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Top Things to do in the Kimberley Region

Looking for all the best things to do in the ruggedly beautiful Kimberley Region of Western Australia? Browse the Kimberley's top tours, activities and more here! One of the most striking and untouched examples of the red-and-blue of Australia's natural beauty, the Kimberley is a far-flung and isolated region that's home to some of the country's most impressive phenomena that ranges from incredible rock formations, to some incredible national parks, and aquatic environments that have to be seen to be believed.

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The Top 10 Things to do in the Kimberley Region, WA

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by Experience Oz staff
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Remote, rugged, and undeniably beautiful, Western Australia‘s Kimberley region has continually ranked high on must-visit lists both from our own staff and within the perceptions of the public over the past several years.

The region took out the title of “Australia’s Top Destination to Experience” in our annual poll for 2016, while several of its key highlights also featured at the pointy end of our Western Australia Bucket List.

At a glance, it’s not hard to see why – this is a part of Australia that encapsulates the far-flung, escapist aspirations of most travellers wanting to see raw Oz at its most untouched.

It’s a land of contrasts, too, both in terms of its sightseeing offerings and overall striking colours; the Kimberley is a marvellous tapestry of vivid blues, deep ochre hues, and a number of striking natural phenomena that can’t be found anywhere else in the country.

But what makes this distant part of north-western Australia such a drawcard for the adventurous? Here, we take a detailed look at the top 10 things to do in the Kimberley region.

1. Horizontal Falls

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Location: Talbot Bay, Kimberley, WA

Sure, marvellous vertical waterfalls have an obvious visual appeal, howver it’s this Kimberley region unique offering that instead skews them sideways that makes for the perhaps the entire state of Western Australia’s most unusual natural phenomena.

The Horizontal Falls are situated in Talbot Bay near the town of Broome and north of Derby; nicknamed the “Horries” by locals, this majestic display of a combination of sheer aquatic power and the influence of the tides makes for one impressive adventure on both in air and on water.

It’s an occurrence that simulates the visual effect of a waterfall as water rushes between a narrow gap between two gorges of the McLarty Range which can be found in two separate sections – one inner and one outer – and both are remarkably narrow for this kind of landform.

At high tide the pure volume of water pushing through creates a spectacular whitewash that even renowned documentarian Sir David Attenborough once labeled “one of the world’s greatest wonders”.

The region’s tidal variation is one of the biggest in the world, and as the water rises it creates a churning effect full of fury that can only be navigated by skilled boat drivers who utilise high-speed jet boats for extra propulsion.

Waters here are the typically vivid, bright blue-aqua of the Kimberley, and form another great contrast with each of the gorge walls which lie around 300m apart one one another.

The region’s tidal variation is one of the biggest in the world, and as the water rises it creates a churning effect full of fury.

Experiencing the falls can be done in a couple of ways – both air and water adventures take visitors to see the region on the way to the falls, and white aerial tours are far more expensive they provide a sense of context on just how dramatic and unique the colours of the region truly are.

Many trips combine both a scenic flight out to the falls and then a jet boat ride through the falls themselves – the journey begins by boarding a seaplane and ascending to the skies for some breathtaking views of the island-strewn Buccaneer Archipelago with its countless specks of land dotting the vivid waters below.

If you’re looking to take the plunge and visit the falls, operator Horizontal Falls Adventures provide a choice of several shorter itineraries focused on aerial/seaplane tours that depart from both Broome and Derby, while Kimberley Expeditions include the falls as part of epic multi-day journeys.

Is it expensive? Sure. However given the logistics involved, the fact there’s no other adventure quite like it in Australia, and that the aerial view provides the best possible overall snapshot of the Kimberley region as a whole, it’s not hard to put a dollar value on what for many is the penultimate Aussie travel experience.

2. Mitchell Falls

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Location: Mitchell Plateau, Kimberley, WA

While many of Australia’s waterfalls could lay claim to the title of “most beautiful”, it’s hard to argue against the gorgeous, multi-tired structure of the Kimberley’s Mitchell Falls.

Long one of the state’s most-photographed locations, as with many Kimberley highlights the falls are exceptionally remote but undeniably beautiful, as their waters cascade over the typical fiery orange-red rock into the awaiting maws of the pools below.

