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Kimberley (Western Australia)

Photo © Hanes

Travel Guide Oceania Australia Western Australia Kimberley

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Introduction

Bungle Bungles

Bungle Bungles

© All Rights Reserved Jo D

Kimberley, sometimes called The Kimberley, is one of the 9 regions in Western Australia. It is one the most rugged areas of Australia and a popular region for travellers. The region was actually called after Kimberley and surroundings in South Africa, because of its similar landscapes, and after the discovery of diamonds in the Australian Kimberley, the similarity only has gotten stronger. Today, most travellers certainly don't come here for diamonds, but for its surreal beauty, its wideness, big skies and beautiful gorges, pools and some of the most rewarding 4wd tracks in the country.

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Geography

Kimberley is located in the northern part of Western Australia. It borders te Indian Ocean in the west, the Timor Sea in the north, the Great Sandy Desert and Tanami Desert and the Pilbara in the south and the Northern Territory in the east. It covers an area of 423,517 square kilometres and yet only about 41,000 people live in this vast region. The Kimberley consists of the ancient mountain ranges of northwestern Australia cut through with sandstone and limestone gorges and steep ridges from which the extreme monsoonal climate has removed much of the soil. The southern end of the Kimberley beyond the Dampier Peninsula is flatter with dry tropical grassland and is used for cattle ranching. Most of the area is steep though, including the coastal area which has steep cliffs, becoming a little bit flatter in the southern coastal region.

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Cities

Camel ride along Cable Beach, Broome, Western Australia

Camel ride along Cable Beach, Broome, Western Australia

© All Rights Reserved tamstar

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Sights and Activities

  • Purnululu National Park - The UNESCO World Heritage Site Purnululu, with its multitude of dome formations, is one of the star attractions of the Kimberley. The park has been only "explored" recently (mid 1980s!), though it was known by the aboriginals for a much longer time. Be warned that the 4WD track to the park will put your vehicle to the test.
  • Travelling the Gibb River Road between Derby and Kununurra/Wyndham - only doable in the dry season from April to October
  • Broome and Cable Beach - Broome has become a trendy destination in the recent years. It buzzes in the dry, especially in the cooler July and August. The famed Cable Beach, from which you can admire the sunset while riding camels, is indeed a nice place. You will also find various historic sites and shops focusing on the world-famous pearls produced in the town. The town has a few interesting restaurants, and boosts the only nightlife for a few hundred kilometers around. Do not get too overexcited however, it is very far from the eccentricity of the East Coast. Overall, it is a nice place to have a break before going to the Wild.
  • Windjana Gorge National Park
  • In Derby, on the road to Broome, the huge Boab Prison Tree is believed to have been used as a staging point for prisoners.
  • Geikie Gorge near Fitzroy Crossing
  • North Kimberley is the place to see the Gwion Gwion or Bradshaw Figures Aboriginal paintings, some of which are believed to be around 50,000 years old. You will probably need the authorization of the traditional owners, so enquire beforehand, for instance with a tour operator. Some of these paintings are located in very remote areas.
  • Mitchell Falls - great waterfalls, reached after travelling across rough gravelroads
  • Dampier Peninsula up to Cape Leveque - From Broome, a rough 4WD track will lead you through the Dampier Peninsula up to Cape Leveque. There are splendid beaches, nice snorkeling and good Barramundi fishing in the area. Accommodation is available at the tip of the cape at the aboriginal owned Kooljaman Resort.
  • Located deep within Talbot Bay in the Buccaneer Archipelago are the Horizontal Waterfalls. Massive tidal movements create a waterfall effect as water banks up against one side of the narrow cliff passage, to be repeated again on the turning tide. The tides in this area have a 10 metre variation which occurs over six and a half hours from low tide to high tide and vice versa. The waterfall phenomena has been described by David Attenborough as "one of the greatest natural wonders of the world". The sight of the turquoise blue water rushing between the rugged red hills is best viewed from the air on a Scenic Flight, out of Derby.

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Weather

The Kimberley has a tropical monsoon climate and gets 90% of its rainfall during the wet season, from November to April. This is also the time when cyclones can occur, especially in the southern regions around Broome, and rivers can flood. The annual rainfall is highest in the northwest, ranging from 1,300 mm over here to just over 500 mm in the southeast. In the dry season, from May to October, typical days are and nights can become chilly, especially inland. Rainfall has become more severe, but also less predictable over the last decades, with sometimes severe rains and heavy flooding. It is, on average, also the hottest area in Australia, with temperatures during the colder months (July and August) mostly around or even above 30 °C. Temperatures gradually increase again from September onwards, and combined with the high humidity during this so-called build-up season (towards the rainy season), it becomes a little unbearable sometimes. Temperatures rise to 37 °C on the coast to 40 °C in the south around Halls Creek during this time, though can become much higher in the southern desert areas. Minimum temperatures range from around 12 °C in the cooler areas in July, to around 27 °C in the hottest places in November. Obviously, the best time for a visit is from May to September.

