Manning Gorge: Everything You Need To Know

byAlex Pantazis
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Hike to a cascading waterfall, camp beneath ancient boabs and a star-filled sky, float away in pristine, crystal clear water and find aboriginal art in a picturesque gorge – enjoy all this and more at Manning Gorge. 

What is it?

Manning Gorge is a great spot to swim and explore, and the campground is located only a few minutes walk from Manning Creek, making it the perfect place to stay along the Gibb River Road. While many stations have decided to remain closed for the 2020 season, Manning Gorge and Mt Barnett Roadhouse are still open, and with no interstate and international tourists, there’s never been a better time to visit and enjoy having this place to yourself!  

Where is it?

Manning Gorge is found in the Kimberley about halfway along the Gibb River Road – a 660 km 4WD-only track formerly used as a stock route and now considered to be one of Australia’s greatest road trips. The gorge and campground are another 7 kms from Mt Barnett Roadhouse. Located along the Gibb River Road, Mt Barnett Roadhouse is open daily in the dry season for fuel, food and supplies, as well as to purchase your entrance fees or camping permits for Manning Gorge. 

What to do?

Swim, hike and camp. The campground is only a few minutes walk to the sandy banks of Manning Creek which is the perfect spot for a quick dip, or afternoon swim. The hike to the waterfall is about 6 km return and takes about 1-1.5 hours each way. The walk starts on the other side of the creek; you’ll need to swim or wade across, and to keep your gear dry, use the tinnie (or blue barrels) to float it across. From there, follow the trail of arrows, ribbons and plastic tags to get to the gorge. While the first half of the walk is fairly flat and easy going, there are a few dry creeks to climb in and out of near the end of the track, but you’ll soon emerge at the beautiful gorge where you can jump in for a refreshing swim to cool down. Keep an eye out for aboriginal art (Gwion Gwion/Bradshaw) on the gorge walls. 

There’s limited shade on the walk, though, so don’t forget to slip, slop, slap (with eco-friendly sunscreen so that the pristine water can stay that way) and don’t forget your hat! As always, take plenty of water with you and don’t leave any rubbish behind.

What not to do:

Hike to the gorge in the late afternoon – the best time to hike to the falls is in the early morning (it’s recommended that you leave the campground no later than 2pm to start your walk, or 12pm in hot weather).  

 Take any risks when it comes to swimming, jumping and diving – you’re a very long way from help. While it’s safe to swim (no saltwater crocodiles here), the rocks around the water can become slippery when wet so watch your step. 

Take your pets into the gorge. While pets are allowed in the campground, they can’t be taken on the gorge walk. 

Anything else:

Entry and camping fees to Manning Gorge must be purchased at Mt Barnett Roadhouse before heading to the campground and gorge. National Parks Passes don’t apply (Manning is privately owned by Kupungarri Aboriginal Corporation). The campground has basic facilities including toilets and showers and campfires are permitted. Manning Gorge campground is a great base to stay at while exploring neighbouring gorges and waterfalls along the Gibb River Road, like Galvans Gorge, Adcock Gorge and Barnett River Gorge. 

Inaccessible during the wet season, the Gibb River Road and Manning Gorge is usually open between April – November. Check in with the Derby or Kununurra visitor centres before you go for season opening dates and road closures or Mt Barnett Roadhouse for their opening times. 

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All research, words & photos by our North-West correspondent @alex.vp.photography (give her a follow on Instagram!)