Hello, it’s the Maxxis Man again, and I’m about to head off for our next road trip in our “All-Australian” series. I’ve been keeping this one to the iconic Kimberleys up my sleeve for you 4WD’er’s out there who really want to take their vehicle on a ride that throws up everything to test out your vehicle and tyres, while also offering the most AMAZING landscapes and scenery that you really won’t see anywhere else. If you’re ready for lots of red dust, cascading waterfalls and waterholes, gorges, national parks, and lakes, palm trees and camel trains, red rocks, the very famous beautiful white sandy Cable Beach and lots of HOT sunny weather … I think you may just be in for the ride of your life!
Where are we going
Starting on the National Highway in Darwin, we’ll be travelling over 2,100km for this trip – mainly keeping to sealed roads, although it goes without saying that there is heaps of opportunity to take your 4×4 and see the numerous sights off-the-beaten track beyond our itinerary (we’ll leave that to you)! From Darwin we’ll head to the Kakadu National Park, wind our way through Nitmiluk to Katherine, Kununurra, Halls Creek, Fitzroy Crossing – take a short detour to Derby before arriving at our destination, magnificent Broome, a place of great contrasts. This is a trip which needs time, so plan at least 10 days (or more).
What car to drive and the all-important question of tyres
We’ll be keeping to the main roads, but we’d still suggest that for this trip (if you plan to go on some 4×4-only detours) you’ll ideally need a vehicle of the calibre a Toyota Landcruiser or Landrover Defender, fitted with highly dependable Maxxis MT772s or M8060 Trepadors that are ready for any test!
What to pack
As this is one of those rides where you’ll see a lot of nature and less of those built-up areas between stops, being prepared for just about anything is essential. Ensure you have a good supply of water as well as plenty of sunscreen, camping gear, vehicle jack and other vehicle spares, tools and necessities you would usually take on any 4×4 Outback adventure. If you’re a keen photographer – this one is for you! You won’t get any closer to the majestic great Australian outdoors – so your camera is an absolute no brainer. And don’t forget your swimming togs – however, a word of caution! If you’re planning to make a splash in the natural pools, you’ll need to be very careful you’re not joined by some local crocodiles – they are prevalent throughout this area!
It’s also worth noting — that unless you are an avid adventurer and ready for all-weather and road conditions –mid-April to mid-October (the dry season) is often suggested as the best time to visit this area.
Where to stop and the sights along the way
Darwin our starting point is brimming with character, restaurants, tropical weather, and accommodation of every description, so it makes a perfect beginning. If you time it right, visit Mindil Beach markets, take a Sunset Cruise or just soak up the Northern Territory feel of the waterfront area – and get yourself right and relaxed for an early morning start next day, before it starts heating up (which it does and it will!). For the first leg of our trip (which will take about three hours), we’re heading to the World Heritage listed Kakadu National Park, so get onto the National Highway 1 and then onto the Arnhem Highway (it’s sealed!) and we’re on our way.
Jabiru, Kakadu National Park
Arriving in Jabiru (the main town in the heart of Kakadu), you’ll find everything you need to explore your surroundings, with lots of information available from the Bowali Visitor Centre (which is also site of the Marrawuddi Gallery) and accommodation options including the Kakadu Lodge and Caravan Park. Covering 20,000m2 , this heritage listed park is a treasure trove of wildlife, culture and stunning landscapes. Go on the 1.5km Nourlangie Rock walk, do a bit of exploring on your own, take a tour or put your feet up and enjoy the fresh air and back-to-nature experience that this unique, Outback wilderness location offers!
Taking the Kakadu Highway, our next stop (302 km away) is Katherine, sometimes described as where “the Outback meets the Tropics”. The mighty Katherine Gorge (also known as Nitmiluk Gorge) is a highlight of the area with waterfalls and Aboriginal rock art and picturesque sunsets all part of the deal, as well as the opportunity to swim or kayak between the cliffs. Katherine is well equipped with places to stay and make the most of sights, walking trails, cycling tracks and incredible day trips! If you’re camping, take a good look up into the wide open night sky – the stars are incredible! You’ll also see an abundance of birdlife (including some exotic species) and of course, keep an eye out for other wildlife including those salties who call the Northern Territory their home!
