Purnululu National Park is located within the East Kimberley
region and is only accessible for vehicles entering from the Great Northern Highway. Travelling time to the ranger station is approximately 5 hours from Kununurra and 4 hours from Halls Creek with the last 2.5 hours requiring four wheel drive. There is no accommodation other than camping and facilities are very limited - the wilderness aspect is one the park's main attractions. For those that wish to camp but are without access to a 4WD vehicle, tours operate out of Broome, Kununurra and Halls Creek. Visitors with limited time or those that wish to fully appreciate the immense grandeur of the Bungle Bungle range can pick up scenic flights from Kununurra, Halls Creek, or Turkey Creek. Established as a National Park in 1987, and listed by the World Heritage
Committee in 2003, Purnululu (formerly known as the Bungle Bungle) is one of Western Australia
’s best known tourist destinations. Our Trek Note provides self-drive information for visitors accessing the park by 4WD vehicle.
Visitors typically come to Purnululu to experience the visually striking Bungle Bungle - a range dominated by 450 sq. km of dome-shaped sandstone rock formations that are said to look like beehives due to their distinctive dark grey and orange horizontal stripes. Walks in the southern section of the park provide ground visitors with access to these famous banded beehive domes. However, Purnululu also contains numerous gorges, cliffs, sandy plains and surprisingly unique flora and fauna. The Livistona palms found in the Mini Palms Gorge and Echidna Chasm in the northern section give evidence that Purnululu was once a much wetter region.
Whilst off-road trailers are permitted into the National Park, the 53km access track from the highway to the park entrance is definitely 4WD only and is not suitable for caravans. The Spring Creek Track consists of around 50 creek crossings and some sections of the undulating terrain will require low range 4WD gearing. The track passes through the Mabel Downs Station who operate a caravan park, and tours for those not willing to self-drive further. If you do continue along the track, this part of the trip will take and around 2hrs without a trailer – and probably 30 minutes more if you are towing a trailer. The views along the route are sensational and if you are travelling in convoy, you’ll probably be tempted to get a few photos of vehicles making the river crossings. Many of the crossings are dense with vegetation and you'll experience sweeping views of river bends, beautiful river gums and pandanus. People who tow trailers will find themselves travelling at a slower pace so consideration and care should be given to other drivers along this often narrow single lane track. At the end of the Spring Creek Track you will come across the ranger station where you will need to pay your entry fee (or quote your park pass number) and pay your camping fees and select your camp ground.
Purnululu National Park has two distinct sections; the Northern section is noted for its steep and narrow gorges and its main attractions are Echidna Chasm, Kungkalanayi Lookout and Mini Palms Gorge. This part of the park is best experienced in the afternoon. The Southern section is quite different; here you'll be able to access the well-known beehive domes in the Piccaninny Creek area and the Cathedral Gorge, which are best experienced in the early morning.
You will need a minimum of two days to visit the main attractions.
How to Use this Trek Note
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The Bungle Bungle Range sits 578m above sea level. The range stands 200 to 300 metres above a woodland and grass-covered plain, with steep cliffs on the western face. Elsewhere, particularly where Piccaninny Creek has formed Piccaninny Gorge, the range is cut by deep gullies and breaks up into complex areas of ridges and domes, with prominent orange and black or grey bands.
The distinctive beehive-shaped landforms seen today have been produced by uplift and erosion caused during the last 20 million years.
More than 130 bird species are the park's most visible animals, including rainbow bee-eaters and flocks of budgerigars. The nailtail wallaby and euro live around the massif, while the short-eared rock-wallaby and euro are thought to live on top. Several species of rare animals also occur in the park.
European knowledge of the Bungle Bungle is relatively new - in fact it wasn't until a television documentary released aerial footage in the mid-1980s that people began "visiting" the area.
Prior to it's "discovery", Aboriginals lived in the Ord River region from at least 40,000 years ago. These hunter-gathers moved from the desert to the uplands in the wet season, to foothill pools after the rains and along the river in the dry season, when this became a vital resource and refuge. Today, the Bungle Bungle area is rich in Aboriginal art and there are also many burial sites.
Pastoralists began to use the area from 1884 and a wide area throughout the Ord River grasslands was used for grazing cattle. In 1885 the gold rush hit Halls Creek (just 100km to the south) and miners settled in the region. Yet still, only a handful of people ever came to see the wonderful Bungle Bungle range hidden deep within the East Kimberley
landscape until a photographer took the air in the 1980s and shared the video footage of the Bungle Bungle massif with the world. It only took a couple of years after the release of this aerial footage for the government of Western Australia
to setup a National Park to protect and manage the area and less than 16 years later it became a World Heritage