While many of Australia’s waterfalls could lay claim to the title of “most beautiful”, it’s hard to argue against the gorgeous, multi-tired structure of the Kimberley’s Mitchell Falls.

Long one of the state’s most-photographed locations, as with many Kimberley highlights the falls are exceptionally remote but undeniably beautiful, as their waters cascade over the typical fiery orange-red rock into the awaiting maws of the pools below.

Part of the wildlife-rich Mitchell River National Park, its lack of practically any other travellers sharing the view with you is one of the main reasons visiting here is so rewarding.

The beauty of Mitchell Falls is hard to capture in mere pictures – this is particularly so with an “animated” landscape such as waterfalls when much of its draw lies in the sheer power, flow and ambient sound of the tumbling water.

Given its water-based nature, Mitchell Falls is also an attraction that’s best viewed just after the conclusion of the wet season, when the muddy roads have dried yet the water is still flowing at an impressive rate.

While many of Australia’s waterfalls could lay claim to the title of “most beautiful”, it’s hard to argue against the gorgeous, multi-tired structure of the Kimberley’s Mitchell Falls.

This creates something of a conundrum when aiming to see the falls at their best; one must try and time a visit to coincide with the bridging period of the wet and dry seasons to strike an ideal balance between water volume and accessibility.

Mitchell Falls are located on the Mitchell River Plateau – a spot that is accessible either by an extensive, multi-day drive by 4WD vehicle on the aforementioned Gibb River Road and then additional on-foot hiking, or by scenic helicopter flights (done by HeliSpirit or King Leopold Air) that take passengers directly to access the falls themselves.

Flying in, and then walking the Punamii-Unpuu Trail which leads to the most famed “photo spot” overlooking Mitchell Falls is a popular option for those short on either energy or time that allows the observing of some excellent Indigenous art sites along the way.

Those looking to extend the stay can opt to pitch at the Mitchell Falls campground that are surprisingly well-equipped given their location; camping spots are large, and eco-toilets are a relative luxury given the distant location from civilisation.

Alternatively, ground-bound tour options for Mitchell Falls that also include accommodation are available through both APT and Outback Spirit Tours for those wanting an extra level of comfort during their visit.

Given its epic outlook, a trip to Mitchell Falls is well worth both the requisite monetary investment by air, and the time investment by wheel. Bring a quality camera along for this one – it’s a memory you’ll want to make last a lifetime.

3. Broome and Cable Beach

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Location: Broome, WA

Likely to serve as the main gateway for nearly any ongoing Kimberley adventures, Broome is a lovely little town in and of itself that not only benefits from seemingly eternally clear skies, but brings along an interesting and mixed history that blends European, Indigenous Australian and even Japanese cultures together.

Sitting on a peninsula facing the Indian Ocean and originally constructed on the back of a thriving pearling industry, Broome is the fly-in destination for both secluded relaxation and the launchpad for the adventurous.

The town itself is relatively small but home to a number of interesting attractions ranging from outdoor cinemas, pearl farms and mini-museums, however it’s the major natural offering that serves as the town’s focal point: its beach.

Widely considered one of the best beaches in all of Australia, Cable Beach sits just a short walk from the town of Broome itself and – despite increasing popularity due to online exposure (sorry, guys) – remains a mostly untouched stretch of sand.

Stretching for a distance of over 22 kilometres and featuring wonderfully white sands and warm, crystal-clear waters, Cable Beach has long been the focal point of many a balmy tropical night for both locals and visitors alike to Broome for this very reason.

The beach is also especially famed for its amazing sunsets, as unlike many other of the most famous beaches in Australia, Broome’s location on the west coast gives its sunsets much more of a scarlet-orange glow, with the sun often appearing as a bright red ball in the sky.

Widely considered one of the best beaches in all of Australia, Cable Beach sits just a short walk from the town of Broome itself.

As if the standard sight of the sunset itself was not enough, adding to this sense of wonder is its annual “Staircase to the Moon” phenomenon – an optical illusion that typically occurs during the period between March and October.

Caused by clear skies combining with lower tides that expose the mud flats of the bay in which it lies, the sun’s reflection forms a perfect “line” that seemingly leads directly towards the full moon itself.

