Tunnel Creek/Windjana Gorge

Submitted: Tuesday, May 29, 2018 at 12:31
ThreadID: 136774 Views:3267 Replies:13 FollowUps:9
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Hi all,

We will heading up through Kimberleys later next month and would like to have a look at this area. We will be towing and on road van and am wanting opinions on where to leave the van for the day to explore. I'm currently thinking Fitzroy Crossing Lodge however having never been there before am open to suggestions.

Any other "must sees" while we are there?

Thanks in advance

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Reply By: Athol W1 - Tuesday, May 29, 2018 at 13:44

Tuesday, May 29, 2018 at 13:44

Although it was a few years back I towed a 19ft on road van from Derby to Windjana Gorge then Tunnel Creek and out to Fitzroy Crossing, all without incident when the road from Tunnel Creek to the Highway was not much better than 2 wheel tracks.

Enjoy your travels,
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Reply By: Member - Alan H (QLD) - Tuesday, May 29, 2018 at 14:22

Tuesday, May 29, 2018 at 14:22
You do not say which direction you are travelling but it is possible to camp at Windjana and then go the Tunnel Creek. Both are a must see. We came off the GRR then camped at Winjana then next day went to Tunnel creek and then we continued to a free camp a bit short of the highway. Then we went to Fitroy Crossing and then carried on to Derby. This was towing a van through there.
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Reply By: mick - Tuesday, May 29, 2018 at 14:44

Tuesday, May 29, 2018 at 14:44
Hi Al and Athol,

Thanks for the reply. Will be travelling west to east. What condition is the track from Derby through to Fitzroy via Tunnel Creek? Ok for an on roader?

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Follow Up By: Life Member - Duncan W (WA) - Tuesday, May 29, 2018 at 14:55

Tuesday, May 29, 2018 at 14:55
G'day Mick, I don't tow anything other than a horse float but my observations from June last year was:
a) The GRR from the Derby end to the Windjana turn-off was very corrugated especially the east to west side of the road as this was getting all the traffic heading west.
b) The Windjana/Tunnel Creek Rd was corrugated but not bad at all. And
c) Based on the year before we came in that time via Fitzroy and the corrugations were not the best. We passed a backpacker in a sedan and he was crawling. Half an hour later he rolled up to the TC car park.

So yes you can take a standard van in but drive to the conditions for your set-up and lower your van's tyres accordingly.

In terms of where to base yourself if leaving the van it's 6 of one half dozen the other. As said above you can camp at the gorge.

Enjoy your trip.

Make sure you give back more than you take

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Reply By: mick - Tuesday, May 29, 2018 at 14:58

Tuesday, May 29, 2018 at 14:58
Thanks for your replies, I might play it safe first time around and set up camp at Fitzroy and spend a full (early start) exploring that area.


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Follow Up By: Member - J&A&KK - Tuesday, May 29, 2018 at 20:03

Tuesday, May 29, 2018 at 20:03

I agree with Duncan and Rangiephil. If in doubt leave the van in FC.

It’s about 110 km from FC to Tunnel Creek of which 43km is bitumen. So depending on road conditions a return trip, non towing, is quite doable. It’s another 35km to Windjana Gorge so you may also be able to include a visit to it in the day.

We visited Tunnel Creek, from Windjana, and then on to FC a couple of years ago in June, towing an off-road van. The road from GRR to Windjana to Tunnel Creek was an absolute bastard for corrugations. It was very difficult to find a safe speed. We didn’t break anything but the teeth took a battering. From Tunnel Creek to FC through the Leopoldo Downs road the road improved markedly. However some of the creek crossings had quite steep entries and exits.

The Caravan Park at FC is very good. Secure and well maintained. A visit to Geike Gorge is also worthwhile.

Trust you have a great trip.

Cheers John
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Reply By: Rangiephil - Tuesday, May 29, 2018 at 15:42

Tuesday, May 29, 2018 at 15:42
I haven't been on the Fitzroy Crossing to Tunnel Creek for several years ,However here are my observations. Conditions can change all the time depending on graders .

