Gibb River Road Question re timing

We are looking at travelling the Gibb River Road next year in June/July. As we have children in high school we only are able to give ourselves 6 weeks to do the whole trip in. Just wondering if this will be enough time???

We live in Kingscliff, northern NSW, and were planning to head straight out to Katherine via Charleville, take our time doing the Gibb River Road heading west across to Broome and then returning via the Great Northern Hwy.

I know it will be a rush getting out to Katherine but just hoping we are not cutting ourselves too short - I don't really want to do too many 10 hr driving days in our vehicle.

If we don't do it next year my husband and I might wait till the kids have finished school and we can taken our time to do it.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
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Reply By: CSeaJay - Wednesday, Jul 16, 2014 at 15:04

Wednesday, Jul 16, 2014 at 15:04
We were in a similar boat - 5 weeks but from North Qld.
My kids are at uni, so we had to work around 4 weeks uni hols. What we did was to start driving up with the campertrailer 3-4 days before their holidays. We put them on a Greyhound bus to meet as at Kununurra. We then had their 4 weeks on the Gibb. Similarly they departed Broome back on the Greyhound, allowing us 4 days to return. (Long way hay)
So to answer your circumstance, if you have a minimum of four weeks on the GRR it will be worth it. Some may reply that you need longer to experience it all and that is true; we just found it is better to experience 70% than 0%. Do a bit of homework as to what you want to do, work out a bit of itinerary, and be flexible; if you like one place and want to stay longer, adjust accordingly

As a family (5) it was our trip of a lifetime. Yes we were up and moving every so often, on to the next spot, but generally it is only a couple of hours and you are there, so it is not as if you are travelling all day between camp spots. (There are exceptions, such as Mitchell falls). What I am getting at is that it did not feel like a rush.

Yes it is enough and Yes go for it.

(I guess the other question is do your kids travel well, there and back; That will be the boring bit for them. Take videos, or what we loved was audio books)

AnswerID: 536143

Reply By: Chris_K - Wednesday, Jul 16, 2014 at 15:32

Wednesday, Jul 16, 2014 at 15:32

We've just been through that process ourselves - trying to work out how to get there and back within a fixed time period. Our decision in the end was to fly direct to Broome and then hire a 4WD camper. From my calculations (from Brizzy) it was marginally more expensive to fly & hire, than to drive. If you take into account, fuel, food, accommodation (including some free camps), wear and tear (~11,000kms return), potential driving hazards along the way (eg flat tyres etc) and the notion that it's supposed to be a holiday - well, we are flying in. My calculations also didn't include the additional time off you need to drive there and back (i.e. your salary).

Point being - if you did the same sort of calculation - you'd have a better idea of total costs for both. Shame I don't have unlimited time - I'd drive then!


AnswerID: 536145

Reply By: Jacaluke - Wednesday, Jul 16, 2014 at 16:16

Wednesday, Jul 16, 2014 at 16:16
Two great replies which have given me some different ideas that I didn't consider before - thank-you both very much!

Our children will be 14, 12 and 9 by then so if we did bus the older ones out we would need family to look after them at home before and after - shouldn't be too hard to organise though.

The other option of flying to Broome sounds great also - another thought I had was flying to Darwin and then heading across to Broome via the GRR and flying back from Broome - I wonder if they do one-way hires??? Probably be a hefty one-way fee added though.

Do you have to pre-book campsites being school holidays and quite busy?

Anyway thanks again, I will continue planning and hope I come up with something.
AnswerID: 536149

Follow Up By: Chris_K - Wednesday, Jul 16, 2014 at 16:39

Wednesday, Jul 16, 2014 at 16:39
Howdee - yep looked into the Darwin thing as well - you can actually book one way fares from Darwin to Broome (or vis-versa). And they all (as far as I can see) charge one way fares. There seems to be a bit of competition in the market - and we have already booked for next year, and got a discount on both the hire rate and the remote location fee (which again they all seem to charge at Broome). You just have to ask!

Alternatively - when we did Cape York, we drove the whole way, and I paid for my son to fly into Weipa and out of Cairns with a mate. Again - you'd need someone to look after them while you drove each way - but then you could meet the kids in Broome, and they would only have to drive back with you? During school holidays - I'd probably try to book most places if you know where you are heading - and the time.
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Reply By: Sand Man (SA) - Wednesday, Jul 16, 2014 at 18:36

Wednesday, Jul 16, 2014 at 18:36
Yes, 6 weeks will be enough, but you may find caravan park accomodation and overnight rest bays along the way a bit iffy.
June/July is that time of the year that there is a mass migration of grey nomads from southern climes:- in anything from a basic camper trailer, to a Winnebago towing a Suzuki, to a 26 foot Caravan, intent on taking their time and spending a couple of months chilling out, or should I say, keeping warm.

We have just come back from a 6 week trip from Adelaide but we planned the trip from early May and June. As we were heading back south, there were "thousands" of them heading north up the Stuart Highway.
Would have liked a little longer of course, but 6 weeks gave us enough time to visit all the places we wanted to, plus one or two we didn't know about before the trip.

