TOP 10 COOL Things to Do in Kununurra
The day we got to Kununurra started WAY too early.
As the clock ticked over past midnight, Are You Lonesome Tonight and I was only 19 thundered from (respectively) the vehicle cab and the top-of-the-range caravan parked next to us in Timber Creek.
Yes, you’re right. You’d have to be VERY drunk for that to sound good.
A couple of hours later, our lonesome loser neighbour finally dropped into a drunken stupor putting an end to the impromptu musical experiment and our misery.
Two bleary-eyed hours drive west got us to the border (the flat tyre didn’t help) where we scored an extra 90 minutes, courtesy of the time difference between the Northern Territory and Western Australia. Making it about 9:00 am, WA time!
Half an hour later, the different world of our camp-site at the Lakeside Resort Caravan Park on the shores of Lily Creek Lagoon – with lonesome losers noticeably absent – made an excellent base to explore the attractions of the East Kimberley.
There’s a LOT to see and do for independent travellers who like natural attractions, and so our four-day stay became 10!
Here’s my TOP 10 things to do in Kununurra!
1 Kelly’s Knob and the Ivanhoe Café
It’s convenient that the best view of Kelly’s Knob in Kununurra is from the Ivanhoe Café! Or is that just MY opinion??
After a session at the cafe, work off the spectacularly fabulous icecreams, smoothies and other goodies chock-a-block with awesome Kununurra produce by climbing to the vantage point at the top to get your bearings AND enjoy the spectacular view over the town and mountain ranges beyond.
The landscape’s surprisingly green in this part of the East Kimberley, courtesy of the Ord River Irrigation Scheme.
And you may have to visit the Ivanhoe Café several times to prove that it really IS the best place from which to see it!
Why the excellent Anzac Hill Lookout we stumbled upon just out of town heading west doesn’t appear in any of the tourist information I’ll never know … track it down for yourself and see which one you prefer!
2 Ord River Adventureland
The East Kimberley’s natural attractions can so spectacular they overshadow its hazards. And that could be fatal in Kununurra – because while the Ord Irrigation Scheme has turned this harsh landscape into a food bowl thanks to the Ord River Dam, it didn’t get rid of the crocodiles!
There are plenty of reminders of the dangers along the river banks – but don’t let that stop you fishing for barramundi (does anyone bother with any other types of fish?); having a picnic; or even taking a cruise upstream for 57 kilometres to the Lake Argyle Dam Wall. No boat? No problem! Local cruise operators will be happy to see you on board!
But no matter how hot it gets, don’t even THINK about going swimming!
3 Lake Argyle – the Inland Sea
The arid Carr Boyd Ranges near Kununurra aren’t where you’d imagine an inland sea over 1000 km² to be.
If that’s what you thought, you’d be right. Lake Argyle, Australia’s largest body of fresh water, didn’t naturally occur. It was formed when the Ord River Dam was slapped across the river’s narrowest point in an incredible feat of engineering that drowned valleys, pastoral leases and a whole mountain range!
But its staggering scenery is SO worth the ~70 km drive back south-east towards the WA/NT border we did it twice, the second time for the morning cruise. And the proliferation of scenic public loos! And the wildlife – over a third of Australia’s birds can be found here at various times of the year!
They say the damming of the river means there’s no saltwater crocodiles above the dam wall, although there have been sightings. But the absence of predators means the less dangerous freshwater crocodiles have proliferated out of all proportion. SO … if you’re crocodile-averse, don’t go in the water AND definitely don’t sign up for the annual swimming races!
4 Hunting the Wild Boab Trees
Australia’s only species of Boab tree grows almost exclusively – but plentifully – in the Kimberley. Even if you haven’t seen a Boab tree for real, its distinctive shape and silhouette appear in all the galleries – on paintings, prints, cards, carvings, photographs and jewellry. I’m still having withdrawal symptoms over the earrings that got away – how I managed to leave those brightly coloured glass squares with tiny Boab tree silhouettes in the shop remains a mystery to this day.
And now it’s too late … I can’t find them ANYWHERE on line 🙁
Luckily, wild Boab trees are easy to find around Kununurra.
But if you haven’t got time for hunting, they’re also found in captivity – at the Celebrity Tree Park at the edge of Lily Creek Lagoon. And although I couldn’t find a tree dedicated to Red Nomad OZ, I’m sure it’s just a matter of time!
5 Lily Creek Lagoon and the Sleeping Buddha
Like its giant friend Lake Argyle, Lily Creek Lagoon isn’t natural. But it’s an awesome backdrop to a rock formation that looks (supposedly) like a Sleeping Buddha from Celebrity Tree Park; and (even more supposedly) an Elephant’s head from Zebra Rock Gallery’s vantage point just down the road.
It’s also a wildlife hotspot.
Of course it’s a helluva lot easier to go wildlife spotting on Lily Creek Lagoon when you’re staying right on its banks. By day, watch a variety of bird-life on and around the lagoon, including Comb-crested Jacana, also called the ‘Jesus bird’, hopping around on the lily pads; and the Crimson Finches hopping around on the banks – and at our campsite.
