Gibb River Road – a users guide

Kimberley Tour

Driving across the Gibb River Road is one of the great Australian adventures.  Located in the Kimberelys in the far north of Western Australia, the Gibb River Road connects Derby to Wyndham and Kununurra.  Originally built to service the cattle industry, the road is now better known as a tourist destination.

You need to have a good 4wd, capable of doing the river crossings in order to tackle the Gibb.  There are plenty of places to camp, but not many places to purchase food or fuel, so you need to be fairly self sufficient.

Fuel is available at Mt Barnett Roadhouse, and El Questro (and possibly Imintji depending on when you read this article).  All of the campsites have water available but you will need to treat the water.

So what is so great about driving across a dusty road? Read on to find out!

Gibb River Road stop 1: Windjana Gorge and Tunnel Creek

Sunset in Windjana Gorge
Sunset in Windjana Gorge

Windjana Gorge is often people’s first stop on the Gibb River road.  There are excellent public camping facilities there as well as some very interesting sites. Windjana Gorge is actually an ancient limestone reef that was deposited in shallow waters by a now extinct cynobacteria.

It is worth spending a couple of days in Windjana (at least one night) so that you can walk the length of the gorge as well as visit tunnel creek.

 

Tunnel Creek, the Kimberley

Tunnel Creek is a short drive from the camp ground and is well worth checking out.  The tunnel is about 650m long filled with water, stalagmites and stalactites.  It is very beautiful.  Make sure you bring your torch with you!

Beware there are a couple of freshwater crocs that live in tunnel creek.  They are not considered dangerous and they keep away from the tourist.  There is a small amount of rock art at the end of the creek. Exit the mouth of the cave and then look up to the left.  With a small amount of exploring you will find a few figures.

Gibb River Road stop 2: Bell Gorge and Silent Grove

Bell Gorge, Gibb River Road, the Kimberleys
Bell Gorge, Gibb River Road, the Kimberleys

Bell gorge is a classic Kimberley waterfall and not to be missed.  There is a natural Spa bath up top, and layered sandstone falls down to the bottom. Just a short drive from the Silent Grove Campsite (run by DPAW), it is worth staying over night so you have plenty of time to soak it up.

The walk in from the car park takes about 10 minutes and is over rocky ground. You could do the walk in sandals if you are confident on your feet.

Bell Gorge, Gibb River Road
To get to the bottom of the falls, you need to cross over the river and then walk/climb following the markers.

It is actually quite easy to do, but the view down looks quite daunting.  Take your time and you will get there.  The swim at the bottom is definitely worth it.

The most challenging part of the walk is when you first begin to go down.  Take care as it is steep.

 

 

Gibb River Road stop 3: Adcock and Galvans Gorge

Swimming at Galvan's Gorge
Swimming at Galvan’s Gorge

Galvan’s gorge is a popular stop on the Gibb River Road as it is only a very short walk in.  Within minutes of jumping out of the Prado, you will be greeted by another beautiful waterhole.

There is a huge old boab tree which presides over the waterhole and strikes an imposing figure.  On the right hand side of the gorge is a small amount of rock art that is worth looking at.

Not far from Galvan’s Gorge is Adcock gorge.  The road in can be quite rough, but it is worth checking out especially during the middle of the day when the sun is on the gorge.

Gibb River Road stop 4: Barnett Station and Manning Gorge

Walking to Manning Gorge in the Kimberleys
Walking to Manning Gorge in the Kimberleys

Trust me, you will stop at Barnett Station – they have ice cream!  And fuel.  That’s important too.  About 20 minutes drive from the fuel station is the Barnett Station campground.  Right on the banks of Barnett creek, you can plop down to the river for a swim when ever you like.  The facilities are a little lacking but the river is really beautiful.

Once you are nicely relaxed, it is time to take the walk out to Manning Falls.  You need to cross the river (there is a boat

Enjoying morning tea at Manning Gorge waterfall
Enjoying morning tea at Manning Gorge waterfall

on a rope if you don’t like walking with wet clothes) and then walk for 1-1.5 hours each way to get to the falls.

The walk is quite easy for the most, but very exposed to the sun, so take water and sun protection.  The last little bit is the most challenging, but it is well worth it when you arrive at one of the most spectacular waterfalls on the Gibb River Road.

Also, keep an eye out for the art on the right hand rock face  as you near the falls.

 

Gibb River Road stop 5: Crossing the Pentacost River

Crossing the Pentacost, Gibb River Road
Crossing the Pentacost, Gibb River Road

One of the main reasons why you need a 4×4 on Gibb River road is to cross the mighty Pentacost river.  With the spectacular Cockburn ranges in the background, it is an iconic part of this crazy adventure.

The river is full of rocks (and crocs) so you need to drive steadily but not quickly.  Do not attempt with the water level is rising rapidly. For a better idea of what you can expect, watch this YouTube video.

 

Gibb River Road stop 6: El Questro

Amalia Gorge, El Questro
Amalia Gorge, El Questro

You have arrived in paradise!  El Questro has so much to do.  Hot springs, gorges, fishing, horseback riding, helicopter flights, or just relax at the bar.

Most people just walk up Emma’s Gorge and soak in the hot springs, but we recommend staying a while longer and exploring all of the gorges.  For a complete run down, see our guide to El Questro station.

 

From El Questro it is only a short drive on to civilisation in Wyndham and Kununurra.

So there you have a guide to the sites on the Gibb River Road.  If you have any questions, shoot us an email at walk@inspirationoutdoors.com.au.

If you are interested to join us on a tour of the Gibb River Road, see our Kimberley tours.

Happy adventuring!

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2 Responses

  1. Peter Hall
    Peter Hall at |

    If you’ve got a bit more time, taking the turnoff to the wildlife sanctuary at Mornington is well worth the trip! 2 hours in, great campground and bar/hospitality facilities and magnificent countryside, even apart from the great scientific work that goes on there. Mornington is one of the Australian Wildlife Conservancy properties around Australia.

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