LOTS of COOL Things to Do in Kununurra, Western Australia

Kununurra from Kellys Knob Lookout, Kimberley, Western Australia
Kununurra from Kellys Knob Lookout, Kimberley, Western Australia

The day we got to Kununurra WA 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.

Give Way! Crocodile crossing, Kununurra
Give Way! Crocodile crossing, Kununurra

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 both the impromptu musical experiment and our misery.

Two bleary-eyed hours drive west got us to the Northern Territory/Western Australia border (the flat tyre didn’t help) where we scored an extra 90 minutes, courtesy of the time difference between the NT and Western Australia. Making it about 9:00 am, WA time!

Half an hour later, the different world – make that universe – 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 from which to explore the attractions of the East Kimberley.

And because we’d got there so early in the morning, we could get started on our long, long list of things to do in Kununurra and surrounds straight away.

Kellys Knob from the Ivanhoe Cafe, Kununurra
Kellys Knob from the Ivanhoe Cafe, Kununurra

Yes, camping in Kununurra is the best way to see it all – and there’s a LOT to see and do for independent travellers who like natural attractions.  We were planning a four-day stay – but ended up being there for 10!

SO … where to start?  Just use this list of my favourite things to do in Kununurra and start exploring!

I hope you enjoy them (and Kununurra!) as much as we did 😀

1 Kelly’s Knob and the Ivanhoe Café

It’s VERY convenient that the best view of Kelly’s Knob in Kununurra is from the Ivanhoe Café! Or is that just MY opinion??  If you’re anything like us, you’ll find yourself spending a LOT of time at the cafe, especially during the heat of the day when exploring grinds to a halt.

That’s why the best time to visit Kununurra is during the Australian winter and Top End Dry Season, from about April to October.  But be warned … that’s also the busiest time!

Kellys Knob Lookout, Kununurra
View from Kelly’s Knob Lookout, Kununurra

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 of Kelly’s Knob 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.

Pssst! The real view is even better than what you can see in the photo above!

Why the excellent Anzac Hill Lookout we stumbled upon just out of town heading west, and giving an entirely different perspective, doesn’t appear in any of the tourist information I’ll never know … track it down for yourself and see which one you prefer!

Fishing the Ord River below the Dam Wall, Lake Argyle
Fishing the Ord River below the Dam Wall, Lake Argyle

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 engineering marvel of the Ord River Dam, it didn’t get rid of the crocodiles!

Croc Warning Sign, Ivanhoe Crossing, Kununurra
Croc Warning Sign, Ivanhoe Crossing, Kununurra

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 an upstream cruise 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 probably aren’t where you’d imagine an inland sea over 1000 km² to be.

Lake Argyle, Kimberley, Western Australia
Lake Argyle, Kimberley, Western Australia

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 and construction that drowned valleys, pastoral leases and a whole mountain range!

Lake Argyle Scenic Public Loo Western Australia
One of the Lake Argyle Scenic Loos!

But the staggering scenery surrounding Lake Argyle is SO worth the ~70 km one way drive south-east from Kununurra back towards the WA/NT border we did it twice.  The first time was just to explore; the second for the must-do early morning cruise.

It’s also worth doing for the wildlife – over a third of Australia’s bird species can be found here at various times of the year.

Oh! And there’s also a proliferation of scenic public loos!

It’s said that the damming of the river means none of the large and deadly saltwater crocodiles live above the dam wall, although there have been sightings. But the absence of predators means there are a LOT more of the less dangerous freshwater crocodiles.

SO … if you’re crocodile-averse, don’t go in the water AND definitely don’t sign up for the annual Lake Argyle 10 or 20 km swimming races, held annually on the first Saturday in May!

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 jewellery. 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 🙁

Boab Tree, Celebrity Tree Park, Kununurra
Red with Boab Tree, Celebrity Tree Park, Kununurra (pic by Pilchard)

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 Kununurra Celebrity Tree Park at the edge of Lily Creek Lagoon. And although I couldn’t find a celebrity tree dedicated to Red Nomad OZ amongst those for notables such as John Farnham and Princess Anne, I’m sure it’s just a matter of time!

Isn’t it?!?!  Please say yes!