Your route is the same as we took, although we also spent 4 days up the Dampier Peninsula at Middle Lagoon. If you are not planning to go there, you will be able to spend a little more time along the way.

As far as doing it next year, or delaying it, I must stress to you to do it while you can.
The kids will love it and you will gain valuable knowledge on what to include, or skip, on your return trip:-)

Also, the option of flying there and hiring a Britz or Apollo has some merit, but you would need a big one for 5 of you. Also, the hire vehicles will not be fitted out to your exact requirements.

We did a couple of longish drives on the way up, but then stayed in a cabin, rather than set up the campers. This was mainly from Adelaide to Coober Pedy and Alice to Tennant Creek. (about 9 and a bit hours each). This allowed us to pick up a couple of days, as we planned to stay overnight at Devil's Marbles and Daily Waters. This also enabled us to spend extra time elsewhere, in a more interesting, or relaxed environment. By not having to pack up, after an overnight stop, you can take off earlier in the day and therefore travel further, or arrive at your next destination sooner.

The best advice I can offer you is to spend time planning your trip, but being aware that circumstances may allow you to change some planned overnight stops, as you feel comfortable in traveling a bit further, or didn't like the choice made, on a particular day.
I used a spreadsheet and word document which we stuck to mostly, but did knock off the occasional day or two in one place and spent more time in a couple of others.

Whenever you go, be assured you will have sufficient time for a 6 week trip and you WILL all enjoy your adventure. Do not put it off for another time if you can avoid it.


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AnswerID: 536155

Follow Up By: cookie1 - Wednesday, Jul 16, 2014 at 22:28

Wednesday, Jul 16, 2014 at 22:28
Fully agree with Sandman, we were up there around the same time and loved it, we didn't have 6 weeks but enjoyed the couple of weeks we did have there.

FollowupID: 820248

Reply By: get outmore - Wednesday, Jul 16, 2014 at 19:11

Wednesday, Jul 16, 2014 at 19:11
7-10 days to do the actual gibb river including mitchel falls. Add 2 more days if going to kalumbaru.
Could be done in as little as 5days no less
AnswerID: 536157

Reply By: Seastar - Wednesday, Jul 16, 2014 at 20:57

Wednesday, Jul 16, 2014 at 20:57
We did the trip some years back now, my wife and self on a tag a long tour. We camped each night so had to unpack and pack up most days. The secret for us was having our car set up well and knowing wear every thing was so you don't waist time each day.We were living is Sydney at time when we went and we did the trip in 4 weeks. Yes more time is always great, but if you do your research and plan well ahead you will have a great time. We have now retired so we do intend taking a lot more time when we head there again.
AnswerID: 536167

Reply By: Moondyne - Wednesday, Jul 16, 2014 at 21:58

Wednesday, Jul 16, 2014 at 21:58
We came back from our fourth Gibb Trip a few weeks ago. We normally go late May just as the road re-opens after the wet season. We left it a bit later this year. This time around we came across from Perth to Uluru up through NT, Katherine, Kununurra the on to the Gibb.

Once you are on the Gibb there shouldn't be too many big driving days, the biggest one for us was El Questro to Drysdale (Skipped Home Valley and Ellenbrae). But most camping spots are no more than a couple of hundred K's apart and often a lot less.

This time around we spent three nights in El Questro, one at Drysdale (decided not to go to Mitchell Falls due to the road up King Edward River being severely corrugated), one at Manning Gorge, two at Charnley River Station, one at Silent Grove, one at Windjana and finally one in Derby. We then spent 6 nights in Broome before taking two days to drive back to Perth. In total we drove 9000km in 4 weeks.

Ten days is enough to see a lot of the GRR, if you don't mind a few overnight quick camps. You can spend longer doing shorter hops and longer stays at different camps / stations quite easily.

When we go in late May the road and camps are fairly quiet, going later this year there were a lot more travelers on the road and from speaking to people who work the GRR the busy season was yet to start, it'll be at it busiest July through August.
AnswerID: 536170

Follow Up By: Sand Man (SA) - Thursday, Jul 17, 2014 at 07:43

Thursday, Jul 17, 2014 at 07:43
Like you, we skipped Home Valley and Ellenbrae, but next time we will skip El Questro. Luckily we only stayed the one night. Nothing particular to gripe about and the dip in the Pentacost River at the rear of the camping area was great, but we did not experience Zebedee Springs as we could not find a parking spot for both rigs with campers and if you don't go in the morning, you don't get in as the afternoon is reserved for the Motel Guests paying Exorbitant fees for the pleasure. Our overall feeling was of a tourist venture lacking a bit of character.

After repairing a puncture for a young overseas couple in a Britz after crossing the Pentecost River, I was "dying of thirst" and we called into Home Valley Station to buy some cold water.
What a great atmosphere there.
As I approached the bar area, I noticed a water dispenser and cups on a table where folk could help themselves. Well, after several cups of water I was feeling normal and as there was pleasant Aussie country music adding to the atmosphere, we decided to stay for lunch. The girls had a glass or two of wine, while us boys stuck to water, as we had a bit of driving to do.
I can definitely recommend Home Valley Station, where "normal folk" will feel welcomed.

