Gibb River Road
If you thrive on adventure and challenge then this outback track is for you. The Gibb River Road is some 660km of unsealed road between the towns of Derby and Wyndham/Kununurra in the Kimberley region. Recommended for high clearance four-wheel drives only, the road is quite rocky and corrugated in some sections and better in others, depending on the time of year and how recently the grader has been through. Be sure to carry spare tyres and parts and sufficient fuel and water. There are a few roadhouses and stations along the track which will be discussed later. No takeaway alcohol is available at all, so if you like to enjoy a cold one at the end of the day purchase supplies at one of the major towns before beginning the Gibb River Road. Note that alcohol is not available at Fitzroy Crossing or Halls Creek anymore due to government restrictions.
The outback scenery along the Gibb River Road consists of many ranges, gorges, waterfalls, rock formations and rivers, a very memorable sightseeing experience.
From the Derby entrance to the Gibb River Road, in the West Kimberley, the first point of interest is Windjana Gorge which is 141km drive and easily accessible. Part of the Napier Range, the gorge was formed by the Lennard River eroding the once coral reef over millions of years. The drive towards the gorge is very impressive. The huge charcoal grey, orange/yellow rock face stretches across the countryside and its unique appearance is remarkable. The leisurely walk into the gorge is spectacular, the walls reaching up to 100 metres high in some sections. The pools are home to many freshwater crocodiles which you’ll most certainly see gathered on the banks sunning themselves or floating in the water. They are quite harmless to humans and obviously used to tourists but be wary all the same. If you’re keen to venture further into the gorge and do some serious walking then the ruins of Lillimilura Homestead and police station is 6km return and moderate, allow 2.5 hours. The length of the gorge walk along the Lennard River is 7km return and moderate, allow 3 hours. The scenery along these walks is breathtaking from start to finish. Aboriginal art is present on the Lennard River Walk but difficult to find and the Ranger isn’t even permitted to direct you to it. We managed to find a few small pieces under overhanging rocks but not the main gallery which is obviously well hidden. Camping is permitted in the designated area at the gorge and toilets and untreated water are provided for your convenience.
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. The walk is about 1km to the opening at the other end of the tunnel, however doesn’t lead back to the car park so you need to return via the tunnel. Toilets are located here.
Note the Windjana–Tunnel Creek Road links the Gibb River Road to Great Northern Highway some 42km west of Fitzroy Crossing. The drive is quite scenic with many boab trees and sweeping views of the countryside and the ranges.
Bell Gorge is the next spectacular sight 95km further along the Gibb River Road and 29km in. The gorge is in King Leopold Range National Park and is definitely worth a visit. An easy 1km walk from the car park takes you to the top of the picturesque falls and a further 10 minute moderate descent will see you at the bottom of the falls. There is a large refreshing pool to swim in and a breathtaking view of the cascading waterfalls. A campground is located nearby at Silent Grove with toilets, showers and barbeques.
Only 9km from the Bell Gorge turnoff is Imintji Store. Here you can purchase basic grocery items, take away food, ice and diesel fuel only. There is also a mechanical workshop located right next door. The next service is Mount Barnett Roadhouse which is a further 76km along the Gibb River Road.
Charnley River Station turnoff is 32km from Imintji, and a 43km drive in to the homestead. This working cattle station offers station stay accommodation and camping (dogs permitted), hot showers, homestead meals, swimming holes and gorges to explore at your own leisure. Allow a couple of nights if you want to visit the gorges and have time to relax as well. We found the staff very friendly and welcoming, a great outback experience.
Adcock Gorge turnoff is 63km from Charnley Station (including station access road) and the drive in takes about 20 minutes. The walk into the gorge is short and easy with a few rocky parts. The end of the gorge is a deep green swimming hole and a waterfall cascading down the granite cliffs. No facilities or camping at this gorge.
Galvan’s Gorge is 22km from the Adcock Gorge turnoff back on the Gibb River Road. The walk into this gorge is 1km on flat ground and very easy. The gorge is absolutely gorgeous with a waterfall cascading down steep cliffs from the top, where an impressive boab tree sits, into a deep green pool below surrounded by lush greenery. There is even a rope swing on the far right for the water enthusiasts. No facilities or camping at this gorge.