Next stop is Kununurra, 515km from Katherine (you may like to take a break at Timber Creek on the way).
Lake Kununurra, in the Ord River Valley, is an ideal spot to kick back and take in yet another fabulous sunset. This is also your perfect base to take a guided tour to the famous and equally magnificent Bungle Bungle Ranges in the Purnululu National Park.
Well this trip keeps giving – but we’ve still got quite a way to go. The next leg covers the 358km to historical Halls Creek (site of WA’s first gold discovery!) – at the edge of the Great Sandy and Tanami Deserts. Sound remote? You bet! It’s not a big town but there is a visitors’ centre and a couple of accommodation options including motels, a caravan park and camping options nearby. An impressive attraction not far from the town is the China Wall (off the Duncan Highway) – naturally formed of white quartz – definitely worth a visit!
290km further on the Great Northern Highway and on the banks of the Fitzroy River, is Fitzroy Crossing, a centre for Aboriginal art, culture and heritage. This is also the nearest town to the series of three national parks known as “the Devonian Reef National Parks” of Windjana Gorge, Tunnel Creek and Geike Gorge – once again offering spectacular views and abundant wildlife including the fresh water Barramundi. The long-standing history of the town is still going strong, with the Crossing Inn (originally opened in 1897 and the oldest hotel in the Kimberleys) still up-and-running and a very welcoming prospect after a long day’s drive!
Back on the National Highway we are now heading to Derby – a drive of some 256km. Situated on the King Sound, Derby records Australia’ highest tides and is also home to the famous and imposing Boab tree. It may be a small town, but you’ll find it hospitable and full of character with everything you need for a good meal and night’s rest. Settle into a motel and enjoy views of the Sound, or set up at the spacious caravan park in the centre of town.
We’re now on the final stretch (about 220km) – to our destination Broome where the Outback meets the beach. After the long, hot dusty trip Broome has an oasis quality about it – with Cable Beach extending out endlessly and the flat Indian Ocean stretching as far as the eye can see, fringed with the Kimberleys’ signature red rocks! Kayak, ride a camel, visit a pearl farm, go fishing or watch the crocodiles feed at the Malcolm Douglas Crocodile Park and Animal Refuge. Now we’re finally here — I don’t think you’ll need any encouragement to make the most of the beach and cool off before taking in yet another perfect Kimberleys’ sunset! You’ll need at least three days here to unwind, enjoy some local seafood and other activities available (not to mention get those tyres inflated and your vehicle ready for the return journey).
What else to do and see
There are so many other hidden treasures off-the-beaten-track for which the Kimberleys is famous, some that you really do need a 4×4 to access. Here are just a very few we didn’t mention as part of our main itinerary that you might to add on to our trip (there are many, many others too):
- Litchfield National Park: Just an hour from Darwin — and home to the Florence and Wangi waterfalls
- Jim Jim Falls — Set in a monsoon forest, the famous Jim Jim Falls is Kakadu’s highest waterfall, and the scene of stunning escarpments and plunge pool (remember to be careful of those crocs!)
- Gibb River Road: Being a 660km mainly unsealed road this could be another whole adventure in itself, tracking through the Windjana Gorge National Park to El Questro Wilderness Park.
- Halls Creek is the gateway to a number of vast 4×4-only stretches, including Canning Stock Route, considered one of the world’s most challenging 4WD experiences, offering extremely tough terrain including over 900 sand dunes.
- Wolfe Creek Crater (the world’s second largest meteorite crater) – is a 145km (two-to three hour) drive from Halls Creek.
- Mimbi Caves – 90km east of Fitzoy Crossing.
Well that’s the end of another great (and very dusty) trip so it’s time for me (the Maxxis Man) to sign off. I trust those Razrs or Trepador tyres have taken you on a truly amazing adventure. Look forward to hearing about your trip highlights (or tips for other travellers) – so please don’t forget to let us know how you went. Until next time, safe travels and happy holidays!
Please note: The information offered in this blog is of a general nature only and should in no respect replace detailed research, travel and safety preparations as relevant to your individual requirements and vehicle.