Is a visit to Australia on your boomer travel list? While major cities like Sydney and Melbourne are an adventure in their own right, there really is so much more of this beautiful country to explore.
Active travel in the Kimberley Region
When you need a big adventure on a grand scale that won’t require clambering up high mountains or sailing on rough seas, then an overland trip into Australia’s golden-red outback in North West Australia could fit the bill. What I love about North West Australia (particularly the Kimberley Region) is that it is remote and still do-able, but not yet oversubscribed from a tourism point of view.
Start the Kimberley adventure in Broome
The little pearling town of Broome, with its gorgeous 13+ miles of sandy beach on Cable Bay, is the setting off point for tours into the region. For me, the Australian Outback has everything that I expected after watching the movie, Crocodile Dundee—including crocodiles!
I found it hard to get my mind around the distances because the Kimberley Region is known for its huge cattle stations which often cover more than one million acres. I was also really surprised to see so much more than just outback scrub.
The Kimberley is home to towering gorges, spinifex plains, Boab trees, ancient rock formations, reefs dating back 350 million years. Huge waterfalls are often approached through a landscape of ferns and palms that’s almost tropical.
Adventure along the Gibb River Road
My trip to the Kimberley was with a tour company that took guests on a well-organized 12-day adventure along the Gibb River Road and the Great Northern Highway in a return loop from Broome to Kununurra. I enjoyed not only the social aspect of traveling with others (16 of us on the bus) but also having an experienced driver who was knowledgeable about the area.
The unsealed (dirt) Gibb River Road is considered one of the last adventure routes in Australia. It offers over 373 miles of dusty road with many creeks and water crossings to be navigated. The road was originally constructed for road trains transporting cattle from isolated stations to the northern ports of Derby and Wyndham.
Although guided tours in the Kimberley Region can be expensive, there are reasonably priced ‘glamping’ trips geared for people ‘of a certain age’ rather than backpackers. These are a little less rugged than you’d expect of a traditional overland adventure.
Even so, we camped under the stars, walked through ancient land formations, watched a cattle muster, swam in crystal clear natural pools and listened to our tour guide play the haunting Aboriginal instrument, the Didgeridoo, around camp fires at night. With no cell phone reception for most of the time, we could easily pretend that the world didn’t exist.
Some of the impressive gorges with their soaring cliffs, palm trees and waterfalls are accessed from the legendary Gibb River Road. Although I’d like to mention them all, I’m going to limit myself to just three gorges which took my breath away.
The 2 mile-long Windjana Gorge is about 250 million years old. The sheer size of it and the colors of the cliffs are amazing. Although it’s tempting to jump into the deep pool of water formed by the Lennard River, don’t! It’s full of fresh water crocodiles, which you may not see immediately but which certainly have their eyes on you.
To get to Mannings Gorge you have to swim across a river and then walk. But the journey is worth it because the beautiful pool and thundering waterfall are great to swim in and under.
Cathedral Gorge is situated in the 360 million-years-old Bungle Bungle Range in the Purnululu National Park. The huge cave is like a natural amphitheater with great acoustics and a reverential feel. Despite being so ancient, the big mushroom-shaped Bungle Bungles were only opened as a tourist destination in 1983.
Tips for Travel to the Kimberley Region
- 4WD is recommended along the Gibb River Road.
- Consider traveling with an overland tour company if you have limited time available, don’t know how to change a tire and want insider knowledge of the region.
- Don’t forget to pack mosquito repellant.
- Be aware of crocodiles at all waterways in the Kimberley.
- Best time to go is from April until September.