Guide to the Kimberley
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 and 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.
- Stay at the spectacular El Questro wilderness park
- Swim at a freshwater outback waterhole
- Take a helicopter ride over a majestic gorge
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 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.
Things to do and top attractions 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, tropical 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. Stay at one of several five-star hotels, such as Cable Beach Club, 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 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 expeditions. Cruise routes vary but all travel around the north-western edge of Australia, a raw, wild coastline dotted with about 2,600 islands (many of which are unnamed). Along the way you'll view ancient Aboriginal rock art, splash at 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.
Help cultivate pearls in Cygnet Bay
The clean waters of the Kimberley region produce some of the best pearls in the world. Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm has cultivated stunning South Sea pearls in the area for three generations, and you can join in the harvest with a Pearl Farm Discovery Tour. You'll learn about the industry's fascinating history, how Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm cultivates some of the world's most sought-after pearls and even watch a demonstration of a pearl harvest. There's even the rare opportunity to dine on pearl meat in the Cygnet Bay Restaurant.
Explore Aboriginal culture
Kooljaman, a wilderness camp run by the Bardi Jawi people along the stunning red coastline of Cape Leveque, offers the opportunity to discover the Kimberley's vast wilderness with the help of an Aboriginal guide. Choose from a wide range of experiences like cultural cruises and coastal walks. On a bush tucker tour, you'll join Bundy on a walk around Kooljaman, stopping to sample the abundance of bush foods. You'll learn about the seasons that produce the region's bush tucker and how these native ingredients are used, as well as gain insight into bush medicine that has been passed from one generation to the next.