Last Updated on May 4, 2021 by Red Nomad OZ
By Northern Hemisphere standards, winter in many areas of Australia isn’t particularly cold. But that doesn’t stop a mass exodus from the ‘cold’ south during the Aussie winter (officially June/July/August), to the north where it’s actually hot!
But it’s not just the average daily maximum of around 30 °C that makes the Kimberley region stretching across the north of Western Australia attractive in winter.
There’s also the spectacular scenery. Unique land formations and oddities. An intriguing indigenous and colonial history. And a chance to experience the remote outback. It’s crocodile country – and wild Australia at its best!
But there’s a LOT of it. So where do you start?
With this sampler of 7 Random Kimberley Adventures, right here on RedzAustralia, of course!
1 Lake Argyle Morning Cruise
“Freakin’ HUGE” is the best technical term for Australia’s largest artificial lake formed when the Ord River was dammed. At nearly 11 million megalitres (18 times bigger than Sydney Harbour) of water spread over 1000 km², Lake Argyle is recognised as one of the world’s great engineering feats.
But the staggering Kimberley scenery was too distracting for statistics on our early morning cruise as we sped over the tranquil surface of this inland sea, for kilometre after punishing kilometre until the horizon was a world of water interrupted only by the islands we passed. Actually, they’re mountain tops from the ranges submerged by the waters of the lake.
But the lake’s 35,000 crocodiles are by far the most impressive mega-statistics in this larger-than-life landscape. And although they’re reportedly the less dangerous freshwater crocs, they breed unabated as natural predators are no longer a part of this artificial environment. BUT! Over the years, a few small saltwater crocodiles have been found. I guess 1.5 metres is small when you’re a saltie …
Given the relatively small sector of the lake we travelled, it’s hardly surprising that of the lake’s estimated 35,000 crocodiles – ie one to every 314 megalitres – we only saw two.
And while I could find no reports of whether or not their presence distracts swimmers in Lake Argyle’s annual 10 and 20 km swimming races, I KNOW they’ll never get the chance to distract me! Not when there’s a knockout infinity pool to swim in way above the crocs’ stamping ground!
MORE about Lake Argyle and Lake Argyle Cruises
2 Willie Creek Helicopter Flight
In retrospect, taking a helicopter flight above a crocodile infested creek probably wasn’t the best choice of tour for an Aviophobic. But as the chopper swung out above Willie Creek Pearl Farm and over the work of art along the coastline created as the almost-highest tides in the Southern Hemisphere shifted sandbanks against the greens and blues of the water, I forgot my fears. Maybe snapping about 300 photos was a successful distraction as well.
As was the thought of buying a souvenir from the pearl farm shop on our return. If we made it.
I didn’t want to be rude to the enthusiastic young pilot, but I didn’t care that we were flying over the exact spot where Miranda Kerr once modelled something or other. Couldn’t he see I wasn’t a Miranda-wannabee, even if her ex and I shared a star sign? Besides, the chances of the sandbanks being exactly as they were when Miranda languished upon them were fairly remote – with tonnes of sand and metres of water swirling about twice a day, finding the ‘same’ sandbank two days in a row had about the same probability as Miranda and I being mistaken for twins.
‘Is that big crocodile still down there on the sandbank?’ he asked as we circled back across the creek towards the Pearl Farm, as my white knuckles turned numb with the strain of keeping the helicopter in the air*.
It wasn’t. Sadly. Because that meant when the helicopter plunged into the creek, the croc was already there waiting for us. But I knew that at least in one thing I was WAAAAAY ahead of Miranda. And as I’d provide him with several more meals than Miranda would, I knew who he’d choose first. Who says supermodels have all the fun?
Strangely enough, despite my death wish, we landed without misadventure. And the $9 black seed pearl ring I selected from the childrens gift section suited me just fine.
What a shame it didn’t come in RED!
MORE about Willie Creek Helicopter Tours
3 Marlgu Billabong Croc-Spotting
The 15 km trek south from Wyndham to Marlgu Billabong passes through a dry-season Kimberley landscape with boab tree silhouettes against a low-lying mountain range against a bright blue sky – clear but for the dust haze – and a red, red road winding through grassy plains.
Yes, this classic Kimberley scenery is dry. VERY dry.
So you really can’t miss the unexpectedly long green and blue scar of Marlgu Billabong that slashes through the golden grass and dusty rocks of this arid landscape, sucking all the bird and animal life into its vortex!. It’s the go-to place for all sorts of wildlife viewing. Think bird watching. Crocodile hunting. And the most exciting activity of them all – people observation!
Although that tends to take a back seat when the crocodiles are smiling!
