Described as one of Australia’s ‘greatest 4WD adventures’, if you’re after an epic road trip look no further than the Gibb River Road. The 660km unsealed road was first established as a way to transfer cattle from the outback Kimberley stations to the towns of Wyndham and Derby and now it’s bucket-list worthy experience. There’s no shortage of pristine waterfalls, gorges and stations to explore, including canoeing down Dimond Gorge at Mornington Wilderness Camp and exploring Wunnamurra Gorge at Mount Elizabeth Station. While the list of things to see and do is endless, here are some of the best spots along the Gibb River Road (from west to east) which shouldn’t be missed:
Bandilngan Windjana Gorge
Take a stroll along the banks of the Lennard River as it snakes its way through the towering remains of this 3km long limestone gorge that was once part of an ancient barrier reef system formed around 350 million years ago. Bandilngan (Windjana Gorge) is one of the first stops heading east from Derby and while it’s technically not on the Gibb River Road, it’s worth the short detour from the start of the Gibb. The gorge is home to a host of freshwater crocs that are usually found lining the water’s edge. You can also find the fossilised remains of marine life in the gorge’s limestone walls.
Read our full guide about Bandilngan (Windjana Gorge) here.
Dimalurru (Tunnel Creek)
Further down the road from Bandilngan (Windjana Gorge) is Dimalurru (Tunnel Creek), a 750 metre long underground tunnel, and Western Australia’s oldest cave system. It was once a hideout for Aboriginal (Bunuba) leader and resistance fighter, Jandamarra. Keep an eye out for impressive stalactites overhead as you venture through the creek to the other side of the mountain range. Part of the walk involves wading or swimming through pools of water in the dark – so bring along a good torch and a pair of shoes you don’t mind getting wet.
Read our full guide about Dimalurru (Tunnel Creek) here.
Dalmanyi (Bell Gorge)
This beautiful waterfall is one of the best along the Gibb River Road and it’s one of the first gorges you’ll come across when heading east from Derby. A short one kilometre walk leads you to the top of the waterfall where you can swim right up to the edge of the natural infinity pool to soak up the impressive views down the gorge. But there’s nothing better than a refreshing swim in the deep plunge pool beneath the horse-shoe shaped falls. To get there it’s a short walk across the falls and down a steep, rocky path to access the crystal clear bottom pool. You can camp nearby at Silent Grove campground and bookings for campsites can be made online up to 180 days in advance.
Read our full guide about Dalmanyi (Bell Gorge) here.
This picturesque little spot is only a five kilometre drive off the Gibb River Road then a short, rocky walk from the car park. Adcock is usually quiet compared to the other gorges along the Gibb River Road and it’s often one of the few spots that you’ll be lucky enough to have to yourselves. It’s a perfect spot for a swim in the deep, green pool, and at the start of the dry season there’s often a small waterfall running.
Galvans is one of the most accessible gorges in the Kimberley and one of the prettiest! This little waterfall is only a 750 metre walk down an easy trail that leads you alongside lily-filled ponds to the gorge which is complete with aboriginal art as well as a boab tree at the top of the waterfall. There’s also a rope to swing from in the tree on the right hand side of the pool.
It’s well worth stopping at this great spot along the Gibb to hike to the cascading waterfall and float away in pristine, crystal clear water. Stay the night (or week!) and camp beneath the ancient boabs. Access to Manning Gorge is included with Mount Barnett campground fees and the campground is only a few minutes walk to the sandy banks of the Manning River which is the perfect place for a sunset swim. From the campground it’s a 3 kilometre walk to access the main falls which are 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 plastic tags and arrows. Near the falls keep an eye out for aboriginal (Gwion Gwion/Bradshaw) art on the gorge walls on the right hand side as you enter.
Read our full guide about Manning Gorge here.
Punamii-Uunpuu (Mitchell Falls)
While not along the Gibb River Road itself, Punamii-Uunpuu (Mitchell Falls) is accessed via Kalumburu Road and the Mitchell Plateau Track and despite the extra distance and effort, it’s worth the detour to see one of WA’s most impressive waterfalls. The 8.6 kilometre return hike to the four-tiered waterfall takes you past Little Mertens Falls and Mertens Gorge as well as aboriginal rock art sites. Once there, swimming is not allowed beneath the falls but there are a number of vantage spots to view and photograph the spectacular falls. Permits to the area are needed and should be organised online before travelling. Scenic flights are also available from the Mitchell Falls campground and Kununurra.
Photo by @cjmaddock
Read our full guide about Punamii-Uunpuu (Mitchell Falls) here.
Pentecost River Crossing
One of the most iconic images of the Gibb River Road is the Pentecost River crossing. This 60 metre tidal river is also home to estuarine (saltwater) crocodiles so be careful around the water’s edge! There are lookouts close by offering great views of the Pentecost River and Cockburn Ranges, particularly at sunset. Neighbouring station, Home Valley, offers sunset tours. There are a number of accommodation and camping options at Home Valley Station as well as cultural tours and walking trails at Bindoola Falls.
El Questro Wilderness Park is located at the eastern end of the Gibb River Road. There’s no shortage of incredible gorges to visit and things to do including soaking in tranquil thermal pools at Zebedee Springs, swimming at Emma Gorge, helicopter tours to remote waterfalls, as well as a boat cruise down Chamberlain Gorge. Head to El Questro Gorge and feel like you’ve stepped back in time to a prehistoric paradise as towering palms soar overhead as you scramble over boulders to get to a picturesque plunge pool and waterfall at the end of the gorge.
Photo by @saltytravellers
Read our full guide about El Questro Wilderness Park here.
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All words and photos (unless marked) by Alex Pantazis.