Your Ultimate Guide To Gibb River Road

by Meri Gasem

Gibb River Road is the greatest, adventure-filled 4WD trip you can take in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. Faced with so much choice, you might even wonder where to begin, where to stay and how much time is actually enough?

There are so many well-known attractions, but you can find more gems if you decide to extend your trip and dive deeper into the region. To sum up, it’s best to plan your Gibb River Road trip day by day. Here’s my ultimate guide to grasping the best of the Gibb River Road in a fortnight!


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Important Travel Tips

  • Basic Road Info: Gibb River Road was formerly a cattle route; it’s mostly gravel with some rock parts. It is 660km long, starting at Derby and ending at Kunnunura or vice versa. It takes you through the untouched wilderness of Western Australia.
  • Best Travel Time: The best season for taking the Gibb River Road is April to October. June and July are perfect, but the road and campsites can get packed. If you’re looking to escape the crowds and don’t mind a little rain, April and October are good months.
  • Estimated Travel Time: You can make the trip in less than 10 days if you decide to stay on track and visit only the locations close to the road. There’s so much to be seen with slight detours, so plan at least 12-14 days.
  • What To Bring: 4WD and an experienced driver are a must. Forget camp trailers and caravans. Specialized off-road caravans are fine. There are strategically placed roadhouses along the road, but bring a fuel canister just in case. Spare tires are a must.
  • Tickets And Permissions: You need Kimberley National Parks permits for the following: Mirima National Park, King Leopold Range Conservation Park (including Bell Gorge), Tunnel Creek National Park, Windjana Gorge National Park.
    Or get unlimited entry to all WA parks for 12 months, at $92 per vehicle.
    Manning Gorge entry is $22.50 per person with camping. El Questro and Emma Gorge – you need 7 days Wilderness Park permit for $22 per person or a day permit for $12. Entry Permit to travel through Aboriginal Land is free, but the Kalumburu Recreation Entry Permit, the “Yellow Tourist Permit,” costs $50 per vehicle.

Part 1 – Kununurra To El Questro

Kununurra is the east starting point of the Gibb River Road and an entrance to Western Australia’s wilderness. Founded in 1961, Kununurra means “black soil” in the local Aboriginal dialect. It’s a young town and one of the three towns in the Kimberley with over 2,000 residents. Do your last-minute shopping here.

Take a moment to admire the rich birdlife, striking landscapes, superb waterways, and vast farmland around the town. Take a walk to the Emma Gorge, visit Mirima National Park, go to Ord River Dam, or climb to Kelly’s Knob Lookout for a phenomenal sunset.
Get on Gibb River Road and continue west to El Questro Wilderness Park.

Places To Stay

Paid: El Questro Station.

Free: Fish Hole or Pentecost River Crossing.


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Part 2 – El Questro Wilderness Park

El Questro is a million-acre park in the heart of the Kimberley Region. It’s one part wilderness park and one part still working cattle station. Start the day by driving up Saddleback Ridge or take a short walk through the pre-historic forest for a soak in the thermal pools at Zebedee Springs.

Unmissable El Questro highlights are the magnificent Cockburn Ranges and the Chamberlain Gorge. Take a tour to Explosion Gorge and Branco’s Lookout and take in the splendid panoramic view of the wilderness.

Places To Stay

Paid: Wren Private Campsite.

Free: Karunjie Track Stock Route.


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Part 3 – El Questro To Home Valley Station

Head next to El Questro’s direct rival – Home Valley Station. This three-million-acre haven – part cattle station rests at the foot of the dramatic Cockburn Range. It provides every type of accommodation and a plethora of activities. Hit the walking tracks, dive in the ancient gorges and rock pools. Or try your luck fishing barramundi in the Pentecost River.
End the day by watching the sunset over the Cockburn Ranges.

Places To Stay

Paid: Home Valley Station River Camp.

Free: Lookout Camp, Boab Camp or Stone Quarry.


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Part 4- Home Valley Station To Drysdale River Station

Take a slight detour from Gibb River Road to the northeast to Drysdale River Station. This one-million-acre station is located below the Drysdale River National Park, presenting various services as a convenience store, fuel, tires, and batteries. You can choose between bush or homestead stay and enjoy a night in the bar and restaurant.

Places To Stay

Paid: Drysdale River Station Homestead.

Free: Russ Creek or Hann River Rest Stop.


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Part 5 – Drysdale River Station

Start the day by taking off to Drysdale River National Park, where you get to admire the pure wilderness. Walk around open woods, dive in gorges, rock pools, and creeks of the Drysdale River. You’ll find two large waterfalls, Morgan Falls and Solea Falls, and many smaller ones along the river.
Over 600 species of rare plants, from aquatic and swamp varieties to ferns, fan palms, Kalumbaru gums, and paperbarks, can be found along the river bank. Get back to Drysdale River Station for much-deserved rest.

Places To Stay

Paid: Drysdale River Station – Miners Pool Camp.

Free: Kennedy Creek or Booms Camp.

