National Parks Around the Kimberley Region
Tunnel Creek National Park
Tunnel Creek National Park is Western Australia’s oldest cave system. Part of the same ancient Devonian reef system as Windjana Gorge, the cave has been carved by the waters of Tunnel Creek flowing beneath the Napier Range. You can walk 750 metres into the tunnel, wading waist-deep through freshwater pools. The cave features many beautiful formations, including stalactites and stalagmites, and is also home to a variety of bats, olive pythons and freshwater crocodiles. To experience the cave, take a reliable torch, wear old sneakers and be prepared to get wet.
Access to the park is via unsealed roads, approximately 35 kms southeast of Windjana Gorge National Park or 90 kms from Fitzroy Crossing. Tunnel Creek National Park is a day use area only, with facilities limited to toilets and an information shelter. No overnight camping is permitted and access is limited to the dry season only.
Bungle Bungles and Purnululu
One of the world’s most fascinating geological landmarks, the orange and black sandstone domes, known as the Bungle Bungles, rise 300 metres above the grass-covered plain of Purnululu National Park. You can explore the range on foot and discover long narrow chasms and hidden gorges large enough to hold a full-scale concert. You may also encounter some of the 130 bird species found here and unique native animals including the nailtail wallaby and short-eared rock wallaby. The park itself is rich in ancient Indigenous art and burial sites. However, for their protection, most are off limits to visitors. Because of its remoteness and 4WD only access, the easiest way to see the Bungle Bungles and Purnululu National Park in Western Australia is to take one of the scenic flights from Kununurra. It is a truly amazing sight from the air. Otherwise, from Kununurra its 200 kms of sealed road then 50 kms of unsealed road. From Halls Creek, its 100 kms of sealed road followed by 50 kms of unsealed road. A couple of days is recommended to take in the full spectacle of the park by land, though it’s definitely worth it.
Windjana Gorge is probably the best place in the whole Kimberley to see freshwater crocodiles in their natural environment. Every time I went I saw dozens of them, no matter what time of the year. The gorge itself is quite impressive too.
Wolfe Creek Crater
One of Australia’s most remarkable outback landscapes, massive Wolfe Creek Crater, lies on the edge of the Great Sandy Desert in the East Kimberley. Wolfe Creek Crater is the second largest crater in the world, measuring 880 metres across and to a depth about 60 metres below the rim. Go bushwalking and see the crater from the rim – you’ll feel dwarfed by its size. There’s also an information shelter where you can learn about the landform. The Aboriginal Dreamtime story tells of two rainbow snakes crossing the desert and creating Sturt and Wolfe Creeks by emerging from the ground.
For a true taste of the wilderness there’s a camp ground with basic facilities. Wolfe Creek Crater National Park is about a two to three hour drive from Halls Creek via the Tanami Road which accessible by conventional vehicles.
Windjana Gorge National Park
Windjana Gorge National Park is part of a 375 million-year-old Devonian reef system. Carved by the Lennard River, Windjana Gorge is over three kms long with 300 metre-high walls. At the base of the gorge, deep freshwater pools surrounded by native fig, cadjeput and liechardt trees attract flocks of noisy corellas, fruit bats and is probably the best place to see fresh water crocodiles in the Kimberley. The area is of great cultural importance to the local Bunuba people who once lived there, and was the base for Jandamurra, the Indigenous outlaw who led an armed rebellion against European settlers in the 1890s.
Windjana Gorge National Park is 150 kms from Fitzroy Crossing, 145 kms from Derby and the only access is by unsealed roads. During the wet season, from December to March, the roads into the park can be closed due to local flooding. You can also easily visit it in a day trip from Fitzroy Crossing or Derby if you up early.
Mitchell River National Park
For outback scenery and Aboriginal culture, Mitchell River National Park in the rugged Kimberley region, is among the best in Australia. Here you can see spectacular landscapes including the Mitchell Plateau and the thundering Mitchell Falls. In full flood, the Mitchell Falls are an amazing sight.
A bushwalking track leads to the falls where you can enjoy a refreshing dip in the water. Take a plane or chopper ride over the falls and you’ll feel all of their majestic power. The Mitchell Plateau abounds in wildlife and plants. There’s rainforest, open woodlands of gum trees, and watercourses lined by pandanus palms and paperbark trees.
Mitchell Plateau harbours a huge variety of wildlife including mammals, an abundance of birds, saltwater crocodiles and snakes. The Mitchell River National Park is also home to other beautiful terrain including Merton Falls, Surveyors Pool, the Mitchell and King Edward Rivers. The area is home to many ancient rock art sites, most of which have remained untouched for thousands of years. There are basic camping facilities throughout the park. Access is by four wheel drive only from the Gibb River Road between Derby and Wyndham and may be limited during the wet season.