Kununurra is the perfect base for an East Kimberley adventure.
Set amongst an ancient Kimberley landscape, the town itself is relatively young, built in the 1960s as a result of the Ord River Irrigation Scheme.
Not far out of town you’ll find towering waterfalls, lagoons, lakes and rivers teeming with birdlife (and crocs!), as well as ragged sandstone formations all waiting to be explored.
You don’t have to venture far from town to be spoiled for choice when it comes to swimming in pristine, crystal clear plunge pools, from well known favourite waterfalls to secret springs and hidden gems. About 30 kms west of Kununurra is Molly Springs (keep an eye out for the turn off along the highway), a small spring-fed waterfall and pool in the Ngamoowalem Conservation Park.
Also located nearby are Black Rock Falls and Middle Springs, two beautiful spots well worth the detour to explore. Just over an hour west from Kununurra is El Questro Wilderness Park, home to picturesque waterfalls, including Emma Gorge and El Questro Gorge, or spend some time soaking away at Zeebedee thermal springs, located at the base of red cliffs and nestled amongst towering palms.
Hike through the ‘mini Bungle Bungles’
Just minutes out of town you’ll find Mirima National Park (Hidden Valley); home to striking sandstone rock formations that are often referred to as ‘the Mini Bungle Bungles’. The park is easily accessible and has a number of walking tracks offering great views of these incredible rock formations. Mirima is a culturally significant place for the local Miriwoong people.
If you have the time (and a 4WD), head south down the Great Northern and spend a couple days exploring Purnululu National Park, home to the Bungle Bungles, well known for its unique, world heritage listed, sandstone domes. The park is located about 50kms off the Great Northern Highway and home to incredible gorges, chasms and the striped beehive-shaped domes for which it’s famous for. Scenic flights and tours to Purnululu are available from Kununurra.
Explore the Upper Ord
Spend the day (or a few) exploring the Upper Ord River and Lake Kununurra. Close to town you’ll find ‘swim beach’, a crocodile controlled area near Diversion Dam which has toilets, showers and BBQ facilities. The Upper Ord is also a great place for water sports, such as water skiing and wakeboarding. But the best way to explore the Upper Ord River is by boat or kayak/canoe. The stretch of river between Kununurra and the Ord Top Dam is filled with incredible scenery and seasonal waterfalls and there are a number of tours available from Kununurra. (The Lower Ord River, downstream of Diversion Dam, while great for fishing, is also home to saltwater crocodiles!)
While in Kununurra 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. If you’re keen on a hike, you can climb Elephant Rock (officially Carlton Ridge, but also known as ‘Sleeping Buddha’) for great views of the town and river.
Every Saturday morning from mid-April till September, head along to Whitegum Park where you’ll find the Kununurra Markets. Here you can purchase local fresh fruits and veg, locally made arts and crafts, as well as zebra rock – a brown and white banded rock only found in the East Kimberley.
Kununurra is also world-famous for another type of rock – just south of the town is where the world’s only pink diamonds have been found. With the mine closing in 2020, the world’s rarest diamonds are set to become rarer still, but you can still see them for yourself at the jewellery stores in town.
Kununurra is home to a number of great art centres where you can see, and purchase, aboriginal art too.
Head to the Hoochery Distillery
Just on the outskirts of Kununurra you’ll find the Hoochery Distillery, home to award winning rum as well as native pink gin. In addition to a cafe, cellar door and rum tastings, there are daily distillery tours to see how the rum is made. On the way check out Ivanhoe Crossing, a concrete causeway built over the Ord River (keep an eye out for saltwater crocs that can inhabit the area).
Explore Lake Argyle
Lake Argyle is Australia’s second-largest man-made lake, about 18 times the size of Sydney Harbour. Located about 70kms south of Kununurra, there’s no better way to spend the afternoon than explore the lake by boat. There are a number of tours available, for those who don’t have their own boat, or you can also hire kayaks, canoes, SUPs, houseboats, or BBQ pontoons.
While the lake is home to over 30,000 freshwater crocodiles, it’s safe to swim. Otherwise, the Lake Argyle 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.
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.
Like this? Check out our four-day guide to Kununurra.