Mt Barnett Roadhouse and the entry to Manning Gorge is 16km further down the Gibb River Road. Both diesel and unleaded fuel are available, as well as tyre repairs, basic groceries, hot food, telephone and souvenirs. Permits to visit and camp at Manning Gorge are purchased at the roadhouse and the access road is about 7km. Manning Creek, the main swimming area with white sandy banks is right by the campground. You must cross the creek to reach the upper gorge walk on the other side. A bit of swimming is involved and foam floating boxes are provided to place your possessions in to avoid getting them all wet. The walk to Manning Falls and Upper Manning Gorge is about 2km and quite a rocky descent at the end. Wear appropriate footwear and be careful. We walked for about 1 hour at a steady pace to reach the falls, with white paint markers guiding the way. Manning falls and the huge swimming hole are very impressive, you could easily spend a couple of hours there relaxing if you have the time. Be sure to leave at least an hour and a half before dark to ensure you make it back to camp during the light of day. Or you could cut off some walking time and float back to the camp ground on a rubber tube, what a way to see the gorge. The camp ground is dog friendly and has toilets, showers and fireplaces, however you’ll need to obtain your own firewood.
Barnett River Gorge is about 30km from the Mt Barnett Roadhouse. The four-wheel drive access track to the gorge is about 5km and quite rough towards the end. If you’d rather stop at the first car park 4km in there are some rock pools close by. Otherwise continue 1 km on the narrow track heading to the right and park near the big boab tree, walk a couple hundred metres to the top of the gorge or follow the markers to the left to some deeper pools to cool off. There are no facilities at this gorge.
The turnoff to Mount Elizabeth Station is about 10km further along the Gibb River Road and the access road is 29km. The campground is grassy, shady and very peaceful with peacocks and bush turkeys prancing about. Facilities include hot showers, toilets, bbqs , fireplaces and dogs are permitted. No ice or fuel is sold here, however they do sell some impressive local art. There is a spectacular gorge on the station, 10km four-wheel driving taking about 45 minutes, and well worth the drive. Wunnumurra Gorge has some beautiful falls, a large sandy swimming hole and well preserved aboriginal rock art if you venture further into the gorge.
Continuing west along the Gibb River Road for 71km you’ll reach the intersection of Kalumburu Road, where you’ll find picnic tables, shade and a rubbish disposal point for your convenience. This junction is the gateway to the Mitchell Plateau (featuring the famous Mitchell Falls) and the aboriginal community of Kalumburu (a fisherman’s oasis). The road is quite rough in some areas and its general condition will depend on when it was graded last, how much traffic has been through and the rainfall levels during the wet season. Creek crossings can be deep and it’s a good idea to walk them first (fresh water only) if you’re unsure what obstacles lie underwater. Let's venture off the Gibb River Road.
If you are making the journey up Kalumburu Road you are in for a treat as both the scenery and the fishing are spectacular. The next service and last fuel stop before Kalumburu is 59km away at Drysdale River Station. The station offers diesel and unleaded fuel, basic groceries, licensed bar (no takeaway alcohol), restaurant, ice, phone, tour bookings, limited mechanical repairs, camp ground (dogs permitted) with toilets, showers and laundry facilities, and cabin style accommodation. Vans and trailers can also be left at the station if you’d rather not tow them further north.
Miners Pool is a swimming and camping area only 5km from the station, camping fees are to be settled at Drysdale. There is plenty of room to spread out and enjoy the surroundings and take a dip in the pool at your leisure. There are toilets at the camp ground.
The turnoff to Mitchell Falls is about 100 km further up Kalumburu Road from Miners Pool. About 15 minutes down the track you’ll reach the King Edward River which is a popular camping area. You’ll have to cross the river in your vehicle and walking the crossing beforehand is a must. When we tackled it there was a large boulder on the right hand side capable of doing damage under your vehicle, but note that conditions may change between seasons due to wet season flooding. There are two campgrounds on the other side of the river and the second one, known as Camp 1, has better swimming areas and a lovely waterfall (walk across the rocks to the left). Camp 2 is a nice and peaceful spot on the river with plenty of shade. Toilets are located at both camp grounds.