5 Lily Creek Lagoon and the Sleeping Buddha

Like its giant friend Lake Argyle, Lily Creek Lagoon on the outskirts of Kununurra isn’t natural. But it’s an awesome backdrop to a rock formation that looks (supposedly) like a Sleeping Buddha from the Celebrity Tree Park; and (even more supposedly) an Elephant’s head from the Zebra Rock Gallery’s vantage point just down the road.

The Sleeping Buddha, Kununurra
The Sleeping Buddha, Kununurra, Western Australia

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 camping right on its banks at the Lakeside Resort Caravan Park campground like we were. 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.

You might even get to take part in a real life rescue!  Like we did when a bird misjudged the length of a lily pad and slid into the water.  Did I mention the lagoon is full of fresh-water crocodiles?

Early Morning at Lily Creek Lagoon, Kununurra
Early Morning at Lily Creek Lagoon, Kununurra

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 those 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?

Snake! Mirima National Park, Kununurra
Snake! Mirima National Park, Kununurra

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, on the outskirts of the main Kununurra township. But you WILL see dramatic sandstone domes and valleys – smaller, but 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 is a cheaper, closer, and more charming alternative.

Mirima National Park Rock Domes, Kununurra
Mirima National Park Rock Domes, Kununurra

The top of the range view also overlooks Hidden Valley – and the Hidden Valley Tourist Park who I mention here because they were nice enough to put RedzAustralia at the very top of their TOP 10 Grey Nomad blogs (even thought I’m a RED Nomad)!

7 Ngamoowalem Conservation Park

En route to discover the Kununurra waterfalls, by the time we’d managed two of the conservation park’s four sites 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).

Black Rock Falls, Ngamoowalem Conservation Park
Black Rock Falls reflections, Ngamoowalem Conservation Park, via Kununurra

Who knows what other weird experiences we might have had if only our car had had enough clearance to visit the Ngamoowalem Conservation Park’s 3rd and 4th localities?

Valentine Springs via Kununurra, Western Australia
Valentine Springs via Kununurra, Western Australia

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 happening 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.

Mango Smoothie Heaven, Kununurra
Mango Smoothie Heaven, Kununurra

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 Kununurra and Ord River Irrigation Scheme 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 Kununurra Agricultural Show was where I lost it.

Thommos Toad, Kununurra Agricultural Show
Thommos Cane Toad, Kununurra Agricultural Show

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.

Winning the Hay-stacking Challenge, Kununurra Agricultural Show, Western Australia
Winning the Hay-stacking Challenge, Kununurra Agricultural Show, Western Australia

All accompanied by even more of that killer Kununurra produce!! Frozen chocolate-covered banana, anyone?

Experience all the fabulous fun for yourself at the Kununurra Agricultural Show on Friday 10th & Saturday 11th July, 2020!!  It’s the most fun you’ll have for $AUD20 (the 2020 cost of an adult admission).

10  Wyndham Rivers and Tides

Five Rivers Lookout via Wyndham, Western Australia
View from Five Rivers Lookout via Wyndham, Western Australia

It’s just over 100 km from Kununurra to Wyndham on the sealed main road, but the back route past Parry’s Lagoon takes you through stunning East Kimberley scenery (and more of those Boab Trees).  Stop at the lagoon for a wildlife extravaganza then continue to the small town of Wyndham with some of the highest tides in Australia, and the fantastic Five Rivers Lookout overlooking an incredible landscape.  Read more about things to do in Wyndham HERE.

11 Crocodile Spotting

Freshwater croc at Lake Argyle, WA
Freshwater croc at Lake Argyle, WA

Finding a crocodile in the East Kimberley is what’s generally known as a ‘sure thing’.  So take care when you find freshwater (the small ones) and/or saltwater crocodiles (the BIG scary ones) in Lake Argyle, both above and below the dam wall; in the Ord river; in any/all of Wyndham’s five rivers; in Parry’s Lagoon and right next to your campsite in Lily Lagoon.   Want more places to find crocodiles in Australia’s Top End?  Go HERE!

12 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!

Kununurra Sunset, Lily Creek Lagoon
Kununurra Sunset, Lily Creek Lagoon

With nothing but the gentle hum of mosquitoes, plopping of crocodiles and chatter (and sometimes snoring!) of the Southern Grey Nomad to disturb you!

