The region of Kimberley, Australia showcases a splendid array of wild, untamed natural beauty that feels far removed from the busy capital cities (see: Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane). Located in far northwestern Australia, the Kimberley was one of the first areas on the continent to be settled by its indigenous inhabitants.
Habitation of native peoples here dates back over 40,000 years, and numerous aboriginal groups and languages still exist in the region to this day. In fact, roughly 70% of the Kimberley Region is considered native title land, which was a huge success story for Australia’s original landowners.
The Kimberley is a land of contrasts, offering visitors beautiful beaches and offshore islands as well as gorges, waterfalls, rivers, caves, and abundant wildlife. It’s a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of the outside world, as it remains one of the most sparsely populated regions on Earth.
Here’s our detailed look at the very best tourist attractions that Kimberley, Australia has to offer:
Broome makes either a great start to your journey or a perfect ending to your Kimberley visit. This is the Kimberley’s largest town, and is considered the gateway to exploring the region.
Broome is home to the world-famous Cable Beach, where you can enjoy camel rides along the sand or simply relax in the warm, gentle waves. The west-facing beach makes for perfect sunset viewing.
You can also visit Willie Creek Pearls to learn about pearl farming, or enjoy the many alfresco local restaurants that offer up local cuisine such as barramundi and mango beer. Wildlife enthusiasts may want to check out Roebuck Bay, where tours can be booked with the Broome Bird Observatory to view its rich shorebird populations.
Mitchell Falls lies within Mitchell River National Park, providing visitors with a chance to see one of Australia’s most scenic and impressive waterfalls. The National Park also offers an abundance of wildlife, including crocodiles, monitor lizards, and snakes such as the taipan.
The park makes up a portion of the Prince Regent and Mitchell River Important Bird Area, where over 200 different species have been recorded. You can also explore the area’s Aboriginal heritage sites and rock art, as well as Aunauyu, or the Surveyor’s Pool.
Bungle Bungle Range
Within the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Purnululu National Park, you’ll find the unique, beehive-shaped sandstone towers that have become a must-see attraction for any Western Australian holiday.
The 925-square mile park is vast and extremely remote. For this reason, the Bungle Bungle Range long remained unknown to the outside world. Only the local Karjaganujaru Aboriginal people knew of the area’s magic and beauty.
Although the range can be accessed via a ground-based journey, getting there isn’t easy. It’s far more practical to experience the Bungle Bungle Range via a scenic flight, getting a bird’s eye view.
Made up of four islands off the northwest coast of the Kimberley region, the Lacepedes are rich with endemic wildlife.
As in the Galápagos Islands, visitors can witness several species of boobies along with frigatebirds and other seabirds. BirdLife International lists the islands as an Important Bird Area for its nearly 20,000 breeding pairs of brown boobies.
The islands are also a favorite breeding ground for green sea turtles, and rare whale species like the dwarf fin whale have also been spotted in the area’s waters. The large numbers of nesting seabirds once made guano mining quite popular on the islands.
King George Falls
The King George River offers not one, but two, twin waterfalls, which rank as Western Australia’s largest. The falls’ remote location makes it inaccessible to ground vehicles, but a scenic flight or relaxing cruise will get you up close and personal with this beautiful natural wonder.
While there, you’ll also have a chance to gaze at ancient sandstone cliffs, and do keep an eye out for wildlife as you cruise the river. (Few visitors have ever experienced these magnificent falls for themselves; most have only seen them in the 2008 film Australia, starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman.)
Located in Talbot Bay (just a short distance from Broome), you’ll find the awe-inspiring Horizontal Falls. Unlike traditional vertical cascading waterfalls, these gush sideways due to intense tidal currents passing through narrow gorges along the coast.
The tidal variation here is almost unbelievable: It can rise more than 32 feet between the low and high tide times, which are just seven hours apart.
It’s equally astonishing that skilled boat drivers can navigate these turbulent waters, making this a great way to experience your Horizontal Falls adventure. An aerial view of this impressive area can also be experienced via a scenic flight tour.
El Questro Wilderness Park
El Questro Wilderness Park encompasses some 700,000 acres, offering an abundance of outdoor recreation options. To minimize negative impact on this beautiful, yet fragile environment, visitation to its wilderness areas is closely regulated.
Visitors have a chance to explore the real Australian outback via horseback rides, hikes, four-wheel drive, helicopter, or plane rides. The park is a hiker’s dream, especially the popular Emma Gorge Trail—with its towering cliffs and refreshing waterhole—the El Questro Gorge Trail, and the Amalia Gorge Trail. If you’re not up for a hike, simply relax in Zebedee Thermal Springs.
You can also opt to explore the rich wildlife of the Pentecost River via a short walk from the station. A park ranger at the visitor center can give you a map of all the local hikes and discuss other available activities.
This extraordinary archipelago is made up of around 800-1,000 rocky islands, many of them filled with rich and diverse wildlife.
You’ll find a wide range of reptiles (including snakes, monitor lizards, and crocodiles) as well as numerous birds and mammals. The waters surrounding the islands are also great for snorkeling and scuba diving: They’re home to sharks, sea snakes, and an array of other marine life.
The islands are made up of rocks dating back some 2 billion years. They’re rather remote and difficult to access, which explains their relatively unspoiled state. In recent years, Zodiac-style boat tours have become a popular way to explore these beautiful islands, and the area has also become a highly rated fishing destination.
Gibb River Road
Driving the Gibb River Road allows adventurous visitors to explore the heart of the Kimberley, as the 440-mile route cuts right through the middle of the region.
The road follows the former cattle route, linking the town of Derby on the West Coast with the towns of Kununurra and Wyndham in the east.
This is one of Australia’s iconic four-wheel-drive routes, taking in many of the most iconic Kimberley landmarks. Along the way, you’ll have an opportunity to visit Windjana Gorge National Park, where you stand a good chance of seeing freshwater crocodiles in the wild.
Jar Island was named for its pot shards, which were originally brought to the island by the Macassan peoples of Indonesia. Nearby Woku-Woku Island houses the remnants of ancient sea cucumber stoves, which cooked the cucumbers (or trepan) that were collected by the Macassan.
Jar Island also offers many prime examples of Gwion Gwion, or Bradshaw-style, Aboriginal rock art. The well-preserved, highly detailed artwork is thought to be around 15,000 to 20,000 years old. The area is also home to several World War II airplane wrecks that history buffs can visit.
Megan Jerrard is an Australian Journalist and the founder and Senior Editor of Mapping Megan, an award-winning travel blog bringing you the latest in adventure travel from all over the globe.
Most images provided by Brent Stephenson, from our 2017 Australia's Kimberley: Voyage to the Outback expedition.