Travelling the Gibb River Road
A true Kimberley 4wd off road adventure from Broome to Kununurra or Kununurra to Broome.
This iconic 660 km pindan dirt track that leads you right through the heart of the rugged Kimberley is the iconic The Gibb River Road. The corrugated pindan track leads you through the remote and sometimes desolate Kimberley landscape. Rain, wind, heat and traffic all have a detrimental effect on the graded dirt road, it can be treacherous for the foolish however with common sense, proper care, preparation and provisions, “The Gibb” is one of the last really serious off road adventures that remain in the world. The majority of the Kimberleys majestic gorges are scattered along the full length of the Gibb River Road.
“The Gibb’ takes you from the dual lane bitumen of the Great Northern Highway on Australia’s North West coast between Broome and Derby and weaves overland to Kununurra and Wyndham, 600 plus kilometers to the East. If you are entering from Kununurra you may need to read this backwards!
The Gibb River Road leads you through a land of sweeping plains and rugged ranges. It’s the very land our national anthem sings off. The Kimberley rock formations & ranges change colour right before your eyes as the sun slowly shifts on its journey west. Along its entire length, deep creviced gorges provide picture postcard vistas as seasonal rains cascade down waterfalls to the cool crystal clear rock pools that settle below.
The Kimberley is full of spectacular & picturesque gorges, waterfalls, rivers, ranges, rock pools, wildlife and people to experience and enjoy with each location as unique and as memorable as the last.
Best travelled after the wet season rains have gone it is generally April/May when they reopen “the Gibb” to vehicles. A good deal of the wet season rains still flow early in the season so those out early will experience creek crossovers on the drive and waterfalls that make for spectacular reward at the end of each short walk. The Gibb River Road closes when seasonal rains commence in December/January.
Always check current road conditions and warnings before you start your journey. Click here to see today’s Main Roads Kimberley.
Your Gibb River Road trip can be a self-drive 4wd adventure with all the freedom in the world but if you find that a little too daunting you can join a group tour and make the journey and meet new friends with a vast array of tour options and operators. Which ever way you decide to go, make sure you do. It’s a memorable experience you will treasure for the rest of your living days.
What follows is a comprehensive guide with information and links ranging from road conditions, natural attractions, distances, accommodation, optional detours that will assist you with your ultimate adventure up the Kimberley outback’s dusty old beaten track, the legendary Gibb River Road.
The first thing you need to plan for your road trip is a vehicle. A 4wd is highly recommended. If you are taking your own vehicle, make absolutely sure it is road worthy. Remember you have already driven your vehicle a long way to get here and if you break down on “The Gibb” parts are not readily available and towing is bloody expensive.
For those flying or busing into Broome or Kununurra there is no shortage of vehicles for hire. Click on links for vehicle hire options and rates from Broome, Derby or Kununurra.
If you want to hire a camper trailer, camping equipment, baby seats or cots, satellite phone, extra spare tyre, jerry can or anything else needed for your journey click on links Broome, Derby or Kununurra.
Of course if you prefer to leave the driving and planning to others there are a myriad of guided tours and charters catering for every age and budget, from day trips that will take you part of the way or to 1 to 2 week safari that takes you the full journey that is the Gibb River Road and even further north to Darwin or across to Cairns on the Savannah Way. Click here for Gibb River Road Tour Options & Operators.
If none of those options are to your liking you can take to the skies on a scenic flight and capture all the wonder from the air in just a couple of hours. In fact, even if you have already done “The Gibb” by road, seeing it from the air is a completely different experience and also very satisfying. Click here for your Scenic flight options.
For the drivers, The Gibb River Road is not heavily dotted with service stations for refueling, so careful planning is necessary to ensure you do not find yourself parked on the side of the road out of fuel. This is a guide only to the distance between refueling stops to help assist with your planning. It is highly recommended that you carry additional fuel and of course a good supply of water.
Generally the distances between the service stations are manageable. Although the direct distance between refueling points will seem easily driven without refueling, it doesn’t take into account the distance travelled exploring, sightseeing and engaged in 4wd.
There is no one answer to total distance you will travel or how much fuel you require to complete the Gibb River Road, it really depends on how much time you have, where and how far you go, what vehicle you drive, how often you engage 4wd and so on so it makes good sense to be prepared.