Sunset at the Golf Course, Kununurra, Western Australia
Sunset at the Golf Course, Kununurra, Western Australia

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!

Want MORE?

Like it? SHARE it!

39 comments

  1. Brilliant write-up Marion, enjoyed so much. Did you know that the giant Boab tree in Kings Park traveled all the way down from the Kimberley, was an amazing endeavour.. can’t believe it survived the trip and is now a star in Perth’s most popular tourist attraction. Oh man, those crocodiles are a bit off putting 🙂 🙂

    1. Thank you Grace! I had no idea where the Kings Park Boab tree came from – but glad it made the trip that so many southerners do in reverse! It’s good to be scared of the crocodiles – but happy to watch the smaller ones from the safety of a purpose built boat!!

  2. Thanks for the fabulous overview of things to do in Kununurra. We are visiting this area this year and your list of 10 cool things will be our ‘bible’. I have bookmarked this page. Thanks. 🙂

  3. Great photos; some of the bits we saw, but many we didn’t! I still think Kununurra is one of the most picturesque places in Australia; it really is a stunning bit of land.

    1. I agree – Kununurra is a wonderful place Aaron! But I’ve only ever been there in winter when temperatures are a bit more moderate, although it was still pretty hot then too!! I don’t know what I’d think of it if the temp was REALLY hot!! BUT … it’d still be spectacular to look at 😀

  4. the Kununurra Ag show sounds like a great event, but you can keep the cane toads. So devastating for us WA’ers that the cane toads have made it over to our side of the fence. I think our most enjoyable experience at Kununurra was the flight over the Bungle Bungles and the boat ride down from Lake Argyle. Happy travels Red. I’ve taken a leaf from your book for my blog post this week!

    1. Maybe the Kununurrans have the right idea about how to deal with Cane Toads, Jill!! When they enter the Murray-Darling river system, life as we know it will change forever. I was able to miss both your top experiences – but that gives me something to come back for!! Or should I say something ELSE to come back for!

  5. G’day Red, have a spare hour and am visiting favourite blogs (from Scotland lassie!) ha! lovin’ that red hair of yours against the boab tree!
    These images are spectacular and I’ll be giving your blog address to quite a few Scots – if they want to see what the ‘real’ Australia looks like, then your site is the one to visit and that’s fair dikum Marion. Even had the loo book out to bring with me and forgot it!
    Aye lassie, I’d best be getting moving to have me haggis…….. it’s pretty cold over here too! love it!

    1. Hey Rose! Thanx for those mega-kind words! Hope your new Scot friends aren’t put off by my ‘real’ Australia – I try to show the awesomeness as well as the reality!! I’ll know whether or not I’ve succeeded by whether or not I made you homesick??!! I just finished reading your post on my email – boy, are you rugged up, or WHAT?!?!? Not sure how you’re going to manage the humidity & heat when you get home, haha!! Feel free to share some posts on FB – that might get them all enthused to come back with you for some loo spotting 😀 As for the haggis, you’re on your own!!!

    1. Sounds like the boat ride is a winner, Diane! Next time it’s SO on my list – along with a repeat of all the things we did last time!! Now that winter seems to have arrived, my thoughts have headed north VERY quickly 😀

  6. The Sleeping Buddha is awesome, especially with his reflection – great pic!
    Good thing you linked to your other post. All the way up to it I thought, wasn´t Kununurra the place where we visited the Mini Bungle-Bungles in 1995?
    Yep, Mirima National Park Rock Formations is or was also known as that, phew, my mind did not trick me after all 🙂
    Do they also offer meat-pies? I´d be lost with all the sweet stuff 😉
    Beautiful last pic!

    1. Thank you Iris! Glad to see your memory hasn’t failed 😀 I actually don’t recall a bakery as such – there may have been one, but we kept ourselves topped up with all the mango cheesecakes and smoothies!! We didn’t actually get to the real Bungle Bungles on that trip, so visiting Mirima (and also Keep River National Park just inside the NT border) made up for it! I hope the real ones aren’t disappointing when I finally see them!!

  7. Oh that sunset over the lake in Kununurra takes me back to that exact caravan park. We only spent one night here because we wanted to get out to Lake Argyle. The colours of the escarpments that change during the light of the day was a photographers dream! Great post and photos Red!

