After a much needed three days in Carnarvon, we headed up into the northern parts of WA. We were as far from our hometown of Melbourne as physically possible within Australia and it felt pretty unreal.
[blockquote cite=”” type=”center”]”We rejoin Dean and Rebecca on their epic 13-month lap around Australia as they head into northern WA”[/blockquote]
If you’re heading north toward the Kimberley, you can’t go past Karijini National Park, a place recommended to us by many, many people. The gorges are spectacular and handy for washing off the red dirt that clings to your skin in the Pilbara. The swimming in the waterholes in Karijini National Park is sensational. The only problem is that the Gorges are about a 20 minute walk from the campsites, so once you’ve walked back to camp you feel like having another swim!
From here, we headed through Port Hedland for a long, hot drive up to Broome. Temperatures in the north of Australia can hit the high 30s every day, and if you’re anything like us, stopping at every roadhouse for an icecream becomes essential. It is well worth spending a couple of days in Broome before heading on, like we did before heading up to Quondong Point.
Quondong Point is a pearler of a free camping spot, perched on red cliffs and overlooking the Indian Ocean. To get there, you’ll have to lower the tyres because the sandy tracks are extremely soft – we almost got bogged a couple of times. You will absolutely love camping here, particularly if you’re from the east side of the country like us. You’ll never tire of watching that absolutely awe-dropping scorched red sun drop below the Indian Ocean. It’s well worth spending a couple of days marvelling at the huge tides, trying to get used to the humidity and paddling in the water too.
Next we headed up to Middle Lagoon via the Cape Leveque Road, which is highly corrugated, sandy and decorated with burnt out vehicles in the middle of the road. To stop your truck falling to bits, it’s a smart idea to slow right down if the corrugations are shockers like they were for us. It’s a pretty rough drive, but totally worth it. Middle Lagoon is a small camping area, owned by a local Aboriginal family as are most of the Cape Leveque camping areas. Trying to keep the budget low, we try to look for free camping spots before paying for them. But if you’re in this part of the country and you want to pay for a campsite – make it this one. Middle Lagoon is phenominal. You can have a site overlooking the ocean and swim every day in the ocean and lagoon which, remarkably, are shark and croc free. At night, massive amounts of hermit crabs scuttle around and its fun watching them laboriously trying to change shells.
After a few days, we headed back down the Cape Leveque Road – this time knowing completely what to expect – and towards the Gibb River Road. We had been looking forward to this iconic challenge for so long and it did not disappoint. The first boab tree we saw in the Kimberley forced us to pull over to take a photo of the Patrol next to it. Our first stop was Windjana Gorge and Tunnel Creek.
Tunnel Creek is a cracker of a place – it’s got a bit of history behind it too – since this is where Jandamarra, who was pretty much the Aboriginal Ned Kelly, was shot down during the Frontier Wars. You have to walk through the thigh-high murky creek water to get to the end of the tunnel, and you’ll likely come across a few freshwater crocodiles as you walk through the water.
Because salties’ eyes glow red, we had always thought that freshies’ eyes glow red as well. It wasn’t until later that night when we had sat ourselves at Windjana Gorge at sunset to watch thousands of fruit bats flying out of the trees past the freshies waiting for dinner, that we realised freshies’ eyes glow gold – oops. That aside, watching the bats flying into the sunset was one of the most spectacular things we saw on the entire trip. Standing there, watching the in near silence, we wondered to ourselves ‘how the hell did we end up in remote WA looking this when six months ago, we were just living a regular work-a-day suburban life?’. You’ve gotta pinch ya’self sometimes.
After Windjana Gorge, if you’re looking for the perfect introduction to the beautiful gorges of the Gibb, head to Bell Gorge. Spend a day swimming here, especially if its 39 degrees like it was for us, before heading further along the Gibb. We also spent a few days camping at Barnett River Gorge. There is a small free camp spot there that’s gorgeous. Camping in the Kimberley truly is unforgettable, under a full moon with a roaring campfire and some decent tucker and its absolute bliss.
