February 20, 2023
3 mins Read
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I didn’t want to holiday in Kununurra. I was only going to the East Kimberley town to get groceries on the way to El Questro, a 283,000-hectare slice of majestic Kimberley wilderness.
Then we had car problems. “How dreadful, we’re stuck,” my partner said. But up popped the Saturday farmers’ markets with homemade mango ice cream, a fiery sunset atop Kelly’s Knob, and award-winning rums, whiskeys and gins at the Hoochery Distillery. I was hooked.
To think we could have missed this speck on the map, home to about 5300 folks and what feels like as many waterholes, local characters, and stars lighting up the night sky.
Since that first unplanned encounter, Kununurra’s serenity and rugged beauty has lured me back. And not just for a short stopover en route to the famous 660-kilometre Gibb River Road trip between Wyndham and Derby.
I recently checked into Kununurra’s fanciest digs, Freshwater East Kimberley Apartments. On another trip I opted for a wallet-friendly sleepover at Discovery Parks – Lake Kununurra and my all-time favourite stay was at Lake Argyle Resort, home to villas with spectacular lake views and possibly the best caravan park pool in the country.
My Kununurra bucket list for first-time visitors is too long to detail here. But the top three experiences are: flying in a Cessna over the town’s agricultural plains, onto the (now closed) Argyle Diamond Mine and over the otherworldly Bungle Bungle Range; cruising along 55 kilometres of the Ord River with Triple J Tours to spot crocs, ospreys and white-bellied sea eagles; and experiencing Miriwoong Country with an Indigenous guide from Waringarri Aboriginal Arts.
Established in the late 1970s, Waringarri Aboriginal Arts was WA’s first wholly Indigenous-owned art centre. Today, its gallery supports more than 100 painters, boab nut engravers and wood carvers, and its tours take visitors through the stunning sandstone gorges of Mirima National Park.
For art lovers, this experience alone could be reason enough to visit. For folks who can’t handle the heat, you’ll need to visit in the coldest month, July, which has an average daytime temperature of about 30° Celsius.
Over the dry season, tourists and farm workers push the population to about 10,000, so make sure to book ahead. Culture fiends should catch the Ord Valley Muster, featuring 30 music, foodie and arty events over nine days (from 19 May until 27 May in 2023).
But want to know a local secret? The best time of year to visit is the wet season (from around December to April) when waterfalls are raging, the skies are on fire and there are only a few hardy visitors in town.
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