Planning a trip around Broome and the Kimberley region in the coming months? Here are some things we think you should keep in mind. And if there’s anything else you’re curious about don’t hesitate to get in touch with us!
Be prepared for the terrain
While the Gibb River Road conditions are not as rough as they used to be, if you’re taking a driving trip around the Kimberley you still must make sure you have the right vehicle. You will need a large 4WD to go on the Gibb River Road, but you don’t necessarily need to be highly experienced in off-road driving. A lot of work has been carried out on the Gibb River Road in the last few years, with big parts of the road now sealed, concrete laid on steeper hills to make them safer and most creeks have proper crossing installed.
You must also be aware that, depending on your planned itinerary, a hire car may not be an option for you. Not all car hire companies will let you drive as far as the Mitchell Plateau because the risk of damage to their vehicles from the bumpy terrain increases as you get further north towards the plateau.
And if you want to join the locals driving on Cable Beach for sunset, make sure you get a Suzuki from ‘Broome Broome Car Rentals’, as most other companies don’t allow beach driving.
Be prepared for the vast expanse of the Kimberley region
When planning your itinerary, be aware of distances – the Kimberley region is a very large expanse of land. Even Australians are surprised by the vast distances, so plan accordingly. Be aware too that driving off-road will slow you down – for example, the drive into the Bungle Bungle Range is just over 50 kms, but you need to allow up to two hours to drive it. Rest assured though, the long drive is worth it to see those beehive domes up close!
The Kimberley seasons greatly affect road and national parks openings, as well as the operation of many tours, cruises and attractions.
The Gibb River Road is usually open from early April to late October, but is closed completely during the wet season. A long wet season can even delay the reopening of the road until late April or early May. The road to the Dampier Peninsula is open year round, but expect road closures if you’re travelling during the Wet and prepare to be flexible and embrace Kimberley time.
You cannot travel on a Kimberley cruise in the wet season (November through March) as cruise vessels in the area do not run during these months due to monsoons and storms. Similarly, Purnululu National Park (home to the Bungle Bungle Ranges) closes during the wet season as it becomes virtually inaccessible due to weather and road closures. You can, however, still take a scenic flight over the Bungle Bungle range even during the wet season.
Keep your itinerary as loose as possible
If your itinerary is jam packed and you’re speeding straight to your next destination and trying to make good travel time, you’ll miss lots of interesting sights. Stop and be surprised and take in all the small bits of local flavour on your path. Like the prison boab tree between Broome and Derby or the famous freshly baked scones that you can get at Ellenbrae Station as you drive to El Questro. So you make it to your destination a few hours late – it’s worth it to experience these little treats along the way!
The best way to see the Kimberley area – by cruise or by road?
This is a tough question to answer simply.
A lot of the Kimberley coast is inaccessible by road, so cruising is the best way to see the stunning coastal sights like the Prince Regent River, Montgomery Reef and Kings Cascade.
However, spots like El Questro, Bell Gorge and the Bungle Bungle Range are in the heart of the Kimberley and experienced as part of a guided Kimberley 4WD tour or your own self-driving trip.
The ideal situation we’d recommend is combining the two – either as a month-long single trip for those with the luxury of time, or a two separate holidays. Start with a cruise to familiarise yourself with the Kimberley, then plan a rougher Gibb River Road trip for a year or two later.
At Broome Kimberley & Beyond we have over 20 years’ experience living and travelling in the Kimberley region, so we’re always on hand to answer your questions about the right Kimberley tours and trips for you, and what to expect! Contact us today to find out more!