4 Gibb River Road Dynamic Duo
If your constitution, holiday time-frame or rig isn’t up for several days of the 600+ km of rough, rugged, rocky tyre-shredding ‘road’ that is Australia’s most iconic road trip, don’t panic. There’s still an opportunity to see more corrugations, bull dust and 4WD fanatics than you ever dreamed of on a one-day ~360 km round trip tour along the notorious road to Windjana Gorge and Tunnel Creek with a random selection of other passengers driven by a fearless Israeli on a RED 4WD bus.
It even doubles as a school bus in its spare time!
Before the Gibb River Road became a Boys Own Adventureland, Indigenous warrior and activist Tjandamarra conducted a campaign for the rights of his people against colonial settlers. With staggering scenery, crocodiles and other wildlife, and a strong cultural history, this tour from Derby guarantees the thrills of the Gibb River Road without damaging your own rig. Win-win, right?
But make no mistake. The road’s so rough I should’ve invested in a sports bra!
MORE about the Gibb River Road and Windjana Gorge/Tunnel Creek Day Tour
5 Australia’s Highest Tides
I’m a sucker for a World exclusive! But an Aussie one will do the trick – especially when it’s served up with a killer sunset so magnificent you forget that Australia’s highest tidal range is also served up with some killer hazards!
At low tide, signs on the Derby jetty warn of the 12 metre drop to the oozing mud below. And at high tide, it’s only a short drop into what have magically become crocodile infested waters. In between, the treacherous racing currents formed by the monster tides racing up and down King Sound form their own hazards.
But as the sun sinks into oblivion over the Sound, and the council worker with the unenviable task of clearing the fisherfolk, tourists and photographers from the jetty before dark starts his rounds, the hazards seem a long, long way away!
MORE about Australia’s Highest Tides
6 Geikie Gorge
I’ve never seen a real, live iceberg anywhere ever, but I certainly didn’t expect to see them in the middle of the Aussie Outback!
Just as well, because I didn’t!!
But the fantastically water-worn white surfaces of the ancient limestone reef as our boat drifted down Geikie Gorge are as close as I’ve ever been – so far! It’s also one of Australia’s largest rivers with a catchment area of 90,000 km² – and a flow rate of 30,000 m³ per second when it’s in flood, up to 26 metres above the old crossing. (Note to self: stay away during the wet season)
That’s WAY more than enough water to carve the limestone into the bizarre shapes and patterns towering high above us as the boat chugged its way up the gorge, although it’s hard to imagine the impact of 26 metres of water flowing above us.
I don’t know where the freshwater crocodiles go when the river’s in full flood, but they don’t go anywhere when it’s not. Seeing a crocodile – or several – is almost a sure thing on both the cruise AND the gorge walks that follow the river.
So I’m betting it’s the only place in the world that serves up crocodiles with its ‘icebergs’!
7 Kununurra Campsite
There ARE some advantages to having a low-tech rig. Despite the crowds of grey nomads seeking caravan park sites, we scored a spacious, shaded campsite in a prime lakefront position at the Kununurra Lakeside Resort because, unlike many of the bigger rigs, we could live without power and mains pressure water.
It was worth it.
During the heat of the day we rested in the shade and watched the bird life on Lily Creek Lagoon, a few metres from our camper trailer. In the evening, we watched the killer Kimberley sunsets sinking behind the lake. And at night, the red glow from the eyes of the crocodiles in the lagoon reflected from the beams of our torch.
What’s NOT to love?
A few days into our stay, we noticed a commotion a few metres out from shore. A bird had mistaken the lily pads for firm ground while taking a bath and had fallen in. Now its feathers were soaking wet and it was unable to haul itself onto the relative safety of the lily pad.
Would YOU enter a croc-infested lagoon to save a bird from almost certain death by drowning? If you’re thinking ‘NO WAY’, then I’m with you. But luckily the freshies weren’t hungry that day because Pilchard and two nearby campers waded in to the shallows with a fishing rod and rescued the bird – and all survived unscathed without losing any limbs!
Perhaps they were just unappetising??
- These random adventures (mostly) have crocodiles! For some of my (mostly) croc-free Kimberley adventures, try (in no particular order) these:
- Visit the official Kimberley website HERE for help planning YOUR Kimberley adventure
- Check out more of my Kimberley photos on Flickr
* It’s a little known fact that those afflicted with fear of flying can keep a flying object (like a plane or helicopter) airborne through a combination of sheer willpower AND gripping the armrests tightly enough to stop them vibrating. Try it sometime!
