This exciting route between Kununurra and Derby, through the heart of the Kimberleys, is on many bucket lists, and it’s nothing to be scared of. Consider, plan, book, and stay flexible.
Tropical North Australia of which the Kimberley is part, only has a Wet and a Dry season. Temperatures are high all year round but the Wet season can make vital parts of the area impossible to traverse. It’s safest to plan to be in the Kimberley in June, July, or August.
NB: The Bungle Bungles in the world heritage Purnululu National Park is off the Great Northern Highway. You will have to head south from Kununurra about 300km. See our link at the bottom of this post for a Broome round-trip itinerary that does both the Gibb River Road and the surfaced Great Northern Highway.
Considerations should be:
- Are you willing to camp?
- Are you happy to change your itinerary along the way?
- Have you got the time to spend so you’re not rushing?
- Do you want to see amazing sights that are unique to Western Australia?
- Don’t travel outside the ‘Dry Season’, you don’t really have a choice on this topic, the suppliers of the vehicles don’t hire out during ‘the Wet’.
- Choose your 4WD camping vehicle, there are several different types, and none of them have toilets or showers, you will get those at your campgrounds. There is not an unlimited supply of these vehicles, so this is the first time you need to be flexible. There are 4 brands to choose from: Britz, Apollo, Cheapa Campa and Campervan Village. To do the Gibb River Road you will either be starting in Darwin or Broome. If you are doing a one-way trip, try both destinations for availability, the same applies if the road is part of a longer road- trip, try Perth or Darwin. Don’t book your flights until you have locked in your vehicle. Tell the supplier where you plan to take their vehicle. At pick-up, they will have up-to-date information about any road conditions you should be aware of and adjust your itinerary accordingly.
- Broome to Broome is also a valid way to do the Gibb River Road, combine it with HWY1 the Great North Highway which is a surfaced road that will take you past the Bungle Bungles on the way back. Allow 14 days for the Gibb River Road and at least 3 days for the Great Northern Highway.
- Research how much extra time you might need if you have specific interests. This is a once-in-a-lifetime trip so make sure you do it justice. Darwin and Broome at either end of the trip can absorb any extra time you might have.
- Get fit before you go, there are lots of great walks and although many are easy it will be hot, and why not be able to take on some of the more difficult walks.
- Budget to do the scenic flights on offer along the way. Seeing the Kimberleys from the air is part of the experience and helps you understand the vast nature of this astonishing landscape. They are quite pricey but well worth the investment.
- Buy some hiking boots and woolen socks and wear them ‘in’ before you leave. You also need appropriate clothing for all weather conditions. Buy some lightweight shorts and shirts from stores like Katmandu, Paddy Pallin, etc. Not only are these clothes appropriate for the weather conditions they are also easy to wash and quick to dry, perfect for this trip. Also essential is a good fleece, rain jacket, hat, day pack, and water bottles for each person.
- Thinking about food before you leave is also important. You need to provision at two set destinations along the way. Keep it simple but if you have any special recipes, take a hard copy, you won’t have much mobile coverage.
- Along your route pay your respects to the traditional custodians and first people of Western Australia and acknowledge their continued connection to their country and culture, their elders past, present, and emerging.
Now it’s over to you, start planning!