The Kimberley in Western Australia's remote north immerses visitors in the splendour of a landscape that feels as old as time itself. Linda Bloffwitch checks in with suggestions for ten top things to do in the region...
The Kimberley is often considered to be the last frontier in Australia, and with some of the best wilderness experiences on offer anywhere in the country, there’s little wonder the region allures visitors from all over the world.
I’m often asked ‘what’s the right amount of time to spend in the Kimberley’, and my answer is usually ‘how long do you have’? There is so much to see and do and vast distances to cover. You will need to plan your visit carefully, including the season you choose to travel in and the equipment you take. A guided tour is a good option for those who are unsure about navigating the region under their own steam.
Here are ten top things to do in the Kimberley.
1. Explore the Gibb River Road
For a Kimberley adventure like no other, place the Gibb River Road at the top of your to-do list. We’ve been visiting this 660-kilometre stretch of road regularly since the early 1990s. Here you can experience authentic Aussie outback hospitality at one of the many cattle station stays, explore rugged gorges, or swim in breathtakingly beautiful waterholes. Activities like bushwalking, fishing, horseriding, birdwatching and canoeing are highlights of the Gibb, and it’s always a memorable road trip.
Technically you could drive the Gibb River Road in the dry season from one end to the other in a 2WD vehicle with appropriate clearance, but it’s the station tracks where you could come unstuck — as they’re not regularly maintained. Therefore, a 4WD is recommended.
2. Wander through Purnululu
The striking black and orange banded beehive-style domes of the Bungle Bungle Range in UNESCO World Heritage-listed Purnululu National Park make bushwalking through its gorges and chasms an unforgettable experience. Towering almost 300 metres in places, exploring at ground level (which we recommend doing in the early morning to beat the heat) is only one way to see the stunning massif. For a bird’s eye view, take a scenic flight over the remarkable landscape. At the end of the day, eco lodge accommodation is available within the park, along with two bush-style campgrounds.
When a man-made freshwater lake like Lake Argyle is classed as an inland sea, and is more than 18 times the size of Sydney Harbour, it’s big. A cruise is one of the best ways to experience its sheer size and see some of the nearly 70 islands that are dotted around the lake. They’re home to an abundance of birds and wildlife. The sunset cruise with Lake Argyle is our pick of the cruising options. It’s an incredible experience to swim in this vast lake, and you can watch the sun dip behind the glowing red ranges with a cool drink in hand.
While staying at Lake Argyle, the view from the Lake Argyle Resort and Caravan Park’s infinity pool is breathtaking at any time of day, and fishing, bushwalking or simply relaxing are popular ways to pass the time here.
4. See a waterfall at sea
One of the most spectacular and distinct natural attractions we’ve found in the Kimberley is the Horizontal Falls in the Buccaneer Archipelago. When massive Kimberley tidal movements push through two narrow coastal gorges, water surges horizontally, creating waterfalls up to four metres in height. You can experience it first-hand with Horizontal Falls Adventures. Take a scenic flight from Broome over the archipelago, before going on a thrilling boat ride through the Horizontal Falls. This tour is an action-packed, fun-filled adventure that we’ll never forget — and one you should experience for yourself.
5. Visit the Dampier Peninsula
With its rich red cliffs, turquoise water and white sand, the Dampier Peninsula north of Broome simply oozes natural beauty. Fishing, walking, swimming and kayaking are just some of things to do, or perhaps join one of the many cultural or pearling tours to learn more about the region’s history and bush tucker. Accommodation options are plentiful and range from beach camping shelters through to safari style tents.
6. Chill out in Broome
As the western gateway to the Kimberley, the coastal town of Broome is steeped in history and welcomes visitors with open arms. One place we love visiting on a balmy evening is the oldest outdoor picture theatre in the world — Sun Pictures. There can’t be many places where you sit back on canvas seats with popcorn in hand and watch a movie on the big screen while the stars twinkle overhead.
While in Broome, allow some time to learn about the town’s pearling history, take an iconic ride on a camel along Cable Beach at sunset, and check out the famous fossilised dinosaur footprints.
7. Experience an age-old culture
The Kimberley is home to multiple Aboriginal groups and provides plenty of opportunities to learn about the world’s oldest continuous culture. There are more than 30 Indigenous tours and experiences on offer across the region. Enjoy sportfishing, mud crabbing and bush tucker tours, culture, arts and 4WD tagalongs, along with a good choice of often family-run accommodation options.
8. Walk through WA’s oldest cave system
Tunnel Creek is a major highlight of the Kimberley and one of our all-time favourite places to visit. The experience of walking through the 750-metre-long tunnel is unique. You’ll need to get your feet wet, so wear appropriate shoes and a head torch to help light the way. Shine your torch around to see stalactites and stalagmites throughout the tunnel. This is one of the best natural attractions in the Kimberley.
9. Enjoy a local festival
Festivals and public events are an excellent way for locals and visitors to mix, and there are many held in the Kimberley between the months of May and September. In the east, Kununurra’sOrd Valley Muster is held during May and the Agricultural Show in July, while Broome’s Shinju Matsuri and A Taste of Broome celebrate the culture and lifestyle of this special town, during winter months.
Derby holds two festivals during July; the Boab Festival celebrates the West Kimberley lifestyle, while the vibrant Mowanjum festival is one of the largest cultural events in Western Australia.
10. Take to the skies
The rugged Kimberley landscape is spectacular at ground level but seeing it from the air is a completely different adventure. Both helicopter and fixed-wing scenic flights are usually available, which last anywhere from less than an hour to a full day (or longer). We would highly recommend splashing out on a couple of these experiences. Tours depart from the main hubs around the Kimberley, and whether you’re flying over land or one of the many coastal regions, the breathtaking scenery will be a highlight of your visit.
A seaplane tour with Kimberley Air Tours is one option in particular that we won’t forget. Taking off from the water at Lake Kununurra, this tour flies you over spectacular Lake Argyle before circling the Bungles Bungles and Argyle Diamond Mine. The return leg is just as exciting. You’ll land at one of Lake Argyle’s islands for morning tea, before taking to the skies again and returning to Kununurra.
Do you have any suggestions to add to our list of ten top things to do in the Kimberley? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.
Additional images: Bigstock
About the writer
Linda Bloffwitch is a freelance photojournalist who travels for six to eight months a year around Australia with her travel writer fiancé Grant. Having a number of touring setups available at their fingertips, this adventure-travel-loving duo vary their travelling style between camping, caravanning, off-the-grid 4WD and overland touring, and luxury experiences. Linda and Grant generally choose to travel for two or three months at a time. They like to immerse themselves in a region and experience all that’s on offer before moving on. When they’re not on the road, they’re either enjoying the great outdoors on their hobby farm in South Australia or sharing their travel experiences at My Aussie Travel Guide.