The Kimberley is Australia’s largest and most spectacular adventure destination, which can make choosing where to go with limited time a tough decision. Discover where to explore with our expert 14-day itinerary to the Kimberley’s Gibb River Road.
Day 1 - Kununurra to El Questro via Wyndham
The trip starts in Kununurra, the largest Western Australian town north of Broome. Kununurra, which means ‘black soil’ in the local Aboriginal dialect, is where you should do your final resupplying before starting your trip. For those in town for a longer time, Kununurra is ideally placed for road trips to the Purnululu National Park, Mirima National Park and Lake Argyle.
Image: Marlgu Billabong on the edge of the Ord River floodplain.
Heading west on the Victoria Highway, turn right onto the gravel at Valentine Spring Road and then eventually Parry Creek Road, which puts you in the path of Middle Springs and Black Rock Falls, and further along to Marlgu Billabong and the panoramic views and history of Telegraph Hill Ruins. Meet Old Halls Creek Road and then the Great Northern Highway heading south to the Gibb River Road, before taking the short 2km detour to Emma Gorge - one of El Questro’s biggest attractions and possibly the coldest swim in the Kimberley.
Back on the Gibb, continue west for 10km before turning left and driving 16km off the bitumen to El Questro Wilderness Park and its main camping area for the night.
Day 2 - El Questro
Part working cattle station and part wilderness park, El Questro is split into three resorts: Emma Gorge, The Station (central to most attractions with bungalows, a campground and even a restaurant and bar), and El Questro Homestead, which is a boutique lodge overlooking Chamberlain Gorge that also comes with gourmet dining and personalised excursions.
Images: Sandwich Waterhole in Explosion Gorge; Two angles of Branco's Lookout in El Questro.
In addition to these facilities, El Questro is rich in scenic Kimberley delights that can be enjoyed over many days, however with only one there are still plenty of opportunities to explore. To start the day, an early-morning drive up Saddleback Ridge is in order, followed by a soak in Zebedee Springs, a walk into the cloistered beauty that is El Questro Gorge, a peek at Branco’s Lookout and an adventurous drive down to Explosion Gorge and its jagged ranges.
Day 3 - El Questro to Drysdale River Station
Departing from the haven of El Questro to asealed section of the Gibb River Road, you only need to continue for 24km before encountering one of the most well-known sights in the entire Kimberley region: the Pentecost River Crossing. This long and shallow river crossing is backed by the languid red curves of the Cockburn Ranges in the distance, and is typically home to a good number of estuarine crocodiles.
Image: The classic Pentecost River crossing.
After this point, you will encounter Home Valley, the Cockburn Range Lookout and Ellenbrae Station before arriving at the right-hand turnoff to Kalumburu Road - a full 206km along the Gibb River Road from the turn to El Questro. Head north for 60km to Drysdale River Station for the night, which is a one-million-acre station that provides a range of services: a small store, fuel sales, tyre repairs, new tyres and batteries, as well as a bar, restaurant, laundry and accommodation – including camping with facilities at the homestead or bush camping nearby at Miners Pool on the Drysdale River. This is also where those hauling caravans should leave their rig for the more rugged journey from the station to the Mitchell Plateau.
Image: Camping at Drysdale River Station.
Day 4 - Drysdale River Station to Mitchell Falls
The drive north to Mitchell Falls begins with a crossing of the Drysdale River, continuing for 101km until the left-turn onto Port Warrender Road: a slow and rough road that can test many vehicles, and will probably take around three hours to negotiate (and includes a water crossing of the King Edward River). Only 8km after the turnoff is the Munurru Camping Ground and day-use area, close to which is some beautiful Wandjina rock art that has remained intact for thousands of years.
Image: The Mitchell Plateau as seen from the air.
Another 34km on is Lawley Lookout, and then the final 43km to the Mitchell Falls Camping Area. To visit the Mitchell Plateau, an Uunguu Visitor Pass (UVP) Ngauwudu (Road) Zone pass is required. The camping area has spacious sites, a generator area and a quiet zone, toilets (but no showers) and fire pits to enjoy the area in a simple setting.