After a couple more stops at some amazing places, we found ourselves at the end of the Gibb River Road and feeling pretty proud of travelling this 660km piece of iconic 4WDing. It’s pretty obvious, but you can’t actually see all of Australia in 13 months. This isn’t a bad thing though as it just means we’ll just have to do another lap. Although the eventual return to work was incredibly hard, knowing that there is still so much of this country to see has given us the incentive to save and dream big for the second lap of Australia.
If you are heading east toward the NT, Kununurra is the best place to stop in for supplies and repairs. After we finished up in town, we then cruised down to Purnululu. If you have a camper trailer in tow, only single-axle off-road trailers are permitted here – but 4WD access is fine. Caravans can be left at the caravan park near the entrance to the park. The track in is 53km of tough driving with washout after washout and took us about two hours. The campground is divided into two sections – one area for generators and one for unpowered. If you head to Purnululu, book a spot for generators whether you have one or not because the campsites are bigger and spaced out more than the ‘quiet’ area ones. The trade-off being that you may hear someone else’s generator.
From here it is close to the Bungle Bungles. It’s one thing to see these iconic rock formations on TV or in a magazine, it’s a different thing entirely to actually see them in real life. The Bungles are huge and there’s so many of them. If you’re down this way, take a bit of time out to experience these fascinating rock formations. You will be in awe of their natural beauty. From there, we headed back up to Kununurra and then over the border into the Northern Territory ready for our next adventure!
THE TALLY SO FAR
Budget: $20, 683
Coldest night: 10, at a rest stop near Kununurra.
Warmest day: 39, at Windjana Gorge campsite and again in Silent Grove campsite.
This part of the trip travels through the Pilbara and Kimberley regions of northern WA.
While the major towns in this area offer all necessities, distances between towns are long and remote. Good preparation and planning is necessary for travelling through the northern parts of WA. While incredibly beautiful the area is dry and prone to fire so take care.
There are plenty of stations to camp at along the Gibb River Road. We opted to camp at Russ Creek and Barnett River Gorge, both free camps at the time of our travel. Camps like Silent Gorge, Windjana Gorge and Purnululu (Bungle Bungles) are run by WA Parks and Wildlife, and the first two offer flushing toilets and hot showers. All three attract fees and pre-booking is recommended for Purnululu during the peak season. Quondong Point, north of Broome, is a free camping spot overlooking the Indian Ocean and was one of our favourite places to camp of this area. Middle Lagoon, at Cape Leveque, is a paid camping area which offers all facilities and beautiful shark and croc free swimming beaches.
WHAT TO TAKE:
As always, be prepared. We always travel with at least a week’s worth of food and water, two spare jerries of diesel and enough spares to build a twin for the Patrol.
BEST TIME TO TRAVEL:
The dry season (approximately April, September) is the best time to travel through north Western Australia as the temperature is more comfortable and there’s less chance of roads being shut due to flooding.
FUEL & SUPPLIES:
We try to stock up on fuel and supplies wherever possible. Port Hedland, Broome and Kununurra offer everything required. Mt Barnett Roadhouse along the Gibb River Road has fuel and basic food supplies.
The Gibb River Road is notorious for puncturing tyres and bone-shaking corrugations. However, we found the off-camber and sandy Cape Leveque Road to be more challenging than the Gibb, but this was probably due to the last time both roads had been graded. It is wise to check the Gibb’s condition before leaving Broome or Kununurra. Access to Purnululu National Park, which is where the Bungle Bungles are, is accessed via 53km track, suitable only for 4WDs and single-axle off road trailers.
MAPS AND GUIDES:
We used HEMA’s The Kimberly guide and Camps Australia Wide 7.
TRIP TIME OF YEAR:
RESTRICTIONS AND PERMITS:
We didn’t need any permits for travelling through this area, however some roads and tracks leading off the Gibb do require permits. There are hefty fines for travelling on the Gibb when the road is closed.
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