One of the best things about the Kimberley is the seemingly endless perfect places to swim. However, it’s also croc country and the Kimberley is home to both estuarine (saltwater) and freshwater crocodiles. While the fresh water crocodile is relatively harmless, saltwater crocodiles aren’t, so it’s important to know where it’s safe to swim and which waterways to keep away from. Always check if you’re not sure before you enter the water. But in a region that’s 422, 000 square kilometres there’s no shortage of safe swimming holes, including Black Rock Falls and Molly Springs near Kununurra and the Grotto near Wyndham. Here’s ten of the best places to swim in the Kimberley – from tiny plunge pools at the base of waterfalls to one of Australia’s largest man-made lakes. The Kimberley is a vast region and the list of places is endless; so stop, stay a while, and soak up all the magic the Kimberley has to offer.
If you’re heading along the Gibb River Road from the west coast, one of the first swimmable spots you’ll come across is Bell Gorge. This waterfall usually continues to flow until the end of the dry season and while it’s one of the prettiest, it’s also one of the busiest! It’s a short, one kilometre walk from the car park and once you reach the falls there are two main swimming options, the first being the top of the falls where you can swim right up to the edge of the natural infinity pool. From there it’s a short walk across the falls and down a steep, rocky path to access the bottom pool and swim beneath the falls.
Also located along the Gibb River Road is Galvans Gorge. This little waterfall is only a short walk down an easy trail that leads you alongside lily-filled ponds, beneath towering golden grevilleas and past pandanus plants to get to a beautiful little gorge complete with aboriginal art and a boab tree at the top of the waterfall. There’s also a rope in a tree to the right hand side of the pool to swing and jump from.
Adcock Gorge makes it onto the list because it’s everything the Gibb River Road gorges should be about. After travelling down hundreds of dusty kilometers to get to the waterfalls, most of them are packed with other tourists and sometimes feel busier than the local pool in Summer. But not Adcock. This little spot is only a short 5 kilometre drive off the Gibb River Road and is usually quiet, allowing you to float away for hours while staring up at the red escarpment, feeling like you’re the only person in the world!
There are a number of swimming options at Manning Gorge, located along the Gibb River Road, and the first spot is only a few minutes walk from the campground itself where sandy banks line the Manning River. To access the main falls it’s 3 kilometre walk from the campground. The falls are located on the other side of Manning River and a small boat/tinny is in place so you can cross to the other side while keeping dry. From there, follow the trail of stone cairns, plastic tags, arrows – and the occasional beer can! Near the falls keep an eye out for aboriginal (Bradshaw/Gwion Gwion) art on the gorge walls as you enter.
Zebedee Springs are located within El Questro Wilderness Park on the eastern side of the Gibb River Road. These hot springs, a series of thermal pools located beneath towering, pre-historic Livistonia palms, are typically 28-32 degrees all year round. It’s the perfect place to spend a few relaxing hours soaking away. Zebedee Springs is open 7am-12pm and closes in the afternoon.
Emma Gorge is also located within El Questro Wilderness Park. The walk to the falls takes approximately 45 minutes, following a rocky creek and a pandanus lined trail to the top of the gorge. About three quarters of the way along is a crystal clear turquoise pool that’s also a great spot to stop for a swim. The path continues up a few rocky boulders and ends in a horseshoe shaped gorge with a 65 metre droplet waterfall. The water here is cold, it’s one of the coldest waterfalls along the Gibb River Road, but there are hidden hot springs that are well worth searching for. But if you can brave the cold, there’s nothing better than floating on your back watching the drops of water slowly cascade down towards you.
EL QUESTRO GORGE
The El Questro Gorge hike at El Questro Wilderness Park is one of the more challenging walks in the Kimberley. The first section of this walk is relatively easy and takes 1.5-2 hours return. You can either stop here at the swimming hole, have a swim in the crystal clear water and turn back, or clamber past the boulder and continue on. To do so, you’ll need to wade through the waist-deep water of the halfway pool and climb up and over the boulder. The trail gets tougher and rockier from this point forward but you’re rewarded with a swim at MacMicking Pool at the end, which is another small, clear pool and waterfall.
Lake Argyle is always an incredible place to visit and spend the day. It’s Australia’s second-largest man-made lake, about 18 times the size of Sydney Harbour, and so vast it feels like an inland sea. The lake is not only perfect for swimming, but also kayaking, waterskiing and sailing. While the lake is home to over 30, 000 fresh water crocodiles, it’s safe to swim – there’s even an annual swimming competition held in May. While at Lake Argyle, the neighbouring caravan park has an infinity pool with one of the best views in Australia.
Cape Leveque is located on the Dampier Peninsula, about 3-4 hours north of Broome, and has to be one of the most beautiful beaches in Australia. Here the red pindan cliffs meet the impossibly blue waters of the Indian Ocean. It’s a stunning view, an even better place to swim, and the reefs on the eastern beaches make for a perfect spot for snorkeling. In the months of July-October you’re also able to view the migrating whales and see and hear them breaching as they make their way south.
The best spots, however, are always those that aren’t on the map. The ones that don’t have big signs on the highway directing people to stop and visit; you’d drive right past the turnoff without even knowing what lay at the end of the track. These are the places that the locals know and love. There are a number of great swimming spots along the Ord River and the Carr Boyd Ranges, such as the popular swimming hole about 100kms south of Kununurra with a chain of waterfalls for exploring. Then there are picture perfect infinity pools and gorges with pristine sandy banks along the Gibb River Road. But half the fun is discovering, and exploring, these places for yourself.
About the author:
Alex is a photographer and writer who loves exploring the Kimberley and the outback. When she’s not stuck in the office, she’s out hiking, traveling down dusty roads and taking photos. See more of her photos at: Instagram.com/alex.vp.