road brings you to the east Kimberley hub of Kununurra, about 1.5 hours from El Questro, where you can explore two of the Kimberley’s most extraordinary sights: Lake Argyle and the Bungle Bungle Range. After arriving, head to Lake Argyle and jump aboard an afternoon cruise to explore the waters and little islands of the lake – the largest man-made lake in the Southern Hemisphere.

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