Highlights of a Broome to Kununurra Gibb River Road Trip

There’s nowhere like the Kimberley: ochre earth, bulbous boabs, hidden gorges and sapphire sea pave the way for one of Australia’s truly off-the-beaten-track adventures.

Striking ranges revealing hidden waterfalls, a picnic by basking freshwater crocs and scenery dotted with fat boab trees straight from a Dr. Seuss picture book – travel in the Kimberley is an otherworldly adventure.

One of the best ways to experience the region is travelling the Gibb River Road, a 600km former cattle route which runs from Derby, just outside Broome, up to Kununurra near the Northern Territory border. The quintessential outback road trip, the GRR is famed for its diverse scenery, sites of incredible cultural significance and wildlife-spotting opportunities. 

The road is entirely unsealed and not for the faint of heart: intensely corrugated, peppered with river crossings and completely inaccessible in wet season. If you want to self-drive, you’ll have to do your research. Luckily, there are plenty of tour companies willing to do the hard work for you! WA logo Please note that due to current restrictions some operators may be temporarily closed. Call ahead for the most up-to-date information.

Highlights of a Broome to Kununurra Gibb River Road Trip

Get a taste for the Kimberley in laidback Broome

A small town with big character, Broome is the perfect place to ease into the colours and flavours of your Kimberley experience. Begin your day with a delicious à la carte breakfast at the Kimberly Sands before setting out to watch whales, track down dinosaur footprints or watch Montgomery Reef ‘rise’ out of the sea.

Be sure to schedule a day (or three!) to visit James Price Point or Cape Leveque to see the striking red pindan soil and turquoise ocean that characterises the region. Depending on your mood, you can take in the sunset over Cable Beach from the back of a camel or sipping a tropical beer at Matso’s Brewery.

For a spectacular new perspective on the region take a scenic flight over the natural tidal phenomenon Horizontal Falls, or join Broome’s own Space Gandalf (also known as Greg Quicke) for his ‘practical astronomy’ tour of the Milky Way.

Spot crocs and traverse Tunnel Creek

An easy day tour from Broome (or one of your first stops on the GRR for those self-driving), these incredible gorges are less than 40km apart and make an excellent full-day adventure.

Windjana Gorge (Bandilngan) is a series of deep pools between 300m-high limestone walls, remnants of a 350-million-year-old barrier reef from a time when the Kimberley lay underneath a tropical sea. There are several lovely hikes through the gorge, but its main attraction is its incredible concentration of freshwater crocs. Dozens sun themselves on the sand during the day – return at sunset to see them leap from the water to catch bats.

Tunnel Creek (Dimalurru) is a very different experience. A 750m-long tunnel gorge, this unique spot allows visitors to wade through pools and learn about Aboriginal resistance fighter Jandamarra, who used the gorge as his hideout and was killed at the entrance of the tunnel in 1897. The best way to experience this is with a traditional owner, discovering exclusive rock art sites.

Tunnel Creek
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Get a new perspective at Mitchell Falls

A jaw-dropping four-tiered series of falls and pools, Mitchell Falls (Punamii-Uunpuu) has a reputation as the most beautiful waterfall in the Kimberley. It’s also one of the most remote and hardest to access by road – which is why many people choose to take in these incredible falls by air on scenic flights.

Helicopter and light plane flights depart from all around the Kimberley, including Broome, Kununurra or Drysdale River Station. Taking in the falls from the air not only allows for spectacular views – it lets visitors see them at the end of the wet season, when access roads are impassible but the falls are flowing at full force.

For those keen to hike the area as part of their visit to the falls, the Punamii-Uunpuu walking trail leading from the top of the falls to the campground rewards with a further two waterfalls (Little Mertens Falls and Mertens Gorge), beautiful swimming spots and the chance to see incredible Aboriginal rock art.

Mitchell Plateau
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Take in the horizon at El Questro

You could easily lose yourself – figuratively and literally – at magnificent El Questro, an immense homestead covering 700,000 acres of gorges, rivers, thermal springs and waterfalls. The property abounds with local plants and wildlife, including rare birds like the Gouldian finch and rainbow bee-eater.

There are several unmissable self-guided hikes including the Emma Gorge Trail and El Questro Gorge Trail, both hikes along rocky creek beds leading to unbelievable waterfall-fed swimming spots. For those wishing to rest their weary limbs, there’s nothing better than a morning soak at natural thermal springs Zebedee Falls, where the water temperature is a perfect 28-32° Celsius year-round.

El Questro offers a range of ultra-luxe accommodation and several restaurants, as well as tours and activities from cruising Chamberlain Gorge with sparkling wine and a local fruit platter, to horse trekking to remote waterholes. Hiking trails are also open to non-guests (charges apply). Note that the property is open in dry season only (April – October).

El Questro
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Enjoy the best of the Top End in Kununurra

After days (or weeks!) on the Gibb, Kununurra will seem like the big smoke. Enjoy the luxury of Freshwater Apartments Kununurra as you readapt to sealed roads and phone reception.

Visitors are often surprised by the natural charms of this remote town surrounded by lush farmland and natural waterways. Kununurra makes a great base for adventures but also offers plenty of opportunity to kick back and relax – take a cruise along the Ord River, enjoy local barramundi with water views at the PumpHouse restaurant, feast on a gourmet camp oven dinner overlooking Lake Argyle, or sample Australian rum at the Hoochery Distillery.

For an insight into Miriwoong Aboriginal culture, the excellent Waringarri Arts Centre offers a range of tours and experiences, including an opportunity to taste bush tucker and hear a sunset digeridoo performance at nearby Mirima National Park.

Don’t forget to check if your trip coincides with the Ord Valley Muster – a celebration of the local art, culture and music.

Gaze over the surreal Purnululu National Park

If you’ve made it to the East Kimberley, the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Purnululu National Park, famous for the striped ‘beehive’ domes of the Bungle Bungle Range, is an unmissable experience. Orange and black towers rise steeply from sandy plains, creating a dramatic landscape best experienced on the walk into towering Cathedral Gorge.

A scenic flight over the range provides visitors with an incredible perspective on the formations, revealing hidden green valleys and pools scattered between the domes. Fixed-wing aircraft and helicopter tours depart Kununurra, with some tours offering the chance to land and explore.

The Aboriginal custodians of Purnululu, the Gija and Jaru people, run tours giving insight into their connection to the range, including the chance to visit Cathedral Gorge with a guide who will sing traditional songs that have been passed down for thousands of years – a truly unforgettable experience.

Glamping tents, powered sites and eco-cabins are available through Bungle Bungle Wilderness Lodge, Bungle Bungle Caravan Park and Bungle Bungle Savannah Lodge, who also offer hearty outback dining in a starlit setting.

Purnululu (Bungle Bungle) National Park
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