Ord Valley Muster, Western Australia

Ord River, Kununurra, The Kimberley, WA. © Tourism Australia

Ord Valley Muster, Western Australia

This May, head to Kununurra for the Ord Valley Muster, a vibrant two-week celebration of East Kimberley life. You’ll join thousands of friendly locals at more than 50 events across the region’s rugged and magical landscapes. Dress up for a 4WD adventure bash, swim across Lake Argyle or mountain bike along the Gibb River Road. Taste fresh Kimberley produce and enjoy Aboriginal music and dance.  Get swept away in a street party, dig for diamonds or watch rough-riders at a rodeo. Not-to-be-missed is the Kimberley Moon – the flagship music concert on the banks of the Ord River.

It’s a three hour flight north from Perth to Kununurra, the gateway to the wild, sweeping landscapes of the Kimberley. The region is most famous for its striking natural attractions such as the beehive-shaped towers of the Bungle Bungle range, vast Lake Argyle, the Ord River and cascading waterfalls of the Mitchell Plateau. Harder to portray on a postcard is the warmth, hospitality and maverick attitude of the locals – traits you’ll fully appreciate during the Ord Valley Muster.

Community spirit is on full display at the Ord Valley 4WD adventure bash. Head to the starting line to see teams dressed as life-savers, country and western stars and Priscilla-inspired drag queens doing last-minute checks of their vehicles. Or dress up and join in the fun, which involves deciphering clues and humouring check point marshals on a bumpy race across the East Kimberley.

Things are a little more serious at the Lake Argyle Classic – the world’s only open-water marathon swim in fresh water. Cheer as solo, duo and quad swimming teams from across Australia race 10km and 20km across Lake Argyle, the country’s largest man-made lake. A similar level of nerve is required of competitors in the Gibb River Road mountain bike challenge. The 800km dirt track race is done over five days in 20km relays. 

You’ll see more of this unique Kimberley take on outback adventure at the Ord Valley Muster Motocross Classic – a mix of aerial maneuvers, sky-high jumps and spectacular fireworks. Afterwards watch rough-riders from local stations compete in the Station Challenge Rodeo. Once the dust settles you can dance up a storm with live country and western music.

The muster program also highlights many other vital aspects of East Kimberley life and culture. See a traditional Aboriginal welcome dance or a basketball carnival for Aboriginal teenagers. Scramble through a makeshift diamond pit for an exquisite Kimberley diamond or tour the Argyle Diamond Mine, where the rare pink gems are actually extracted. Check out art exhibitions and learn how to prepare local produce in a cooking masterclass. Wind through Kununurra’s streets with musicians, dancers, acrobats, jugglers and comedians at the Arts Council street party. Or relax at the Muster Bar, which offers complimentary canapés, drinks at drover’s prices, prizes and live music.

Closing the muster is Kimberley Moon Experience, the biggest local music concert. Each year it draws more than 4,000 singing, swaying people to the banks of the Ord River. Dance to local artists and big-name Australian entertainers such as James Blundell, Marcia Hines and the Hoodoo Gurus. Grab a general admission ticket or enjoy gourmet picnic hampers and prime beach seats in the silver circle. Whatever your concert position, you’ll have a great view of the finale fireworks exploding in the vast, star-filled Kimberley skies.

The Ord Valley Muster is a great time to explore Kununurra’s attractions or venture further into the Kimberley. Hire a 4WD and head along the Gibb River Rd to the coastal paradise Broome, home to soft, white beaches and an exotic pearling history. From Broome, you can do a sunset camel trek along Cable Beach or experience traditional Aboriginal life on a 4WD adventure along the ruggedly beautiful Dampier Peninsula.

You’ll be ready for anything after the dust-flying fun of the Ord Valley Muster.

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