Kununurra is the eastern gateway to the Kimberley. In town, there are several exquisite Argyle Diamond stores, and one of the largest ranges of Indigenous artworks in the country – the beautiful yet severe landscape has inspired countless artists, and their work is shown in the local galleries. Visit Celebrity Tree Park, Mirima National Park, (also known as Hidden Valley), Zebra Rock, and the Historical Society Museum. If you’re up for swimming, try Valentine Springs, Molly Spring, and (if you’re particularly fi t and agile) give Andy’s Chasm a go. For something more relaxing, take in an evening movie at the outdoor Picture Gardens.
An hour north of Kununurra, Wyndham is the top town of the west, geographically. It’s a small frontier town that typifies the true pioneering character of the Kimberley region. Stop at the Five Rivers lookout in the Bastion Ranges, take the Three Mile Valley Walking Trail, have lunch at Wyndham Port, and see the Aboriginal Dreamtime statues.
Join a 4WD tour to the vast El Questro Wilderness Park – it’s eight times the size of Switzerland. Take a tour from the Homestead and visit Zebedee thermal springs; hike and swim at Emma Gorge, or cruise Chamberlain Gorge; learn about bush foods, bush culture and history, or just drive around the grand landscape. Scenic flights over the Mitchell Plateau are also available. Campers can sleep under a blanket of stars in the crisp clean air, or set up a tent by the river. For a treat, book into the luxurious oasis that is El Questro Homestead and take in the spectacular view over the river as you cool off in the pool.
This man-made phenomenon, a pleasant 70km drive southeast of Kununurra on the border of the Northern Territory, is something of a miracle. Some ambitious folk envisaged a reservoir on the Ord River to irrigate the ancient Kimberley plateau, and it actually worked – Kununurra has become a tropical fruit bowl and agricultural centre, in the middle of nowhere. With a surface area of about 1000sqkm, Lake Argyle is more than a water supply to the town and local farmers. Its unique ecosystem is home to an amazing array of wildlife, including freshwater crocodiles, 26 species of native fish, and 270 bird species, plus all kinds of marsupials on the islands. The best way to see the lake is on a boat cruise, where you’ll see the spillway and the dam. Don’t miss the old Argyle Homestead and museum.
Mitchell River National Park
You’ll need a few days to explore this breathtaking 115,000ha of rugged wilderness, encompassing the spectacular Mitchell Plateau, and the Mitchell and Mertens falls, along with Surveyors Pool and the Mitchell River. As well as having significant Aboriginal heritage and cultural value, the park is home to a menagerie of flora and fauna, including the striking Livistonia palm, believed to predate the dinosaurs.
Take a bushwalk across the majestic Mitchell Plateau to the waterfalls, through clear streams and pools, and shady pockets of rainforest. Explore natural spa pools and caves at Little Mertens Falls, and swim beneath a huge gallery of ancient Bradshaw rock paintings at Mertens Creek.
High clearance 4WD is essential. Campsite facilities are limited: bring fuel, water and food, plus mechanical and medical supplies.
Purnululu National Park & The Bungle Bungles
Long inhabited by Indigenous people, this area was first introduced to Europeans in the mid 80s. The national park is 45,000ha, and home to the geologically fascinating Bungle Bungle Range. The famed orange-and-black beehive-shaped domes stand 300m above the savannah. Take a day trip and explore gorges and narrow chasms, or spot some of the 130 bird species.
Open during the Dry, the park is 250km from Kununurra, or 109km from Halls Creek – bring fuel, food and water. Tour operators offer safari-cabin accommodation, helicopter flights and guided tours.
Wolfe Creek Crater National Park
Don’t let the cult film deter you from seeing the world’s second-largest meteor crater. Known as Kandimalal by the local Indigenous people, it is more than 880m wide and believed to be over 300,000 years old. It’s 145km from Halls Creek by 4WD – you can get a bird’s eye view on a scenic flight. Camping is available, but bring plenty of fresh water.
Tunnel Creek National Park
Western Australia’s oldest cave system, Tunnel Creek is part of the same 375 million-year-old Devonian reef system as Windjana and Geike gorges.
The creek flows through a huge, water-worn tunnel beneath the limestone of the Napier Range – take a torch and wade into the tunnel to see ancient stalactites and stalagmites and beautiful curtains of glimmering flowstones. Be prepared to wake some bats and get a little wet.
Located 30km from Windjana Gorge and 115km from Fitzroy Crossing via the Great Northern Highway, Tunnel Creek is for day use only.