We loved our Kimberly trip a few years back, and I am looking forward to going back there sometime in the next few years to see the bits we didn’t see. We certainly saw lots of crocs – and not just the freshies either. There was a big saltie at Marglu (so glad you went there, it is beautiful) and at the Derby boat ramp. Not to mention Kununurra. We travelled the Gibb in our 4WD and had no problems though we know of people who shredded tyres. Our policy is go steady and drive for the conditions. no need to rush. enjoy the scenery.
Happy travels Red. hmmm….not much red on my blog post this week – thanks for visiting!
After our trip to the Kimberley, we’d seen more crocs there than all the rest of our lives combined! Including salties at Marlgu, and the Derby jetty – wonder if they were the same ones!! I guess how you ‘do’ the Gibb depends on what you want to get out of it – there are the sightseers, and the 4WD’ers!! AND … your posts don’t need to be RED for me to read them, Jill!
I have yet to brave a helicopter tour of anything, let alone such an amazing place. I hope your bravery was suitably rewarded with a treat afterwards!
Tragically, the pearl farm didn’t have a bakery!! But the pearl ring I got from the gift shop made up for it, a little 😀 However, my ‘bravery’ in taking a helicopter flight pales into insignificance compared with yours, my friend. I am full of admiration for you and wish you the best.
What a beautiful spot. We do hope to visit one day.
Thank you! I’m thinking you’ll find the Kimberley just a little bit different to your usual hangout overseas – and also quite a bit different to the other parts of Australia on your blog!! Thanks for dropping in – come back anytime!
Thanks, Red, for letting me know you´re (long!!!) back! Need to do some catch-up and weeee, loved this one! Even though it reminds me I nearly crashed our motor on Gibb River… Awww, the colors.. so good on a grey November day in Germany!! A cold one, too. But really? The bird. I´d felt sorry, but no way I´d go in there! Luckily not everyone is as chicken, though…
Welcome to my new site, Iris!! There is NOTHING like the colours of the Kimberley – I’m glad it brought back good memories for you!! I’m not surprised that you crashed on the Gibb river road – that’s why we left the driving to the experts!
Love reading about your adventures and seeing your excellent photographs. Your red sunsets are the best. Kimberly looks like a magical place, except perhaps for the crocs. There’s always something to keep an eye peeled for. Your post, with its seven sights, is terrific. Thank you for enabling me to vicariously travel there. Also thank you for visiting my little blog. I’ve missed your visits and comments. Since you are back, I’ll have to find some red machinery to photograph. Hope all is well, and your book is on the top of the sales charts.
Hey TFG! Thanx so much for your wonderful comment!! The crocs are part of the landscape up there, but you learn never to take them for granted!!! I’m looking forward to your RED machinery, and I just know you’ll love some of the other RED sunsets I’ve got planned for future posts!
Red, thanks for sharing your fabulous stories and photos of the Kimberley. We haven’t been to that part of Australia but it is definitely on our list!
I’ve only been there once, Anne – and it’s SO on our ‘revisit’ list! Anywhere with THAT much RED just has to be, yes?!
G’day Red, this really took my breath away and made me realise I’m not fitting enough in during my trips across to WA. I still haven’t made it to the Kimberley and particularly Lake Argyle. Just everything you’ve featured here really! I have to get my act together for the trip over. I’ve only seen Perth and surrounds and south of Perth so far. (I will only go across during our winter months though! I’m a wimp)
Ah! Pilchard to the rescue – lucky little bird! Better get him a cape, Pilchard not the bird 😉
Haha, Rose – I’m a ‘fair weather’ traveller too!! Winter is SO the best time to visit if you want the better weather, but it’s also the most crowded. There’s just so much to see – and it ALL takes your breath away! Pilchard is my hero 😀
Red your Kimberley adventures has taken me right back to this remarkable region that I only visited in June/July this year. The Kimberley does have some of the best scenery in Australia and heaps to do and see with its abundance of gorges, mountains and rivers/lakes. I will be returning there one day for sure!
As will I, Kathy! I LOVED the Kimberley region – although I’m a fair weather traveller and have only been there in winter!! There’s a LOT more on my to-do list – maybe I’ll see you there sometime?!
Much to ponder. The natural predator of a fresh water crocodile? Maybe a salt water croc.
To check: Crocs don’t like chlorinated water and infinity is meaningless to them. Miranda Kerr’s ex. Are there native Australian water lilies, or have we done it again. Why does everyone have to leave the pier at nightfall.
Mega tides fascinate me. Must find the WA high tide You Tube videos again.
Haha, Andrew – I only know the answers to a couple of your questions! Not sure about salties eating freshies, but I DO know the waterlilies are native to OZ. Leaving the jetty after sunset is a council regulation – perhaps to stop people falling in at night?? MK’s ex is Orlando Bloom!