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The Kimberley
The Kimberley area of north Western Australia is one of the most sparsely populated areas in Australia, where the landscape is rugged, spectacular and ancient.
Where can I stay?
Travelmate has accommodation in the region to suit every budget.

What are the main towns?
The main towns in the region include: Broome, Derby, Halls Creek and Wyndham.

What's there to do in the region?
Visitors to the area might begin or end their exploration of the area at Broome, 2250 kilometres north of Perth on the Indian Ocean coast. A sense of history and anticipation infects Broome, with its colourful pearling past, its mix of characters (population 10,500) and its position as gateway post to the vast outback. The town grew out of the discovery of the Pinctada maxima oyster pearl in 1861. Many pearlers from Asia came to try their luck or skills, and today there is a strong Japanese, Malay, Koepanger, European and Aboriginal presence in the town. The local pearling industry declined in the middle part of the 1900s, but the development of the cultured pearl has brought about its resurgence.
Attractions in Broome for the visitor include the 22-kilometre long Cable Beach, with its clear, safe water and tropical setting. Camel rides along the beach are available and the beach provides a rather romantic location to watch the setting sun over the Indian Ocean. The pearling influence also strongly flavours local attractions: for a taste of life on a pearl lugger, guided tours are conducted on two restored luggers, and a visit to the Japanese Cemetery reveals the graves of more than 900 Japanese, many of them pearl divers. Visitors should be aware of the cyclone season, which affects Broome between the months of October and April.
North of Broome on the peninsula bordered by King Sound, lies Beagle Bay Mission on Aboriginal reserve land and Lombardina Mission. Permits are required to enter these and any other Aboriginal land in the Kimberley. Tours to the area operate from Broome.
The town of Derby lies 220 kilometres north-west of Broome on the base of King Sound. Smaller than Broome, Derby is the service and administration centre for the West Kimberley area. This area was opened up to pastoralists in the 1880s. Local Aboriginal inhabitants did not give up their lands without resistance. One of their leaders was Jandamara, a former police tracker who used guerilla tactics to fight white expansion. In 1894 Jandamara killed a police constable and in 1897 was himself killed near Tunnel Creek, west of Derby. A chilling reminder of the times is the huge, hollow Prison Boab Tree, which stands on the road south out of Derby. Aboriginal prisoners were rounded up and chained to the tree before being taken to the Derby lockup.
Excursions out to the Buccaneer Archipelago depart from Derby’s unusual jetty, built long out over the mudflats to cope with the 11-metre-high tides. The tidal variance here is one of the largest in the Southern Hemisphere, and it can be worthwhile visiting at both low and high tides to see just how remarkable is the tidal difference.
From Derby two routes to the rugged interior of the Kimberley are south to the Great Northern Highway then west; or immediately west along the unsealed Gibb River Road, which links Derby and Wyndham. For any journey into remote Kimberley areas travellers should ensure they are well supplied with water, food and fuel. Four-wheel drive vehicles are recommended, especially on roads such as the Gibb River Road. Accommodation outside towns in this region is camping only, and few national parks offer more amenities than merely the site and water facilities. Trips during the wet seasons should be avoided as unsealed roads can become impassable and national parks may be closed. Travellers should also be cautious of freshwater crocodiles.
The Gibb River Road is a fairly direct route from Derby to Windjana Gorge National Park, 145 kilometres distant. Windjana Gorge has been formed by the Lennard River cutting through the limestone of the Napier Range, and is three and a half kilometres long, with the gorge walls being 100 metres tall in places. The limestone is part of an ancient barrier reef formed by lime-secreting organisms, and extends to Geikie Gorge south and Tunnel Creek to the east. In the dry season the Lennard River contracts to a series of pools in the gorge, which support freshwater crocodiles and a range of birdlife, including corellas. A 7 kilometre-return walking track into the gorge begins at the camping area.
Geikie Gorge to the south is reached from Broome and Derby via the Great Northern Highway. Only 18 kilometres from Fitzroy Crossing, the gorge has been cut by the Fitzroy River. Along the river, cadjeput, river redgums, native figs and pandanus grow, while the water supports fish, frogs, waterbirds and crocodiles. Boat tours along the river operate, including one by the traditional owners, the Bunaba, which gives visitors the Aboriginal history of the area. In addition to boat tours, various walking tracks have been marked out. Facilities in the park extend to gas barbeque facilities, but no camping is allowed. During the wet season, December to March, entry is restricted.
Tunnel Creek National Park lies between Giekie and Windjana gorges in the Napier Range, and contains Western Australia’s oldest cave system. Visitors can walk through the 750-metre Tunnel Creek tunnel from one side of the Napier Range to the other. On the way they might encounter any of the five species of bat that live in the cave or even a freshwater crocodile. No camping or accommodation is available in this park.
Continuing on the Great Northern Highway past Fitzroy Crossing takes the traveller to Halls Creek, which enjoyed something of a boom when gold was found there in 1885, but whose main function now is to service the cattle runs of the district. The Great Northern Highway continues north from here eventually to Wyndham in East Kimberley, crossing the Ord and Durack rivers. Before Wyndham, a turn-off right onto the Victoria Highway takes the traveller to Kununurra, manmade Lake Argyle and the Argyle Diamond Mine.
Located close to the Northern Territory border, Kununurra developed as a service centre for the Ord River irrigation scheme, and is surrounded by waterways and interesting rock formations. Among these formations are the rocks of Mirima Nature Park, north of the town, and the Bungle Bungle Range in Purnululu National Park to the south. The striped beehive-shaped mounds of the Bungle Bungles can be seen to good effect from the air, and scenic flights operate out from Kununurra.
Located north-west of Kununura, Wyndham is situated on Cambridge Gulf, and is Western Australia’s northernmost town. Wyndham developed predominantly as a port for the beef cattle industry. Two interesting features are the prison tree, a 14-metre-round boab tree used as a makeshift lockup (like that near Derby), and the old Afghan cameleer cemetery. Visitors to Wyndham should be on their guard for they are now in saltwater crocodile territory.


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