This is a sight that looks simply surreal, and as such it’s made Cable Beach one of the most-photographed spots in Australia and the subject of popular works from many a skilled photographer.

The locals of Broome are obviously aware of the beach’s beauty as well, as two of the most popular ways to take advantage of the sunsets are provided by both its iconic sunset camel rides (mentioned above), and its charming “Sunset Bar” that allows visitors to kick back and enjoy a drink as they admire the view of the glowing orb descending over the water.

During non-sunset times Cable Beach likewise remains a wonderful natural attraction, as its long, flat stretches of sand and gentle waves offer the perfect change to cool off during the day. Conditions here are great for a swim, although during the November – March period care must be taken as the deadly box jellyfish can sometimes be found in the waters off shore.

Getting to the beach on foot is easy, while driving on its sand in a 4WD vehicle from its adjacent carpark is also allowed and allows for both further exploration of the beach, or the chance to bring your own equipment to enjoy a picnic.

In addition, Cable Beach is also famed for two other aspects: its rather large (optional) nudist area – so feel free to indulge if that’s your thing, and take care to avoid if it’s not – and its signature camel rides.

4. Purnululu National Park

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Location: Eastern Kimberley, WA

The Kimberley’s signature national park is a remarkable, remote and entirely unique looking part of the country which was formed over immense eras of natural landscaping, yet only came to European attention since its discovery in 1983.

Ever since, its trademark spectacle of the Bungle Bungle Ranges have been a key bucket list item on the itineraries many travellers to Western Australia.

This is a singular landscape that has no real counterpart elsewhere in Australia, with its orange-and-black striped mounds reminiscent of beehives making for a dramatic spectacle from both above and below.

As one might expect, such a unique formation went undiscovered for so long due to one major reason: it’s incredibly remote.

Even by the already isolated standards of the Kimberley region, the Bungle Bungle Ranges embody the term “remoteness” to the extreme; difficult to access and with limited facilities, but so visually striking all the same.

The road in is likewise doable but not exactly a shining example of a developed method of access; the usual Kimberley bumps and 4WD-necessity definitely apply here.

Even by the already isolated standards of the Kimberley region, the Bungle Bungle Ranges embody the term “remoteness” to the extreme.

The Purnululu National Park’s relative isolation has made it a location that’s perhaps best viewed from above with a scenic flight (bookable through company Aviair), and from altitude the character of the landscape becomes more readily apparent; it’s a spectacle that’s akin to abstract art with the numerous formations truly fascinating.

The sheer scale of the range also comes into full view when viewed from high above; this is not some tiny individual slice of the country that happens to be unique.

Alternatively, 4WD access is a possibility for those looking to drive, and although it can be fairly challenging conditions have been improved in recent years.

Exploring on foot brings with it its own rewards; there are a number of marvellous gorges to explore on foot, and the changing colours of the sandstone with the passage of the day is impressive when viewed up close.

A multi-day visit to Purnululu is almost mandatory to see even a reasonable portion of the park’s highlights; key sites such as Cathedral Gorge, Echidna Chasm and various other lookouts require a fair investment of energy and some rock clambering in order to experience, which can be time consuming in total.

Camping here is possible and a wonderful experience but comes with minimal amenities other than a decent amount of toilets, and requires bringing along all supplies; there’s no true accommodation here to speak of, but this is to be expected of an example of “raw” Australia in its truest sense.

5. Gibb River Road

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Location: Between Derby and Kununurra, WA

Previously used as a cattle route, this off-road journey remains one of Australia’s premier 4WD roadtrips and still conveys a “land before time”-esque outback atmosphere in which escapist adventure is the name of the game.

Throughout its roughly 660km length, the Gibb RIver Road encompasses a varied and far-reaching range of natural scenery as it conveys drivers from Derby on the WA coast through to Kununurra at the state’s inner border.

The untamed nature of the road can make for a challenging prospect for the uninitiated; the Gibb is a journey where conditions vary from solid bitumen through to bare earth, and care needs to be taken for first-time visitors who are navigating the route.

There’s joy to be found in this, however, as a willingness to brave terrain conditions provides nearly endless opportunities for a customised adventure that few other souls have embarked upon.

