It’s the outback road trip to top them all, but don’t let that intimidate you – we’ve got just the thing.
Next time you hit the road, venture north for an epic 11-day trip through Western Australia’s captivating Kimberley wilderness. Hike to cascading waterfalls, camp near ancient boabs under a star-filled sky and find Aboriginal art in picturesque gorges.
The 660-kilometre mainly unsealed Gibb River Road cuts a swathe right through the heart of the Kimberley, between Derby and Kununurra. We’ve found the most ‘do-able’ way to navigate the iconic Gibb River Road.
Days one and two: Broome and Derby
In frangipani-scented Broome pick up some wheels – either a 4WD or campervan – and stock up on food and water, then head out of town to Derby, an easy two-hour drive on a sealed road.
Stand before the iconic boab tree just south of Derby. (Image: Tourism Australia)
Just before you reach Derby, your first stop is the ‘prison tree’, a large hollow boab believed to be around 1,500 years old. From here either pop into Derby for lunch (if you like kebab, head to the Cairo on Johnston Street) or turn onto the Gibb River Road after seeing the ‘prison tree’ and let the adventure begin!
Windjana Gorge is carved out of the Napier Range. (Image: Tourism Western Australia)
Your next stop is two-hours down the track to stunning Bandiln͟gan (Windjana Gorge) National Park, situated within the Napier Ranges – an area partly made up of an ancient reef system formed around 350 million years ago.
Explore Windjana Gorge National Park with a local guide. (Image: Tourism Western Australia)
Once you’ve settled in, take the 3.5-kilometre Gorge Walk Trail, which winds its way through the gorge with its soaring 300-metre-high walls and deep freshwater pools. Keep an eye out for corellas, fruit bats and freshwater crocodiles.
Dimalurru (Tunnel Creek)
A trip out to Tunnel Creek, located 36 kilometres from Windjana Gorge, should be high on your agenda where you can make your way along the 750-metre-long subterranean waterway.
Dimalurru Tunnel Creek is hidden beneath a mountain range. (Image: Tourism Western Australia)
Lillimilura Police Station
Visit the old homestead, which was built from local limestone in 1884 and later turned into a police outpost in Windjana Gorge National Park.
Accommodation tip: Bandiln͟gan (Windjana Gorge) Campground
Day three: Lennard River Gorge and Bell Gorge
Wave goodbye to Windjana Gorge and hello to Lennard River Gorge, a 1.5-hour drive away. Pull on the walking boots again to take the challenging three-kilometre return walk from the parking area to the gorge lookout. If you can get there shortly after the wet season, you will see a spectacular cascading waterfall, which tumbles over red rocks and plunges into the narrow gorge below.
Possibly the prettiest gorge in the Kimberley, Bell Gorge, is a one-hour drive from Lennard River Gorge. From the car park, a short walk along Bell Creek leads to the gorge where water cascades down the cliffs into a deep pool that is perfect for swimming. Be prepared to spend the day here (it’s hard to leave). Flat rocks next to the waterhole make a divine sunbaking, snoozing or picnic spot.
Immerse yourself in natural beauty at Bell Gorge. (Image: Tourism Australia)
Imintji Art Centre
Visit Imintji Art Centre to view work from talented artists in the local community (you can refuel at Imintji Roadhouse).
Immerse in local arts and crafts at Imintji Art Centre. (Image: Tourism Western Australia)
Take a dip at pretty Galvans Gorge, a good stop off on the journey between Bell Gorge and Manning Gorge (Mt Barnett Roadhouse).
Set up camp on Dulundi (Silent Grove) Campsite. (Image: Jacki Baxter)
Accommodation tip: Dulundi (Silent Grove) Campsite
Day four and five: Adcock Gorge and Manning Gorge
About halfway along the Gibb River Road, you’ll find Manning Gorge one of the most post-card worthy swimming spots in the Kimberley.
The campground is located seven kilometres from Mt Barnett Roadhouse and only a few minutes’ walk from the sandy banks of Manning Creek. Once you’ve set up camp, swim across the river to reach the start of the 5.6-kilometre return hike to Manning Gorge. You can easily spend hours here floating in the huge waterfall-fed pool.
Hike to the tranquil pool of the Manning Gorge. (Image: Tourism Australia)
This secret little gem is just under an hours’ drive from Manning Gorge and boasts a dreamy emerald green pool with a small waterfall surrounded by ferns and grassy edges.
Gorges on Mt Elizabeth Station
It’s just 39 kilometres from Mt Barnett Roadhouse to Mt Elizabeth Station, home to Warla and Wunnamurra gorges, some of the quietest swimming and birdwatching spots in the Kimberley.