Sunset brings the Sleeping Buddha to life – at least as much as is possible for a reclining figure – and the Lagoon dramatically reflects the sky’s RED glow.
But the night belongs to the crocodiles … take a torch and watch the RED glow glinting from their eyes if you dare!
6 Mirima National Park
Wondering when the selfie-taking joggers completely oblivious to the 3 metre snake sunning itself at their feet would either notice it or step on it was like watching a car crash. Was it so wrong to have my camera ready?
Luckily (or unluckily, depending on whether you were them or me), neither happened, and the joggers jogged off into the sunrise to post what could have been a REALLY exciting update (read about that adventure HERE).
I waited for the snake to move so I could admire the view over Mirima National park from the top of the range vantage point on the Lookout Walk (no prizes for guessing why it’s called that!), one of four shortish walks showcasing the park’s attractions.
I can’t guarantee the excitement of a sunrise snake stand-off in the sandstone at Mirima. But you WILL see dramatic sandstone domes and valleys not unlike those of more well known Purnululu (aka Bungle Bungles). So if you don’t have time to trek there, or the bucks for a helicopter flight, Mirima National Park just outside the outskirts of Kununurra, is a cheaper, closer, and more charming alternative.
The top of the range view also overlooks Hidden Valley – and the Hidden Valley Tourist Park who I mention here because they put RedzAustralia at the very top of their TOP 10 Grey Nomad blogs (even thought I’m a RED Nomad)!
7 Ngamoowalem Conservation Park
We’d only seen two of the four sites but we’d already experienced a grumpy grey-nomad who should have stayed in bed; and a flamboyant four-wheel-driver developing some experimental techniques in what can only loosely be called ‘driving’ (read about that adventure HERE).
Who knows what other weird experiences awaited if only our car had had enough clearance to visit the Ngamoowalem Conservation Park’s 3rd and 4th localities?
The spectacular setting amid the Livistonia Range means the Springs and Falls that make up the park run hot during the wet season. There wasn’t much water during our dry season visit – but that meant we could explore the rocks up close and admire the cluster of butterflies flitting through the undergrowth. And wonder why Black Rock Falls was called Black Rock Falls!
It’s a shame we didn’t get to see Middle Spring and Molly Spring, but no matter.
The other visitors to Valentine Spring and Black Rock Falls had provided quite enough excitement for one day.
Besides – don’t they say you should always leave something for next time?
8 Killer Kununurra Producers!
There’s not a lot of point visiting the Ord River Irrigation zone without actually sampling the produce, right?
So we gave it our best shot.
A daily dose of something with mango in it – smoothies, cheesecakes, ice-cream, we weren’t fussy – from somewhere local – we weren’t fussy about that, either! We didn’t even care if they sold other products!
And so we did the rounds of the Zebra Rock Gallery Café; Lovells Gallery, Hoochery Distillery, the Sandalwood Factory and a number of Open Door outlets that sold fresh produce!
Hard to believe, I know, but it’s not always all about cake 😀
9 Kununurra Agricultural Show
They say you always remember your first time. And the 2012 Kununurra Agricultural Show was where I lost it.
My Cane Toad Race virginity, that is! (Read that awesome story HERE!)
The Cane Toad Race fund-raiser for Kununurra Wildlife Rescue topped the bill of weird and wonderful events celebrating rural life – with audience participation encouraged.
If you’ve never seen the Melon Olympics, where participants skate in watermelon shoes to throw honeydews into 44 gallon drums; a lawnmower race; the Kimberley Cowboy Challenge – a farmer’s daily life event multi-tasking race; and the Haystacking Challenge where a hapless volunteer perches atop an ever-growing stack of hay bales just before it topples then this is the place to be.
All accompanied by even more of that killer Kununurra produce!! Frozen chocolate-covered banana, anyone?
Experience the fabulous fun this year on Friday 10th & Saturday 11th July, 2015!!
10 Sunset – Kimberley Style!
When you’ve enjoyed yourself to the max in the East Kimberley, max out a little bit more on a Kununurra Kimberley sunset. Sunset from pretty much anywhere will do, but our campsite by the lake gets my vote!
With nothing but the gentle hum of mosquitoes, plopping of crocodiles and chatter of the Southern Grey Nomad to disturb you!
Staying in Kununurra (where 26º C is a COLD day) for any length of time puts the careless visitor in serious danger of having a food baby. So it was just as well for us we left, albeit reluctantly, after 10 days!
The good news is that once you’ve seen the sights of Kununurra, there’s the rest of the awesome Kimberley Region to explore (Read my 7 Kimberley Random Adventures HERE)!
Having trouble getting there? Check out the best flights and get your Kununurra adventure off the ground NOW!
- All about Kununurra
- Kimberley Region Travel Guide
- Red’s Kimberley Adventures
- MORE Kununurra Photos on Flickr
- MORE Kimberley Photos on Flickr
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