If you choose to camp at the King Edward River you’ll have a 71km (1.5 – 2 hour) drive ahead of you to reach Mitchell Falls
camp ground where the walk begins and the flights depart from. As you drive up onto the plateau the surrounding bush is full of Livistonia Palms which makes a very scenic trip. The campground at the falls is a closer option and is quite large with toilets located there for your convenience. The walk in to Mitchell Falls is 3.3km one way and moderately difficult. Be sure to get a map at the Mitchell Falls car park before proceeding, even though the trail has plenty of markers. When you reach water you’ll need to cross Mertens Creek. Continue alongside the creek until you come to the top of Little Mertens Falls. You can cross the top of the falls carefully and swim in the pools on the left, or continue on the right side of the creek and take a trail branching to the left which takes you under the falls. Here you’ll discover some ancient Aboriginal Gwion (Bradshaw) rock art which is absolutely amazing. Further through the cave you will stand right under Little Mertens Falls, green ferns everywhere and water falling in front of you. After you’ve taken in the beauty here, head back the way you came and continue along the original track through the woodlands. The next breathtaking sight is Mertens Gorge, you have to cross the top of the (Big Mertens) falls to make your way to Mitchell Falls. The walk gets rocky along here so take it easy. Continue around the bend and you’ll hear Mitchell Falls. You have to cross the Mitchell River, so take it slowly and be very careful as the current might be strong and it is also slippery. We packed a spare pair of socks and crossed in those, much easier than bare feet or wetting your shoes. Keep on walking and you’ll finally see the helipad, walk on further ahead and follow the path between the rocks to the best viewing spot of the stunning Mitchell Falls. Now take in one of the most impressive sights of the Kimberley
If you intend to do a flight at Mitchell Falls we suggest using the phone at Drysdale Station and calling Slingair Heliwork in advance on 9161 4512 to arrange a suitable time. If tour groups have pre-booked you might miss out or be waiting around for your turn. You can walk one way and fly the other. We took a helicopter flight to the top of the falls and walked out, and our friends did the opposite. Either way the scenery is spectacular.
After a memorable experience at Mitchell Falls the King Edward River has to be crossed again as well as numerous other crossings during the 100km journey to Kalumburu. This is a dry community and no alcohol is allowed (hand in to police station and collect when departing). A permit and local map needs to be obtained at the Kalumburu Aboriginal Corporation, located next to the Uraro Store in town. The store sells a good selection of groceries, takeaway food, fishing and camping gear, and ice. Note that all business operation hours in town vary and most are closed for lunch. The service station stocks all types of fuel and motor oils, however is closed on weekends so plan ahead.
There are two places to camp on the coast, McGowan Island and Honeymoon Bay.
McGowan Island turnoff is 15km from town and a few km into the camp. The facilities are basic with a couple of unisex showers and toilets and a washing machine at the caretaker house. The ideal place to camp is by the beach amongst the pandanus trees with a stunning ocean view.
Honeymoon Bay is about 25km from Kalumburu and offers camping on the beach and also up on the hill near the unisex toilets and showers. There is an old beach shack and shelter which are available to campers on a basis of first come first served. We camped under the beach shelter and thoroughly enjoyed being so close to the ocean, the views are magnificent. The seafood is also magnificent! We managed to catch plenty of fish and mud crab and also pried Blacklip Oysters off the rocks for a seafood feast.
The fishing is fabulous here. We caught Fingermark Bream, Giant Trevally, Saddletail Perch, Black Jew Fish, Estuarine Cod, Javelin Fish, Red Emperor and Shark. Laws state you can catch and eat as many fish/oysters you can consume whilst in the reserve, however you are not allowed to take any when you leave. This is to maintain fish/oyster stocks to meet the needs of the community. By all means if you catch a few extra share them with the locals.
After experiencing Kalumburu and the Mitchell Plateau you have a 265km drive back to the Gibb River Road where the adventure continues.
