The majestic Western Australia Kimberley attracts thousands of visitors and many pass through eastern regional hub Kununurra. This unassuming town has a rough and ready charm all of its own and offers easy access to some of Australia's most dramatic outback landscapes. Monica McInnes checks in with suggestions for ten top things to do...
Kununurra in Western Australia’s far northeast is known as the gateway to the iconic Kimberley wilderness — but it has so much to offer travellers in its own right.
Meaning ‘meeting of big waters’ in the local Indigenous language, Kununurra services the massive Ord River Irrigation Scheme — where a torrent of wet season water feeds into massive man-made lakes and down the Ord River. This water sustains a strong agriculture industry and provides some unique attractions and water activities.
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1. Settle in for sunset
Head for Kelly’s Knob lookout in the heart of Kununurra to watch the sunset. Be alert during the short drive — you’ll be sharing the road with locals working out on the steep inclines, strolling with friends, and walking furry friends. At the top, rock hop to find a spot to watch the sun dip below the horizon. Take some drinks and nibbles and make an occasion of it.
2. Take a scenic flight
Choose a seaplane, light aircraft or helicopter for a scenic flight from Kununurra. Kimberley Air Tours offers a variety of fabulous options. See Australia’s largest freshwater expanse — Lake Argyle — which holds eighteen times the volume of water in Sydney Harbour. Watch for sparkles above the Lake Argyle Diamond Mine, where the majority of the world’s pink diamonds are found. Marvel at the patchwork of farming land enroute to the ancient beauty and unique landscape of the Bungle Bungles — the striped beehive domes in Purnululu National Park.
3. Cruise magnificent waterways
Speed past dramatic gorges and soaring escarpments, pausing occasionally to witness marine and bird life, on an Ord River cruise to Lake Argyle’s dam wall with Triple J Tours. Slower paced options include Kununurra Cruises‘ sunset tours on Kununurra and Argyle Lakes. Enjoy an airshow of birds frolicking in the day’s last light, and spot resident freshwater crocodiles (around 30,000 call the lakes home).
4. Try the top local drop
Forget wine tasting; here in Kununurra it’s all about sampling award-winning Ord River Rum at the Hoochery Distillery, which uses locally grown ingredients in the distilling process. Time your visit with a tour of the oldest legal still in Western Australia and learn the secrets to this perfectly handcrafted spirit. Finish with a hearty but up-market counter lunch and a nip of your favourite rum.
5. Hike through an ancient landscape
Five minutes’ drive from the town centre is Mirima National Park, also known as Hidden Valley. It is almost a mini version of the Bungle Bungles with its distinctive striped domes. There are a number of different walks and great views over the town. You’ll find information about the way local flora was used in daily Aboriginal life.
6. Go chasing waterfalls
The Grotto, a deep waterhole about 45 minutes’ drive north-west of Kununurra, is a local favourite. Navigate the steps to the cool waters below, and if you time your visit for the start of the dry season, you may see the plunging waterfall.
Looking for ideas for things to do in the Top End and the Kimberley? In this episode of the Tour the World travel TV series, we embark on an extraordinary journey through the age-old splendour our very own Kakadu and Kimberley — including a visit to the amazing Bungle Bungles.
7. Shop for bling
Admire rare and sparkly pink diamonds in jewellery stores in town or take an organised tour out to Rio Tinto’s Lake Argyle Diamond Mine (self-drive visits aren’t permitted). If your bank won’t approve the hefty price-tag of some serious bling, never fear. Get your very own Kununurra gem from one of the zebra rock galleries around town. You’ll find earrings, pendants and rings crafted from the locally mined rock.
8. Make your way up to Wyndham
Pack a picnic lunch and head to the Five Rivers lookout in Wyndham’s Bastion Range, 100 kilometres north. Clear days offer views of the Cambridge Gulf and its five rivers — the King, Ord, Durack, Forrest and Pentecost. Watch the comings and goings of big ships in Wyndham’s port, and gaze at majestic birds of prey as they soar overhead. The Wyndham Historical Society Museum offers a compelling collection of dusty memorabilia, while the all-but-forgotten Afghan cameleers cemetery is also worth a visit. 4WDs can return via Parry Creek Road.
9. Explore El Questro
Experience the Kimberley’s remote beauty during a day trip to El Questro Station, 100 kilometres east of Kununurra. Access is only by 4WD. Don’t miss soaking in the warm waters of Zebedee Springs, hiking and cooling off at Emma or El Questro gorges, flying overhead on a scenic helicopter flight, and enjoying the 4WD route to Saddleback Ridge or Branko’s Lookout for breathtaking views and sunsets.
10. Hook a big barramundi
Big barramundi cruise Kununurra’s waterways and keen fishers will revel in reeling them in. Throw in a line from the bank of Lake Kununurra or hire a tinnie (you need a recreational licence if fishing from a boat). Join a fishing tour with Ultimate Adventures and let a local reveal the best fishing spots.
Do you have any suggestions to add to our list of ten top things to do in Kununurra? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.
Cover image: Lake Argyle. Image courtesy of Tourism Western Australia. Additional images: Bigstock
About the writer
Monica McInnes is a keen traveller and is always on the lookout for her next big adventure — even before the current one has concluded! Having recently returned from a three-month road trip with her young family through the Red Centre, the Kimberley, the Pilbara and along the Coral Coast, Monica is convinced that Australia is the most beautiful country on earth. She blogs about her travel exploits at Jiggety Jog.