Windjana Gorge, Windjana Gorge National Park, Western Australia
Tackle one of the country's greatest 4WD adventures over 660 kilometres (410 miles) of Western Australia's rugged Kimberley wilderness.
By Cole Latimer
WHAT TO EXPECT
- Take a scenic flight above cascading waterfalls
- Swim in deep waterholes
- Spend the night at an outback station
- Time: 6 days
- Distance: 660 kilometres (410 miles)
- Transport: 4WD
- Nearest Major City: Broome
- Price: $$$$
This 660 kilometre (410 mile) journey through the vast Kimberley region of Western Australia is a great 4WD adventure. See freshwater crocodiles in the Windjana Gorge National Park and swim, bushwalk and camp at Lennard and Bell gorges. Take a scenic flight over Mitchell Falls and the vast Mitchell Plateau and stay in the sprawling El Questro Wilderness Park.
DAY 1: DERBY TO WINDJANA GORGE NATIONAL PARK
Start out in Derby, on the edge of King Sound, before driving 144 kilometres (89 miles) east to Windjana Gorge National Park, one of the best places in Australia to see freshwater crocodiles in the wild. Walk around Windjana Gorge, carved out of the Napier Range by the Lennard River. You'll see abundant birdlife and crocodiles sunning themselves near waterholes. From Windjana, make your way to Tunnel Creek, about 33 kilometres (21 miles) away, which in the late 1800s was used as a hideout by the Aboriginal leader Jandamarra. Follow the creek through a 750 metre (0.5 mile) tunnel to the other side of the Napier Range. Take your torchlight and camera to capture many species of bats and limestone reefs at least 350 million years old. Afterwards, return to the pleasant campground at Windjana Gorge National Park and fall asleep beneath the brilliant stars.
DAY 2: WINDJANA GORGE NATIONAL PARK TO BELL GORGE
Leave Windjana Gorge for Lennard River Gorge, a 1½ hour drive away. Follow the two kilometre (1.2 mile) walking track from the car park along a creek line and up to the King Leopold sandstone, before reaching a lookout with dramatic views over the gorge and waterfalls. The track to the car park is 4WD only. Further along the Gibb River Road is picturesque Bell Gorge, the road's most famous gorge. To reach it, take a short walk alongside, and then cross, pretty Bell Creek (be careful because it can be slippery). Watch waterfalls cascade 100 metres (328 feet) down perfect U-shaped cliffs, into a deep pool, which is popular for swimming. Camping is available at Silent Grove 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) away. Accommodation is available at Mount Hart Homestead about 100 kilometres (62 miles) by road west of Bell Gorge.
DAY 3: BELL GORGE TO MANNING GORGE
It is another 100 kilometres (62 miles) from Bell Gorge to the horseshoe shaped Galvans Gorge, the most accessible gorge along the Gibb River Road. Swim in the Isdell River, swing over it on a rope or simply sit under the waterfall and look at the boab trees clinging to the escarpment above. From here it’s a short 21 kilometre (13 mile) drive, via the Mount Barnett Roadhouse, to the Manning Gorge campground, which sits next to the tranquil pools of Lower Manning Gorge. From here the walking track winds past Aboriginal rock art to the spectacular waterfall and Yallamia Pool of Upper Manning Gorge. The falls are at their best between May and July.
DAY 4: MANNING GORGE TO DRYSDALE RIVER
Turn off the Gibb River Road to explore the spectacular Mitchell Plateau in the Kimberley's northwest. Stay at Drysdale River Station, 171 kilometres (106 miles) from Manning Gorge. From here, take a scenic flight (from May to August) over the Prince Regent River and Mitchell Falls. Flights run for two hours and can seat five passengers in each aircraft. If you have a few days to spare, continue your drive up to the Mitchell Plateau, where you can bushwalk and see Aboriginal rock art. Allow at least two nights at Mitchell Falls campground. Helicopter flights are also available from the campground to Mitchell Plateau.
DAY 5: DRYSDALE RIVER STATION TO HOME VALLEY
From Drysdale River Station head nine hours east to Home Valley Station, at the foot of the majestic Cockburn Range, crossing the Durack River on the way. Home Valley Station is an outback playground, where towering gorges meet sparkling waterfalls and billabongs. Follow gentle gorge walks, see the Cockburn Range from horseback or try barramundi fishing – you can even arrange for a chef to cook your catch. Experience an awesome sunset from the station's private lookout over the Cockburn Range, taking in sweeping views of the Durack and Pentecost rivers.
DAY 6: HOME VALLEY TO EL QUESTRO WILDERNESS PARK
From Home Valley it's only a short 45 kilometre (28 mile) drive south to El Questro Wilderness Park, a working cattle station and holiday destination on the Kimberley's eastern edge. On the way you'll cross the Pentecost River. With four major river systems crisscrossing the park you'll see a plethora of native animals, birds and fish in the rivers, as well as freshwater springs and gorges. Stay in accommodation ranging from a deluxe homestead to tented cabins and authentic bush campsites. There are a range of activities on offer including horse rides, fishing, day tours and scenic flights – and for the more adventurous, a chance to visit The Grotto waterhole, just off the Great Northern Highway.
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