Home » Into the wild: our 5 favourite spots in Australia’s Kimberley region

Into the wild: our 5 favourite spots in Australia’s Kimberley region

written by James Shackell June 24, 2015

A lot of places are spruiked as ‘remote’ or ‘un-mapped’, and it’s easy to get a little cynical. Yeah, yeah, we think, there’s probably a McDonald’s on every corner and a herd of selfie snapping tourists beating a well-worn path to the gift shop.

But the Kimberley really is one of the last true wildernesses on earth. It sits in a little pocket on the far northwestern edge of Australia – well, I say little – it’s bigger than 75% of the countries on earth and about the same size as England.

The reason for its general ‘wildernessness’ is down to geography. Although the region’s tallest peak barely scrapes 1000m, the Kimberley is almost impenetrable. Monsoon rains have washed red rocks for a billion years or so, creating a vast network of gorges, canyons, ridges, cliffs and cave systems. Boab-studded spinifex plains cover what little land isn’t vertical. Rivers cut through the rock, filled with friendly freshwater crocs and not-so-friendly salties alike.

To the outside world the Kimberley remains a bit of an enigma, overshadowed by Red Centre and Top End all-stars like Uluru, Kata Tjuta and Kakadu National Park. We’d like to remedy that, so here for your wanderlusting pleasure are our five favourite spots in Australia’s last frontier.

1. Bungle Bungles

 

The red slopes of the Bungle Bungles. Image David, Flickr

The red slopes of the Bungle Bungles. Image David, Flickr

To give you an idea of just how impenetrable the Kimberley can be, a film crew only stumbled on its biggest natural wonder, the Bungle Bungles, in 1983. Of course the local Kija Aboriginal people and other tribes had known about it for thousands of years. The sheer scale of the enormous sandstone massif, hundreds of ‘beehive’ and multi-hued rock formations, can only really be appreciated from the air, but a day’s walking along 7km Piccaninny Creek track is still one of the most incredible experiences in the country.

WE LOVE WESTERN AUSTRALIA. CHECK OUT THIS STUNNING VIDEO TO SEE WHY.

2. Gibb River Road

This isn't the place for a smart car. Image Jurriaan Persyn, Flickr

This isn’t the place for a smart car. Image Jurriaan Persyn, Flickr

They say you haven’t seen the real Australia until you’ve left the bitumen behind, and the Gibb River Rd is about as wild a stretch of red dust as you’ll find. It cuts through the heart of the Kimberley, and is one of the country’s truly great drives, passing through savannah planes, back-of-beyond cattle stations and past river canyons in the Windjana Gorge National Park. Parts of the road have been paved since the mid 2000s, but a 4WD is still recommended for the more corrugated stretches.

ANOTHER AWE-INSPIRING SPOT IN WESTERN AUSTRALIA: KALBARRI NATIONAL PARK

3. El Questro

The rocky banks of the Chamberlain River at El Questro, Flickr

The rocky banks of the Chamberlain River at El Questro, Flickr

This is one of our favourite stops in the Kimberley. Sitting in a vast and arid desert of red rock and grassland, it feels a little like coming home. El Questro is a former cattle station, a quaint 400,000-hectares (practically a hobby farm up this way) of scenic gorges like Emma and El Questro and the Zebedee thermal springs, with the mighty Chamberlain River running through the lot. There’s a range of accommodation options, ranging from swags and eco-tents on the ground to an exclusive luxury homestead, and enough adventure activities to keep you busy for weeks.

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4. Lake Argyle

The Ord River flowing into Lake Argyle. Image Jon Connell, Flickr

The Ord River flowing into Lake Argyle. Image Jon Connell, Flickr

They call it the Jewel of the Kimberley, which is fair enough considering it’s one of the few sizeable patches of water in the whole place. Lake Argyle is massive. It’s Australia’s second biggest reservoir, equivalent to about 18 Sydney Harbours, and provides the nearby town of Kununurra with irrigation year round. For travellers, it’s paradise: fiery red ridges plunging into the cool blue waters of the dammed Ord River. Migrating birds, local marsupials and a lot of crocs are all attracted to the Lake, making it a hotspot for wildlife watchers.

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5. Cape Leveque

Cape Leveque, not what you've come to expect from The Kimberley. Image Roger Smith, Flickr

Cape Leveque, not what you’ve come to expect from The Kimberley. Image Roger Smith, Flickr

Cape Leveque sits right at the edge of the beautiful Dampier Peninsula. It’s been a camping ground for the nomadic Bardi people for thousands of years, and their middens overshadow the small caravan park on the shores of the Indian Ocean. The only neighbours are wild turtles, sea birds and the occasional Humpback and Southern Right whales that come to play and relax in the warm waters off the Dampier coast. It’s an idyllic spot for a camp. The days slip by in a silky blur of red cliffs, white sands and blue, blue ocean water.

Want to explore The Kimberley for yourself? No 4WD necessary, we’ve got our own. Check out our amazing range of Australia trips.

Feature image c/o Jurriaan Persyn, Flickr 

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4 comments

Jan Sheringham August 4, 2016 - 9:53 pm

Marc, please do your research on this area, it is MUCH larger than the Park you speak of in Utah! The trap in Australia is just looking at maps, not their scale, and then not factoring in the road conditions, seasonal limitations and choice of transport. It really is a remote region, with limited communication options, BUT it is, IMHO, one of, of not THE BEST region for touring in Oz! Having visited 5 or 6 times, I am still hooked, and will be more than happy to return in future. The spots shiwn in the article are certainly some of the highlights, but there are many others, so please check out all the tours offered, inluding coastal cruises in the smaller vessels local to the region, which ply the coast between Broome and Darwin, and make a great start OR finish to a loop trip in this fabulous region.

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Abhilasha Trivedi July 20, 2015 - 4:22 pm

Hola James Shackell,
My cousin stays in the Kimberly region and is not aware of all these spots you have chosen to write. I had planned to visit and trust my cousin to show me around. Thankfully I came upon your blog where you have mentioned why these are your favorite spots and they are already in my bucket list.

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Jan Sheringham August 4, 2016 - 9:36 pm

Do enjoy your visit, but please don’t try to cover the whole area UNLESS you do the trip with a guided operation – the distances are indeed large, the roads difficult and slow, and access is strictly seasonal! It is, however, my favourite region in Australia, having visited now 5 or 6 times, and enjoying it more and more! There are also some wonderful small cruise vessels operating along the coast, which offer some fabulous options and access to remote coastlines which land-based tours will struggle to reach, if they can at all! However you travel there, I doubt one visit will see your appetite for it sated – it has a really strong pull for all sorts of reasons – scenery, history, birds, geology, marine life, it’s all there, you just have to do the research and decide on your first preference for that first visit. ENJOY!

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Marc June 30, 2015 - 9:48 am

Simply beautiful. I am planing on going to Australia next year and this will be on my list. it looks like Archers national park in Moab Utah

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