In our humble opinion, Western Australia might just be the road trip capital of the country.
From curious outback towns to village-lined valleys, World Heritage-listed coral reefs and world-class wineries just out of Perth (Boorloo), there are so many opportunities to drive the dream in this State.
And one of Australia’s – if not the world’s – most iconic road trips, is the Gibb River Road in the Kimberley, a 660-kilometre stretch of outback Australia packed with adventure across a range of otherworldly landscapes.
Table of Contents
- Windjana Gorge National Park
- Bell Gorge/Mount Hart Homestead
- Manning Gorge
- Drysdale River Station
- Home Valley Station
- El Questro Wilderness Park
1. How to get there
We’ll be kicking off our Gibb River Road journey from Derby, almost 2,200 kilometres from Perth. If you’re not tackling the Gibb as part of a larger road trip around Western Australia, the best way to get there is by flying out of Perth to Broome (Rubibi) and either hiring a 4WD or linking up with a tour operator when you arrive (the Gibb is a 4WD-only road). If you are self-driving, it’s important to make sure you’re self-sufficient when it comes to food, water and fuel as only some supplies are available along the way.
If you’re looking to hire your own car, options include Red Sands Campers, 4Xploring Rentals, Thrifty Kununurra, Kimberley Adventure Hire, Adventure Rentals, Broome Broome Car Hire and Sunrise Car Hire. However, if you’d prefer to leave it to a professional who can guide you along the way, there are plenty of options for tour companies to suit all budgets, including: APT, Outback Spirit, Adventure Wild, Outback Horizons, Kimberley Wild Expeditions, InStyle Adventures, Kimberley Safari Tours, Inspiration Outdoors, Kimberley Spirit and Kimberley Outback Tours.
2. Best time of year to go
For this one-way trip along the Gibb, you’re looking at around 7-14 days to do it properly, taking it slow and steady is one of the keys to really experiencing this magical part of the world. The best time of year to travel the Kimberley is the early part of the dry season, from June to September. The earlier you go the more waterfalls you’ll have to explore, but it’s important to consider that water crossings will also be higher.
3. Where to stay
Within the below itinerary you’ll find a few of the notable station stays to pull up at along the journey, with a wide range of accommodation. From campsites and caravan parks to luxury homesteads and resort stays, you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to exceptional nights under the stars in the Kimberley. Head to Australia’s North West for a full breakdown and start booking in nice and early!
4. Where to visit along the way
This 660-kilometre stretch of outback Australian track is packed with incredible adventures. This trip will be kicking off in Derby, heading east along the Gibb and arriving at Kununurra (Goonoonoorrang). Before embarking make sure to visit Australia’s North West for up-to-date information regarding track conditions and flooding in the area. The Kununurra Visitor Centre is also an invaluable resource when it comes to up-to-date and accurate information, along with helping you book tours and stays along the way.
Windjana Gorge National Park (157km, 2.5 hours)
After departing Derby in the morning, begin to familiarise yourself with the Aboriginal art and history of the region with a stop in at Mowanjum Aboriginal Art and Cultural Centre. From there it’s just over two hours to Windjana Gorge (Bandilngan) National Park, where you can spend the day exploring the numerous walking trails along the massive gorge. At its base you’ll find an array of flora and fauna, including noisy corellas, fruit bats and some
A short 37 kilometres away you’ll find Tunnel Creek (Dimalurru), Western Australia’s oldest cave system where you’ll see stunning formations including stalactites and stalagmites. Make sure to bring a torch and old sneakers (prepare to get a little wet) to really experience the cave, a culturally significant area for the local Bunuba people. Stay overnight at the Windjana Gorge campsite.
Bell Gorge/Mount Hart Homestead (158km, 2.5 hours)
Make your way into the Wunaamin Miliwundi Ranges with a stopover at Lennard Gorge (1.5 hours) for a cheeky dip or Inglis Gap (1 hour) and some incredible lookout views. You’ll then need to retrace your steps and head back to camp at the breathtaking Bell Gorge (Dalmanyi) – an absolute must-do. Soak up the views of the red sandstone gorge from the infinity pool at the top of the falls, or swim and explore the deep, crystal clear plunge pool below.
Stay overnight at Mount Hart Homestead (50 kilometres from the turnoff at the Gibb River Road) or there are a few options for camping in Bell Gorge – Silent Grove Campground, APT Bell Gorge Wilderness Lodge or Imintji Campground. Mount Hart is a great option if you’ve got a bit more time to explore Matthew Gorge, which has a little rainforest oasis below Mt Matthew.
Manning Gorge (116kms, 2 hours)
You’re in gorge country now, and Galvans is one of the prettiest and most accessible, with a small seasonal waterfall flowing into a horseshoe-shaped pool. After a refreshing dip make your way to nearby Mount Barnett Roadhouse and the Manning Gorge campground (fees payable). The campground is only a few minutes’ walk to Manning Creek, where you’ll find swimming and hiking opportunities, including the 6km return waterfall hike.
Drysdale River Station (165km, 3 hours)
If you’re leaving from Mount Barnett Roadhouse it’s just over an hour to Mount Elizabeth Station where you can camp and dine, stop in at nearby Wunnamurra Gorge, the unofficial halfway point of the Gibb River Road. Test your low range 4WD skills here and be rewarded with an untouched part of the Kimberley, home to white sandy beaches, deep refreshing springs and ancient Aboriginal rock art.
From there Drysdale River Station is your gateway to another magical part of the Gibb River Road – Mitchell River National Park. Make sure to stay for a couple of days to explore its many wonders, including Merton Falls, Surveyors Pool, the Mitchell and King Edward rivers, Kalumburu, Mitchell Plateau and various Indigenous sites. If you don’t have a lot of time, Drysdale also offers scenic flights.
Home Valley Station (239km, 4 hours)
Our next leg offers a couple of fantastic station stays in Home Valley Station and Ellenbrae Station. Home Valley Station finds you at the base of the eye-catching Cockburn Ranges, offering guided tours and activities along with diverse accommodation options and amenities like a pool and Dustie’s Bar & Grill. Alternatively, Ellenbrae Station offers a great chance to rest up before the final leg of your adventure – make sure to tuck into a couple of their famous scones on the lawn and maybe even a cheeky outdoor bath?
El Questro (49km, 80 minutes)
Finally, we get to the jewel in the Gibb River Road crown, El Questro. Stop in at Durack River crossing and Jack’s Waterhole for a spot of barramundi fishing, wind past the Cockburn Ranges and over Pentecost River before arriving at El Questro. From here you’ll find an abundance of adventure and experiences, so make sure you give yourself a few days to explore it all.
There are a range of incredible waterfalls, gorges, 4WD tracks and lookouts for you to explore (either at your own pace or join a tour). A few of the must-do’s include cool swims at Emma Gorge, the thermal ponds at Zebedee Springs, boat trips down Chamberlain Gorge, Branco’s and Pigeon Hole lookouts, 360-degree views at Saddleback Ridge and more.
Kununurra (103km, 45 minutes)
Last, but certainly not least, we get back to some kind of reality heading back to Kununurra. If you’ve got the time, make sure to hang around for a couple of days and use it as the take-off point to discover more northwest marvels, including Wyndham, Lake Argyle and Purnululu National Park, home to the Bungle Bungle Range. Or we wouldn’t blame you for putting your feet up and enjoying an ice-cold beer and bite to eat at Kununurra’s iconic PumpHouse, overlooking the Ord River.
If you’re keen to drive the dream along the Gibb River Road, now’s the time to start planning for next year’s dry season – head to Australia’s North West for all the information you need!
Image Credit: Supplied/Tourism WA
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