The two main roadhouses on the Gibb River Road are Imintji and Mt Barnett with Drysdale River Station and El Questro the other spots you can fill up if you and heading to Kalumburu or the Mitchell Plateau.
|Broome to Derby||222 km||Diesel & Unleaded|
|Derby to Imintji Roadhouse||227 km||Diesel Only|
|Imintji Roadhouse to Mt. Barnett Roadhouse (Manning River)||78 km||Diesel & Unleaded|
|Mt Barnett Roadhouse to Wyndham||402 km|
|Mt Barnett Roadhouse to Kununurra||407 km|
|Via El Questro:|
|Mt. Barnett Roadhouse to El Questro Station||337 km|
|El Questro Station to Wyndham||97 km|
|El Questro Station to Kununurra||102 km|
|Via Kalumburu/Mitchell Plateau:|
|Mt Barnett Roadhouse to Drysdale River Homestead||171 km||Diesel & Unleaded|
|Drysdale River Homestead to Kalumburu||206 km|
|Drysdale River Homestead to Wyndham||350 km|
|Drysdale River Homestead to Kununurra||355 km|
|Drysdale River Homestead to El Questro||286 km||Diesel & Unleaded|
|Drysdale River Homestead – Mitchell Falls – Kalumburu||376 km|
|Drysdale River Homestead – Mitchell Falls – Return||376 km|
(Drysdale and Kalumburu are the exact same distance from the Mitchell Plateau turn-off.)
Indicative distances from Derby assuming you never leave the Gibb River Road. Make adjustments for each side trip. For simplicity we commence our journey in Derby.
Clear your trip meter or what follows with mean nothing.
|0 KM||Derby. You access the Gibb River Road from the Great Northern Highway. The turn-off to the Gibb River Rd is just a 6 kilometres south-east of Derby.|
|16 KM||Birdwood Downs Station is a 5000 acre working cattle and pastoral station. Offering camping, accommodation, meals, tours and horse trail rides. Notify 24 hours prior to arrival.|
|40 KM||May River turn off (plus 12 km from turn off to camp site one way). Nice campsite and can be good Barramundi fishing|
|79 KM||This is where the bitumen ends and the adventure begins.|
|119 KM||Tunnel Creek Road turn off. Turn right here to visit Windjana Gorge National Park (plus 21 km from turn off to car park one way) and Tunnel Creek National Park (plus 65 km from turn off to car park one way). Gieke Gorge|
|120 KM||Lennard River Bridge and Lennard River Bridge Snack Stop. Cool veranda overlooks the banks of the Lennard River and Lennard River Bridge.|
|189 KM||Mt Hart Wilderness Lodge turn off. 49 km off the Gibb within King Leopold Range Conservation Park.|
|195 KM||Lennard Gorge turn off. No camping. Within King Leopold Range Conservation Park|
|214 KM||Bell Gorge and Silent Grove turn off. Bell Gorge within King Leopold Range Conservation Park is probably the most well known attraction along the Gibb River Road. CALM operates two campgrounds here. One is for bush camping, the other one has the usual facilities.|
|225 KM||Imintji Store. DIESEL ONLY The first of the two main roadhouses on the Gibb. Diesel fuel only, general goods, gas bottle refills and ice. You can get hot food, drinks, ice-cream and a workshop if repairs on your vehicle are needed.|
|252 KM||Mornington Wilderness Camp turn off. Accommodation, camping, restaurant, bar and access to several gorges. The camp is 90 km from the turn-off.|
|256 KM||Charnley River Station turn off. Located 42 km off the main road. Working cattle station offering accommodation, camping, meals. Dogs welcome.|
|269 KM||Adcock Gorge turn off. No camping. Dogs allowed.|
|291 KM||Galvans Gorge carpark. No camping. Dogs allowed.|
|302 KM||Mt. Barnett Roadhouse. DIESEL & ULP , drinking water, ice, toilets, showers, laundry, small store and take-away|
|302 KM||Manning Gorge and campground turn off. Manning Gorge is owned by Mt. Barnett Station. The 7 km access track starts at roadhouse. A fee is charged for entry and includes the use of the camping facilities. Dogs welcome|
|332 KM||Barnett River Gorges turn off. No camping. Dogs allowed.|
|346 KM||Mt Elizabeth Station turn off. Located 30 km from the main road. Working cattle station offering accommodation, camping and meals. Dogs welcome.|
|413 KM||Kalumburu Road turn off. Turn here to get to Kalumburu or to the Mitchell Plateau. This the complete Gibb Road River experience. Drysdale River Station is 60 km from the turn-off and is the next place to get diesel or unleaded. Gibb River crossing, Plain Creek, Miners Pool, Mitchell Falls, Carson River all feature between turnoff and Kalumburu. Mitchell Falls 85km from turn off , Kalumburu 267km, and Mitchell Plateau 162km.|
|479 KM||Ellenbrae Station turn off. Another working cattle station that welcomes visitors, offering camping and basic bungalows.|
|508 KM||Durack River crossing. This one can be exciting at the beginning of the season. Prone to flooding in wet season so make sure you check road conditions and road is open.|
|593 KM||Home Valley Station. Accommodation, camping and tours. New accommodation. Great food & location.|
|602 KM||Pentecost River Crossing. Very scenic location. Like the Durack River this is one of the rivers that can be rather exciting to cross early in the season. Beware, this is serious crocodile country.|
|626 KM||El Questro Station turn off. Huge tourism operation. Main township is located 16 km from the turn off. Aimed at the high end market but offers facilities for all budgets and has some great tours, cruises, hikes and gorges. General store, diesel, unleaded, accommodation, steakhouse, bar and camping facilities are all here.|
|636 KM||Emma Gorge turn off. El Questro land. Entry fee applies.|
|659 KM||End of Gibb River Rd. From the bitumen intersection it’s about 48 km to Wyndham (north) or 53 km to Kununurra (south).|
Congratulations! You have conquered the Gibb River Road. It’s remote, sometimes harsh but mostly spectacular. It’s tough – we know – we don’t want everyone up here.