Day 5 - Mitchell Falls
Mitchell Falls is one of the brightest jewels in the Kimberley’s regal crown: a four-tiered, 80-metre-drop waterfall, the falls are a natural spectacle framed by the fiery red rock that so encapsulates the region, while nearby are Little Mertens Falls and Big Mertens Falls.
Accessing the falls is a matter of time, money, fitness and preference, as there are flights over the plateau that operate both ways – meaning you can potentially walk one way and fly the other. This not only allows you to fully appreciate the plateau by air, but also to enjoy a slower-paced immersion of it on the ground by way of the 3km-long walking track from the campsite, which takes in the area’s other falls while giving you the chance to spy the ecosystem’s rich array of wildlife.
Day 6 - Mitchell Falls to Drysdale River Station
From Mitchell Falls Camping Area, drive for 16km and then head north along Port Warrender Road for 20km before turning left to Surveyors Pool along a slightly rougher track. The Aunauyu walk is only 2km, and rewards travellers with a serene vista of the pool and the rising sandstone cliffs in which it is encircled; the presence of crocodiles prohibits swimming in Surveyors Pool, but the scene alone is worth the walk.
Images: Wandjina rock art at Munurru; A water crossing of the King Edward River; Mitchell Falls Camping Area.
Head back to Port Warrender Road towards Kalumburu Road, and then head south, back towards Drysdale River Station for the night after a bumpy drive.
Day 7 - Drysdale River to Charnley River
Continuing down the Kalumburu Road for 60km to meet with the Gibb River Road once more, head south-west, passing Mount Elizabeth before turning right 10km on towards Jigngarrin (Barnett River Gorge), which is a sensational swimming hole and picnic spot that’s only 3km off the main drag.
Image: One angle of picturesque Adcock Gorge.
A mere 22km on is Mount Barnett Roadhouse – a major resupply point on the trip as it’s 305km from Derby and 406km from Kununurra. From the roadhouse, you can then access stunning Manning Gorge, while Galvans Gorge (14km on) and Adcock Gorge (another 19km further) are also worth a look if time permits.
Images: Charnley River Wilderness Park; Donkey Pool north of Charnley River.
The road is sealed from here until the right-hand turn onto Beverly Springs Road, which continues for 43km to Charnley River. After 7km on this road you’ll be able to come across the Frank Hann Boab Tree, a large specimen which was indelibly marked by the titular explorer who ventured through the region in 1898.
Day 8 - Charnley River
Being quite a way from the Gibb River Road, Charnley River is generally less crowded than other campgrounds along the journey. The homestead offers grassy campsites as well as showers, toilets, a communal barbecue area and even WiFi, but most importantly access to the beautiful gorge country to the north.
Image: Grevillea Gorge north of Charnley River Station.
The area’s highlights, which require a permit to access, include the stepped falls of Grevillea Gorge, Donkey Pool (which is ideal for a swim), Lily Pool and stunning Dillie Gorge, which can all be reached by somewhat rugged 4WD tracks of various lengths. Each attraction is memorable in its own way, and visiting a few will easily soak up a day of light travel.
Day 9 - Charnley River to Silent Grove
After making the 43km journey from Charnley River to the Gibb River Road, it’s only 37km to the right-hand turnoff towards Silent Grove. On the way, you’ll pass Imintji Store, which has some supplies and diesel fuel, as well as Bell Gorge Wilderness Lodge.
Silent Grove Road will see you strike north-west into the depths of the breathtaking King Leopold Ranges, which has multiple peaks that appear to morph in shape as you pass them by along the journey. After 19km is Silent Grove Campground, a standard campground with showers, flushing toilets and drinking water that can get rather busy in peak times – a fact that makes sense once you reach Bell Gorge 10km past the camping area.
Image: The tiered falls of beautiful Bell Gorge.
Bell Gorge is one of the most sought-after experiences in the entire Kimberley, owing to its wonderful multi-tiered falls and large areas to swim and picnic. Ringed by vibrant red sandstone, the lower pool of Bell Gorge is fed by the steady flow of Bell Creek, which hikers can explore further upstream. Alternatively, it’s also the perfect place to relax in the sun or shade, take a dip or simply absorb the majesty of this special place.