Gibb River Road continued
Back on the Gibb River Road continuing 180km east is Home Valley Station, a delightful place to stop and enjoy the creature comforts and relaxing atmosphere. The station offers homestead and bungalow style accommodation as well as powered grassy camp sites (dogs permitted) close to the pool, restaurant and licensed bar. Local entertainers often perform in the Dusty Bar on weekends and the food is fantastic.
Bush camping is also available by the Pentecost River with breathtaking views of the Cockburn Ranges, undoubtedly some of the Gibb River Road's best views. The bush camp is only 4km from the homestead. This is where we always stay as the scenery is magnificent and it is the perfect spot for the keen fishermen. The boys spend the whole time on the mud flats by the river chasing Barramundi. They use live Mullet (caught with a throw net off the bank) for bait and are downright persistent which eventually pays off. Barramundi are absolutely delicious and the fishermen’s efforts are entirely worth it, not to mention the satisfaction of hauling these elusive fish in. Other fish we’ve caught here include Threadfin Salmon, Bull Nose Shark and Silver Cobbler (Catfish). Excellent toilet and shower facilities are provided at the bush camp. Note hot showers are located on the far side of the ablution block. The front row is cold only!
The Pentecost River is one of the best locations along the Gibb River Road for Barramundi fishing. Saltwater Crocodiles do inhabit these waters so always be cautious of these creatures and keep your wits about you when fishing the Pentecost River.
Not far down the road from Home Valley Station is the Pentecost River crossing, the most famous river crossing in the Kimberley and one of the highlights of the Gibb River Road. The scenery speaks for itself. The river bed is rocky and the water depth will depend on the time of travel. It’s a relatively easy crossing, but tackle it carefully regardless.
El Questro Wilderness Park turnoff is about 30km further. The park boasts stunning gorges, hot springs, scenic lookouts, breathtaking sunsets and adventurous four-wheel drive tracks. El Questro station provides accommodation, powered camp sites, restaurant, bar, swimming hole and excellent ablution facilities. A park permit is required to access the attractions and costs around $17 per person. All park attractions are within close proximity (20km) to the station township except Emma Gorge, which is located on the northern side of The Gibb River Road 27km from the township. El Questro and its stunning scenery make an enjoyable outback wilderness getaway with all the creature comforts available. Highly recommended hotspots in the park are El Questro Gorge, Zebedee Springs, Emma Gorge and Amalia Gorge.
The end of the Gibb River Road is near. Just 33km from the El Questro turn off is the Great Northern Highway. You can either drive the last few km of the Gibb River Road or backtrack about 24km west and take the King River Road (alternative four-wheel drive track
) which meets up with the Great Northern Highway just outside of Wyndham
The King River Road is about 80km of relatively slow and bumpy driving and an adventure in itself. Along the track is real outback scenery including the Boab Prison Tree which is an impressive sight. This magnificent boab tree is hollow in the centre and has an impressive girth. The tree is located about 60km along the track and the last point of interest on the Gibb River Road adventure.
This famous outback track of the Kimberley Region is an incredible journey
that will find you in awe of the spectacular natural wonders along the way. If you love four-wheel driving and the outback then the Gibb River Road is definitely for you.
Gibb River Road Accommodation
Gibb River Road
- Windjana Gorge
- Bell Gorge
- Manning Gorge
- Barnett River
- Miners Pool
- King Edward River
- Mitchell Falls
- McGowan’s Island
- Honeymoon Bay
Mt Hart Wilderness Lodge
Ph: (08) 9191 4645 Fax: (08) 9191 7836
Charnley River Station
Ph: (08) 91914646 Fax: (08) 9191 7878
Mt Barnett Station
Ph/Fax: (08) 9191 7007
Mornington Wildlife Sanctuary
Ph: (08) 9191 7406
Mt Elizabeth Station
Ph/Fax: (08) 9191 4644
Drysdale River Station
Ph: (08) 9161 4326 Fax: (08) 9161 4084
Ph: (08) 9161 4333 Fax: (08) 9161 4349
Home Valley Station
Ph: (08) 9161 4322 Fax: (08) 9161 4288
El Questro Wilderness Park
Ph: (08) 9169 1777 Fax: (08) 9169 1383
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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 Gibb River Road to Western Australia