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Gibb River Road

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January 119 minute read

The Gibb River Road  is a short-cut that connects the remote Kimberley towns of Derby and Kununurra. In the wet season, December to March, it is impassable. In the dry it is 660km of corrugated hell for the ill-prepared. Even for the well equipped, and as every local will tell you, short-cut does not mean faster. It is the numerous side trips from the Gibb that make this trip. We spent two weeks and loved every minute of it, and we could see why some people spend months exploring along this road.

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Beginnings are always a buzz!

Being Perth based, we wanted to maximise our time in the Kimberley so covered the 2,300km to Broome in two days with Gen and I doing two hour shifts at the wheel. We actually love road trips so it was surprisingly effortless, especially with a console brimming with Gen’s amazing home made snacks!

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A Cable Beach sunset is a must.

From Broome we headed straight out onto the Gibb and to Windjana Gorge. It was great to be on the dirt and it felt like the beginning of our trip in earnest.      

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Surprisingly we declined on a swim at Windjana Gorge.

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A little parmesan to finish the bolgnaise.

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Swinging gates on the long driveway in to Mornington Wildlife Sanctuary.

Mornington Wildlife Sanctuary is run by the Australian Wildlife Conservancy. The property used to be a station and the recovery since being managed for the protection of wildlife is impressive. The Fitzroy River flows through Mornington, and Gen was excited to see the river she had heard so much about from my wet season kayaking expedition back in 2013.

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A majestic boab tree on the banks of the Fitzroy River at  the base of Sir John Gorge. 

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Termite mounds glowing under a late sun, Mornington Wildlife Sanctuary.

Manning Gorge is just off the Gibb and after crossing the creek in the tinny it’s a decent hike in to another stunning waterfall and swimming hole.  

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What a fun start to the hike in to Manning Gorge!

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Our home away from home – plenty of shade was priceless!

Mitchell Falls is a solid trip off the Gibb and up the Kalumburu Road. The road wasn’t too bad for us however it reportedly can get worse at different times in the season. It certainly seemed those travelling lighter were having less troubles.

The scale of Mitchell Falls is impressive and certainly made them a highlight for us. The photo below was taken from the rocks high on the gorge side which is relatively safe and accessible from foot and is an amazing spot to soak it all in!

The hike out passed more waterfalls and a side track not far from camp had an amazing display of indigenous art.

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The stunning Mitchell Falls.

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Indigenous art trackside on the hike out from Mitchell Falls.

Just up the hill on the Gibb from Home Valley is the below lookout – it’s the perfect spot for sunset drinks!

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Sunset over the Pentecost Range at Home Valley.

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The Pentecost River.

El Questro was our last stop and what a property! After grabbing a couple of mud maps we happily explored the sites – hot springs, lookouts, gorges – and we might have even snuck in to the restaurant for a nice meal…

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Exploring the tracks of El Questro.

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Branco Lookout, El Questro.

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Flame grilled chicken and vegetable kebabs ?

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The amazing view whilst soaking in El Questro’s Zebedee Hot Springs.

How we spent our days:

Day 1 – Broome to Windjana Gorge

Day 2 – Windjana Gorge to Bell Gorge

Day 3 – Bell Gorge to Mornington Wildlife Sanctuary

Day 4 – Mornington Wildlife Sanctuary

Day 5 – Mornington Wildlife Sanctuary

Day 6 – Mornington Wildlife Sanctuary

Day 7 – Mornington Wildlife Sanctuary to Mitchell Falls

Day 8 – Mitchell Falls

Day 9 – Mitchell Falls

Day 10 – Mitchell Falls to Home Valley

Day 11 – Home Valley

Day 12 – Home Valley to El Questro

Day 13 – El Questro

Day 14 –  El Questro to Purnululu…

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Emma Gorge – what a finale!

The Gibb is an amazing trip, we can see why it’s so popular with international visitors and why it feels like an Australian rite of passage. 

Whether you are an experienced tourer or a novice in a hire vehicle it is absolutely a trip we recommend – take two weeks or better yet two months – we bet you’ll love it!

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Mike Collister has spent his life outdoors. He has represented Australia as a slalom kayaker, guided whitewater expeditions in Nepal, and taught outdoor education and wilderness medicine. He’s paddled the Kimberley’s Fitzroy River in the wet season and across the Bass Strait and is an avid photographer, overlander and camper.


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