5 Day East Kimberley Itinerary Suggestion
Article & photos by Beth Ironside
Before driving over 3,000kms from QLD to The Kimberley to live, I decided it would be wise to have a look around first. So, I took a couple days off work in May 2019, invited a friend and booked some flights. Five days didn’t seem like a long enough time to see everything that had made it to my list but, even with an all-wheel-drive hire car, we filled our days with some great adventures.
So if you’re interested in visiting the Kununurra, East Kimberley region, but have some limitations or are just a little unsure of where to start, here is a 5-day itinerary suggestion for you based from the 5-day experience that inspired me to pack up my ute, load my dog and hit the road before the end of September last year.
You might think, ‘well that sounds a little boring’. I assure you that it’s not. With so many lovely little coffee shops to visit such as The Wild Mango, Ivanhoe and The Kimberley Café (to name a couple that I frequent) you will be spoiled for choice.
Then there are the art galleries! Artopia has a stylish display of local artist from all different walks of life and styles, including three of my personal favourites Greg Postle, Jeanne Barnes and Hughie Ahwon.
Artlandish can be found near The Kimberley Café and has proudly showcased authentic Australian Aboriginal paintings from leading Indigenous artist for 18 years. Make sure you drop in and check it out!
Waringarri Arts offers an incredible range of authentic art (including paintings, ceramics, engraved boab nuts and textiles) and culture tours. Their Miriwoong tour guides would love to show you their Country and Culture through art. Having the opportunity to see these wonderful artists at work is a special opportunity to be sure.
Perhaps smooth coffee and art galleries aren’t your cup of tea. That’s okay, what about a stroll through Mirima National Park, also called Hidden Valley. With mini Bungle Bungle looking tiger-striped outcrops it’s a gorgeous place to visit around sunset or sunrise, as the rising or setting sun hits the red rocks causing them to glow. There are designated walking trails with signposts and scenic lookouts and there’s even a wheelchair-friendly boardwalk.
One of my favourite things about Kununurra is that you can swim in the Ord River. Okay so not everywhere in the Ord, but on the top side of the diversion dam, you’ll find Lake Kununurra. It’s the local’s playground for boating, fishing, and swimming. So if you fancy a swim with a few freshies (Freshwater Crocodiles) you can head to Swim Beach and test the water. Right next to Swim Beach there is a spot to let your doggy friends off for a runaround and swim. It is now a fav for my water-loving dog and me.
There is so much more that I could mention, but I don’t want to rattle on. So here’s a list of some other places you can check out in Kununurra.
- Ivanhoe Crossing (fun to drive across if you have a 4×4. There are saltwater crocs in this part of the Ord River)
- Diversion Dam (find out a little it about the Ord Irrigation Scheme)
- Kununurra Museum
- Sandalwood Factory
- Kununurra Hoochery
- Want to see a pink diamond? Visit Nina’s or Fine Diamonds.
- Kelly’s Knob Lookout
Drive to Wyndham
Head out of Kununurra on the Victoria Highway towards Wyndham and you’ll find some beautiful surprises.
The first and one of my favourites is Molly Springs. After about 30 minutes on the road, you’ll see a turn off on your right saying Molly Springs and/or Ngamoowalem Conservation Park, then it’s just a short 3km drive down a dirt road. Molly Springs to one of the few waterfalls that will flow all year round because it’s fed from a natural spring.
The second beautiful sight you’ll see is the Cockburn Range (so that you don’t make the same mistake I did… it’s pronounced co-burn). The Cockburn Range is a spectacular flat-topped, sandstone escarpment that can be seen along the Gibb River Road and Victoria Highway for a number of kms. The first time I saw this range I fell instantly in love with it and no matter how many times I drive along these roads, that feeling does not change.
Our next stop is The Grotto, a massive amphitheatre gorge and bottomless waterhole that is known to be one of the best swimming holes between Wyndham and Kununurra. There is a 140-step staircase that spirals steeply to the bottom where you can swim is a bit steep and there is no handrail, so please be careful and watch your children carefully there. The view from the top looking down is lovely so even if you don’t make the trip down, it’s 100% worth the look.
After the Grotto, if you do have a 4×4 make sure you head into Parry’s Creek Farm and Caravan Park for lunch or just a look around Parry’s Lagoon.
Marlgu Billabong is a bird watcher’s paradise! Ask about it at Parry’s Creek.
The township of Wyndham has so much history. So while you’re there here are 6 places I’d recommend you have a look at.
