A Guide to travelling around the Kimberley Australia
The Kimberley Region is a remote expanse in North Western Australia with an area as big as Germany. When the Purnululu National Park obtained World Heritage Status, tourist interest in this region rapidly increased.
Many keen travellers now come here to bask in its beauty and explore the wide variety of things this ancient Outback region has to offer. The contrasting landscape with its unique gorges, lush vegetation, and mighty rivers ensure that you will never be at a loss for things to do in the Kimberley.
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Where are the Kimberley, and why you should visit
The Kimberley lies between the towns of Kununurra and Broome in North Western Australia. This region is often regarded as Australia’s last frontier. This expanse spreads over 423,000 square kilometres and has spectacular scenery like no other.
How to get to the Kimberley
Flying is one of the fastest transportation modes, especially for tourists who do not have time travelling by road. Conveniently located 1km from the heart of the town is the Broome International Airport.
Another way to get to this place is by self-driving. Broome is the south-western gateway into the region, and Kununurra, in the eastern inland, is another entry point, south of Darwin in the Top End of Australia. From Perth and Port Headland, you can take the Great Northern Highway to reach Broome, about 3 thousand kilometres along the coastline and then inland to the Outback Kimberley, in the heart of the North West.
The Kimberley Map with all regions and highlights
The top Kimberley attractions will ensure that you have a rich North-West Australia Itinerary. You can’t possibly run out of things to do with glorious cliffs, towering gorges, ancient rock art and many other natural sights to take in. Taking a scenic flight, hopping on a cruise, and enjoying a road trip are just some of the best ways to see the Kimberley.
1. East Kimberley
The Eastern region of the Kimberley is situated 835 kilometres away from Darwin, and it has a lot to see. You can go touring the Kimberley in a 4WD or take a self-driving trip through the rugged Outback landscape. Here are some of the best places to visit on your trip:
- The Bungle Bungles in the Eastern Kimberley is a spectacular Kimberley Region. Also referred to as The Purnululu National Park, it is a place of vast natural beauty. You can take a scenic flight over it as it allows you to see the entirety of the park in one go. The highlight of Purnululu is the 3km Piccaninny Creek Walk which takes you along the dry river’s rocky bed. You can also see the imposing Cathedral Gorge with its beehive-shaped sandstone walls.
- The next best thing to do in Eastern Kimberly is a road trip to Lake Argyle.
It is a human-made lake created by damming the Ord River and is the largest lake in Northern Australia. One way to see Lake Argyle is by taking a flight over it. But a more engaging way is to explore Kimberley’s lake is by taking a boat cruise. The lake is also an Important Bird Area.
- Wyndham is the northernmost town of the East Kimberley, which is located on the Great
Northern Highway. This town was established due to the gold rush that took place at Halls Creek many years ago. It has a port area and also a residential and shopping district. You can choose to stay at the many hotels or caravan parks present in Wyndham.
2. West Kimberley
West Kimberley in Australia is a place with undisturbed landscapes and a rich history. This is a place of many stories of Aboriginal culture spanning more than 40,000 years. Some of its marvellous attractions are:
- The Gibb River Road is a scenic dirt road stretching 650 km from Derby in the West to Kununurra in the East. It used to be a former cattle route between the towns and is one of the two major roads dissecting the Kimberley region. A Gibb River Road itinerary trip, both as self-drive or on tour, is only available during the dry season. In fact, it is wholly closed from November to March, which is when the rain sets in.
- Windjana Gorge is a huge gorge cut into the ranges to reveal the beautiful scenery of high vertical cliffs and sandy beaches. It is the right place for hiking or relaxing walks between the gorge’s high walls while spotting animals and birds. It was formed by the Lennard River almost 300 million years ago and is composed of Devonian limestone. Along its rocky walls, you can also spot some fossils of shells and other marine creatures. It is one of the gorges where you cannot swim due to the abundance of freshwater crocodiles.