The road in from the GRR end is usually very corrugated from tour buses as far as Tunnel Creek.

The road from Fitzroy Crossing to Tunnel Creek is a bit less corrugated but there are several steep dips . You need pretty good clearance to not damage the back of a van. I spoke to 2 van owners in the general area, 1 had a fridge destroy itself, and the other had a low hanging step hit a rock and be damaged.
I think your idea of leaving the van at Fitzroy crossing is a good one and that caravan park, pub, restaurant was the best in the Kimberley IMHO.
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Reply By: Motherhen - Tuesday, May 29, 2018 at 21:30

Tuesday, May 29, 2018 at 21:30
My suggestion is in line with Alan's. Take your van from Derby and to Windjana Gorge camp for a few days. A nice campground and they have a generator section. Showers as well (were cold when we were there, but during the day the water was tolerably warm). GRR good to Windjana turnoff and to the camp should be doable at slow speed. Then take a day to walk the gorge and visit the old police station ruins at Windjana, another day to go to Tunnel Creek and walk through it. Take day trips to Bell's Falls (lovely) and Lennard Gorge.

From Fitzroy Crossing, be sure to take the boat along Geikie Gorge.

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Follow Up By: mick - Tuesday, May 29, 2018 at 21:50

Tuesday, May 29, 2018 at 21:50
Hi there Motherhen,

Would love to, not to sure how the on road van would handle it.

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Follow Up By: Motherhen - Tuesday, May 29, 2018 at 22:20

Tuesday, May 29, 2018 at 22:20
Not sure how much of the road from the Derby end is now sealed Mick, but at least two thirds, and possibly most of the way to the Windjana-Tunnel Creek turnoff; there is nothing to preclude an on road van on this section even unsealed.

You would need to take it cautiously for the approximate 20 kilometres to the Windjana Gorge campground, but it would make a good base for touring the western end of the GRR. The Road to Windjana and Tunnel Creek is currently open to all traffic. I recall there is a creek crossing on this road, but do not recall it being a deep or steep dip. Can anyone else remember this?

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Reply By: AlanTH - Wednesday, May 30, 2018 at 09:15

Wednesday, May 30, 2018 at 09:15
If walking through Tunnel Creek, wear shoes with a decent sole as the stones can be sharp. Plus and this is a must, take a torch you can hang around your neck to leave the hands free for getting through the rocks at the entrance.....unless of course they've made it easier under the "access for all" policies they seem to love these days.
Last time we were there a tour bus driven by a young bloke who failed to tell all the oldies he had on board about either of these two things before they got to the entrance. Needless to say their trip was totally spoiled but hey, he was a backpacker on holiday so it wasn't his fault, it was the tour company for flogging trips to people obviously not able to do the rough stuff.
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Reply By: Crusier 91 - Wednesday, May 30, 2018 at 13:10

Wednesday, May 30, 2018 at 13:10
I wouldnt be taking a road van on any of the GRR. Came off it one week ago from west to east. It is now full season with mad offroad tour bus hurling around making the track far worse.
Your van will not survive.
Park van at Fitzroy Crossing and go in to Tunnel Creek and Wandja Gorge.
Bungles Bungles you can park at the entry caravan park and drive in (2hr trip in 50km) rough as guts as bad as the Tanami. If you want to Heli fly over the Bungles, book at Turkey Creek its cheaper.
Elquestro you have a 10km dirt track in which is not good for your van. Stay at Kununurra (Ivanhoe Park) and drive to El Questro.
Not much at Wyndham..........
The rest of the Gibb is out of your range.
Prices for Horizontal Falls and Mitchell Falls flights/heli can vary from $850 - $1100 pp depending where you book, so do your homework and never be afraid to ask for a better price, most will give you at least 10% discount for 2.
Barra fishing is over, water is too cold for them to bite, though operators won't tell you that until all you catch is catfish and and parted with your $240 - $700 pp.
You may have to start to enquire about booking sites as season is in full swing now.
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Follow Up By: Motherhen - Wednesday, May 30, 2018 at 23:01

Wednesday, May 30, 2018 at 23:01
Hi Cruiser. Did you got on the westernmost section from Derby to Windjana Tunnel Creek turnoff? How much is now sealed, and how was the rest? This section is usually good.