Highlights along the road are almost too numerous to mention; making a well-planned trip along the Gibb River Road brings with it innumerable rewards, that are well worth any navigational struggles.

The road serves as the gateway to a multitude of the best highlights of Western Australia – many of which feature elsewhere on this list – including Windjana Gorge, El Questro Wilderness Park, and Mitchell Falls as well as countless others – and thus can make for one of Australia’s most unforgettable journeys for those willing to allot around 2 weeks.

Highlights along the road are almost too numerous to mention; making a well-planned trip along the Gibb River Road brings with it innumerable rewards.

Taking the drive at an easy pace, avoiding overtaking and keeping to a speed of 60km/h or so will alleviate many of the concerns for skittish first-time Gibb travellers, while a 4WD vehicle makes the occasional river crossing viable rather than truly scary.

Those looking to embark on this epic journey will need to be appropriately prepared; a high-clearance 4×4 vehicle is a necessity, and one can expect plenty of shakes, bumps and the occasional bruise along the way.

Alternatively, Kimberley Safari Tours offer multi-day 4WD Gibb River Road adventures for small groups, utilising purpose-built vehicles for dealing with the terrain; given the exorbitant recovery costs should your personal vehicle get stuck in such a remote area, this may be the most viable option for some. Otherwise, it’s a matter of pack the satellite phone and hope for the best.

The Gibb River Road is something of a rite of passage for Western Australians and a bucket list item for Aussies wanting to witness more unknown portions of Oz in general; it covers an amazing part of our vast continent and is an adventure where a lack of cell phone reception and embracing the country’s wild side brings with it its own reward.

6. Cape Leveque & Kooljaman

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Location: 220km from Broome, WA

Cape Leveque has long been another staple of Western Australian tourism photography, with its mixed tableau of stunning white sands against bright red rocks and azure water being an embodiment of the region as a whole.

Located at a tip of the Kimberley region’s northern section, it’s both physically scenic and remarkably well-run, as the Cape is home to an Aboriginal-owned wilderness camp which provides an additional historic and cultural backdrop to what is already stunning natural part of the Dampier Peninsula.

The camp-come-resort of Kooljaman is a wonderful and isolated base that comes with a dash of comfort – all while keeping the condition of the region at the forefront of its concerns; there’s no awkward or garish over-development here, but instead a tasteful and low-impact accommodation option with gorgeous beach views.

There’s not much to do here, and that’s entirely the point – visiting the area involves merely relaxing, walking the beautiful beaches and swimming their waters, plus admiring the colours of the cape both in the early morning and late afternoon as the sun’s glow enhances the striking colouration further.

There’s not much to do here, and that’s entirely the point.

The local Aboriginal landowners make for gracious hosts, and are willing to share ancient techniques for the likes of bush tucker, medicinal craft and spearfishing, while teaching travellers about the native plants and animals that populate the Cape.

The rest of the Peninsula also has plenty of deserted and wild coastline in which to camp, while other regional highlights such as the walk to the Cape Leveque Lighthouse, Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm, visiting Middle Lagoon, or a number of cruises of the surrounding coast all offer alternative ways to both explore the region and pass the time.

As with many other parts of this section of the country, it’s a matter of facing unsealed roads and requiring sturdy vehicles, with the 220km-some drive north of Broome an exercise in negotiating irregular terrain.

Kimberley Wild Expeditions offer full day tours to Cape Leveque from Broome that come with both proper transport and further insight into the geography and history of this remarkable peninsula.

One of the very tips of Western Australia, a lot of travelling is required to get here, but the fabulous sights and remote beauty of Cape Leveque make the trip well worth it.

7. Buccaneer Archipelago

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Location: Off the coast of Derby, WA

This cavalcade of nearly 1,000 rocky islands of varying sizes situated within bright, turquoise waters in the state’s north-west is as scenic as it is remote.

A far cry from the glitz and overdevelopment of resort islands on the Australian east coast, the islands here are instead more ruggedly beautiful, many with high cliffs, unpopulated and completely undeveloped while rich in flora and fauna and dotted with pandanus and emerald rainforest trees.

Indigenous influences have likewise played a large role here, with Aboriginal inhabitants using the islands of the archipelago as a sort of “prehistoric Venice”, canoeing from one to the next; traces of their rock art still remain to this day, and the region remains significant to the indigenous population in the modern era.

