Exploring an ancient land, 2000 million years in the making, is an awe-inspiring experience. The landscapes of the Kimberley in Western Australia are amongst some of the oldest structures on earth. Spectacular gorges, river systems abundant with wildlife and exotic fauna, secluded ancient rock art sites, arid desert country, and pristine coastline are just a few of the unique experiences of this region.
Home to Indigenous people for over 30,000 years, it is a timeless land that will captivate you with its dramatic landscape and vibrant colours. Evidence of their earlier existence can be seen in the incredible and mysterious rock art paintings and drawings known as Bradshaw or Wandjina rock art hidden in outback bush galleries on huge escarpments and rock surfaces in the northern Kimberley.
The Kimberley is home to rock formations thousands of millions of years old, some of the oldest on earth. Turbulent events, from volcanic eruptions to ice ages, have created the incredible ranges, gorges and caves that we can see and experience today. 120 million years ago dinosaurs roamed the Kimberley coast and today all that remains are fossilized footprints. Up to seven different species have been identified and can be found at Broome’s Gantheaume Point and James Prices Point on the Dampier Peninsula.
Once the pearling capital of the world, Broome is a unique town with a romantic and often flamboyant past. Rich in natural beauty, the brilliant red pindan cliffs and glistening turquoise waters that surround the pristine, 22kms-long white sands of world-renowned Cable Beach offer up a revelation of colour luring visitors back to this charismatic town year after year. Established as a pearling port in the 1880s, Broome today boasts a multicultural population made up of the many nationalities who flocked to the shores of Roebuck Bay in the hope of making their fortune from the pearling industry.
Broome has a lot to offer and is an exciting place to begin or end an outback Kimberley expedition. Broome’s Chinatown, once a bustling hub of pearl sheds is now the colourful heart of Broome where pearl emporiums, art galleries and gift shops abound. Here you will also find the world’s oldest operating outdoor picture gardens, Sun Pictures, a great place to catch a movie under a starry Kimberley night sky. Held every Saturday morning (also on Sundays from March to October) is the Courthouse Markets where you can experience local talent in the way of arts, crafts, music and cookery. Take a visit to the Japanese cemetery and pay tribute to the hundreds of pearl divers who lost their lives at sea. Discover some of Broome’s war history with a walk out on the Roebuck Bay mudflats to see the Catalina flying boat wrecks from World War II which can only be seen on a very low tide. Broome is also home to a set of 120 million-year-old dinosaur footprints which can be seen imprinted in the rocks at beautiful Gantheaume Point when the tide is low enough.
A journey along the Gibb River Road is one of the last true great Aussie outback adventures, spanning some 700kms from Derby to Wyndham. Suitable for four-wheel drives, road conditions vary from bitumen to natural rocky earth, with some river crossings, high clearance vehicles are a must, and it is not recommended to tow caravans, trailers or boats. Camping is available in designated camping areas only, or for those wanting to stay in a bit of luxury at the end of the day, wilderness retreats and accommodation is available.
This outback highway takes you through spectacular scenery, passing many lush gorges, sweeping landscapes, steep ranges, enticing rock pools and waterfalls, and rivers including Bell Gorge, Windjana Gorge, Tunnel Creek, Galvan’s Gorge, Pentecost River and El Questro, just to name a few. Hiking, swimming, camping, marvelling at the views and remarkable nature, four-wheel driving and meeting friendly folk are the main highlights while journeying along the famed Gibb River Road.
At the heart of the stunning East Kimberley, Kununurra is an excellent base to explore the region, including the incredible Bungle Bungle Range in Purnululu National Park. Contrasting the scorched landscape of West Kimberley, Kununurra is lush and tropical – in fact, its unique colour palette and landscape inspired director Baz Luhrmann to film “Australia” here. Situated on Lake Kununurra, Kununurra is surrounded by water. You can explore the mighty Ord River to view the prolific birdlife, wildlife and ancient gorges, or marvel at the splendour of Lake Argyle, Australia’s largest freshwater lake. Kununurra is also the eastern gateway to the Gibb River Road, a must-do on any Kimberley itinerary.
The Bungle Bungle Range, in Purnululu National Park, is one of the most amazing natural landmarks in Western Australia. From the air the Bungle Bungle Range is an impressive sight. The beehive domes are striped orange and black due to an encasing of silica and algae and hide a multitude of gorges, pools, walking trails and pockets of fan palms. This remote wilderness experience is seasonal and is usually open from April to October, dependant on the weather. You can access the National Park by 4WD, helicopter or fixed-winged aircraft.
The breathtaking coastline of Australia’s north is like no other place. Barely touched for centuries, its dramatic limestone cliffs, calm turquoise waters, picturesque archipelagos and stunning waterfalls, provide a miraculous backdrop to a cruise holiday. Only a Kimberley cruise can get you up close to untamed wildlife, remote swimming holes, secret fishing spots and indigenous rock art sites that are inaccessible by any other means.
Relaxation is a fundamental component of a Kimberley wilderness cruise. Enjoy the onboard facilities of the vessels and the joy of the natural surrounds will suit travellers of any age and fitness level. Excursions are not compulsory, but should you wish to participate, walking and some climbing will be required to reach secluded art sites and secret swimming holes. Fishing is more frequently available on the smaller vessels.
The Kimberley in Western Australia is accessible by plane, car, coach and through private tours. Broome is serviced twice weekly with flights from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. Flights between Perth and Broome operate daily. Smaller air carriers provide connections between Broome, Kununurra and Darwin in the Northern Territory.
The best time to visit the Kimberley and Western Australia is between May and August, this is when all tourism businesses are sure to be operating and when the weather is near perfect, averaging a maximum of around 30 degrees and a minimum of 15 degrees. It is also the greatest chance of the outback roads being open for those wanting to experience a Kimberley 4WD adventure.
Make sure to always slip, slop, slap as the Kimberley and Western Australia sun is not always forgiving. Take extra care between 10am and 3pm and drink at least two litres of water a day.