A bird’s eye view of the Lake Argyle caravan park.
IF you really want to get away from it all, remote places to visit and stay in WA’s Kimberley region are perfect for a caravan and camping holiday.
MITCHELL RIVER NATIONAL PARK
The park contains amazing waterfalls, Aboriginal rock art and sites of cultural significance to the Wunambal people. No Kimberley adventure would be complete without a visit to the spectacular Mitchell Plateau, including a sightseeing adventure to Mitchell and Mertens falls and Surveyors Pool.
The park is only open in the dry season, usually April to mid-October and is accessible by 4WD vehicles only.
Caravans are not permitted due to road conditions, but off-road camper trailers are allowed.
MITCHELL FALLS CAMPGROUND
The campground has campsites with fire rings and wood provided for cooking. There are sealed vault pit toilets and water available from Mertens Creek.
Water (collected at a point upstream) should be boiled before use.
PRO TIP: Walk to the falls and arrange to take a chopper ride back to the campground to experience a stunning view of the falls.
LAWLEY RIVER NATIONAL PARK
The park is east of Mitchell River National Park and accessible via foot only, usually from the Mitchell Plateau Airstrip.
Anyone entering the park requires permission from the Wunambal Gaambera Aboriginal Corporation and the Department of Parks and Wildlife. The park has no facilities and no trails with the trip truly a Kimberley bush experience, recommended for experienced bush walkers.
DRYSDALE RIVER NATIONAL PARK
The large park, split down the middle by the Drysdale River, is east of the Kulumburu Gibb River Road.
There are no roads going into the park and no facilities or trails in the park. Access to the park is via the Carson River Station and then by foot.
All people entering the park require permission from the Department of Parks and Wildlife, and the station owners to access Carson River Station.
PRINCE REGENT NATIONAL PARK
Found in one of the most pristine areas of the Kimberley, this park has not had many visitors due to restricted access up until 2009.
It is only accessible via helicopter and requires permission from the Department of Parks and Wildlife to enter.
All visitors planning to hike overnight in parks in the Kimberley must fill in a Remote Recreational Activities in the Kimberley Form. Call the Department of Parks and Wildlife’s Kununurra office on 9168 4200 or Broome office on 9195 5500 for further information.
FOLLOWING THE FOOTSTEPS
CHARLES KINGSFORD SMITH MAIL RUN
Mount Augustus forms part of an epic WA road trip. Photo: Tourism WA.Source:Supplied
The 800km Kingsford Smith Mail Run trail provides a real feel for WA’s outback, with a smattering of history to make things more interesting.
In 1924, Charles Kingsford Smith once trundled along this very route on his mail run. It can be a lonely road, but the highlights are worth the trip.
Here’s a chance to follow one of his smaller trails.
DAY 1 — CARNARVON TO MT AUGUSTUS (451KM)
Leaving the port town of Carnarvon, start your Kingsford Smith Mail Run adventure by heading east through pastoral land to Gascoyne Junction, where huge sheep stations dot the landscape. Travel on to Mt Augustus, a massive monolith twice the size of Uluru. Arrive in time to watch the sun sink over the 1750 million-year-old Mt Augustus.
DAY 2 — MT AUGUSTUS TO MT GOULD (100KM)
Spend some time exploring the rock formations, caves and indigenous art scattered throughout the Mt Augustus area. As well as spring wildflowers and native wildlife viewing, this is also a popular spot for swimming, fishing and picnics. From here, head south to the Gascoyne River and Landor, famous for its races. Follow the current mail route via Mt Gould and the Mt Gould Lock Up.
DAY 3 — MT GOULD TO MEEKATHARRA (160KM)
Journey south through the vast, timeless outback to the gold mining town of Meekatharra. Take the Meeka Rangelands Discovery Walk Trail and explore rocky outcrops, view native wildlife and marvel at the displays of spring wildflowers.
● NOTE: Parts of the track are only suitable for high clearance four-wheel-drive vehicles and should only be attempted by confident drivers. Supplies and services are limited and road conditions can vary, so plan ahead, stock up on food, water and fuel and contact the local visitor centre for up-to-date track information.