- Five Rivers Lookout
- The Afghan Cemetery
- The Big Croc Statue
- Wyndham Historical Society (they have a great museum)
- Wyndham Jetty
- Croc Café & Bakery (have a croc or Barra pie!)
Ord River or Scenic flight
By now you maybe sick of driving around. Why not spend some time on the water &/or in the air.
You could contact Go Wild Tours and enquire about a kayak day tour with them on the Ord River. Swim as you go, and see how close you can get to the local wildlife. Ask them about seeing Carlton Ridge (an iconic rock that looks like an elephant from the front view).
Perhaps a paddle is sounding a bit much or a bit slow for your liking, no worries! Triple J Tours will have you cruising up the Ord River in style.
We elected to do the seaplane Bungle Bungle & Lake Argyle Island Experience with Kimberley Air Tours during our 5 day holiday. Mostly because neither my friend nor I had been on a seaplane and landing on Lake Argyle for afternoon tea just sounded divine. Guess what; it was!
The plane was a bit bumpy over some of the ranges (nothing anyone else had trouble with though), and even though I felt a little bit funny in my tummy I’d do it again in a heartbeat! Personally, landing on Lake Argyle for afternoon tea was my favourite part but seeing the Bungle Bungles and Argyle Diamond Mine was also incredible.
Two other air tour companies that I can personally recommend, having done tours with both since moving here are: Aviair, another company that does scenic flights and HeliSpirit does tours via helicopter.
Time to jump back into the car and head to Lake Argyle, now one of my favourite places to ‘escape’ to and certainly another highlight of our trip.
It is only a 45-minute drive from Kununurra to Lake Argyle heading towards the NT border.
‘Seeing is believing’ when it comes to this heavenly inland sea. It’ll knock your socks off! Believe me, you’ll want a minimum of one whole day here.
We made the mistake of doing it as a half-day and missed so much! I didn’t even realise this was where the infamous infinity pool that is featured on the front cover of the “100 Things to See In The Kimberley” book was. I found out the next day. Needless to say, I was very disappointed.
There are some beautiful trails to hike around the Lake, lookouts to see from and lots of wildlife to encounter.
To get a real understanding of how significant and amazing this lake is, I would recommend a cruise with either Lake Argyle Cruises or Lake Argyle Tours and Cruises. It can be a little confusing, but they are two different companies.
The sunset cruise is a very popular choice!
** Please note El Questro isn't open until 2021 due to Covid-19
The famous El Questro… You’ve heard of it I’m sure.
One place that both my friend and I had on our ‘to-see’ lists from the start. The only problem was that you needed a 4×4 to get there, which we did not have. So when we found out that they offered a guided day trip from Kununurra to El Questro and back, there was no question in our minds that we had to do that.
We were picked up at 6 am from in town and driven to Emma Gorge, where we got to see the mighty Cockburn Ranges again. We hiked through breathtaking scenery to the top of the gorge (past Turquoise pool) for a swim under the 65m-high waterfall. It was a very relaxed and informative hike, and the water was fresh and perfect.
After hiking back down the gorge we were greeted with a scrumptious morning tea at the Emma Gorge resort we jumped back into the 4×4 and continued on to the next stop, Zebedee Springs.
What we found at Zebedee Springs was totally unexpected. Luscious Livistona palms appear out of seemingly nowhere beneath towering red cliffs and a series of thermal pool. These pools, created by water emerging from under a rock ledge, were delightfully warm and very different to the water at Emma Gorge.
Do you know what the very best part of this tour was? We got the whole spring to ourselves. After 12 o’clock the tour guide closes the gates to the public and our small group of 4 – 6 people were the only ones there. I do love some privacy while I ‘soak’.
From Zebedee Springs we drove further into the El Questro Station Steakhouse for a lunch of Beef & Barra.
The day concluded with a leisurely cruise of Chamberlain River, where we got to feed some ‘spitting’ archerfish and watch as a staff member fed a couple of massive Barra before heading back into Kununurra.
It was a huge day! A perfect day!
Obviously there is so, so much more to see at El Questro, but this is a perfect taste of all the treasures it has to offer.
So there you have it. That was the short 5 day trip that changed my life.
These are just some suggestions based on what I did. Feel free to leave a comment about your favourite place in The East Kimberley or a tip for others planning their trip. Questions are also always welcome.
I hope to see you holidaying in The Kimberley, WA soon. You’ll love it!