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The Kimberley's Mitchell Plateau

There’s no shortage of spectacular photo subjects on the Kimberley’s Mitchell Plateau, writes Lee Atkinson.

A journey up to the Mitchell Plateau is a highlight of any Kimberley holiday. Located on the far north-west coast of Western Australia, some 550 kilometres north-west of Kununurra, just getting there is an adventure: a red-dirt trip along the Kalumburu Road through some of the most remote – and beautiful – landscapes in the country. Before you hit the plateau, drop into Drysdale River Station, where you can stay, find general services and enjoy an excellent burger at the bar. Nearby is Miners Pool, a lovely swimming hole and a great place to cool off before heading further north.

After crossing the Drysdale River, you’re on the Mitchell Plateau – and it’s hard to take a bad photo of this stunning place. The hero shot is, of course, the mighty Mitchell Falls. These multi-tiered falls tumble from the top of the plateau in four stages, each bigger and more impressive than the one above. The best way to capture all four cascades and the emerald plunge pools beneath them is on a helicopter flight on our 15 Day Kimberley Complete tour. Most pilots will circle around to make sure everyone gets a good view and can frame the perfect shot.

View of Helicopter over Mitchell Falls, Kimberley

No trip to the Kimberley is complete without a dip and there are several great spots on the plateau. Saltwater crocodiles inhabit the area, so the pools below Mitchell Falls falls are off limits, but you can swim at Little Mertens Falls. The rock formations create their own small “spa” pools, where you’ll want to soak for a little while, or climb down to the cave behind the falls for a different viewpoint. At the right time of day, the rock walls produce lovely reflections. 

View of Little Merterns Falls, Mitchell Plateau, Kimberley

The Mitchell Plateau is an area of great significance to the Wunambal people, and many of the rocky overhangs are covered in vibrant paintings of Wandjina (wide-eyed, lightening-crowned spirits) and Bradshaw (Gwion Gwion) figures. Some sites are culturally sensitive though, so always check with your guide first if it’s OK to take photos before you press the shutter-release button. 

Appreciate the history of the Kimberley region through Aboriginal rock art

The Kimberley is an epic landscape, but it’s nice to focus on small details as well as the big picture, and the wildlife is certainly worth capturing. The Mitchell Plateau is home to some 50 species of mammals and 220 bird species, along with dozens of reptiles and amphibians (including saltwater crocodiles). 

Saltwater Crocodile in water
Also keep an eye out for pretty wildflowers, such as pink bachelor’s buttons, purple mulla mulla and the cerise blooms of the sticky kurrajong tree. The endemic fan-shaped Livistona palms make great photographic subjects and who can resist capturing the silhouette of a bulbous boab at sunset? It’s a Kimberley icon, guaranteed to bring the memories flooding back every time you revisit your photo album. 
Outline of boab tree at sunset, Australia
To capture the beauty of Mitchell Falls, you might choose to embark on a helicopter flight (at own expense) and view the natural spectacle from above on one of APT's Kimberley Coast Small Ship Expedition Cruises.