Kununurra was a real surprise package for us.
We initially planned to stay for five or six nights. But we were so overwhelmed by the beauty of the surrounding Kimberley region, we ended up staying nine nights (including one night at nearby Lake Argyle), using Kununurra as a base for exploring the wider region, sans caravan.
We stayed in the centre of town, in convenient walking distance to shops and the diverse range of services to suit any requirement.
The picturesque Celebrity Tree Park is on Lily Creek Lagoon, just off the Ord River. Why is it called Celebrity Tree Park, I hear you ask? Because the trees have been planted by local, state, national and international ‘celebrities’ … like John Farnham, Harry Butler, and HRH Princess Anne, amongst many others.
We took a drive through the nearby Ord River Irrigation Area, which consists of over 20,000 hectares of agricultural land, growing mangoes and other tropical fruits, chickpeas, sugar cane, chia seeds and sandalwood, amongst other crops.
We stopped off for a delicious lunch at the Sandalwood Gallery and Cafe, and followed that up with some rum tasting at the nearby ‘Hoochery’ distillery.
Keeping with the notion of sampling the local produce, we enjoyed a drink while watching the sunset at the old Ord Dam’s Pump House station – now a bar and restaurant, beautifully situated on the banks of ‘Lake Kununurra’ (otherwise known as the Ord River).
Hidden Valley (Mirima National Park)
The Mirima National Park, and it’s exquisite Hidden Valley, is just minutes from the Kununurra’s town centre. Looking like a mini Bungle Bungles, it’s rocky outcrops were formed over 350 million years ago, in the Devonian period. The unique landforms were caused by wind and water eroding the highlands in the vicinity of nearby present day Lake Argyle, while sand was blown here, forming dunes of over 30 metres high. Deposits eventually accumulated to a thickness of several hundred metres, making up the layered sandstone that appears in Hidden Valley today.
Keep River National Park (NT)
The Keep River National Park is actually back in the Northern Territory, literally a stone’s throw from the Western Australian border. We had intended taking time out to see this park on our drive across to WA, but we had to be at Lake Argyle in time for the 2.15 pm sunset cruise – the sun sets a lot earlier in WA, thanks to the 90 minutes time difference between the Territory and WA! So, we promised ourselves that we’d pop back across the border, especially as the park is only 55 kms from Kununurra.
This lovely little park is chock full of delights, including Aboriginal sites, hikes, spectacular geology, and a couple of lovely campgrounds.
Our first hike was the (5.2 kms return) Nigli Gap walk, one of the Jarnem walks at the far reaches of the park. Unfortunately, we didn’t finish this walk – a combination of the unforgiving midday 34 degrees C heat, overgrown obstacle-ridden path, and a long walk without actually seeing much. Moral of the story: next time, start walks much earlier on hot days! But at least we walked for an hour, and any exercise is good, right?
Next stop was the Jenemoom walk alongside the banks of the mostly dry Keep River.
We loved the Goorrandalng (brolga dreaming) walk, amongst the sandstone cliffs and extensive mini Bungle Bungles rocky outcrops. Best of all was the marvelous campground literally metres from the rocks, where campers could make the most of the sunrise and sunset colour changes.
Our final stop was the Ginger’s Hill Walk, which led to an ingenious stone and sticks structure atop the small hill, used by traditional hunters to capture birds of prey. The hunter lit a small fire nearby to attract the birds, while he lay in wait inside the structure, ready to catch the birds with a lure.
El Questro Station
Our final day in the region was spent stooging around the 700,000 acres of El Questro Station, on the Gibb River Road west of Kununurra.
After purchasing our day pass to the station, we headed straight to Zebedee Springs, as the pools close each day at noon (afternoons are reserved for tour groups). We walked through a shady grove of dense Livistona palms to a series of small rocky thermal pools that are naturally heated to a balmy 28 to 32 degrees C all year round.
There were many deep water crossings in El Questro Station. The water was hip height at this one on the road to El Questro Gorge. Despite having a snorkel fitted on the truck, we weren’t about to test it for water ingress weak spots in a croc infested area! Sadly, we didn’t get to see El Questro Gorge.
However, we were much braver at the very rocky Pentecost River crossing on the Gibb River Road – especially given how little water was actually flowing!
You can check out the video of our drive across the Pentecost River crossing and return here …
These are just a sample of the East Kimberley delights in and around Kununurra, along with those in other recent posts, including the scenic flight over the Bungle Bungle Ranges, our day trip to Wyndham, and the beautiful Lake Argyle and the Ord River Dam.
But it is time to leave, as we continue our journey through the Kimberleys en route towards Broome.