● Before heading off into the remote desert areas of Australia, you will need to obtain permits, enabling you to travel through private and Aboriginal lands. Get more information about permits for Aboriginal lands or visit the Australian National Four Wheel Drive Council. And to ensure you enjoy a safe and well-planned journey, be sure to take a look at road safety and important travel tips.
A DIAMOND IN THE ‘NOT SO’ ROUGH
Infinity pool at Lake Argyle Resort.Source:Supplied
COVERING more than 900sq km and surrounded by the rugged landscape of the mighty Carr Boyd Ranges, Lake Argyle is home to more than 270 bird species and an array of wildlife in a thriving ecosystem.
It’s Australia’s largest freshwater expanse with Lake Argyle Resort and Caravan Park nestled on a cliff top overlooking it.
The park is open all year-round and features various accommodation types and activity options. Accommodation ranges from shady powered and unpowered campsites, eco safari tents and standard studios to the stunning lake view villas.
The resort also boasts the famous infinity pool, a wet-edge pool and spa looking out over Bamboo Cove, with one of Australia’s most stunning views.
Hopping on board the “Kimberley Durack” catamaran for a boat cruise on the Lake is considered a bucket list experience. You’ll enjoy the informative commentary about the construction of the dam wall and the pioneering Durack family.
You’ll also feed the fish and marvel at the wildlife, which includes many freshwater crocodiles.
The Kimberley Durack lunch cruise includes an island stopover, where you have a chance to walk around the island in search of the elusive wallaroo or rock wallaby or swim out from the pebbly beach into the crystal clear water. Your hosts will prepare a sumptuous buffet, including the freshly caught local catch silver cobbler, straight from the barbecue.
ABOUT THE AREA
The closest town to Lake Argyle is Kununurra, the service centre for the East Kimberley.
Take the Victoria Highway east, then turn into the sealed Lake Argyle Road. The Resort and Caravan Park is located at the end of this road, just 1km from the Lake Argyle Dam.
LAKE ARGYLE ADVENTURE RACE
Adventure seekers should look to visit Lake Argyle in September when the adventure race takes place.
SEPTEMBER 5-7: Swim (2km), run (9km), mountain bike (32km) and paddle (7km) in the remote East Kimberley in teams of two, three or four.
Friday: Mountain bike shoot out — a time trial format on the new Rotary Lake Argyle Trail.
Saturday: Team adventure race starting at Bamboo Cove, down from the Lake Argyle Resort and Caravan Park pool.
Saturday night: Dinner and the team presentation at the Lake Argyle Resort
Sunday: Solo adventure challenge (2km swim, 13km kayak, 6km off-trail run, 21km mountain bike ride).
EXPLORING BROOME’S HISTORY
THE RISE OF THE PEARL
Pearl Luggers — explore Broome’s pearling history.Source:Supplied
UNTIL late into the 1900s, the pearling industry in Broome was based primarily on the collection of oysters for their shell value and not for the occasional pearls they would yield.
WA’s pearling industry began to flourish in the mid-1860s as the worldwide demand for mother of pearl shell used to make buttons, cutlery, hair combs and jewellery items, continued to rise.
Prior to World War I, the price of shell was at an all-time high. With the announcement of the war in 1914, the demand for mother of pearl dropped dramatically overnight. Most of the industry’s labour pool immediately joined the war effort and the industry was left without sufficient labour or resources to maintain its fleets.
The pearling industry limped along until the end of the war and by the 1920s had recovered to the point where the price of shell was higher than ever.
Then disaster struck with the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941.
The United States entered World War II and once again, almost overnight, the pearling industry was out of business.
The internment of the Japanese, who were considered to be the best pearl divers, into prisoner-of-war camps, coupled with the fact that most of the industry’s labour was once again enlisted in the war effort, ceased the industry to cease operations.
But the war actually saved Australian pearling.
The army, preparing for a Japanese invasion that never came, burned precious luggers on the beach as part of a ‘scorched earth’ policy. The Japanese, their economy and most surface craft destroyed, were unable to resume their own oceanic pearling after the war. By the 1950s the Broome fleet had been rebuilt with a world-record price of 600 pounds a ton of pearl shell being achieved.
When at last a rosy future seemed assured for Broome and pearlers a new disaster struck.