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Follow Up By: Member - peter_mcc - Thursday, May 31, 2018 at 10:00

Thursday, May 31, 2018 at 10:00
El Questro also have some river crossings which an on-road van may not like - if you are still thinking of taking the van in there I'd give them a call to find out how deep they are..

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Follow Up By: Crusier 91 - Friday, Jun 01, 2018 at 17:25

Friday, Jun 01, 2018 at 17:25
Youre correct Mother Hen, though the turn off to Windjana/Tunnel Creek is not the best for on road vans.
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Reply By: KevinE - Thursday, May 31, 2018 at 10:42

Thursday, May 31, 2018 at 10:42
Most of the road in from Derby to the Windjana turn off is black top.

Driven to the conditions, the drive on the dirt at the end of the tar is very doable.

It's no worse than getting out to King Ash Bay if you've been there?

As suggested above, the camp ground at Windjana is an excellent base from which to explore tunnel ck etc.

Re all of the horror stories about the GRR; the modern GRR is no worse than any other long dirt road in the country when it's open in the dry season. It's considerably better than some! We saw the NSW Variety Bash come down the GRR, they all got through in their 2WD's, no dramas.

Have a great trip! :)
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Follow Up By: Crusier 91 - Friday, Jun 01, 2018 at 17:23

Friday, Jun 01, 2018 at 17:23
2WD vehicle is not the issue, its the on road van.
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Follow Up By: KevinE - Saturday, Jun 02, 2018 at 21:44

Saturday, Jun 02, 2018 at 21:44
I've seen a number of on road vans at King Ash Bay. The short bit of easy dirt road at the western end of the GRR to get to Windjana is certainly no worse than that road.

I've also seen on road vans & motor homes at Lorella Springs. The road into there is far worse than the road from Derby to Windjana (unlike the GRR, that one really is a shocker!). But they get in there, no dramas.

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Reply By: My Aussie Travel Guide - Friday, Jun 01, 2018 at 19:59

Friday, Jun 01, 2018 at 19:59
If you’re only looking at a day trip I gather you have no plans to do the Gibb in its entirety? We’ve travelled up that way for donkey years and although we have a caravan and a camper, I wouldn’t take our on road van. There’s too many places you miss out on as it’s not the Gibb that’s bad it’s the station tracks that vary. Have you considered leaving the van in Derby or Kununurra to spend more time on the Gibb? Choose wisely where you leave your van for safety reasons.
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Reply By: Zippo - Sunday, Jun 03, 2018 at 12:26

Sunday, Jun 03, 2018 at 12:26
If you had been contemplating accessing Tunnel Creek from the Fitzroy Crossing end (i.e. past the Blina oilfield and Leopold Downs station) I would caution about a creek crossing less than 1k past the homestead. In full dry season the waterhole is still deep with a very uneven rocky base, and there's no way I'd contemplate hauling an on-road van that way. (I'd be leery of any off-road van as the approach/departure angles may hook it up. Just my 2c worth).
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Reply By: Dean K3 - Thursday, Jun 07, 2018 at 21:50

Thursday, Jun 07, 2018 at 21:50
Better off leaving van at Derby one closest to the jetty allows you for a small fee (insurance cover) to leave them on site making it a day trip ex derby is a longish day, but not as long as basing at fitzroy crossing

make it a 1 to 3 nighter leave van derby head to winjana have a gander stay night then have look at tunnel creek on way further south back to Gt northern hwy

crossing near the music school (name illudes me) is shallow to deep and before the highway is the old airstrip mine site from ww2 makes a nice lunch stop or similar
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