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Part 6 – Drysdale River Station To Mitchell Falls

Head early and dive to Mitchell Falls campground and car park. Decide whether you’re up for a moderate to difficult hike to Mitchell Falls or prefer a helicopter ride from Mitchell Plateau. The walk is a picturesque sight, with aboriginal art and swimming stops along the way.
Mitchell Falls is a four-tiered, 80-metre-drop waterfall on the red rocks, with sensational native fauna and flora that will have you captivated for hours. The ride is challenging, so ensure spare tires.

If you would splurge on one paid camp for the whole Gibb River Road, let that be Mitchell Falls. Location wise it’s perfect for you to rest and get a jump start the following day!

Places To Stay

Paid: Mitchell Falls Camp.

Free: Walsh Point Port Warrender or Turkey Creek Campsite.


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Part 7 – Mitchell Falls To Manning Gorge

Leave Mitchell Falls and get back on the Gibb River Road to another impressive water body, Manning Gorge. Set up at the huge campground with plenty of shade and take the 30-minute walk to the gorge. It can be the highlight of your trip! You’re surrounded by amazing scenery, crystal clear water, and a small waterfall if you’re visiting right after the wet season.

If you don’t feel like walking, there’s a lovely little water hole close to the campground.

Places To Stay

Paid: Manning Gorge Campground.

Free: Road Side Camping Area, Jigngarrin Camping or Frog Campground.


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Part 8 – Manning Gorge To Bell Gorge

After a peaceful night at the Manning Gorge, drive 90 kilometres to Bell Gorge. It’s rated as one of the most spectacular attractions in the Kimberley. Bell Gorge features a cascading 100-metre waterfall, rock pools, and incredible cliff-top views. It’s a serene sight with fantastic nature. Just a short walk takes you to the higher and lower pool. The water in the higher pool is warmer but shallow. The lower pool is deeper and more refreshing.

Places To Stay

Paid: Silent Grove.

Free: Dog Chain Creek or Bell Creek Swim Hole.


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Part 9 – Bell Gorge To Windjana Gorge National Park

Take off from Bell Gorge and drive 126 kilometres to Windjana Gorge National Park. The park is settled in the Napier Ranges, a 50 million-year-old coral reef that is now a mountain range. Take a walk around the astonishingly tall walls covered with fossils, up to Tunnel Creek National Park, the oldest cave system in Western Australia.

You can take a torch-lit walk through the 750-metre tunnel, a natural habitat of bats and freshwater crocodiles. Wear suitable shoes; you’ll be walking in the water!

Head back to Windjana Gorge National Park to spend the night.

Places To Stay

Paid: Windjana Gorge Campground.

Free: Lenard River Campsite.


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Part 10 – Windjana Gorge National Park

Get up early and take a walk to the Windjana Gorge for phenomenal views. You’ll find over 50 freshwater crocodiles basking in the sun on the shore. As you might guess, swimming here is not recommended. The crocodiles are generally more afraid of you than you are of them, but they can give you a harmful bite if aggravated, so keep your distance and don’t disturb them.

Rest and prepare for the final stretch of your road trip.

Places To Stay

Paid: Mount Hart Wilderness Lodge Camping Area.

Free: Donkey Creek Roadside Stop or Old Road Workers Area.


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Part 11 – Windjana Gorge National Park To Derby

Take off from Windjana Gorge National Park, and just after 8 kilometres, you’ll come across a sealed road. The road to Derby is 146 kilometres long, but the official end of Gibb River Road comes at 119 kilometres.
Derby, along with Kununurra and Broome, is one of the three towns with over 2,000 people. It also has the highest tides in Australia, with the difference between low and high tide stretching 11.8 metres.

The Boab Prison Tree and Wharfinger’s House Museum are reminders of the region’s colonial and convict past. You can already sense that you’re going back to civilization with the sight of The Royal Flying Doctor Base and the Kimberley School of the Air.

Choose from local station stays and camping options to spend an extra night and go on a half-day trip to the world’s only Horizontal Waterfalls and the 1,000 islands of the Buccaneer Archipelago.

Places To Stay

Paid: Birdwood Downs Station.

Free: Zandbergen Barra Campsite or Fitzroy River Campgrounds.


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Part 12 – Derby To Broome

Driving out of Derby, take the National Highway and head off to Broome. You’ll be driving on a sealed road, so it will take you around two and a half hours to pass the 222 kilometres.

Broome is a seaside town full of rich history and a vivid alfresco lifestyle. This town offers experiences and attractions for all tastes. Take a tour around town, witness the dinosaur footprints, or admire the red rock formations at Gantheaume Point.

The beach in Broome is straight out of a postcard – the red rocks and turquoise water seem like the place where fire meets ice.

As a wholesome end of the day and your Gibb River Road Trip, take a sunset camel ride.

Places To Stay

Paid: Broome Caravan Park.

Free: North of Willie Creek (Melbourne Beach) or Pete’s Paradise Camp.


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