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Travel Update: COVID-19

See the Kimberley by Foot

There’s no better way to get to know the real Kimberley than by foot. Here, Lee Atkinson explores some of the region’s most spectacular walks.

Covering an area of north-west Australia bigger than Germany, the Kimberley, one of the last places on the continent to be explored by Europeans, is vast, remote and wild. You can cruise along its otherwise inaccessible coast, bump your way across it by four-wheel drive, or even fly above it in a helicopter. One of the best ways to really experience its grandeur is on foot, because that’s where you’ll find all the wondrous places that leave you breathless.

The Bunuba and Jandamarra
A fascinating place to start is at the hideout of a man who was seen as a freedom fighter and hero by the Bunuba – the traditional custodians of the central Kimberley – and an Aboriginal outlaw by the Europeans. This was Jandamarra, a former police tracker who led one of the few organised armed insurrections against the colonisation of Australia, and became one of the most infamous men in the Kimberley in the 1890s.

Known as “Pigeon”, Jandamarra was believed by the Bunuba to be able to “fly like a bird and disappear like a ghost”. Whatever the case, he evaded capture for several years, until, in 1897, he was finally killed outside the 750-metre-long tunnel-like cave he used as a hideout. The site is now part of Tunnel Creek National Park, a 91-hectare reserve north-west of Fitzroy Crossing that comprises Western Australia’s oldest cave system. You can walk through the tunnel, which is home to ghost bats and fruit bats, as well as stalactites that hang from the roof. Be prepared for sections where water is knee deep; otherwise it’s an easy walk. Watching the reflections that dance across the walls of the always-cool cave is one of those magical moments that sear into your memory.

Bungle Bungle Range
A day’s drive to the east is one of the Kimberley’s most spectacular landforms, the Bungle Bungle Range, which sits within the World Heritage site, Purnululu National Park. This expanse is made up of striking orange- and black-striped sandstone domes and towers; some stand more than 300 metres tall with bands formed by oxidised iron and cyanobacteria. Within the park, Piccaninny Creek Lookout offers great views of the distinctive domes, while there are a number of good walks that lead deep inside the formation, including to Piccaninny Gorge. Having the chance to get up close to the oddly beautiful, swirly black and orange sandstone walls is an unforgettable experience.
Aerial view of Bungle Bungles, WA
View of passengers sitting in cave, Western Australia
Cathedral Gorge
Purnululu National Park also contains other mesmerising sights, such as the huge natural amphitheatre of Cathedral Gorge. It’s another easy walk and largely shaded, so it’s a great trail to do in the afternoon when you’re looking to escape the heat and the dust. The massive cavern is famous for its acoustics, but it’s equally as impressive when all is silent. 
Echidna Chasm
At the other end of the scale, Echidna Chasm is just two shoulder-widths wide. The gap at the end of this long, thin gorge is so narrow that it only lights up at midday, when the sun is directly overhead. The walk to the end and back takes about an hour, and is fairly easy, although there are a few boulders to scramble over. The contrast between the orange rock walls and the bright blue sky, framed by lines of spiky Livistona palms along the ridgeline 200 metres above, is dazzling
Passengers walking in the Echidna Chasm
Sun setting on the rocky escarpment and ranges of El Questro
Emma Gorge
There are dozens of waterholes and swimming spots in the Kimberley. One of the most stunning is Emma Gorge on El Questro, a former cattle station that is now a 405,000-hectare wilderness park at the start of the Gibb River Road near Kununurra. Here you’ll find a plunge pool encircled by towering 65-metre-high red rock walls, over which spill Emma Falls. It’s a 30-minute walk to get there, but it’s well worth the effort: you’ll find the perfect spot for a float and a soak. The track starts at Emma Gorge Resort and, if you go early in the morning, it’s quite likely you’ll have the place to yourself.
Mitchell Falls
One of the Kimberley’s other iconic water spots is the four-tiered Mitchell Falls on the remote Mitchell Plateau. Seeing them from the air on a scenic helicopter flight is a highlight of any trip along the Gibb River Road, but getting there on foot is even more memorable. This is one of those times where the journey is just as rewarding as the destination, with rock art galleries and several good swimming spots – such as the lovely Little Mertens Falls – along the way. Here, you can float on your back in the waterhole and soak in unrestricted views of nature in all its wild green glory.
Admire the Mitchell Falls on a Kimberley Wilderness Adventure

Need to Know

You’ll have the opportunity to walk these spots on our 15 Day Kimberley Complete tour.

Start – in Broome, gateway to the Kimberley, where you’ll stay at the Cable Beach Club Resort and Spa for a day at leisure. Your 4WD adventure begins the next day, travelling along the Gibb River Road, between Broome and Kununurra.

 

See – Windjana Gorge, walk Tunnel Creek and end the day at Fitzroy Crossing. Next day, explore Geikie Gorge en route to APT’s Bungle Bungle Wilderness Lodge, where you’ll stay for two nights. Purnululu National Park is yours to explore on Day 4, including Piccaninny Creek and Cathedral Gorge. Watch the sun set over the Bungle Bungle Range. Over the next three days, hike Echidna Chasm, take a wildlife-spotting cruise on the Ord River and relish in the divine El Questro.

 

Swim – at Emma Gorge and soak in Zebedee Springs before returning to Gibb River Road on your way to Mitchell Plateau. On Day 10, take a helicopter flight over Mitchell Falls, see Gwion Gwion and Wandjina rock art before arriving at Drysdale Station. Manning Gorge, Bell Gorge and the King Leopold Ranges (now known as Wunaamin Miliwundi Ranges) are all on the itinerary before you head back to Broome.