Day 10 - Silent Grove to Mount Hart
The return drive from Silent Grove to the Gibb River Road is just as scenic as the drive in, while the ensuing journey presents travellers with another angle of the King Leopold Ranges as they pass through it; along the way are multiple lookouts to get a grander perspective of this imposing terrain. Only 7km before the turnoff to Mount Hart, there’s a left-hand turn to Lennard River Gorge, which requires travellers to take on a 6km-long 4WD track and a 2km return walk to reach the gorge and its falls.
Image: The view from Sunset Hill is one of the best vistas in the Kimberley.
It’s then 49km along Mount Hart Road from the Gibb River Road to reach Mount Hart Homestead, a place of tranquillity, a pleasant waterhole and a number of gorges waiting to be explored (as well as a bar and restaurant). A drive up to the aptly-named Sunset Hill is an excellent end-of-day journey, as it’s an idyllic location to pull up and watch the sun light the landscape on fire in a final blaze of daylight.
Day 11 - Mount Hart to Windjana Gorge
Around Mount Hart are plenty of gorges to wander through, including Annie Creek Gorge and Mt Matthew Gorge. After departing the homestead and reaching the road junction with the Gibb River Road, the journey continues past Pat Malcolm Lookout and into flat plain country that changes to sheer-sided cliffs around the Napier Range, before you then divert south towards Windjana Gorge after 65km.
Image: Windjana Gorge at sunset is a stunning sight.
Windjana Gorge, a world-class geological monument, is a remnant of a 375-million-year-old reef that existed in the Devonian age, and is located 20km south from the turn off the Gibb River Road. Those who have the time can embark on the return walk along the gorge’s 3.5km length, which is well-shaded and can provide prime viewing spots for exposed freshwater crocodiles soaking up the sun. At the camping area there are showers, toilets, fireplaces and a public phone.
Day 12 - Windjana Gorge
From Windjana Gorge – which is an exceptional sight at both sunrise and sunset – it’s a 35km drive south to the miniscule Tunnel Creek National Park. Tunnel Creek is famous for the section of its winding course that cuts right through the base of the Napier Range, having eroded a path through the mountain over millennia.
Image: The walk through Tunnel Creek requires a strong headlamp.
The tunnel – which is the oldest cave system in Western Australia - is 750m long and between three and 12 metres in height, and the walk requires you to get wet. Take a powerful torch to get a glimpse of five different species of bat, and to keep an eye out for eyes in the water of freshwater crocodiles.
Day 13 - Windjana Gorge to Derby
The final leg of the journey takes you from the Napier Range back into flatter country, and only 8km in becomes sealed - though it does alternate at various points. Your path will cross with Birdwood Downs Station on the way to Derby, with the official end of the Gibb River Road arriving 119km after the turnoff to Windjana Gorge.
Image: The misunderstood Prison Boab Tree.
Before driving the remaining 5km to the township of Derby along the Derby Highway, take a slight detour to cast your eyes on the iconic Prison Boab Tree. A 1,500-year-old boab with an immense girth, the mythology of the tree surrounds its use in the late 1800s as a holding cell for Aboriginal prisoners on their way to Derby for sentencing – a narrative which has been dismissed by anthropological experts of the area.
Day 14 - Derby to Broome
The drive from Derby to Broome is a straightforward affair, taking 220km and under three hours of driving at highway speeds. Broome is a melting pot of culture that manages to retain its character despite the transient population of tourists and travellers: home to a hipster café culture, an iconic Chinatown, a famous coastline and a rich history (both recent and ancient), it’s a town that satisfies all-comers.
While in Broome, check out the fire-and-ice contrast of Roebuck Bay’s riparian zone, the town’s engrossing museum or the Broome Bird Observatory, and try to get down to Cable Beach at sunset with a cheese platter and some cold drinks to catch a spectacular natural light show. For those with time, a trip to Cape Leveque is a must - the peninsula’s stunning clash of Outback reds and classic WA coastline are a unique visual feast that just so happen to be embedded in a remote off-road adventure.