The Kimberley is a huge region covering over 423,000 square kilometres – and was just named as one of the top 5 places to go in 2020 by The New York Times. While the western side of the region has pristine beaches and coastline, the East Kimberley has no shortage of waterfalls, swimming spots and national parks to explore. Here are some of the best spots in the East Kimberley:
Located not far from the WA/NT border, Kununurra is the perfect base from which to explore the east Kimberley. Kayak, swim or fish at nearby Lake Kununurra and the upper Ord River or spend the day exploring by boat the scenic stretch of river between the town and the Ord Top Dam. Check out Lily Creek Lagoon and Celebrity Tree Park in the town centre or head to Kelly’s Knob Lookout for views over the town; it’s also a great spot to watch the sunset. Just on the outskirts of Kununurra you’ll find the Hoochery Distillery, one of WA’s longest continuously running (legal) still. Also nearby is Ivanhoe Crossing, a concrete causeway built over the Ord River (keep an eye out for saltwater crocs that can inhabit the area).
Lake Argyle is about 70kms south of Kununurra and is Australia’s second-largest man-made lake. At about 18 times the size of Sydney Harbour, it’s so vast it feels like an inland sea. While the lake is home to over 30,000 freshwater crocodiles, it’s safe to swim – there’s even an annual swimming competition held in May. Explore the lake by kayak, canoe, boat or hire a BBQ pontoon for the afternoon. While at Lake Argyle, the neighbouring caravan park has an infinity pool with one of the best views in Australia. If you’re not staying at the caravan park you can access the pool for a small $10 fee.
East Kimberley Waterfalls
The East Kimberley has no shortage of great waterfalls to explore, from well known favourites to secret springs and hidden gems. Some of the most well-known east Kimberley waterfalls are Emma Gorge and El Questro Gorge at El Questro but there are also a number of great spots closer to Kununurra including Black Rock Falls, Middle Springs and Molly Springs. On the road to Wyndham, you’ll find The Grotto, a deep gorge and wet-season waterfall, and a great spot to swim. The Kimberley is also croc country and the Kimberley is home to both estuarine (saltwater) and freshwater crocodiles. While freshwater crocodiles are harmless, saltwater crocodiles are not, 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.
The town of Wyndham is the northernmost town in WA and it’s also the Kimberley’s oldest. The Five Rivers Lookout offers fantastic views of the Ord, Pentecost, Forrest, King and Durack rivers flowing into the ocean. The road to the lookout on Bastion Range is steep but sealed and it’s a great spot to watch the sunset (and incoming storms in the wet season). While in Wyndham check out the big croc – a giant 20 metre long concrete crocodile statue that welcomes you into town, or pop into the bakery and have a barramundi or crocodile pie. For those with an interest in wildlife, Marlgu Billabong in nearby Parry Lagoons Nature Reserve is a great place to spot migratory birds (or even the occasional crocodile!). Just south of Wyndham on the King River Road you’ll find the boab prison tree, a large, hollow boab that was once used as an overnight lockup by police.
Purnululu & Mirima National Parks
Purnululu National Park (also known as the Bungle Bungles) is well known for its unique, world heritage listed, sandstone domes. The park is located about 50kms off the Great Northern Highway (but the 4WD-only road is unsealed so be prepared for the drive to take around 2 hours) and home to incredible gorges, chasms and the striped beehive domes for which it’s famous for. For those who can’t make it into Purnululu, Mirima National Park, just minutes away from Kununurra, is known as ‘the Mini Bungle Bungles’ for its striking rock formations. Mirima is easily accessible and has a number of walking tracks within the park.
Photo by @alex.vp.photography
Kalumburu & the Mitchell Plateau
For those with a 4WD wanting adventure, the remote far north community of Kalumburu, accessible by a rough track off the Gibb River Road, has some great campsites and fishing spots nearby as well as WW2 plane wrecks. Before Kalumburu you’ll find the turnoff to Mitchell Falls, an amazing multi-tiered waterfall, and Munurru (King Edward River). The Munurru campground is close to the river and waterfall and also has incredible rock art sites with Gwion Gwion (Bradshaw) and Wandjina rock art styles. Further north of Kalumburu are the beachfront camps of Honeymoon Bay and McGowans Sunset beach. Permits are required to travel to Kalumburu.
Halls Creek was once an important gold mining town and was where gold was first discovered in WA in 1885. Today it’s known as the gateway to some of WA’s most remote 4WD tracks including the Tanami and the Canning Stock Route. Not far from the town of Halls Creek you’ll find China Wall, a white quartz stone wall that looks like a smaller, natural version of the Great Wall of China. Further down Duncan Road from China Wall is Caroline Pool, Sawpit Gorge and Palm Springs – a permanent freshwater pool surrounded by palm trees, resembling an oasis in the middle of the outback! Venture down the Tanami Road and you’ll soon come across the Wolfe Creek Crater, the world’s second largest meteor crater from which meteor fragments have been found (but a spot completely unrelated to the horror movie). There’s a short but steep walk that takes you to the rim and a free campsite nearby for those who wish to stay the night!
More like this:
The Best Spots in the Kimberley (Part 1 – the West Kimberley)
The Best Things to do in Broome
The Best Things to do in Karijini National Park
The Best Spots Along the Gibb River Road
The Best Things to do in the Pilbara