Branco's Lookout, El Questro Wilderness Park, WA © Mia Glastonbury
Gibb River Road: a 12-day adventure
Journey across one of the country’s greatest 4WD adventures through Western Australia’s captivating Kimberley wilderness.
The Gibb River Road is just one part of the epic Savannah Way road trip, which travels all the way across the country’s north from Western Australia to Queensland (or vice-versa). We’ve divided the journey into three sections as it passes through three of Australia’s states and territories. The entire Savannah Way can take upwards of three weeks to complete. You can do several sections independently, but if you’re ready to tackle this epic journey in its entirety, check out our other Savannah Way itineraries. Continue the journey through the Northern Territory before ending your trip on the Queensland coast.
The legendary 660-kilometre (410-mile) Gibb River Road from Derby to Kununurra (or Wyndham) in Western Australia is one of Australia's most unique 4WD adventures. Explore pristine waterholes and stunning gorges, see freshwater crocodiles and take a scenic flight over cascading waterfalls on this epic 12-day road trip.
Day 1: Discover the history and natural wonders surrounding Derby
Your first stop on the Gibb River Road is Derby, an easy two-hour drive on a sealed road from Broome.
As the first settled town in the Kimberley, Derby offers some unique insights into the region’s convict and colonial eras. Spend the day getting to know the town's cultural history at the Boab Prison Tree and Wharfinger's House Museum.
In the evening, head to the Derby jetty to watch the sunset. Keep an eye out for the impressive tides – the jetty experiences the largest tidal range in Australia, making for an astonishing sight.Show more
Day 2: Derby to Windjana Gorge National Park
From Derby, your next stop is Windjana Gorge National Park, situated within the Napier Ranges – an area partly made up of an ancient reef system formed around 350 million years ago.
The best way to explore the gorge is by foot. The 3.5-kilometre (2.2-mile) walking trail will bring you to the spellbinding water-streaked walls, where you’ll see ancient fossils of primeval lifeforms embedded within the 100-metre high limestone. Keep an eye out for natural pools along the way where wildlife, including crocodiles, fruit bats and corella’s typically hang out.Show more
Day 3: Windjana Gorge National Park to Bell Gorge
Leave Windjana Gorge for Lennard River Gorge, a 1.5-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 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.Show more
Day 4: Bell Gorge to Manning Gorge
It’s 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. Walk along the winding track to reach the spectacular waterfall (best between May and July) and Yallamia Pool of Upper Manning Gorge, discovering Aboriginal rock art along the way.
Stay the night camping at Manning Gorge.
Day 5: Manning Gorge to Drysdale River Station
Rise early and take a detour off the Gibb River Road towards Kimberley’s northwest, home to the beautiful and biodiverse Mitchell River National Park.
Stop en route for a morning swim at the Gibb River crossing before continuing to your base: Drysdale River Station, 171 kilometres (106 miles) from Manning Gorge. Here you can choose from cabin-style accommodation or campsites on the station grounds.
Before the day is up, take the afternoon to explore the rainforests and open woodlands surrounding the station on foot, or go fishing on the riverbanks.
Day 6: Drysdale River Station
From Drysdale River, take a scenic flight (from May to August) over the Prince Regent River – a haven for more than half the Kimberley’s native mammal and bird species – and Mitchell Falls, for a bird’s-eye view of the dramatic Kimberley coastline. 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; you’ll need at least two nights at Mitchell Falls campground. Helicopter flights are also available from the campground to Mitchell Plateau.
Day 7: Drysdale River Station to Home Valley Station
From Drysdale River Station, head 236 kilometres (146.5 miles) 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. Hit the walking trails and explore the magnificent landscapes of this three-million-acre outback oasis, nestled at the foot of the spectacular Cockburn Range.
Join a sunset tour to experience an awesome sunset, watching the light flicker over the Range as the peaks turn from brilliant reds to deep purples.
Stay the night at Home Valley Station.
Day 8: Explore Home Valley Station
Take in the striking views of the Cockburn Range on a helicopter tour, venture through ancient gorges towards inviting plunge pools, or try barramundi fishing – you can even arrange for a chef to cook your catch.
A region imbued with Aboriginal spirit and heritage, take the time to soak up the inspiring scenery around you in the Cockburn Range.
Day 9: Home Valley Station 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, known as one of the best places for barramundi fishing and a delightful spot to take a dip. With four major river systems criss-crossing the park, you'll see a plethora of native animals, birds and fish in the rivers, as well as freshwater springs and gorges.
Set on a million acres, El Questro Wilderness Park extends deep into the unexplored heart of the Kimberley. For the perfect introduction, take a sunset cruise to Chamberlain Gorge.
Stay in accommodation ranging from a deluxe El Questro Homestead to tented cabins and authentic bush campsites.
Day 10: Enjoy El Questro Wilderness Park
Take the day to explore the park, starting with a relaxing soak in the thermal pools at Zebedee Springs, just a short walk through the prehistoric forest of Livistona and pandanus palms.
Discover the region’s ancient Windjana Aboriginal rock art or join local guides on a hike to Emma Gorge – one of the Kimberley’s most spectacular and accessible gorges. Other El Questro highlights include 4WD safaris to the spectacular Cockburn Range, fishing for the one-metre long barramundi that are found in the area, scenic flights, and for the more adventurous, a chance to visit The Grotto waterhole, just off the Great Northern Highway.
Day 11: El Questro Wilderness Park to Kununurra
The final stretch of the Gibb River Road brings you to the east Kimberley hub of Kununurra, about 1.5 hours from El Questro, where, if you have time, you can explore two of the Kimberley’s most extraordinary sights: Lake Argyle and the Bungle Bungle Range.
After arriving, head to Lake Argyle and jump aboard an afternoon cruise to explore the waters and little islands of the lake – the largest man-made lake in the Southern Hemisphere. It's a perfect way to end the day.
Day 12: Explore around Kununurra
Take a full day to explore one of the world’s most curious landforms, the Bungle Bungle Range of World Heritage-listed Purnululu National Park.
Start your day with a helicopter flight for awe-inspiring views of the range; you'll also have enough time to continue your exploration of the park by foot afterwards.
If you're ready to tackle the next section of the epic Savannah Way, continue through the Northern Territory from Keep River to Lawn Hill.
This article was written in partnership with Tourism Western Australia. For more information about road trips in Western Australia, go to westernaustralia.com.