Lennards Gorge

Lennards Gorge

© All Rights Reserved awanderer

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Getting There

By Plane

Broome International Airport (BME) provides links to Perth, Darwin, Melbourne, Adelaide and Sydney as well as several smaller regional towns. Qantas, Virgin Blue, Skywest and Air North are the main carriers.

Kununurra Airport (KNX) has links with Air North to Darwin and Perth, and with Skywest to Perth. Argyle Airport GYL) has flights to Perth with Skywest as well. Argyle is not far from Kununurra.

By Car

You can easily reach the region along good sealed roads (the Great Northern Highway), but it is going to be long drive anyhow. From Darwin, it is about 900 kilometres to Kununurra]], from Broome to Perth is around 2,000 kilometres.

By Bus

Greyhound stops in a number of places on its route between Darwin and south towards the rest of Western Australia. Broome, Derby and Kununurra are the most likely places to break your trip.

By Boat

Cruises to Kimberley normally depart after the wet season. The Kimberley coastline, surrounded with red cliffs and azure blue seas, which is normally inaccessible by car or bus, could now be viewed and explored in safety on a cruise ship. Cruise ships generally depart from Darwin, and will visit placese in the Kimberley region such as King George River and Falls, Vansittart Bay, Hunter River, Montgomery Reef, Talbot Bay, Cape Levequ, The Lacepedes and Broome.

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Getting Around

Imintji Store, Gibb River Road, Western Australia

Imintji Store, Gibb River Road, Western Australia

© All Rights Reserved awanderer

By Plane

There are flights between Kununurra and both Argyle and Broome, the three largest airports in the region. Other then that, it is most likely that you will be in a plane (or helicopter) during trips across the region, for example to the Bungle Bungles (Purnululu).

By Car

You can travel through the Kimberley along the main highway, the Great Northern Highway, which connects Broome, Derby and Kununurra. But if you want to see something more off the beaten track, you really have to go on one of the gravelroads. The Gibb River Road between Derby and Kununurra saves you about 250 kilometres but the going is much slower. Take it easy and try to travel if possible just after the grading of the road, which usually is done first in May and then a couple of times during the dry season until October when the rain makes the going not advisable for travellers.

It should be noted that this region is one of the most remote areas in Australia. It is not advisable to leave the main roads if you are not experienced in remote area travel or sufficiently prepared. If you go off road, go with an experienced guide. Tour operators traveling these regions carry satellite phones as normal cellphones do not work in these places.

Unsealed roads are not suitable for conventional vehicles and international travelers should research their self drive trip thoroughly, contacting relative government tourism bureaus for information and advice before attempting trips into the more remote areas.

If you do not have your own car, there are a number of tour operators who run tours between Broome and Darwin.

By Bus

Greyhound travels between the biggest towns on its route north and south of the region.

By Boat

A variety of tour operators can arrange cruising and sailing in the Kimberley.

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Eat

There are very little catering options outside of the towns, so the best advice is to be as self sufficient as possible if you drive into the outback.

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Drink

The Kimberley is not a true desert, but it is still a very hot place, so drink plenty of water. There are a few bars in Broome, but otherwise the nightlife is as one would expect rather limited.

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Sleep

Several towns have decent accommodation options. Outside of that, it's mainly camping.

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Safety

See also Travel Safety

  • Take care of stray animals (either wild kangaroos or cattle) on the roads and tracks, do not drive at dawn or during the night.
  • Various deadly animals live in the area. Saltwater Crocodiles inhabit most river systems and coastal areas, extreme caution should be used when on or near, beaches, rivers, creeks and waterholes. Deadly jellyfish such as the dreaded Box Jellyfish and Irukandji are found in the surrounding sea (including around Broome), especially in the Wet. Do not go out swimming, unless you are absolutely certain that the area is perfectly safe.
  • Except in the centre of the few towns, your mobile phone will not work anywhere, So do not count on it while going to more remote areas.
  • If travelling at the time of the wet or cyclone season, make sure you are fully aware of what cyclones can do. Plan places to stay that are not next to rivers or watercourses, and check weather advice regularly.

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This is version 4. Last edited at 8:17 on Aug 11, 17 by Utrecht. 14 articles link to this page.

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