Howdy from the Maxxis Man! It’s been a while since we’ve hit the road for a bit of 4×4 Australian Outback exploring – so get ready for another extraordinary adventure beyond the bitumen! This time we’re heading off on the rugged (and very infamous) Gibb River Road through the very heart of Western Australia’s Kimberley region – where we’re pretty much assured of loads of out-of-this-world scenery, red dust, more red dust, river crossings …. and heaps of enjoyment being all part of the deal. So, if this sounds like just what the doctor ordered and you’re up for the challenge – here we go…
What vehicle and the all-important question of tyres
A 79 Series Landcruiser (or similar) fitted with a set of Maxxis RAZR MTs would be the perfect combination to take on the great Gibb River Road, giving you the peace of mind that whether it’s a river crossing, thick sand, rocky outcrop, stretches of uneven, unsealed corrugations or something else extreme, you’re well prepared for whatever conditions you encounter along the way!
So where exactly are we going
This drive takes you through the Kimberleys for over 660km – stretching from Derby to Wyndham or Kununurra with (of course!) plenty of opportunities to make this longer should you decide to take some detours. We’d recommend taking a minimum of 6 days to make the most of this trip – giving your vehicle and tyres a real chance to show their mettle and you the opportunity to enjoy some of Australia’s most pristine Outback outdoors away from “all things” city! While much of the main road is sealed, you may experience some rough, corrugated sections – which can affect your grip (and comfort), so extra care and caution and less speed may be required.
Itinerary and the sights along the way
There are SO many highlights to the Gibb River Road, the world really is your oyster when you set off on this road-of-all roads, with the sheer expanse and majesty of the landscape stretching out endlessly and many detours from the main road for you to choose from. We’ve selected just a few to get you on your way…
Derby to Windjana Gorge National Park
We start our trip at the town of Derby, 220km northeast of Broome and gateway to the great Gibb River Road. With plenty of character of its own, Derby is situated on the King Sound, recording Australia’s highest tides and is also home to the famous Boab tree. A sunset from the jetty and a bit of fishing or crabbing, could make the perfect beginning to this adventure before you fuel up for the first leg of your trip.
Once on the road, it’s 145km to the majestic Windjana Gorge (rising to a height of 100m in some places). At the foot of the gorge, crocodiles abound in the Bandingan Rock pool (so swimming is definitely not advisable here!) There are two camp sites in the park and it’s a picturesque place to bushwalk, set up camp and enjoy the peace and quiet and the wide-open starry night sky.
Bell Gorge – King Leopold Ranges Conservation Park
Next stop is Bell Gorge (about 250km on the main road and then a further 30km from the turn off), with cascading falls and rocky pools creating a picture-perfect spot to rest, relax and cool down after a dusty day’s drive. Silent Grove is a good camping ground base for the night — however if you’re after something a little more luxurious, there’s the Mount Hart Homestead (also in the park but about 100km on).
Another 120km on Gibb River Road and you’ll arrive at the entrance to the impressive Manning Gorge, accessed via the Mt Barnett Roadhouse. It’s a colourful (sometimes arduous, hot, narrow and rocky!) 5km trail to the gorge from the camp ground across the Manning River, with Aboriginal rock art situated along the way, a cascading waterfall at the top and a couple of pools beneath. Make sure you have good walking shoes, sunnies and sunscreen and drinking water – before setting off. Stock up with supplies and petrol for the next stage of your trip at the Mt Barnett Roadhouse – which also offers some accommodation as an alternative to the tranquil camping ground set beside the pools at the lower Manning Gorge.
El Questro Station
Manning Gorge to El Questro Station is the longest distance of our itinerary (we’re sure your RAZRs are more than up for it!) El Questro is a stunning and expansive wilderness park made up of gorges, mountains, hot springs, waterholes, rainforests and more – teaming with wildlife and natural beauty to explore which we’re tipping may need more than a one-night stopover to take in. With a camp site, bungalows and homestead accommodation, restaurants and grocery store, there’s something for everyone here, so it’s really up to you how you choose to kick back and enjoy the experience.
Wyndham or Kununurra
The last leg of our trip takes us either to Wyndham (where you’ll be greeted by the town’s Big Croc at the entrance to the town) or Kununurra. With a history set in the gold rush, Wyndham is the most northern town in the Kimberleys, situated at the mouth of the King, Pentecost, Durack, Forest and Ord Rivers – and the perfect place to end our adventure or start another.
If you’re heading the final (relatively short) stretch to Kununurra, the road from the entrance to El Questro to Kununurra is sealed all the way. Enjoy the hospitality of a vibrant and character-filled town, with numerous accommodation options and if you’re still up for a bit more adventure, this is the launching point to explore Lake Kununurra, Lake Argyle, and the Ord River – and way beyond.
What to pack and how to prepare
This is one of those trips where preparation is key! Ensure your vehicle and tyres have been thoroughly checked before you leave (don’t forget to do the tyre pressures!) have a good supply of water as well as plenty of sunscreen, camping gear and food supplies, vehicle jack and other vehicle spares, tools, spare fuel and necessities you would usually take on any 4×4 Outback adventure. The Kimberleys can get extremely hot, but depending on when you do the trip, the nights can get cool, so make sure you’re well equipped!
Anything else you may need to know
No two drives of Gibb River Road are ever quite the same. You’re bound to see animals (wild and farm animals) for which the Kimberleys are renowned, so avoid driving at dusk, dawn and in the dark. Also — the dust can impair visibility, so take extra care (or avoid) overtaking. There are a couple of roadhouses along the stretch of the Gibb, plus other pit stops, but it is essential to plan your fuel stops carefully, particularly if you’re running a petrol vehicle or planning to explore some off-the-beaten tracks. The dry season (late April/May to October) is the time to do this drive as the Gibb River Road is closed during the wet season.
Well that’s about it from me! Now it’s over to you to check those RAZRs are ready for action, buckle up and enjoy this magnificent ride! Safe travels and we look forward to you sharing some of your photos along the way.
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.