You can travel along Kimberley’s amazing outback Gibb River Road in the several different ways – and not all of them involve driving:
1. BYO Bedroom
After a really authentic Kimberley experience? You’ve got two options: hire a 4WD and camp, or hire a 4WD campervan, which is camping, the spoon-fed way. (Your car comes with everything – cutlery, kitchen stove, in-built bed and so on.) We tried the latter, with Apollo Car Hire in Broome, and it was almost too easy.
Where: Start and finish at Broome or Kununurra. (The car hire companies here require you to drive back to where you started: annoying on one hand, but a great excuse to return via the hugely picturesque Great Northern Highway on the other.)
Accommodation: There are still some free bush camp sites around (such as Barnett River Gorge) but most will cost you around $12–20 per person, per night.
How difficult is it? The Gibb River Road itself is well maintained, so if you’re a competent driver and you know how to change a tyre, you shouldn’t have any issues. Some side roads, however, including the ‘main’ side road up to Mitchell Plateau, Kalumburu Road (not featured in this article) can be more challenging. Check road conditions at mainroads.wa.gov.au or via the 24-hour hotline on 138 138.
Details: From $78 per day.
2. Drive and hotel-hop
Hiring a 4WD from Broome or Kununurra, and staying at some of the many excellent accommodation options along the way, is a fantastic way to see The Gibb in comfort. This can, however, limit you a little in terms of daily explorations, as many of the main attractions are a good hour’s drive from the nearest accommodation, and you’ll need to factor in the walk to and from each gorge (up to an hour each way) as well.
As the sun goes down quite quickly during the dry season, visiting gorges without suffering the midday heat or walking back in the dark can be something of a juggling act. On the plus side, many stations have spectacular (and lesser-known) gorges, waterholes and landscapes on site, some of which are only open to guests – so you won’t go without.
Where: See previous information at #1.
Accommodation: You’ll find everything along the road – from basic bungalows at Birdwood Downs (from $81 per night), to safari tents at Home Valley Station ($150 per night) and Mornington Wilderness Camp (from $285 per person, per night).
How difficult is it? See previous information at #1.
Details: $159.50 per day for an off-road 4WD for one to two days. Prices fall the longer the duration of hire. See broomebroome.com.au
3. Tour it
Several tours touch on the Gibb River Road, but only two companies offer regular tours devoted specifically to the experience – APT and Outback Spirit Tours. Both offer small-ish groups (20 people) in comfortable 4WD coaches and itineraries with all the highlights we’ve mentioned.
Where: Both tours start in Broome and finish in Kununurra.
How difficult is it? As with all tours, the biggest challenge is travelling at someone else’s pace – but that might be forgivable, when someone else has done all the organising, too!
Accommodation: Both companies’ itineraries feature a combination of their own, privately-owned accommodation and ‘regular’ stays along the way. APT highlights include Broome’s Cable Beach Resort and Spa, APT’s Wilderness Lodges, Home Valley Station and Emma Gorge Resort in El Questro Wilderness Park.
With Outback Spirit Tours you’ll get accommodation at their Ngauwudu Safari Camp on the Mitchell Plateau, a night at Derby’s four-star Spinifex Hotel, and stays at both the unique safari tents of Mornington Wilderness Camp, and Kununurra Country Club Hotel.
4. Cycle it (truly)
You can see The Gibb like a sane person – or you can cycle it. Despite being nearly 660 kilometres long, there are a number of operators running both bicycle and trail bike tours along the road. Remote Outback Cycle Tours has a 12-night tour that allows cyclists to choose when they want to ride.
(If you get tired, you can sit back and enjoy the tour from the bus.) Departing from Broome and winding up in Darwin, highlights include Bell Gorge, Mornington Wilderness Sanctuary, Manning Gorge, El Questro Station and Lake Argyle. Alternatively you can join The Gibb Challenge, a relay cycling event for charity, which takes place annually. If peddling isn’t your thing you can also take the motorised option and explore Gibb River by trail bike with Kimberley Trail Bike Adventure Tours.
Where: All three options depart from Broome.
Accommodation: Camp at various sites with Remote Outback Cycle Tours and The Gibb Challenge, or stay in a mix of bush camps and accommodation with Kimberley Trail Bike Adventure Tours.
How difficult is it? The road is relatively flat for the most part, but you’d be mad to try and cycle The Gibb without training. As the terrain can be bumpy and potholed in parts, motorcyclists need experience.
Details: From $2310 per person with Remote Outback Cycle Tours. Rider registration for The Gibb Challenge costs $500 plus you’ll need to fundraise a minimum of $1000 for charity. From $3300 per person to hire a bike and $2480 to take your own with Kimberley Trail Bike Adventure Tours.