An ancient landscape covering hundreds of thousands of square kilometres, the Kimberley is one of the world's most precious wilderness regions.
By Georgia Rickard
Three times larger than England, with a population of less than 40,000, the Kimberley region – spread over Australia's entire north-western corner – is one of the world's last wilderness frontiers. Here you'll find prolific wildlife, majestic canyons, freshwater swimming holes and several outback stations, as well as one of Australia's greatest 4WD road trips. Despite the area's remoteness, it's also a place of great food, luxury accommodation, friendly locals and one of the most romantic beach towns on Earth.
HOW TO GET THERE
The Kimberley region's major gateway is the outback beach town of Broome, famous for its 22 kilometre (14 mile) long strip of white sand, Cable Beach, and the daily camel trains that trail along it at sunset. You can fly direct to Broome – on the western edge of the Kimberley – from Perth year round. During high season (April to October) there are also direct flights to Broome from Melbourne and Sydney. The Kimberley has a second major town on its eastern side, Kununurra, with flights direct from both Perth and Darwin.
- Stay at the spectacular El Questro wilderness park
- Swim at a freshwater outback waterhole
- Take a helicopter ride over a majestic gorge
TOP THINGS TO DO IN THE KIMBERLEY
Enjoy Broome's many delights
The thriving town of Broome is one of Australia's most iconic destinations, loved for its magenta sunsets, frangipani trees, tropically warm weather and beautiful, white beaches. Here, you'll find two of Australia's most important cultural phenomena – the outback and the beach – combined in a unique, laid-back atmosphere. Broome is on the western edge of the Kimberley region, and makes a convenient starting point for those planning to venture east into the area's heartland by 4WD along the Gibb River Road, or around its craggy edge, on one of the many Kimberley cruises that depart from the town. However, there is so much to see and do here that Broome is also worth visiting in its own right. Stay at one of several five-star hotels such as Cable Beach Club or Pinctada Cable Beach Resort & Spa, sample a locally brewed mango beer at the wildly popular Matso's Brewery, ride a camel along Cable Beach at sunset, see ancient fossilised stegosaurus prints in the bright red rock at Gantheaume Point, browse the open-air weekend markets in front of the pretty Courthouse building and shop for precious Pinctada maxima pearls, grown locally in the shimmering aqua waters nearby.
Cruise the Kimberley coastline
There are a dozen reputable cruise companies offering cruise expeditions around the Kimberley coastline, in vessels small and large. Some cruise companies, such as True North and Great Escape, also have on-board helicopters for day expeditions. Cruise routes vary but all travel around the north-western edge of Australia, a raw, wild coastline dotted with about 2600 islands (many of which are unnamed). Along the way you'll view ancient Aboriginal rock art, splash at beautiful, freshwater swimming holes, picnic on white sandy beaches and see prolific wildlife, including birds, whales, dolphins and saltwater crocodiles.
Take a road trip on 'the Gibb'
The Gibb River Road – or "the Gibb", as locals call it – is a 4WD-only track stretching 660 kilometres (410 miles) from east to west through the middle of the Kimberley. Several smaller roads off either side lead to breathtaking gorges, friendly outback stations and lodges, freshwater swimming holes, camping grounds, Aboriginal communities and conservation sanctuaries with accommodation such as Mornington Wilderness Camp. It is one of Australia's most epic road journeys. You can hire 4WD vehicles at Broome and Kununurra.
Stay at spectacular El Questro
El Questro Wilderness Park has to be seen to be believed. The one million acre (404,686 hectare) working cattle station, in the east Kimberley (near Kununurra) on the Gibb River Road, is a natural playground of majestic canyons, freshwater swimming holes, bushwalking trails, Aboriginal rock art and grand mountain ranges. The park has its own small township, with camping sites, cabins, a shop and its own airstrip. There is also four-star accommodation available at El Questro's Emma Gorge Resort, or you can book an exclusive suite or villa at the six-star luxury lodge, The Homestead, which caters for just 18 guests at a time, and has hosted many famous figures, including politicians and movie stars.
See the Bungle Bungles
The enormous domes of the Bungle Bungle Range – often likened to beehives for their remarkable black and orange stripes – are clustered in their hundreds in Purnululu National Park, in the east Kimberley. One of the best ways to experience these 30 metre (100 foot) tall structures is from above, in a scenic flight from the nearby town of Kununurra. Land tours are also available.
Escape to a remote luxury lodge
Deep in the heart of the Kimberley you'll find several exclusive accommodation options quite unlike anything else on earth. Berkeley River Lodge, a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, is a decadent retreat on the edge of a clifftop, only accessible by seaplane or helicopter. Other unique accommodation options include Home Valley Station, Kimberley Coastal Camp, Faraway Bay and Eco Beach Resort.
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