Derby is located 220km north east of Broome in the West Kimberley and is the gateway to both the western section of the Gibb River Road and the Horizontal Falls of the Buccaneer Archipelago islands.
The town itself features plenty of iconic Kimberley Boab Trees, including an impressive line down the centre of the main street and a leaning boab in the town’s central park.
A popular sunset viewing boab is the “Dinner Tree” located at the southern end of Rowan Street at One Mile Camp (note camping is prohibited).
The Derby wharf on Jetty Road is the perfect place to watch the sun go down over King Sound. This is also a popular fishing spot for locals and tourists alike, the best time to hook up being on incoming tide using at least 100 pound line. Derby has huge tidal activity of up to 12 metres and it’s amazing how quickly it comes in and floods the mangroves on the mud flats. If you’re unsuccessful in the fishing department there is a great café serving value for money Barramundi located at the jetty.
The local waterways are not only good for fishing, but also mud crabbing. Try your luck with nets off the jetty or launch your boat at the wharf and crab the creeks. Ensure you seek local knowledge if inexperienced in the area as you require advice regarding tidal activity, particularly if launching a boat.
Another great fishing area, especially for Barramundi, is the Fitzroy River south of Derby. Turn right onto the gravel road 75km from Derby (heading south) then take another right after the second gate. Langi’s Crossing is about 10km in and Telegraph Pool, Snag Pool and Pelican Pool lead to the mouth of the river. Barramundi are frequently caught here and small boats only can be launched from the bank. Camping by the river is permitted.
Derby has a strong presence of Aboriginal art and culture
. There are a few galleries in the town showcasing local artwork as well as pieces on display for sale at the visitor’s centre. Mowanjun Arts
is located 3km along the Gibb River Road and is open Monday to Friday. There are many impressive paintings, boab nut carvings and other aboriginal artwork available for purchase as a souvenir and memento of your Kimberley experience.
The Pioneer and Aboriginal Cemetery on Knowsley Street East dates back to the 1800’s. There are some 73 head stones but over 500 recorded burials at the site. A notable grave is that of William Richardson, the policeman killed at Lillmaloora Station by the infamous aboriginal tracker Jundamarra (“Pidgeon”).
About 7 km from Derby on the Broome Highway (Great Northern Hwy) is the enormous Boab Prison Tree. This impressive Kimberley icon is estimated to be about 1500 years old with a 14.7m girth. The hollow trunk with a door-like opening was previously used as an overnight cell for prisoners being taken to Derby for sentencing. This particular boab is of great historical significance to the local Aboriginal people.
The Gibb River Road western entrance is 5km south of town off the Broome Highway. If you’re not keen or fully equipped to travel the entire outback track, then take a day to explore Windjana Gorge and Tunnel Creek which are easily accessible. This section of alternating bitumen and unsealed road is generally in good condition and depending on the time of year you may just find a bit of corrugation. Four-wheel driving is not required to reach these points of interest.
Windjana Gorge is 141km from the western entrance and is an impressive sight inside and out of the gorge. The short leisurely walk into the gorge is spectacular, the walls reaching up to 100 metres high in some sections. Many freshwater crocodiles inhabit the area but they stay close to the water being their comfort zone. The “freshies” are quite harmless to humans and obviously used to tourists but be wary all the same. Longer walks of 6km and 7km are available to those wanting to explore the Lillimilura Homestead ruins and full length of Windjana Gorge. Camp ground and toilets are located at the gorge.
Tunnel Creek is 30km from Windjana Gorge. The creek runs under the Napier Range through a 750m long limestone tunnel. Take a torch as it is pitch black most of the way apart from a section caved in the middle. Be prepared to walk on rocky surfaces and through cold pools of water so wear appropriate footwear and shorts. The depth of the creek will depend on the time of year you visit. We have visited during June and August and both times the water level was below our knees, and we mostly walked out of the water. Toilets are located here.
Windjana Gorge and Tunnel Creek are highly recommended visiting. If you’re not ready for the Gibb River Road yet, you might be after you get a taste for it at these spectacular places.
Horizontal Falls is a truly unique feature in the Kimberley region and as the name suggests the water passes horizontally. Located north of Derby within Talbot Bay are two ridges of the McLarty Ranges which run parallel, the two narrowest gaps between them being 10 and 20 metres apart. The aptly named waterfalls are caused by tidal movements banking up and trying to pass through the narrow gorges, resulting in up to 4 metre waterfalls and a spectacular sight at that. The falls are accessible by light aircraft and boat cruise only.
Derby is central to all that the West Kimberley has to offer. It was the first town settled in the Kimberley and has the highest tidal activity in the Southern Hemisphere. Check it out for yourself!
Click here for climate statistics for Australian locations (provided by the Bureau of Meteorology)
Destinations in Western Australia
Cape Le Grand
Cape Range National Park
Eighty Mile Beach
Fitzgerald River National Park
Gibb River Road
Kalbarri National Park
Kennedy Range National Park
Porongurup National Park
Port Denison Dongara
Torndirrup National Park
Wellington National Park
William Bay National Park
Return from Derby to Western Australia