In 1958, the plastic button was marketed in America. By 1959 mother of pearl had become unsaleable.
But salvation was close at hand.
The Japanese had been culturing pearls in their own oysters for many years. In 1946 after the war, Kockichi Mikimoto, the “father” of the industry, expressed his belief that the bigger Australian shell could produce the biggest and best pearls yet seen.
After the patriarch’s death, Tokuichi Kuribayashi took over and with Sam Male, owner of Broome’s biggest fleet, Brown and Dureau MOP exporters of Melbourne, and Otto Gerdau MOP importer of New York, established an experimental pearl farm in the Kimberley.
DISCOVER THE BEAUTY OF THE PEARL
Take a tour at Pearl Luggers in Broome, in the heart of Chinatown, to get an understanding of the industry in its early days.
It is the closest link to the pearling era of days gone by, featuring two fully rigged and restored pearling luggers.
The interactive, one-hour tour will whisk you back in time to an era of courageous men who lived a life of danger and fortune.
You will discover more than 100 years of history and learn the legendary tale of ‘The Sea, The Men, The Legend’.
View original pearling artefacts, experience the weight of pearl diving equipment, watch rare archival footage and taste the exclusive pearl meat.
350 MILLION YEARS IN THE MAKING
Tour guide Rosemary Nugget with guests exploring the Mimbi Caves in Western Australia.Source:Supplied
MIMBI Caves are one of Australia’s most spectacular and significant sites.
Dating back more than 350 million years, the caves are a place of deep spiritual significance to the Gooniyandi people, as well as being one of the most significant Devonian fossil sites in the world.
This amazing cave system will take your breath away with its vivid colours and beautiful limestone rock formations, while the history and Dreaming stories of the Gooniyandi people take on a life of their own when shared deep within the heart of the caves.
Mimbi Caves are 90km east of Fitzroy Crossing.
Here, tours explain the historical, cultural and geographical importance of the caves.
Mimbi Caves Tour — 3 hour tour
Adults $80 Children $40 (max 32 people). Departs 10am and 2pm Monday to Thursday and Saturday
T: (08) 9191 5468 or firstname.lastname@example.org, www.mimbicaves.com.au
JUNIOR RANGERS AT EL QUESTRO
THERE is no reason why the kids can’t enjoy the North-West as much as the adults, especially if you’re heading to El Questro Wilderness Park in the Kimberley.
The park’s new Junior Ranger program is a great way to introduce the kids to the outback.
Led by one of El Questro’s experienced rangers, Junior Rangers offers interactive sessions covering a range of topics, including fishing, bird watching, bush tucker and bush survival, crocodile and snake safety, and learning about the region’s flora, including the famous boab trees.
Senior rangers leading a session at Emma GorgeSource:Supplied
About 110km from Kununurra, El Questro is a remote and rugged destination that promises the seclusion to explore this iconic part of Australia and the amazing wildlife that exists there.
Kids interested in bugs, birds and little critters will be in their element at El Questro, which is a naturalist’s delight and home to nearly half of Australia’s 780 bird species, and more than 60 mammals.
Brolgas, jabirus and red-tailed black cockatoos are common during the day and by night kids will enjoy listening for the dog-like call of the aptly named barking owl.
The less audible mammal species are largely nocturnal, preferring to avoid the heat of the day and include rock wallabies, dingoes, fruit bats and flying foxes.
Reptiles also have a home at El Questro, from turtles to frill-necked lizards, and the relatively harmless freshwater crocodiles found in billabongs.
While the kids are having fun, parents can take part in numerous tours at El Questro, from 4WD trips, scenic flights, horseriding and walking tours to various gorges.
Full-day fishing tours for the elusive local barramundi are also available.
“El Questro is the ultimate kids’ playground,” El Questro general manager Lori Litwack said.
“They can get their hands dirty in our dusty red-brown earth learning about lizards and ants, and learn all about our famous boabs, bush tucker and graceful eagles soaring overhead.”
Costing $30 a child, there will be two, two-hour Junior Rangers sessions a day from June to late August. They can be booked at El Questro Station on the day.
For more information about the Junior Rangers program and the many other activities at El Questro visit www.elquestro.com.au.