The Gibb River Road is the 4WD option of the 2 main routes that dissect the Kimberley
region and is the main way to access the numerous gorges that are the main highlight.
For most who come to explore the Kimberley
, the ruggedness of the landform and the large expanse of remoteness are major highlights. However, if you travel during the peak season May - September, you are more than likely to share your camp with scores of other campers. To find solitude you really need to get off the main route (such as north along the Kalumburu
Road, or south to Mornington) else you can consider travelling outside of the peak period - although check local conditions first, as the road is often closed in parts from Dec - March.
Having said this, there is no denying that the Kimberley
still remains a vast remote region, yet more and more people flock to see it for themselves. There was a time when only the toughest of vehicle and man would attempt to holiday along the Gibb River Road, becoming real adventurers as a result. But with so many 4WD owners and the increase in tour operators visiting the region, over 20,000 people per season come through the Gibb River Road either as self-drive tourists or in 4WD tour buses in just a few months.The Kimberley
experiences monsoonal rains (wet season) from December - March, which will often wash away tracks and bridges. The Gibb River Road becomes impassable at crossings such as the Barnett, Hann, Durack, Pentecost and King Rivers. Road closures during the wet season are a part of life in the Kimberley
. Travel must be limited to the months of March - November and only then by checking current road conditions
reports for possible effects of cyclone activity experienced.
Once the dry season has settled in, the graders will make a couple of attempts to smooth out the worst of the ruts but they cannot cut out the corrugations.
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Gibb River Road From:
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No travel permits required to drive along the Gibb River Road. Camping fees apply at Bells Gorge & Manning River Gorge (behind Mt Barnett Roadhouse).
Things to See & Do
The main attraction is the abundant freshwater gorges and majestic scenery. Photography, bush walking & safe swimming are the rewards after a tough day of driving in rugged country over heavy corrugations.
Some major highlights along the Gibb River Road are:
Beautiful camping at either Silent Grove
camp ground (with facilities) or on banks of river closer to Gorge Walk. Walk to gorge has a steep loose rocky approach before following the creek to the top of the waterfalls. A further walk takes you down to the gorge as pictured, where you can swim and relax in the cool shade of the gorge. No crocodiles.
Upper and Lower Manning Gorges
Both of these gorges can be accessed (after check-in) from behind Mt Barnett River Roadhouse. The camping area is large and there is idyllic swimming on the sandy beach fringed Lower Manning Gorge
. A one hour walk over exposed rock to the Upper Gorge is worth doing in the early part of the day. There is more swimming opportunities here with lovely deep cool rockholes.
This gorge offers excellent long walks ranging from just a few hundred metres to where this photo was taken up to many kilometres deeper in the gorge. This is great location to observe freshwater crocodiles.
if you take a torch you can walk for 750m along the sandy bed of a dark cave until it comes to an opening at the far end. In some places
you might have to wade through waist-deep water.
Mitchell Plateau & Kalumburu Road
One of the more popular diversions is to head north to Mitchell Plateau
Road which heads north from a junction with the Gibb River Road just 290km west of Kununurra
. The track leads all the way north to the coastline at the Kalumburu
aboriginal outpost. Conditions, facilities and services
are very limited.
For those that would like to experience the Kimberley Coast
, without a major drive off the Gibb River Road, scenic plane flights can be organised from Drysdale station.
This is not easy country to travel in and requires significant preparation. Your dilemma will be in deciding when to travel. Climate wise, the right time is June/July, but that usually coincides with the school holidays, which can put up to 350 people a night in places
like Manning Gorge
and rougher corrugations due to the traffic load.
The compromise might be to travel a little earlier, such as in late April - risking deeper water crossings, and wetter conditions or even times of inaccessibility, or later in the dry when temperatures can be extreme, topping 40°C as the dry season moves towards the build-up in late October/November.
At any time, you should still consider that the area is very remote and you'll need a full compliment of , and be self-sufficient with foodstuffs, and outback .
In general, heavy-duty off-road trailers will be fine on the Gibb River Road and Kalumburu
Road although you wouldn't tow a caravan.
Travel Planning tips: avoid the school holidays (if you can) and add side trips to places
such as the Mitchell Plateau
, the Old Karunjie Road and to the rivers and coast beyond the stations (enquire ahead of time as access may not always be granted).
Fuel Supplies & Usage
Drysdale Station (58km north of Gibb River Road on Kalumburu
Camp Sites & Accommodation
is an ancient region formed more than 1800 million years ago. During the Devonian era (375-350 million years ago) most of the Kimberley
was covered by a warm shallow sea and coral reefs. As the sea level has fallen to its present level, fossilised materials from old sea beds and coral reefs have been exposed by erosion and now form many of the spectacular gorges that you can access just off the Gibb River Road.
region lies within the tropics although it encompasses many ecological zones: coasts, rivers, estuaries, semi-arid savannah woodlands, lush rainforest and deserts. Accordingly, vegetation and wildlife vary throughout the Kimberley
. The climate and water supply varies significantly at different times of year making a huge impact on lifeforms. Surprisingly for most tourists, the region is said to have low rainfall (even though it experiences a wet season) and only hardy, drought resistant plants tend to survive. Trees tend to be small, shrubs and grasses die off in the dry season, springing back to life from seed at the first fall of rain.
The best known of the Kimberley
flora is the magnificent Boab tree. Boab trees live for hundreds of years and the trunk provides shelter for small animals.
Birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish are the more obvious creatures to be found in the Kimberley
. Most mammals are small and nocturnal and many are declining in numbers.
Until recently, this region was protected by its remoteness and travel difficulties. Now, with improved roads and frequent air services
, the Kimberley
is being discovered, by the rest of Australia
and the world. We urge you to be conscious of your impact when you visit this unique region.
The Gibb River Road is actually an old stock route. It was originally constructed in the late 1800's as a beef road to transport cattle from surrounding stations to Derby
and in fact, although tourism now accounts for the majority of traffic, cattle stations continue to rely on the track as their only service route.