- Tunnel Creek lies 40 minutes away from Windjana Gorge by a drive and is a unique hollow formed by limestone and an ancient reef’s remains. It is a 750-meter long tunnel and is almost 350 million years old. You can even take a Kimberley off-road tour to explore it as well as many other highlights. As you make your way through the tunnel, you can spot a lot of freshwater crocodiles. You can also see beautiful Aboriginal rock paintings decorating the cave walls.
3. Northern Kimberley
Northern Kimberley is a vast expanse, almost 164 square kilometres in length, and holds many brilliant sights to witness.
- One such place is the impressive Horizontal Falls created by the massive tidal currents flowing between two narrow gorges. The falls are 220kms North West of Broome. When the tide turns during the day, the water also flows in the opposite direction making these horizontal falls reversible. It is one of the greatest wonders that Kimberley has to offer. You can even cross it on a boat to see it up close.
- Mitchell Falls in the Northern Kimberley is a rough and challenging area that can be accessed with a four-wheel drive. Mitchell Falls is said to be the second tallest waterfall in the state of Western Australia, with a height of 80m. This waterfall is not a very crowded spot, and so you can enjoy it for yourselves. The best way to take in its breath-taking sights is on a scenic flight by a local helicopter or as part of the Kimberley Tours.
Best way to see the Kimberley and best time to visit it
The vast expanse of the Kimberley Region can be explored by sea, by land or by air. An excellent way to explore it is to take a four-wheel road trip since 90% of the region is accessible by 4WD. If you are going on a road trip, make sure you have a useful Kimberley Region Map handy and enough time to explore.
There are many Kimberley Outback Tours and Cruises to join, especially if you are travelling alone. Furthermore, there are day tours where you will be taken to a specific regional area and even longer trips with a hearty camping dose. Cruising is also a popular way to discover more about the Kimberley Outback landscape.
The weather in Kimberley, Australia, often makes it tough to visit. From November to April, this place gets many rainfall and cyclones are also familiar during its short wet season. There are cool breezes during the May to October dry season, bright sunny days and cold nights.
The dry season is perfect for your holidays in the Kimberley. The temperatures, which range from 15° C, at night, to 33° C during the day (59 to 92 F), are ideal for exploration and adventure.
Kimberley Holidays: Self-drive vs guided tours
Travelling through the Kimberley Australia on your own is an excellent way to explore it if you have enough time and experience to drive a 4WD van and handle its rough terrain.
Another exciting option is to take a guided tour of the Kimberley. A guided tour or a luxury Kimberley tour will take you to many more attractions in a shorter time. Not only that, it will help you gain knowledge and a more fabulous feel of the place.
For people who travel solo in Australia, Kimberley’s guided adventure will be an excellent opportunity to experience these places with peace of mind and have a camping experience with other mates.
A few years ago, I went on a camping safari from Broome to Kununurra and loved it. I’m glad I decided not to drive by myself, as the Gibb River Road requires a good level of experience, so if you are on your own and are not used to the rugged Outback roads, I would definitely recommend going on a Kimberley Tour.
1. From Broome to the Kimberley
There are many Kimberley Outback Tours from Broome to Darwin that you can check out for your trip. But if you feel adventurous, you can also go by yourself. As I said, this kind of trip is demanding and will take 8-10 days. Bear in mind that there is just so much to be explored and cannot possibly fit into a shorter time.
Starting your trip from Broome is the best way to go, and make your way to Windjana Gorge and Tunnel Creek. This is great for a day trip from Broome to the Western Kimberley. Many tours also offer the tour in a loop from Broome to the Kimberley and back to Broome and 8 to 12 days. This is our pick for a 12-day wild adventure of the Kimberley, starting and ending in Broome.
Or you can also consider travelling by compact campervan or a solid 4WD van and camp out at the many campsites along your way. The next best place to visit would be the famous Gibb River Road. You’ll need a 4WD for this part of the trip.
