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The Final Frontier


The Kimberley is one of Australia's greatest treasures. Here, Jessica Zoiti explores some of the region's must-have experiences.

In the remote outposts of Western Australia’s Kimberley region, prehistoric saltwater crocodiles bake on clay riverbeds, waterfalls thunder down sheer cliff faces and secret caves are scarred by ancient Aboriginal rock art. This is the real outback – Australia’s final frontier.

 

The cooler dry season (April-October) is the perfect time to explore this great region so start planning your Kimberley adventure with the help of this list of top attractions.

 

CRUISE THE COAST

The Kimberley coastline is an eco treasure trove teeming with wildlife and natural attractions like waterfalls, canyons and caves concealing ancient and mysterious rock art.

 

Few will witness this landscape in their lifetime but those who do will inevitably be passengers onboard a Kimberley coastal cruise ship.

 

Typically offering voyages that range in length from five days to two weeks (sailing from Wyndham to Broome or vice versa), cruises are offered onboard intimate luxury vessels. Here, guests sleep in stylish en-suite cabins, dine on chef prepared cuisine, drink fine wines, enjoy outback outlooks and embark on private expeditions to get a closer look at the region’s wildlife and landscape.

 

There are numerous companies introducing visitors to this part of the word – among the most popular are North Star Cruises’ True North, the purpose-built Kimberley Quest II and Kimberley Expedition’s Orion.

kimberleycruise.com

 

EXPERIENCE BUSH LUXURY

If it’s luxury, seclusion and authentic back and beyond adventures you’re after, these rugged outback retreats tick all the boxes.

 

Berkeley River Lodge

Located 170 kilometres north-west of Wyndham, the Berkeley River Lodge is luxurious and truly isolated. It sits on the Kimberley Coast with access by seaplane or private vessel only. Here, guests stay in dune-top suites, elegantly furnished and air-conditioned, and are given complimentary opportunities to explore waterfalls, fresh water swimming holes and ancient gorges. For something truly special, guests can even book exclusive helicopter flights to rarely visited hideaways (at an extra cost).

 

The main lodge has been designed to seamlessly blend with the surrounding environment and offers indoor and outdoor dining areas. Other guest facilities include a 20-metre lap pool, poolside lounges and a guest library. berkeleyriver.com.au

 

Faraway Bay

One of the Kimberley’s original bush camps, Faraway Bay is still one of the best. It sits on a rocky outcrop 280 kilometres north-west of Kununurra overlooking the Timor Sea and like Berkeley River, is only accessible by air.

 

Catering to just 12 guests, it has eight spacious cabins with 180-degree views of the red cliff-lined bay. At the heart of the camp is Eagle Lodge with its plunge pool and alfresco dining area, the Quoll Bar and lounge. Gourmet meals and beverages are all part of the package as are most land and sea-based expeditions. farawaybay.com.au

 

Eco Beach

An hour from Broome, Eco Beach offers unrivalled luxury on the Kimberley’s west coast.

 

The emphasis here is on the wilderness and environment. It offers safari-style Eco Tents, self-contained one and two-bedroom Eco Villas, and a couple of two-bedroom Beach Houses that share a communal open-air living space. Rooms are linked by a series of boardwalks that lead to the central Jack’s Bar & Restaurant and infinity-edge pool. Cultural, adventure and historical tours are also offered. ecobeach.com.au

 

SEE THE BUNGLE BUNGLES

Purnululu National Park, or the Bungle Bungles as it’s more commonly known, is one of the Kimberley’s most stunning attractions and has great Indigenous significance. Its famous beehive-like domes rise up to 578 metres above sea level and overlook grass-covered plains, steep cliffs and inky ravines.

 

While you can explore by foot, discovering the park is more easily done from the air due to its size and remoteness. Several air operators offer tours from Kununurra including flights over the Ord River and Lake Argyle.

 

Alternatively, stay a little longer in safari cabin accommodation at the Bungle Bungle Wilderness Lodge. Most 4WD tours offer overnight stays at this luxury outback camp.

 

For a full list of tour operators, visit australiasnorthwest.com

 

EXPLORE ANCIENT GALLERIES

The East Kimberley is also home to the famous and controversial Bradshaw’s – the African-like tribal cave paintings that have baffled the world’s leading anthropologists.

 

This remote spectacle is considered the most isolated and oldest indigenous art gallery in the world and the unusual nature of the work puts the very origin of this country into question. Most commonly, it’s believed the artwork is that of Timoreese ancestors and was painted more than 65,000 years ago. To see it, join a Kimberley Cruise, stay at Faraway Bay or join a tour, like Spirit Safaris’ ‘Rock Art Tour’.

 

Although younger, Aboriginal art celebrates the spirituality of its people and the natural beauty of the land. Galleries in Broome and Kununurra are excellent sources of authentic artworks – often there’ll be local artists in residence so you can watch them in action.

 

EXPERIENCE ABORIGINAL CULTURE

There’s no shortage of professional and authentic Aboriginal experiences in the Kimberley but for one of the best, head straight to the multi award-winning coastal bush retreat, Kooljaman at Cape Leveque.

 

Located 200 kilometres north of Broome, it offers a range of accommodation and nature-based activities including snorkelling, fishing, bush tucker tours, whale watching, scenic flights and cultural day trips, all lead by local Aboriginal tour guides.

 

You’ll find other excellent Aboriginal cultural tours at Uptuyu Aboriginal Adventures and Purely Unreal Kimberley Dreamtime Adventure Tours.

 

kooljaman.com.au; uptuyu.com.au; kimberleydreamtimeadventures.com.au

 

CAST AWAY

It’s no secret that fishing is fab in the north-west and no catch is more revered than the ‘King of the Kimberley’, the barramundi. Although plentiful, actually hooking the slippery suckers can be tricky. That’s where a good dose of local know-how is essential.

 

Located in Kununurra, Ultimate Adventures offers a true blue Kimberley fishing experience on the lower Ord River. You can head bush where you stay overnight in the company’s private campsite (with self contained accommodation, a camp kitchen, ablution blocks and river facing camp sites, it’s hardly hard-core camping) or you can join a number of half and full-day tours. Self-drive tourists looking for a more rustic fishing and camping experience are also catered for. All tackle and gear can be provided.

barramundiadventures.com.au

 

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Written by: Jessica Zoiti
Published: 5 February 2015


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