Kununurra is one of Western Australia’s youngest towns. On the border to the Northern Territory and the Purnululu National Park, this small Outback town is surrounded by water and the most ancient landmarks of the Kimberley Region. The indigenous name means “meeting of big waters.” It was built around Australia’s largest human-made irrigation system. Lake Kununurra and the Ord River are significant places to visit when you get there.
What to do in Kununurra
When I first arrived in Kununurra, I felt terribly isolated and thought: what can I do here?
Indeed this is something special about many Outback destinations in Australia. There is always more to see and discover than what you first think of a place.
Kununurra unfolds its beautiful Outback flair, the magnificent colourful landscape offering plenty of outdoor activities and natural attractions.
And it is also the perfect gateway for visiting the Bungle Bungles Ranges and Purnunulu.
The Best Things to Do in Kununurra Town
At first, it looks as if there is not much to do; this small Western Australian place is a modern Outback township with shops, art galleries, a town centre with a busy tourist information office, and a lively indigenous community. There are quite a lot of attractions in town and in its surroundings worth doing.
Here below are my picks for the coolest things to do in Kununurra.
Walk the Mirima National Park
It is also named The Lost City or the Hidden Valley National Park. Located in town, I will do the first thing to get a taste of what the Purnululu National Park is all about. The sandstone cliffs resemble the Bungle Bungles’ rock formations; this is why the locals often call them the “Mini Bungle Bungle Range.”
It’s a short walk from Kununurra town centre, and it takes about 1 hour to visit the park. There are 4 walking trails, and I went on the lookout walk where I could admire the landscape over Kununurra and enjoy the sunlight reflecting on the red rocks.
There is a campsite at the other end of the Mirima National Park, a very peaceful place to stay if you love camping.
Enjoy Sunset at Kelly’s Knob Lookout
Kelly’s Know Lookout s is the perfect spot to enjoy the sunset and one of the best free things to do in Kununurra after a day out visiting the town or exploring the Ord River. A sealed road from the city centre takes you to the highest point in Kununurra (191 meters). From there, you can enjoy dramatic views over the city, its water irrigation areas, Lake Kununurra, and the Sleeping Buddha.
Admire the Sleeping Buddha
This is a large rock formation named by the locals as the sleeping Buddha because it resembles a Buddha lying down. They also have another nickname for it; they call it the elephant head, depending on the perspective. The best places to view it is from Kelly’s Knob lookout and the Celebrity Tree Park.
Visit Lake Kununurra and the Diversion Dam
The Ord Irrigation project started in 1960, and the Diversion Dam was built to regulate the flow of the river into the irrigation system. The Lake Kununurra formed after the diversion dam was completed, and today is a large natural habitat for a variety of animals, waterbirds, and lush vegetation.
The lake is also famous for rowing, canoeing, sailing, float planes, and more water activities. For bird watching, the Lily Creek Lagoon offers excellent opportunities to spot various birds along its banks.
What to do Around Kununurra
There are many more things to do around Kununurra and its gorgeous outdoors. Hiring a car and going on a day trip is the best way to tour this interesting Outback Town’s landmarks.
Drive to Ivanhoe Crossing
Just a short drive out of town to North Kununurra on the road to Wyndham, you can stop at Ivanhoe Crossing, a concrete causeway built over the Ord River. It’s a popular spot for barramundi fishing and for having a picnic or just watching the rough waters. During the wet season, it may be very challenging to cross over the road, though.
Explore the Ord Valley on a cruise
You can take a tour of the Ord valley and cruise the Ord river for spotting the unique flora and the fauna for fishing, canoeing, picnicking, or enjoying the peacefulness of the place.
Swim at the Black Rock Falls and Molly Spring
Just 10km outside town, you can take a swim in these Black Rock Waterfalls. They are very popular among the locals. When the wet season is over, the waterfalls are filled with water, and that’s the best time for a visit and a swim. During the wet months, roads might be closed due to heavy rain, though.
You can only access Black Rock and the Middle Spring area by four-wheel-drive. If you have a 2WD vehicle, you can visit more areas nearby, like Valentine Spring and Molly Spring, where besides a relaxing swim, you can also use the BBQ picnic facilities and toilets. These are all part of the Ngamoowalem Conservation Park.
Take a cruise on Lake Argyle.
Lake Argyle is 70 km out of town. There are many cruises that you can take to explore this fantastic lake. And it’s one of the many attractions of this region. A sunset cruise at Lake Argyle is a cool thing to do in the evening. That’s the best time of the day for spotting wildlife and seeing lots of native birds, and of course, swimming and catching a glorious sunset over the lake will create lots of memories.