Then onto Drysdale River Station where we spent 4 nights out at the Miners Pool, bush camping, swimming, fishing (caught a Black Bream) and generally chilling out. Had to go to the Homestead several times for a drink at the bar and a chat with other folk, including member Ray from Qld.

Windjana Gorge is a good spot to camp for a couple of days and a trip to Silent Grove is a must.

All in all, a good taste of the Kimberley.

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Follow Up By: get outmore - Thursday, Jul 17, 2014 at 16:44

Thursday, Jul 17, 2014 at 16:44
yes may was the best time this year - it quickly got busy after that.
yes the road to mitchel falls was horrifically corragated - close call between that and the road to the bungle bungles as the most corragated.

German lady i was travelling with asked "wouldnt it have been better if the lines went down the road rather than accross it?"
- yes yes it would

If camping at Home valley the campsites at the river are great rather than the campsite at the homestead
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Reply By: Member - i'machocoholic - Thursday, Jul 17, 2014 at 16:36

Thursday, Jul 17, 2014 at 16:36
As you'll see from above, there are so many varying answers. It does really depend on what you want to see and do as you won't have time to visit it all. Yes, research is the key. In July many of the falls may not have flowing water so swimming could be limited, but maybe you're into bush walking, canoeing, horse riding, fishing, art spotting or 4wding? The GRR and it's attractions can accommodate all that.

We travelled Oz in 2011 and have been regular yearly visitors since and we still keep trying new things! Our blog may help with your planning - Gibb River Road. Take a look at posts 23 to 26 to see if it helps.

Happy to answer any questions you may have.
AnswerID: 536192

Reply By: Robyn R4 - Friday, Jul 18, 2014 at 23:13

Friday, Jul 18, 2014 at 23:13
I'm only just a stone's throw down the road from you and we are looking to fulfil the hubby's dream of doing that trip next year.
We were going to head off at this time of year (after the July hols) and head across to Charleville and Boulia, then to Alice and up the Tanami Track to Hall's Creek. Then over the past few weeks we saw the freezing nights they were having out there (we are rather protected from the worst of the freezing weather on the far north coast, aren't we?!) and we had second thoughts!
So we are now looking to head for Charleville and Mt Isa, across to the Stuart Highway and across to Timber Creek. It's 400km longer but would perhaps get us a bit further north a bit more quickly...and perhaps "slightly" warmer nights?!
We are looking to do the "meatier stuff" if time runs short (we're not all privileged with unlimited travel times like those grey nomads that I envy so much!) and just do from Wyndham across the GRR to Kalumbaru and back if necessary. If hubby loves fishing up there and wants to stay put for a week then hey, it's his dream and we come back another time.
I've seen Broome/Derby so we plan to leave it out and perhaps return one day via air.
The jury's still out on how it'll work!
A colleague of mine just did the Kimberley a few weeks ago and had a blast. He flew to Broome and did a one-way 4WD and camper-trailer hire across to Darwin. Says 3 weeks was great if you're able to cut out the big drive before and after. He said he had cold nights up the GRR even. There goes my theory of it being warmer, eh?! :)
Because hubby and I have done a lot of Qld's outback we head across to the Stuart Highway fairly quickly with big days behind the wheel. Then, when we hit "new territory" we'll slow it up.
I have another friend whose hubby drove while she had to work for another week. She then flew to Darwin and they continued on to the Kimberley together.
Remember that you cover less territory at this time of year with shorter days, too. You don't want to have a close encounter with the enormous red kangaroos out Charleville way!
Anyway, hope there's a bit of food for thought for you in all that!
Squeeze your trip into whatever time you have. We'll probably be doing only 4-5 weeks. But it's better than staying home!
Grab the opportunity to do it when you can, even if it may be "shorter" than you think it "should" be. Even if you miss some great spots, you'll still experience more than you will if you stay in Kingy, eh?!
For me, I figure that anything past Mt Isa is new territory and therefore an adventure...
Flit past the closer stuff that you can cover with your normal 2 weeks' holiday and go for it. Kids who see Australia are extremely privileged, no matter how long the trip is!

AnswerID: 536275

Reply By: Jacaluke - Sunday, Jul 20, 2014 at 07:20

Sunday, Jul 20, 2014 at 07:20
The answers I have had to my initial query have inspired us and we will definitely be doing it next year. We just have to work out the dynamics now. I have looked at several different routes to get to Kunnunura from where we live (Kingscliff) - I have looked at driving out through QLD and crossing the Plenty Hwy into NT and heading up; or driving through the middle of QLD (Longreach/Winton) and through Mt Isa and out across the Barkly Tablelands; or going up through central QLD (Emerald/Charters Towers) and heading across the Savannah Way. We did a big trip a few years ago through QLD and NT going through Longreach, Winton, Mt Isa etc so would be keen to take another route if possible so we are seeing something different. Does anybody know what the quickest route from Kingscliff (Gold Coast) to Kunnunura would be?

I will also look into the option of flying us all out to Broome and then hiring a 4WD camper for 5??? and doing the GRR from there and returning to Broome via the Great Northern Highway.
AnswerID: 536310

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