The isolation of the Buccaneer Archipelago is both a reason for its pristine condition and a factor in how difficult it is to explore; tourism infrastructure here is almost completely lacking, and the maze of islands and their various hidden reefs and sudden shallows can make the chain a chore to navigate for all but the most seasoned of local explorers.

As a result, travellers to the region wanting to explore their many intriguing and visually stunning offerings have a fairly limited number of ways to do so, with options limited to extended cruising or forking out for – admittedly stunning – aerial views.

The isolation of the Buccaneer Archipelago is both a reason for its pristine condition and a factor in how difficult it is to explore.

While scenic flights are an option and help to convey a sense of scale – as well as an overall panorama – of the archipelago, a range of different cruises also exist for a more in-depth examination of the area’s highlights; many of which are multi-day itineraries that explore the greater offerings of the Kimberley region as a whole.

Companies such as Ahoy Buccaneers and One Tide Charters offer such journeys for the aspiring traveller, visiting must-see’s such as the rocky Yampi Sound, Ruby Falls and various secluded beaches and inlets where an abundance of wildlife may be found.

These are epic, multi-day waterborne adventures that take advantage of the extended time required to cruise the region by packing in a host of Kimberley highlights into the one itinerary; it’s an enjoyable mix of exploration, sunsets, secluded swimming and escapism and is remarkably affordable to boot.

The majority of adventures to the Buccaneer Archipelago springboard from the town of Derby which lies on the mudflats of King Sound, which sits around 220km north-east of Broome. If you’re willing to “rough it” slightly and aren’t expecting 5-star luxury, then this string of islands provide one of the state’s more remarkable aquatic adventures.

8. Windjana Gorge

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Location: King Leopold Ranges, Kimberley, WA

Part of one of the multiple standout national parks that can be found in the Kimberley region, Windjana Gorge and its surrounding park is rich in vegetation and wildlife, contrasting largely with the vast desert ideals many visitors tend to have of this part of the state.

The gorge itself makes for an impressive walk which is accessed via a cleft through rocks, and cuts its way through ancient limestone walls that rise up to extraordinary heights on either side.

The walk is neither overly lengthy or taxing, and results in a chance for one of the more “Aussie” natural wildlife encounters available.

The gorge is often acclaimed as “THE” location for spotting freshwater crocodiles in the wild in Western Australia, and during the walk it’s not hard to see why – dozens of the reptiles can be seen sunning themselves on the gorge’s banks, and while the spectacle may initially prove slightly unnerving, they’re largely simply passive observers that make for a unique photography subject if nothing else.

Large quantities of birds and other wildlife add an additional layer of life to the gorge, and with its overhanging greenery of fig trees and body of water throughout, it’s another veritable oasis in the desert that culminates in a lovely waterhole.

The gorge is often acclaimed as “THE” location for spotting freshwater crocodiles in the wild in Western Australia, and during the walk it’s not hard to see why.

Those without a 4WD vehicle and wanting to explore the gorge in-depth can embark on a comprehensive 4-wheel-drive tour to Windjana Gorge and neighbouring Tunnel Creek with Kimberley Wild Expeditions that can be done is a shorter trip or as part of a more epic, multi day Kimberley adventure.

Campers at the gorge’s campsite will also be impressed with its surprisingly good facilities – not to mention gorgeous backdrop – as well, and which is located in close proximity to the gorge itself and its resident crocodile population.

The colours of the scenery on offer here tend to vary greatly by time of day as well, with deep reds and ambers becoming more prominent as the sun descends in the sky.

Windjana Gorge is doable either via a guided tour, a day trip from Derby (roughly 180km away) or as part of a multi-night stay to camp and explore Tunnel Creek and other regional highlights. The drive in is bumpy and a bit of a car-rattler, accessible via unsealed roads, so for those without an appropriate car, guided options with proper offroad vehicles are obviously a recommendation.

9. Lake Argyle Cruise

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Location: 70km from Kununurra, Kimberley

This enormous body of water may be artificial, however you’d be forgiven for not noticing; the lake’s combination of size and organic surrounds makes it seem like it’s been here for eons rather than a construction of the early 1970’s.

