5 Kimberley Destinations Worth Experiencing
Words by Glenn Marshall
It’s one of the roughest tracks in Australia, but once you reach Kalumburu, which means “end of the road”, you’ll find a stunning piece of paradise. Fuel is available during certain hours and the takeaway next to the supermarket serve beautiful hot chips. The old mission is still prominent in the community, and you can explore the wide range of artefacts in the Fr Thomas Gill Museum for a small fee paid at the Mission Café. It’s here that you can learn about the Japanese air attack on Kalumburu that killed six innocent people as well as destroying the Mission.
There’s great camping at McGowans Sunset Beach that also comes with a friendly and knowledgeable host. He’ll be able to tell you all the best bits to see, the safest swimming holes and where to catch fish and prise fresh oysters from the rocks. Honeymoon Bay is another campsite a little further along the coast with a boat ramp and fishing tours on hand.
(Image: The iconic Gibb River Road is still challenging.)
GIBB RIVER ROAD
The Gibb River Road has improved over the last few years, with more overlanders wanting to experience this remote area of the Kimberley. A big wet season this year has caused a bit of damage that will take time to fix, but don’t let that stop you, just take more care when driving this route. The corrugations will still be rough in places and your tyres will play chicken with the sharp stones used to cover the track, but these things are what makes the Gibb River Road such an amazing adventure.
The road itself runs 660km from Derby to the Great Northern Highway, between Wyndham and Kununurra and it’s recommended you allow at least 14 days to discover the natural beauty of this untouched wilderness. The gorges (Windjana, Bell, Manning, Galvins, Lennard), station stays (Drysdale River, Home Valley, El Questro, Mt. Elizabeth, Mornington Wilderness Camp), river crossings (Pentecost, Lennard, Gibb, Barnett, Hann, Drysdale) and Boabs are what draw so many people to this magical part of Australia.
Only recently discovered by many for its of natural wonder, Aboriginals have known about Purnululu for thousands of years. Once part of a massive cattle station, some of the gorges were used as mustering points to trap the cattle before herding them out. These days it is one of the most visually stunning, world heritage listed national parks in Australia.
The landscape is 350 million years in the making with deep gorges and the striped sandstone “beehive” domes, and surrounded by savannah country. The walking trails lead you to some of the most spectacular sights, and a bird’s eye view from above will just magnify Purnululu’s magic.
There are two campsites within the national park, Kurrajong to the north and Walardi to the south. Both sites have pit toilets, picnic tables, some shade and water taps (non-potable water). Kurrajong campground is close to Echidna Chasm, Mini Palms Gorge, Homestead Valley, Stonehenge and Kungkalanayi while Walardi is the nearest campground to Bellburn airstrip, Elephant Rock, Cathedral Gorge, The Window and Piccaninny Creek.
You’ll be amazed by this manmade lake, often said to be 18-times the size of Sydney Harbour. Allow plenty of time to enjoy Lake Argyle as there is loads to see and do, in between soaking in the infinity pool at the Lake Argyle Resort that overlooks the lake.
One of the best ways to experience the lake is on a cruise, with many to choose from including the ever-popular sunset cruises. For the best views of the lake and Carr Boyd Range, head up to the Pannikin Bay lookout, especially during golden hour.
Josh and Tamsyn are locals who run a couple of excellent tours; a bush tucker “Taste of the Ord Valley” tour and their “Gourmet Camp Oven Experience” both of which I highly recommend.
Another great way to view the lake while also checking out the beehives in Purnululu National Park is with Kimberley Air who operate these three-hour seaplane flights from April to September.
The drive to the Mitchell Falls from the Kalumburu Road is approximately 82km and the road conditions are variable. There is a cracking campground on the King Edward River, 6km from the turnoff and a couple of amazing rock art sites worth checking out nearby.
The best way to see the falls is to enjoy the walk, then swim in the refreshingly cool waters. This will also allow you to see some rock art below Mertens Falls. Once you’ve dried off, catch a HeliSpirit helicopter back to the car park; book the flight before you take the walk. Make sure you take a camera and grab a seat in the rear, as the chopper pilot will do a couple of figure eights above the falls before heading back; ample time to capture those awesome shots.