in the far north-west corner of Australia
of WA. is three and half times bigger than Texas although less than 30,000 people live in the region. In the early 1930s there were less than 10,000 people in the Kimberley
and the buzzing cosmopolitan town of Broome
was the focus. Hundreds of boats worked out of Broome
searching for pearls. In 1963 the Ord River
was dammed to formed the massive Lake Argyle
, now Australia
's largest lake. In the 1970s diamonds put Lake Argyle
on the world gemstone scene and other important mineral finds such as bauxite, oil and gas were also significant. There are vast cattle stations and an incredible 30% of land is Aboriginal owned.
To travel the Kimberley
you have a choice of routes, either the bitumen of the Great Northern Highway linking Kununurra
via Halls Creek
and Fitzroy Crossing
or the very rough and challenging requiring 4WD that ends in Derby 236km north-east of Broome.
The area that lies north of the is referred to as the Northern Kimberley, whilst the area traversed from Halls Creek to Kununurra is called the Eastern Kimberley, where the great beehive domes of the Purnululu (Bungle Bungles) lie.
The highlights of the Kimberley region are the many gorges and incredible rock formations in the 800,000 year old landscape. This region is ravaged by a tropical wet season from late October - mid April and cyclones are common from January - March. Each season varies and brings a unique beauty to the landscape. 4WD travellers get the best out of a trip through the Kimberley with fairly easy access to some great swimming holes, gorges, walking trails, lookouts and fishing locations. Crocodiles are prevalent around the coastline of Mitchell Plateau and Kalumburu areas but not in the gorges along the Gibb River Road.
The major centres of the Kimberley today are Kununurra and Broome but each township has a long and colourful history that makes each place worthy of a visit.
The Derby region was the first part of the Kimberley explored by early visitors and if you visit the Derby jetty you will notice a bicentennial monument to mark his arrival in 1688 but it wasn't until 1879 that any European settlement of the area occurred. In the late 1800's trouble broke out between white pastoralists and aborigines and today, a major highlight of a visit to the region is to visit the Boab Prison Tree, which was actually used as a lock-up of aboriginal prisoners during this time. Whilst Derby has long been supporting the regions development with the first port that has had varied use from livestock transport to mining shipments, it is Broome that has attracted the attention of tourism in the region.
However, Broome didn't begin so glamorously, being mostly an itinerant town for pearlers, and a local aboriginal population in 1883 when it the township was named. Broome changed when the submarine telegraph cable was rerouted through Broome bringing the need for buildings for the telegraphists. The town grew rapidly and so did the the search for pearls. Broome's port facilities were also used by the pastoralists who were settling the harsh interior. The population of the town reflected the multicultural mix of itinerant works in search of wealth and freedom and included Europeans, Chinese, Japanese, Malays, Filipinos and Aborigines. During WWII, Broome was attacked by nine Japanese Zero fighters which destroyed 16 flying boats and 7 aircraft on Broome airstrip. It has been estimated that 70 people were killed in the raid. Three of the flying boats can still be seen in Roebuck Bay at very low tide.
Although the Kimberley is one of the most remote and undeveloped regions in Australia, you will be one of many thousands who visit the region each season.
Much of the Kimberley is affected by the monsoonal wet seasons from November - March, with the northern Kimberley being seasonally closed to traffic from 1st November along the , and rarely opens before April. See our report for access and track grading reports.
Conditions can vary so significantly as the season progress that it is impossible to predict what you'll come up against. Roads can be all of the following: flooded, badly chopped up, deeply rutted, heavily corrugated with beds of bulldust, or not so bad if recently graded.
Although this area is commonly travelled by 4WD tourists, the region is very hard on vehicles and humans. Extensive vehicle preparation, emergency equipment and some critical spare car parts should be the main priority in your trip preparation. Please review our advice in for more details.