One of the Kimberley’s most prominent physical features, Lake Argyle is a massive, man-made freshwater lake that has turned into a major attraction in its own right, both for its scale and isolation, as well the dramatic visual landscape it presents.

The colour contrast of the surrounding rocky hills against the lake’s water is striking, and the contours of the lake within the surrounding environment appear largely natural – it never gives of the feeling of being artificial despite its human construction.

The addition of the lake to the region has resulted in a distinctive and thriving ecosystem that now exists in relative harmony; the lake itself is home to an estimated 35,000 freshwater crocodiles that, although numerous, aren’t generally considered to be a danger to humans, while a wide range of fish species from barramundi to bream also call Lake Argyle home.

It’s become something of a massive oasis in the desert in what would otherwise be an incredibly dry part of the country, and is largely unique for that reason alone.

One of the Kimberley’s most prominent physical features, Lake Argyle is a massive, man-made freshwater lake that has turned into a major attraction in its own right.

Exploring and enjoying Lake Argyle and its surrounds can be done in a variety of fashions; there are a number of bushwalking tracks and trails that provide a great overview of the lake and its local wildlife; watersports such as canoeing, waterskiing and sailing provide fun and scenic ways to enjoy its waters, while visitors willing to loosen their purse strings can take to the skies on a scenic flight to soak in its unique panorama at a more leisurely pace.

It’s from the water that the signature view of the lake can be taken in, however, and Kimberley Outback Tours conduct cruises of Lake Argyle as part of a regional tour that allow for taking in the lake from a wholly different angle aboard a large sailing catamaran.

It’s a touch of luxury that also comes with the chance to view one of the region’s incredible sunsets reflecting off the water as well.

Visitors also have the option of staying overnight by the lake with campsites, cabins and villas available to rent for the night – plus admire the lake from within the wonderful Infinity Pool at the Lake Argyle Resort & Caravan Park for one of Australia’s most inspiring views.

In all, the lake and its surrounds combine to make for a wonderful example of escarpment country, and an ideal winter escape in particular.

10. El Questro Wilderness Park

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Location: 110km from Kununurra, Kimberley

Part accommodation, part hub of activities, and part gateway to further adventures, El Questro Wilderness Park ranks as one of the more diverse – and potentially luxurious – options to use as a stopover during Kimberley adventures.

This former cattle station is massive in scope, spread out over an area of approximately 700,000 acres in its position in the eastern portion of the Kimberley just over 100km from Kununurra and can perhaps best be described as offering “controlled adventure”; there’s a certain degree of commercialism involved, but it’s a necessary part of providing a high level of service in such an isolated part of Australia.

It’s all conducted with ecological protection in mind, too, encouraging guests to experience a taste of the Outback yet regulating admission to wilderness areas to reduce overall impact on this otherwise untouched environment.

Experiencing this unique blend of landscapes can be done in a variety of ways, and it’s here that El Questro truly shines; visitors can pop in to the tour desk where a multitude of activities can then be booked, walking and hiking guides are issued, and options for getting out to encounter its offerings commence.

The Wilderness Park is home to a number of outstanding hikes in particular that can be challenging, but are always rewarding.

Travellers eager to get out and explore and willing to put in the effort will reap some enticing rewards; the Wilderness Park is home to a number of outstanding hikes in particular that can be challenging, but are always rewarding.

Emma Gorge in particular is both beautiful to walk through and provides a gorgeous natural swimming environment at its end – its chilly water is a great way to wash off the sweat in the warmer months.

Add in the potential to take cruises, bathe in thermal springs, try a spot of fishing, spot native birds and wildlife, or even hop on horseback and there’s plenty to keep guests occupied during a multi-day stay.

For those looking to extend their stay at El Questro, accommodation here comes in several flavours ranging up from surprisingly well-equipped tent campsites to luxurious eco-resort style options at higher price points.

While it’s best experienced with access to a 4WD-capable vehicle, the ability to book 4WD tours on-site negates this somewhat.

First-time visitors to the region looking for an initial taste of the Kimberley before pushing further onwards to more untamed adventures will find El Questro Wilderness Park to be an essential stop on any Gibb River Road trip.

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