While the best time to explore the Kimberley and the Gibb River Road is between May and September, there’s no better time than now to start planning ahead. 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 it’s now described as one of Australia’s ‘greatest 4WD adventures’. There’s no shortage of pristine waterfalls, gorges and stations to explore and things to do, including canoeing down Dimond Gorge at Mornington Wilderness Camp, swimming in rivers and gorges at Mount Hart Wilderness Lodge, and exploring Wunnamurra Gorge at Mount Elizabeth Station. But here are some of the best spots along the Gibb River Road (from west to east) which shouldn’t be missed:

Windjana Gorge

One of the first stops heading east from Derby is Windjana Gorge. While technically not on the Gibb River Road, it’s worth the short detour from the start of the Gibb. Once part of an ancient barrier reef system, fossilized remains of marine life from this period are found in the gorge’s limestone walls. A highlight when visiting is spotting the many freshwater crocodiles that call the gorge home and are usually found lining the water’s edge.


Photo by @alex.vp.photography


Tunnel Creek

Further down the road from Windjana Gorge is 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. Part of the walk involves wading through pools of water in the dark – so bring along a good torch and a pair of shoes you don’t mind getting wet.


Photo by @alex.vp.photography


Bell Gorge

One of the first waterfalls you’ll come across when heading east along the Gibb River Road from Derby is Bell Gorge. 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. 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. Silent Grove campground is located near Bell Gorge and is a great place to stay, bookings for campsites can be made online up to 180 days in advance.


Photo by @alex.vp.photography


Adcock Gorge

This little spot is only a 5 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, and at the start of the dry season there’s often a small waterfall running.


Photo by @alex.vp.photography


Galvans Gorge

Galvans is one of the most accessible gorges in the Kimberley. 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.


Photo by @alex.vp.photography


Manning Gorge

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. To access the main falls it’s a 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 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.


Photo by @alex.vp.photography


Mitchell Falls

While not along the Gibb River Road itself, Mitchell Falls is accessed via Kalumburu road and the Mitchell Plateau Track and despite the extra distance and effort, it’s worth the detour. 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 falls. Permits to the area are now needed and should be organised online before travelling. Scenic flights are also available from the Mitchell Falls campground and Kununurra.


Photo by @cjmaddock


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 and care should be taken 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, offer sunset tours. There are a number of accommodation and camping options at Home Valley Station as well as helicopter, fishing and station tours and walking trails at Bindoola Falls.


Photo by @alex.vp.photography


El Questro

El Questro Wilderness Park is located at the eastern end of the Gibb River Road. There’s no shortage of gorges to visit and things to do including soaking in thermal pools at Zebedee Springs, swimming at Emma Gorge, helicopter tours to remote waterfalls, as well as a boat cruise down Chamberlain Gorge. Read here for more things to do at El Questro.


Photo by @saltytravellers

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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.photography

Cover photo by Alex herself! 

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