Only thing left to do is enjoy Kununurra & Wyndham and once your done turn the truck around and head on back to Broome the exact same way you came visiting your favourite spots. If that’s too much to face you can drive 1000+ kilometres of bitumen back to Broome or North to Darwin or grab a Plane or a Bus in any direction you want.
Windjana Gorge is a 3.5 km gorge, carved out of the Napier Range by the Lennard River. The Napier Range is part of the same ancient barrier reef system that you also see at Tunnel Creek and Geikie Gorge. (Over 300 million years ago in the Devonian period this whole area was below sea level.) Makes you wonder a little about global warming doesn’t it?
The gorge walls on both sides of Windjana Gorge are between 30 to 100 metres high, and the gorge is over 100 metres wide.
The gorge is closed in wet season when the Lennard River is a raging torrent. Fresh water Crocodiles are plentiful.
Lennard Gorge is one of the little known and less visited Kimberley gorges. The 8 km long access road is 4wd only leads to a parking bay.
Once parked you have a challenging walk ahead. The path is not marked but if you head to the right it will lead to a ledge overlooking the gorge and the falls and is a very rewarding view. If you head to the left it will lead to the top of the falls where you can swim and cool off. My recommendation is do both walks.
Bell Gorge is perhaps the most popular Kimberley gorge and is highly rated by all those who see it. A short stroll along Bell Creek leads you from the car park down into the gorge.
A waterfall cascades between the V shaped cliffs falling to a deep pool that is perfect for swimming. Large rock patios line its edge making an ideal spot for a picnic lunch, laze after a cool swim or simply rest before continuing your trek.
Adcock Gorge is about 5 km off the Gibb River Road, along a very pretty 4WD track. The short walk leads you past a shady billabong covered in water lilies to a deep freshwater pool surrounded by grass & ferns. This is a truly beautiful and generally quiet spot.
Easily accessed, park your car in the car park on the main road and walk about a kilometre in. You will be greeted by a welcoming pool. Relax under the waterfall and massage those tired shoulders, swing from a rope to make a big splash or swim a few laps before the kilometre walk back. Because of its easy access this is a popular spot for tour operators and can be fairly crowded from time to time.
Manning Gorge is stunning when wet season rains cascade the full width of the gorge and as the flow slows separate waterfalls form and fall over the terraced rock formations until finally falling to the pool below.
Great place to settle in for a few days and break up your drive.
Barnett River Gorges
This is the only “free” bush camp site along the Gibb River Road, and it’s fantastic.
The track in can be very rough, and the gorges themselves are not best of the Kimberley gorges but the bush camp sites are beautiful. There are quiet a few of them in individual clearings along the Barnett River.
To get to Barnett River Gorges take the track and keep to the right until you get to the Barnett River. Your best advised to walk from here.
The Mitchell Falls and the Mitchell Plateau
The Mitchell Falls is one the most photographed icons of the Kimberley but I have never seen a photo that truly does The Mitchell Falls justice. As spectacular as every picture of the Mitchell Falls is it’s not just about the Mitchell Falls. There is much more to this very special place.
There’s Little Mertens Falls, (it’s no so little) the natural spa pools above and hidden cave beneath are an absolute treasure. There is the spectacular open air gallery displaying the world renowned Bradshaw rock art. There is a truly unforgettable bush walk that leads you over crystal clear streams shaded by pandanus palms, pools covered in water lilies, breathtaking cliffs and waterfalls.
This walk will take you 4 to 6 hours return. It’s rough country and there are many sidetracks that can extend the length of your walk. Make sure you carry enough water.
Accommodation and Campgrounds
|BIRDWOOD DOWNS STATION||http://www.birdwooddowns.com/||+(618) 9191 1275|
|WINDJANA GORGE (CAMPING ONLY)|
|MT HART WILDERNESS LODGE||+(618) 9191 4645|
|SILENT GROVE (CAMPING ONLY)|
|CHARNLEY RIVER STATION||+(618) 9191 4646|
|MORNINGTON WILDERNESS SANCTUARY||+(618) 9191 7406|
|MT ELIZABETH STATION||http://www.mountelizabethstation.com/||+(618) 9191 4644|
|DRYSDALE RIVER STATION||http://www.drysdaleriver.com.au/||+(618) 9161 4326|
|ELLENBRAE STATION||+(618) 9161 4325|
|HOME VALLEY STATION||http://www.hvstation.com.au/||+(618) 9161 4322|
|EL QUESTRO WILDERNESS PARK||http://www.elquestro.com.au/||+(618) 9169 1777|