From there, you can reach the Purnululu National Park, which is a fascinating spot for hiking and exploring the fantastic gorges. You can then take a trail leading to the towering sandstone structures of Cathedral Gorge. On your way, you will also get a chance to see lake Argyle, which is a vast freshwater lake. It has much to see, from wallabies on the rocky shores to freshwater crocodiles and birdlife. On this page, you can check this compact guide of the national park.
As you travel to Darwin, you can also make a stop at the Edith Falls in the Nitmiluk National Park for a refreshing swim. This excursion will allow you to enjoy the gorgeous expanse of the rugged wilderness leading from Broome to Darwin.
If you start your trip to the Kimberley in Darwin, you can take the same tour in reverse order, from Darwin to Broome, following a similar trip itinerary.
2. Guided Kimberley Outback Tours from Kununurra
You can also choose to go on Kimberley tours self-drive from Kununurra since there are quite a few things in town and its surrounds are worth visiting. This type of excursion will take you to the Purnululu National Park, and it is best to do it with an aboriginal guide which will enhance your perspective of the National Park.
You will also have the opportunity of taking a guided walk up the Picaninny Creek to explore the eroded towers and black and orange banded beehive structures. Next is the Echidna Chasm, a 1 km long gorge carved out of the rock by the erosion of water.
Most tours also plan in a helicopter flight over the Bungle Bungle Ranges. Aeroplanes give a broad panoramic view of the landscape, and helicopters give a thrilling close up view with excellent photographic opportunities.
You can see all of the above on a day tour to the Bungle Bungles.
If your guided trip is longer than a day, you can set up a camp at the National Park campsite.
3. Scenic Kimberley Air Tours
Travelling by air is one of the most exciting ways to see Kimberley’s incredible landscapes. The excursions from Kununurra take you over the Bungle Bungle Range, the magnificent Lake Argyle, and Mitchell Falls by aircraft or seaplane. The Broome Tours help you see the fantastic Horizontal Falls, Buccaneer Archipelago, Cape Leveque, and more.
Scenic air flights are among the best Kimberley Tours that you can do in the region. They help you to explore remote destinations and give you a much broader perspective. You can take a short air tour or longer ones lasting 2-3 hours with many more places to see.
4. Kimberley Cruises
Lake Argyle is a marvellous place in the Eastern Kimberley, and it has beautiful geological formations and emerald green waters. It is only 70 km away from Kununurra, and you can explore it by taking a fun cruise. You can choose to go on a cruising adventure as part of your Kimberley Day Tour.
A sunset cruise on Lake Argyle will start around 2.30 pm and will go on till dusk. Your tour guide will provide you with privileged insights and encourage discussions about the place.
You can marvel at the richness of colours that the landscape offers and the splendid light reflections at sunset. It is the best way to get up close and personal with the resident birdlife, rock wallabies, crocodiles, and much more.
Where to stay in the Kimberley
The Kimberleys have a lot of accommodation options, from lavish hotels and resorts to luxury homesteads. Staying at a hotel will give you all the modern comforts you can use and many fantastic facilities like outdoor pools, fitness centres, spa, and more.
In the Kimberley towns of Kununurra, Broome, Derby and Wyndham, you will find more resorts and stations and some hotels and services bungalows.
A more relaxed and quaint atmosphere can be found at a private bed and breakfast. Here you can enjoy home-made food and all the comforts of staying at home. In the more rural areas in Western Australia, you’ll find cabins and lodges amidst nature. If you are going on a guided tour, you will get many camping opportunities at the national parks.
These are the most popular luxury stations in the Eastern Kimberley, near Kununurra:
For all other accommodation options in the East Kimberley, check out these single pages:
All in all, there is no limit to accommodation options. The best that the Kimberley region has to offer is all at your fingertips.
More guides to the Kimberley Region North-West Australia
Planning a longer trip to North Western Australia?
Check out our guide on all things to do in Broome and our picks for special Kimberley attractions.
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First published in 2018, last updated in Jan 2021
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