For an outback holiday your way, you can’t beat El Questro in the Kimberley, writes Elisabeth Knowles

Whether you are comfortable enough to spend over $1000 per night for an elite, stylish retreat that boasts a balcony bathtub looking out over a gorge, or if $17 per night for a campsite is more your speed, this wonderful wilderness retreat has it all.

The best thing about El Questro is, every single thing that is available to top-dollar guests is also available to guests staying in slightly less salubrious digs down the road.

Well, almost.

It’s not until I stayed at the luxe El Questro Homestead that I realised you could have an entrée at breakfast time (sheep’s yoghurt and fresh tropical fruit, including yellow-fleshed watermelon, don’t you know). While you can’t get quite that level of luxury at El Questro Station, the benefit is you are better able to interact with staff and locals like Buddy – an old-school cowboy who tells tall tales and eternal truths from “Buddy’s Rest”, a sign-posted bench seat at the Station pub.

Guests at the Station can stay in campsites for $17 a night, plus $17.50 for a week’s park pass, or spend the night in a riverside villa that sleeps 3-4 for about $320 a night. And just as the Homestead elite can book park rangers for private tours, so can anyone else, no matter what they spent on a bed for the night. There are 4WD trips to places with exotic names such as Explosion Gorge, Zebedee Hot Springs or Moonshine Flats; cruises up the Chamberlain River, or helicopter trips to check out far-flung waterfalls and canyons on the million-acre working cattle station that was backdrop to, and the best thing about, mega-flop movie Australia.

It was on a helicopter flight back from a bushfire check that a “new” site, Amaroo Falls, was recently discovered by El Questro staff. AT was lucky enough to take a trip out to Amaroo Falls in an open-sided four-seater helicopter flown by heli-musterer Digby. It was a sensational experience. Out across the unforgiving, sparse and sun-blasted Cockburn Ranges, you suddenly spy huge canyons full of trees thick with lush green foliage, and cascading water which drops hundreds of feet over dramatic cliff faces. There’s not a person or animal to be seen for many kilometres. Digby dropped us off here to take a walk along the rock wall. The scale is huge; the peacefulness of the landscape is quite intense.

El Questro’s heading into lockdown now until March next year due to the wet season, but we thought you might like to check out our Kimberly slideshow to whet your appetite for travel in 2011.

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