Accommodation tip: Camping area at Manning Gorge
Day six and seven: Drysdale River Station and Mitchell Falls
If you’re planning a trip to the Mitchell Falls (and why not?) then Drysdale River Station 165 kilometres from Manning Gorge on the Kalumburu Road is the place to stop on your way up and back.
If you have two nights to spare, continue your drive for four hours on the corrugated and rocky road to the Mitchell Plateau, where you can bushwalk, see Aboriginal rock art and swim at the four-tiered falls.
The four-tiered Mitchell Falls from above. (Image: Tourism Western Australia)
Mitchell Falls walk
If you’ve made it all the way up to the Mitchell Plateau, then take the hike past Little Mertens Falls and Big Mertens Falls to the awe-inspiring Mitchell Falls.
See the majestic Mitchell Falls. (Image: Tourism Western Australia)
Fly over Mitchell Plateau
Jump on a scenic flight at Drysdale River Station or at the Mitchell Falls Campground to see the unforgettable Mitchell Falls. From the campground it is possible to fly one-way and walk back (or vice versa).
Fly above the Mitchell Plateau. (Image: Tourism Western Australia)
Accommodation tip: Drysdale River Station
Day eight: Ellenbrae Station
Back on the Gibb River Road, it’s time for a cuppa and scones at Ellenbrae Station. Primarily a cattle station, in recent years it has become a popular stop for tourists during the dry season thanks to its rustic facilities, campground, cabins and two swimming holes.
Step into an off-grid campsite at Ellenbrae Station.
Take a dip or fish for Bream in the refreshing swimming hole Sandy Gorge on Ellenbrae Station.
Be sure to make time at Ellenbrae Station to wash away the dust in one of the outdoor claw baths, which can be booked for hour-long soaks. Take it up a notch and reserve the sunset session with cheese platter and bubbles for two.
Head to the outdoor baths to wash away the dust.
Accommodation tip: Ellenbrae Station
Day nine and ten: El Questro Wilderness Park
From Ellenbrae Station it’s a 160-kilometre drive south to El Questro Wilderness Park, an iconic outback holiday destination on the Kimberley’s eastern edge.
El Questro Wilderness Park at sunset is beyond magnificent. (Image: Tourism Western Australia)
To enter El Questro, you’ll cross the Pentecost River, one of the best spots in the area to go barramundi fishing. Set on 700,000 acres of stunning terrain, you’ll spot a plethora of native animals, birds and fish in the many rivers, freshwater springs and gorges.
The Pentecost River Crossing spans through the central Kimberley Plateau to the Cambridge Gulf. (Image: Tourism Western Australia)
Hop on a sunset cruise to Chamberlain Gorge for an excellent introduction to El Questro. On the water you’ll spot spitting Archer fish and huge, swirling Barramundi.
Cruising the Chamberlain Gorge is truly one of a kind. (Image: Delaware North Companies/Tourism Australia)
Take the one-hour hike to Emma Gorge, a 30-minute drive from El Questro Station, and you’ll be rewarded with a swim in one of the Kimberley’s most spectacular and accessible gorges.
Dip in a cool oasis between rocky cliffs at Emma Gorge. (Image: Tourism Australia)
Accommodation tip: Emma Gorge Resort
Sleep under the stars at Emma Gorge Resort.
Day eleven: Kununurra
You’ve nearly made it! The last stretch of the Gibb River Road brings you to Kununurra, about 1.5 hours from El Questro.
For lucky folks with more time to spare, explore one of the Kimberley’s most incredible sites: Lake Argyle. Swimming or cruising on Lake Argyle, the largest man-made lake in the Southern Hemisphere, is the perfect way to finish an epic Gibb adventure.
Cruise along the calm waters of Lake Argyle. (Image: Tourism Australia)
Purnululu National Park
The World Heritage-listed Bungle Bungle Range in Purnululu National Park has become one of the most famous symbols of the Kimberley. See the giant rocky domes from the ground or the air.
Purnululu National Park is dotted with orange and black sandstone rock formations. (Image: Tourism Australia)
From El Questro, rather than heading to Kununurra first travel to Wyndham and squeeze in a visit to The Grotto. This spectacular swimming hole features a 120-metre cliff face that becomes a huge waterfall during the wet season.
Admire scenic landscapes atop The Grotto. (Image: Tourism Western Australia)
Accommodation tip: Freshwater East Kimberley Apartments
From Kununurra, either catch the plane or refuel and begin the stunning drive back to Broome via the Great Northern Highway (13 hours in total), stopping for a night at Fitzroy Crossing along the way.
Make a short stop to rest at The Crossing Inn. (Image: Tourism Western Australia)