Shop for Pink Diamonds
The Argyle Diamond Mine is world-known for producing the rare pink rocks and diamonds that you can only find in the Eastern Kimberleys. The mine is located 200 kilometres away and can be visited on guided tours only, up to 2020, when it will be closing, so this year is the last chance to see it live. You can also browse through the awesome jewellery shops in town. There are some great ones like Nina’s, Artopia and Kimberley Fine Diamonds, where you can purchase extraordinary hand-made jewellery and the rare pink diamonds.
Marvel at Aboriginal Arts and the Zebra Rock Mine Gallery
The East Kimberley and Kununurra are a hub for aboriginal history, and art is really at the heart of the entire Kimberley region. Many aboriginal artists live here and have painted dramatic landscapes into their artworks. There are 3 art galleries in town, and I can recommend the Warringarri Arts Centre specialises in contemporary indigenous art.
You will also see the famous Zebra Rocks in some art galleries, the unique zebra-striped rock unique to this region. If you have time, you can go on a zebra rock mine tour, 54 km south-west of Kununurra, for an educational insight into these rare rocks.
See the Bungle Bungles in Purnululu National Park
This is another exciting thing to do in Purnululu if you are in a tight time frame. Explore the East Kimberley on a scenic flight. A few combinations, a simple 2-hour flight over the Ord River, Lake Argyle, and the Bungle Bungles.
Or you can combine it with a 4WD to the Purnululu National Park and then go for a walk to the majestic Cathedral Gorge through the Piccaninny Gorge and Echidna Chasm. That’s a fantastic way to see the impressive stripe-shaped domes of the Bungle Bungles Ranges on a day tour from Kununurra.
Where to stay in Kununurra?
Kununurra offers a wide selection of accommodation options, from luxury resorts and hotels to private-owned B&B, hostels, and camping sites. If you are looking for a pretty location with sizeable private luxury apartments at Freshwater East Kimberley
Kununurra’s Luxury Resorts
While you will find good hotels in Kununurra, there are some super luxury resorts where you get the best spa and wellness facilities with the opportunity to get all the rest of your trip to the Kimberleys organized.
If you are looking for a beautiful location with private luxury apartments, then the Freshwater East Kimberley is the right place for you.
Instead of preferring a classic hotel for your stay, I would pick the Kimberley Grande Hotel as an excellent place in town.
Kununurra Budget Accommodation
There are some great B&B in town; my pick is that the Wunan B&B is Aboriginal and operated and rated as the best value place to stay in town.
Another great budget place to stay for cheap is the Kimberley Croc Motel; this is right in the heart of town, has a pool and is fantastic for families and couples. If you are travelling alone, you can also choose to stay in the few 4-8 beds shared dorms; they only have mixed dorms, though; check the hostels.
If you like staying surrounded by nature and camping is your thing, you can stay at this fabulous Waterfront Holiday Park. Overlooking the lake offers great accommodation and facilities with cabins and lodges for those who don’t want to camp or travel by campervan.
You can browse through more places where to stay, from apartments and hotels to campgrounds, on the box below.
How to Plan a Trip to Kununurra
Kununurra is one of the many Kimberley attractions that you can see in the region. From this small outback town, you can organise your trip to the El Questro, a wonderful resort, and from where you can start your explorations on day-trips to the Zebedee Springs, or longer trips through the Cockburn Ranges for some amazing self-driving experiences across the marvellous landscape of the Eastern Kimberley.
Grab a map of the region from the Visitor Centre so that you can plan your explorations.
The best way to visit is to fly into Kununurra. Direct flights are from Broome and Perth with a layover in Broome. You can also fly direct into town from Darwin City. Or you can use the Greyhound Buses, which ride the route twice a day; if you travel on a budget, that’s a great option and good value.
Either on a Kimberley Tour or a self-guided 4WD tour, you will need at least 3-4 days for visiting a smaller section of the East Kimberley. If you can plan 10-14 days, that would allow a round trip of the Kimberley region. If you feel comfortable with self-driving, hire a car or campervan to explore this Outback region.
But if you are alone, on a tight schedule, or want to sit back and relax, a guided-tours of the Eastern Kimberly may be the right thing for you. Here is an excellent resource for browsing through all tours available in Kununurra.
If you are planning your trip to Australia, check out all our Destinations Guides for Australia.
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First published in 2019, last updated in Jan 2021
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