Embrace adventure in a world of vast lakes, ancient ranges, iconic road trips and huge outback stations.
By Kris Madden & Georgia Rickard
Kununurra is the gateway town to the East Kimberley, and a great base if you’d like to explore some of Western Australia’s most remarkable natural attractions, including World Heritage-listed Purnululu National Park and its beehive-shaped Bungle Bungle Range. Adventure is synonymous with Kununurra, home to lakes, rivers, waterfalls and barramundi. It’s easy to see why the name means "Big Water" in the language of local Aboriginal people, who have roamed this landscape for thousands of years.
- Fly over the Bungle Bungle Range
- Take a walking tour with an Aboriginal guide
- Shop for rare pink diamonds
How to get there
Commercial flights are available from all major Australian cities via Darwin, Broome and Perth. Kununurra is about a 10.5-hour drive from Broome or about 6.5 hours from Katherine, in the Northern Territory. You can also get here by driving the unsealed Gibb River Road over several days from Broome (4WD required).
Things to do and top attractions in Kununurra
Fly over the Bungle Bungle Range
The Bungle Bungle Range in Purnululu National Park should be on everyone's list when visiting the East Kimberley. From Kununurra it's a four-hour drive to access the park, but you can also see the dramatic landscape and striking colours of the World Heritage-listed site by air. Several scenic flight operators offer tours from Kununurra by small plane or helicopter, including Helispirit, Kingfisher Tours and Kimberley Air Tours.
Hike the Bungle Bungles
There's nothing quite like exploring the beehive-shaped Bungle Bungles on foot. On a guided day tour of the impressive park you can visit gorges and creeks (don't miss Echidna Chasm or the astonishing Cathedral Gorge) that have been used by Aboriginal groups for thousands of years. You can also join a multi-day guided walk with World Expeditions.
See Mirima National Park
Closer to Kununurra you'll find Kununurra's so-called best-kept secret: Mirima National Park. Just a five-minute drive from the centre of town, this hidden valley is often referred to as the 'mini Bungles' for its 350-million-year-old sandstone cliffs, amphitheatres, gullies and ridges, which are similar in appearance to the Bungle Bungle Range. Explore the park on your own, or join a tour to gain a deeper connection to the spirituality and history of this ancient place. Aboriginal tour companies like Waringarri Aboriginal Arts take guests through the park while showcasing the culture and history of the original custodians of the land. On the two-hour tour you’ll hear traditional songs and learn about bush tucker, art and cultural stories. When you've built up an appetite, head to the tranquil surroundings of the Kununurra Country Club, the executive Kimberley Grande, or the Freshwater Apartments.
Drive the Gibb River Road
The Gibb River Road is one of Australia's greatest road trips. The 660-kilometre (410-mile) road travels through the heart of the Kimberley, from Kununurra at its eastern end, to the community of Derby and the iconic outback town of Broome at its western end. Along the way there are breathtaking gorges to admire, jewelled waterholes in which to swim and vast outback stations on which to stay. As the road is unsealed, access is by 4WD only.
Stay at Home Valley Station
Stay at Home Valley Station, where part of Baz Lurhmann’s movie Australia was shot, and experience what moved Nicole Kidman's character to embark on her sweeping outback adventure. Here, you can indulge in a variety of incredible experiences, including fishing, helicopter and hiking tours.
Paddle at Lake Argyle
About 70 kilometres (43 miles) south of Kununurra, man-made Lake Argyle is Australia's largest expanse of fresh water. Home to about 30,000 freshwater crocodiles and a third of Australia's bird species, it's a wonderful place to take to the water on a lunch or sunset cruise, which you can book through Lake Argyle Resort. The lake is also the home to one of Australia's most unexpectedly beautiful infinity pools, which you'll experience for yourself if you stay at Lake Argyle Resort.
Stay at El Questro
About 100 kilometres (60 miles) west of Kununurra is El Questro Wilderness Park. Several types of accommodation can be found in various parts of this enormous property, including the luxury and historic Homestead, the main station's bungalow accommodation, safari-style glamping sites at Emma Gorge and several camping grounds. Using El Questro as your base, you can experience all that the surrounding wilderness has to offer, from waterfalls and swimming holes to wildlife and majestic lookouts.
Cruise the Ord River
You wouldn’t want to visit Kununurra without taking a boat trip along the Ord River from Kununurra to the Ord Top Dam at Lake Argyle, soaking up the tranquil atmosphere and abundant wildlife including crocodiles, sea eagles and kingfishers. End your cruise with sunset drinks on the water at The Pumphouse restaurant. You can also hire a houseboat on the Ord River for an extended stay.
Go fishing for barra
Spend a day chasing one of the most prized catches in the world: the barramundi. Hook up with a charter company in Kununurra, such as Ultimate Adventures or Northbound Charters, which will guide you on a half-day, full-day or longer fishing adventure in the East Kimberley. Fishing tours are also available from El Questro and Home Valley Station.
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