One of the world’s least populated but climatically most diverse regions – rugged, wild and austere – the Kimberley in Western Australia encompasses some of Australia’s most unique treasures.
1. Cruise adventure
Duration: Seven to 14 days
How: Join a tour and hop on board a cruise between April and September.
When it comes to exploring the Kimberley by water, there are a lot of options for every type of traveller, not just those with deep pockets. Ships and smaller vessels such as those at the Ahoy Buccaneers offer up-close-and-personal views of iconic Aussie landscapes curious travellers dream of, while the more upscale operators True North Adventure Cruises, Kimberley Quest and The Great Escape Charter Company make sure you get to jaw-dropping scenic destinations such as King George Falls in a flash and without the tide dictating play.
Tip: This year is a great time to visit the Kimberley via cruise ship; the wet and very rainy season in 2017 means that vibrant, colourful and lush landscapes now await you in between fishing for barramundi and swimming in freshwater holes.
2. Combination adventure
Duration: Half-day to five days
How: Drive or combine daily cruises with seaplane rides.
According to world-famous naturalist Sir David Attenborough, jumping on a cruise can get you to “Australia’s most unusual natural wonder”: the Horizontal Falls (main photo), a result of one of the world’s highest tidal shifts compressing through two narrow breaks in the Kimberley coastline. Horizontal Falls Seaplane Adventures offers half-day and full-day cruises, as well as the 4 Night Ultimate Kimberley Cruise Adventure, which includes a seaplane ride over the natural treasure.
Tip: For a self-guided drive up, give yourself at least five days, and use Broome as your base. Must-visits along the way: Roebuck Bay, to witness the breathtaking Staircase to the Moon phenomenon, and the Purnululu National Park in Purnululu, which is home to Bungle Bungles (above), a range of 20-million-year-old rock formations. The best time for such a drive is between March and October.
3. 4WD adventure
Duration: Three hours to 15 days
How: Take a self-guided drive or join a 4WD tour.
Short: One of the shortest (and best) drives is from Broome to Cape Leveque. The iconic red dirt road takes you to the very tip of Dampier Peninsula. Tour operators such as Kimberley Wild Expeditions offer guided tours, but the drive can be done in three hours on your own.
Mid-length: Gibb River Road (above) is one of the most legendary trails in the heart of the Kimberley. This 660km dirt track passes through remote stations, and landmarks such as Chamberlain Gorge and Manning Gorge Waterfall Walk. Guided tours could be epic 15-day adventures that end in Darwin.
Long: One of the most remote and challenging 4WD tracks in the world, the Canning Stock Route stretches over 2,000km, from Halls Creek to Wiluna, and covers more than 51 wells. Only experienced drivers should tackle this route, and it’s best done between June and September. Permits are required as it goes through native title land owned by the Aborigines.
4. Station base adventure
How: Drive up or fly in.
At the top of the list is Home Valley Station, located on Gibb River Road and at the foot of the majestic Cockburn Range. Guests are within reach of pristine waters for barramundi fishing, natural sapphire pools for swimming, and the film location for Baz Luhrmann’s epic movie Australia. El Questro (below), too, is a good choice. One of the Kimberley’s best-known station stays, it boasts five levels of accommodation spread across more than 280,000ha, and is more like a resort than a cattle station. Natural attractions include the Zebedee thermal springs and walking tracks. River cruises and helicopter flights can also be arranged. Other stations to consider include Mount Elizabeth Station and Charnley River Station (bookings are not required, just drive up and pitch your tent); both offer excellent 4WD access to unique sights in the Kimberley.
5. Aerial adventure
Duration: Half-day, one day or six days
How: With more than 420,000 sq km of incredible natural beauty, not to mention several UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the best way to see the Kimberley is, of course, by air.
The Kimberley Aerial Highway (below), made up of a series of airstrips, is the quickest route to Australia’s world-class wilderness and luxury homesteads such as The Berkeley River Lodge. The aerial highway needs to be booked by aviation companies such as Kimberley Air Tours and Helispiri. The latter’s Luxury Kimberley Helicopter Safari package, which includes pampering in Western Australia’s most luxurious homesteads, is one of the best luxury tours around.
– TEXT BY MICHELLE TCHEA
PHOTOS: TOURISM WESTERN AUSTRALIA (HORIZONTAL FALLS: JEWELS LYNCH PHOTOGRAPHY; BUNGLE BUNGLES: SEAN SCOTT PHOTOGRAPHY; GIBB RIVER ROAD; EL QUESTRO; KIMBERLEY AERIAL HIGHWAY: JARRAD SENG, AHOY BUCCANEERS FACEBOOK (CRUISE)
This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.