The Gibb River Road, which spans over 650km through the Kimberley region, is one of Australia's most legendary tracks and provides plenty of surprises for travellers willing to take some detours along the way.
|Grading||High clearance sometimes needed for water crossings, especially early in the dry.|
At least a few days: more to really explore.
|Distance||654km (712km Derby to Kununurra)|
|407km Mt Barnett Roadhouse to Kununurra (although fuel is available 16km off the Gibb River Rd at El Questro Station, 86km from Kununurra); 305km Derby to Mt Barnett Roadhouse (except for diesel at Imintji Store)|
|Fuel & supplies||Derby, El Questro Station (Apr-Nov), Imintji Store, Kununurra, Mount Barrett Roadhouse, Birdwood Downs Station, Charnley River Station, Ellenbrae Station, Home Valley Station, Manning Gorge Camping Area, Mornington Wilderness Camp, Mt Elizabeth Station, Silent Grove Campground, Windjana Camping Area|
|Best time of year||Dry season (May to November)|
The track is nearly always closed in the wet season – always check with Derby Information Centre before travelling.
Although increasingly well used, the Gibb River Road is not to be under- taken lightly. Your vehicle needs to be in good working order and carrying all necessary spares. Repairs to tyres and cars are possible en route, but it’s time consuming and very expensive. Flat tyres are common, so take two good spares and a repair kit for good measure. Water, supplies and fuel are available at certain locations but are limited. When you are camping during winter months, remember that nights can be surprisingly cold.
|Permits and fees||National Park entry and camping fees apply for King Leopold Ranges Conservation Park and Windjana Gorge National Park.|
|Important contacts||DEC West Kimberley Office, Derby Ph (08) 9193 1411; Derby Ph (08) 9191 1426, www.derbytourism.com.au; Kununurra Ph (08) 9168 1177 www.visitkununurra.com|
The Gibb River Road can be divided into two parts at the Kalumburu turnoff. The western part from Derby is described as a graded road that can be in either good or bad condition. The eastern end, towards Wyndham and Kununurra, is a formed natural earth road: it can be rough, rocky and corrugated. The condition of the Gibb really depends on whether you are in front of or behind the grader. After the busy July school holidays, the road is likely to be pretty hacked up.
From the junction of the Gibb with the Derby Highway it’s 119km to the turnoff to the first Gibb River Road side trip: Windjana Gorge (20km off the Gibb) and Tunnel Creek (a further 35km). While passing through the Napier Range, look out for a rock formation that looks remarkably like Queen Victoria in profile at the 128km mark. At the 191km mark is a turnoff to Lennard River Gorge (4WD only – 7km off the road). Bell Gorge turnoff is at 214km. Camping is allowed at Silent Grove (19km off the Gibb) and Bell Gorge car park is 29km off the road. The first stop for an ice cream is at the 222km mark at Imintji Store (they only sell diesel).
At the 247km mark is the turnoff to Mornington Wilderness Camp (82km), Dimond Gorge and Sir John Gorge. Just 4km further on is the turnoff to Charnley River Station. Adcock Gorge, 5km off the Gibb at 267km, and Galvans Gorge, at 286km, are also worth a look. Mt Barnett Roadhouse (300km) is the main roadhouse on the Gibb, and definitely the place to fuel up. It’s another 7km in to Manning Gorge. At 329km there’s a 3km detour in to Barnett River Gorge.
Another 10km along is the turnoff to Mount Elizabeth Station, at the 339km mark – it’s 29km in from the road. The station is also the beginning point for the Munja Track to Walcott Inlet. For all the information you’ll require, including advice on entry permits and fees, contact Mt Elizabeth Station. Camping and accommodation is provided along the route at Bachsten Camp.
Kimberley Gibb River Road
At the 410km mark is the crossroad to another great trek to Kalumburu. At 480km is the turnoff to Ellenbrae Station – just 5km off the Gibb. Then at 588km you’ll reach Home Valley Station – ask about visiting Bradley’s Billabong, Bindoola Falls, Gemma’s Waterhole or Pope’s Pool. It’s also the southern starting point for the Carson River Track to Kalumburu (permission is required from the Department of Indigenous Affairs, Kununurra Ph 08 9168 2550).
After 597km you come to the Pentecost River. This river is wide but usually shallow in the dry season, and crossing involves carefully travelling over the rocky base. The Pentecost is home to crocodiles so do not walk this river crossing.
The turnoff to El Questro Station is at the 621km mark and it’s busy because it’s the access to numerous attractions on the El Questro Wilderness Park. A further 10km along the Gibb is Emma Gorge Resort – part of the El Questro Wilderness Park.
Finally, at 654km, the Gibb River Road ends at the junction with the Great Northern Highway. Then you just have to decide if you want to turn left for Wyndham or right for Kununurra.
Things to do
There is a lot to do along the Gibb River Road and it all revolves around the Kimberley wilderness experience. View the things to do and attractions in the Kimberley region for more ideas.
Gorges and waterfalls
In the 1890s, both Windjana Gorge and Tunnel Creek were hiding places for Jandamarra or ‘Pigeon’, an Aboriginal bushranger in the 1890s. Being a local, Jandamarra knew where all the caves were.
Bell Gorge is one of our favourites because it features a beautiful waterfall and swimming hole. To swim, carefully wade across the gorge at the top and negotiate a steep path to the bottom pool below the waterfall.
Dimond Gorge on the Fitzroy River is worth the long drive, if you are staying at the nearby Mornington Wilderness Camp.
Pretty little gorges such as Adcock and Galvans are only minutes by vehicle from the Gibb. Galvans features a tumbling waterfall guarded by a stately boab tree. There’s good swimming at the base where you see an Aboriginal painting under a rock shelf.
Manning River and Manning Gorge are great for swimming. Camping is allowed behind Mt Barnett Roadhouse near the beautiful Manning River waterhole. From the campground, you can walk a hard 5km to Manning Gorge where a waterfall plunges into a big swimming hole. Take drinking water with you and follow the trail carefully to avoid getting lost.
El Questro Station boasts El Questro Gorge, Amalia Gorge and Chamberlain Gorge, as well as Emma Gorge. The shaded water of Emma Gorge is reputed to be the coldest water in the Kimberley.
Ranges and rivers
The Napier Ranges and King Leopold Ranges are in the west and the Pentecost Range is in the east. These ranges are incredibly rugged and scenic, providing a constantly dramatic backdrop along the Gibb River Road.
Many rivers pass through the Kimberley close to the Gibb River Road and some are inhabited by estuarine crocodiles (salties). Obey warning signs and if in doubt, don’t stick your toe in. The Pentecost River creates the biggest water crossing on the Gibb River Road. Used in many brochures, books and magazine articles, this crossing has become a bit of a Gibb River icon.