    1. We didn’t actually stay at Lake Argyle, Kathy – although next time there’s a better than average chance we’ll be there 😀 And although I’m a fair-weather tourist and only travelled there during the dry, cooler months, I found the scenery, colours – and whole area – amazing!

  8. Lovely photos….we are going there again this year, our 3rd time..
    Most of the places you mention we have been there.. Have you ever been to the Mitre10 shop there? Next door was sure something you would never forget…:)

    1. Oh, you’re such a tease, M!!!! I don’t think we had any reason to go to Mitre 10 – and I don’t actually recall where it is! So you’re going to HAVE to put me out of my misery and tell me what the Mitre 10 thing is!! PLEASE!!!

    1. Strangely enough, Kununurra DOES have wildflowers, Kozue! They start a lot earlier than the spring wildflowers further south, and they’re more arid land flowers such as wattles and eucalyptus. But you’re right about the ‘wild’!!! Have a great weekend!!

  9. “It’s not always all about cake”. hmmm, I’d be sorely tempted to stay around the cafe areas and sample all the cakes and everything else too. The crocodiles don’t get into that area do they?
    As for the annual swimming races, do they really have those? in crocodile infested waters? Probably it’s a good way to train for the Olympics, if you can out swim a crocodile….
    That 3m snake looks like another shadow or crack in the ground, no wonder the joggers didn’t notice it.
    The final sunset is very red and very beautiful.

    1. After 10 days of cake indulgence (usually accompanied by mango smoothies, ice-cream and various other goodies) I really needed to get away and cut back on the food intake, River! Not that I didn’t enjoy it while it lasted 😀 The crocodiles in Lake Argyle are supposedly ‘only’ freshies ie less dangerous; I guess you’d have to be a special type of person!! NOT like me – not until Mortein develops croc-repellent, anyway!!! As for the snake, it just shows how alert you have to be -looking at the pic again, I realise how well camouflaged it is! There’s nothing quite like a Kimberley sunset – but they tell me they’re even more spectacular when there’s stormy weather!! Have a great day, my friend!!

    1. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be plotting and planning a visit ASAP, Jo-Anne! Although I’m a fair-weather tourist – I only went during the dry winter! Not sure how I’d cope in summer 😀

  10. I enjoyed that post so much! I had never stopped to wonder how much the Ord River Irrigation Scheme must have changed the area and I would not have imagined that Kununurra would be a foodie haven. Thanks so much for your pics and stories.

    1. It’s my pleasure, Pauline! The Ord River Scheme was so ambitious, and probably isn’t being used to its full potential, but the difference it’s made to the area is amazing. Not just food – but scenery and activities as well!! Have you been there? It’s really an AWESOME part of Australia!

  11. I really enjoyed your post. So many great views and adventures. I used to help my dad bale hay when I was growing up. They did stack the bales pretty high on the wagon and in the hayloft. Christie

    1. I’ve never baled hay, but I’ve seen some pretty high haystacks, Christie! All the same, I don’t think I’d be the one climbing to the top – the catchers would have their work cut out for them to catch me if I fell!!

  12. Another wow type of post… you really do have some adventures… and I loved your opening para! A boss I once had used to travel to Kununurra regularly… I always remember his papers were stained with red earth whenever he came back!

    1. We were still finding red dust in nooks and crannies in our car 12 months after our trip to the Kimberley and Pilbara, Liz! If anything, the Pilbara is even REDDER!! Just between us, Kununurra is a foodie paradise – an amazing amount of fresh produce! Have a great day!!

  13. It is odd that boab trees grow quite happily in the cold too. A three metre snake with rock fissure environmental camouflage! The watermelon race sounds like a hoot but the haystacking looks dangerous.

    1. All this talk of Boab trees and snakes makes me think of ‘The Little Prince’, Andrew! Did you ever read it?? We went on a tour from Derby in the West Kimberley, and our mad Israeli driver said all European children know it, but few Australians, so he was surprised when I mentioned it. Boabs do lend a touch of the exotic to the landscape! I was surprised no one was injured in the haystacking – the stacks fell quite frequently! Although they DID have catchers waiting …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.