The Kimberley region of Western Australia is one of the most fantasized about but least visited tourist areas in Australia. Ask any Australian where they’ve been and they’ll mention the Blue Mountains and other easily accessible national parks. Ask them where they would like to visit and they’ll inevitably say, “One day I’d like to see the Kimberley.” With eight national parks to choose from in an area of 164,000 square miles, there’s plenty to choose from. The reason why so many want to visit the Kimberley but so few do is because it is perceived as “the back of beyond.” However, once you look into it, you realize that thanks to modern transportation and professional outback tour services, visiting the national parks of the Kimberley, while still an adventure, is “doable.” In fact, some of them are very easily accessible. These are five of the most well-known:
Purnululu National Park
Most Australians know Purnululu by its older name, Bungle Bungle National Park. The Bungle Bungle range was discovered by a film crew in 1983 and by 1987, it was turned into a National Park. They were looking for an unusual setting and they certainly found it. Access is by 4WD on a rugged road, so for all but experienced outback travelers, going with a group is advised. Once there, you’ll find nothing in the way of accommodations. You’ll be camping out in the bush without so much as toilet facilities. What you will find is incomparable scenery and rugged walking tracks that will make you feel like an aboriginal tracker.
Geiki Gorge National Park
Geikie Gorge is quite a bit more accessible than Purnululu. Just 12 miles outside Fitzroy Crossing, a small town on Route 1, the north-south main road through Western Australia. Although accessible, Geikie Gorge is never crawling with tourists and is always astounding. Over the ages, the great Fitzroy River has carved this deep gorge out of the limestone that was deposited here when this region, now some 200 miles from the coast, was a vast barrier reef. Comfortable picnic areas and boat tours are available.
Windjana Gorge National Park
Windjana Gorge National Park is another easily accessible Kimberley national park. Like Geikie Gorge, during the Devonian age (300 million years ago, give or take) it was under water and was carved out of the limestone deposits by a river; in this case the Lennard River. During the dry season, the river almost dries up, but pockets of water remain. The 2 mile walking track along the banks of the river is wonderful, but its biggest claim to fame may be that it is one of the best places in Australia to see freshwater crocodiles in the natural habitat.
Tunnel Creek National Park
If you visit Windjana Gorge, you may as well also visit Tunnel Creek National Park, since it’s only a couple of miles away. As the name implies, Tunnel Creek National Park includes a creek and a tunnel. The natural limestone tunnel is not just any tunnel, though. Nearly 2500 feet in length, it is a fascinating excursion. There are no camping facilities at Windjana Gorge, but if you get up early, you can explore it in a day and be back to Fitzroy Crossing or Derby in time for dinner. The journey is a little rough, though, and expect to be on the road for 2 to 3 hours each way.
Mitchell River National Park
If you don’t mind or thrive on roughing it, then head for Mitchell River National Park. It’s a hard day’s drive from anywhere and once you get there, you’re in the middle of nowhere, but it’s a nowhere of spectacular beauty and magic. Don’t let its remoteness put you off. Thousands before you have visited the park and all of them have photographed the amazing Mitchell Falls. As proud of their photos as they are, though, everyone agrees that their pictures don’t do justice to the falls or the park. Mitchell River National Park simply has to be experienced to be appreciated.
When exploring Western Australia Perth is a good starting point, from there you can travel up north to the Kimberley region or down south to the Margaret River region. There is a good range of accommodation options from luxury hotels to a welcoming bed and breakfast in Perth. Plan to spend a few days in Perth before exploring the rest of Western Australia.