Three weeks from the moment Kyle had said: “Let’s do the Gibb River Road in three weeks time”, we started driving across the arid landscape towards the Northern Territory border. We only had five days to do our HUGE mini trip which would seem absolutely crazy to most people. “The Gibb? Are you serious?! We spent two whole months driving our way across that bloody rough road!” Yes, five days people. Be calm.
If we had of waited for the fabled perfect time for us to explore the Kimberley, we’d still be waiting. Like the saying says (one of my favourite ones): ‘There’s no time like the present’. While basing ourselves in Port Hedland Western Australia, we used every opportunity that we could to see and experience the vast outback tracks, tiny dusty towns and stunning blue coastline.
YES OKAY; WE LOVE DRIVING.
We drive long stretches in a day because we enjoy it. We rest at rest-stops and take turns driving to keep our minds fresh. We make sure our 4wd is loving the drive too at rest-stops by checking under the bonnet and topping up with fuel every chance we get (don’t forget to keep your jerry cans full too). We drink lots of water, use the air con in our patrol and have a range of 4wd recovery gear / radio / spare tyres in our patrol. I also send a text message to a few close friends / family every day so that they know where we are when we have mobile reception.
If you have more time up your sleeve than of course, make use of it! We like to show people that achieving their big travel dreams in a short amount of time is truly possible. Stop wishing, start doing. Here’s some inspiration for your own Gibb River / The Kimberley / El Questro journey…
Wednesday: after we clocked off work on Wednesday arvo we headed north from Port Hedland and slept in our roof top tent at the Goldwire 24HR rest-stop. Rest areas in these long stretches of road are true life savers. It’s easy to get sleepy when driving such straight quiet roads, especially in the heat (which is pretty much all year round up here). So please, use the rest stops. The 24 hours ones are a great spot to sleep and refresh (and the toilet blocks are actually pretty clean most days). Here’s a guide outlining where rest stops all are in WA.
Thursday: Goldwire 24HR rest-stop to the Bungle Bungle Caravan Park via Halls Creek (we loved camping here – dog friendly & great amenities). If you have more time than this, obviously make sure of it to stretch this drive out. We had already driven these roads before so we didn’t stop to see other towns / sights on the way.
Friday: Driving to / exploring the Bungle Bungles, arrived to El Questro late in the afternoon (camped on a powered site at the El Questro Station – the Station is beautiful. Great amenities, short drive to all the top spots in El Questro, pet friendly)
Saturday: Explored as much of El Questro as we could before heading off toward the Gibb River Road (camped at Manning Gorge – pay / book through the Mt Barnett roadhouse – this camp site is pet friendly too, and has an amazing swimming hole / river right next to the camp ground)
Sunday: Manning Gorge as the sun rose… Continued on the Gibb River Road (camped in the coastal town of Derby)
Monday: Drove through Derby, spent the morning in Broome and headed south again to arrive in Port Hedland late evening.
WHEN TO GO
Australian winter is the popular season to explore the Gibb River / the Kimberley region. This is because it’s the dry season in winter. The days are roughly 30 degrees with blue skies and rivers can be crossed safely from lack of rainfall.
We did meet locals on the Gibb River Road who told us amazing stories about the wet season up north. We have driven across far north QLD / NT / WA in December / January and experienced heavy rainfall every single afternoon (using sealed roads on the main highway). If you plan on visiting these regions outside of winter, be aware that there’s a very high chance of getting stranded in various towns / roadhouses while you wait for rushing rivers to calm down (which can be a really fun experience depending on how you look at things). This is obviously for only seriously confident 4-wheel drivers who have all the right gear and knowledge.. you’ll be driving in one of the most remote and challenging landscapes in Australia.
WHAT TO TAKE
Summer clothes (yes, even in winter days are around 28 – 30 degrees), shorts and shirts to explore in, swimmers, shoes to walk / hike / climb in. At night time the temperature will drop so bring a good warm jumper and some comfy long pants to warm up if needed at night.
Stock up your 4wd with recovery gear (our Nissan Patrol has a winch, solar panels to run our fridge/s, roof top tent, snatch snaps, spare ropes, max tracks, UHF radio, jerry cans for spare fuel, a couple of spare tyres, plenty of drinking water… feel free to get in touch with us if you have any questions…)
Your usual camping gear – cookware, bug spray, fly face nets are handy up here sometimes, your hat, sunscreen
YES, CROCODILES LIVE HERE.
There are 2 types of crocs found in northern parts of Australia and in the Kimberley. Saltwater Crocodiles (“Salties”) or Freshwater Crocodiles (“Freshies”). If you don’t have crocs in your home town like us then it does take some getting used to. There are signs around Australia warning of crocodiles. Here’s what we learnt and practiced in remote northern areas.
Whenever we chatted to people in service stations, camp grounds or on the road we asked them if they knew of any crocs in the area. Sometimes there are Saltwater crocs spotted in odd areas so it’s best to ask before having a quick dip anywhere.
Never setup camp near a water source (no rivers, dams, or on the beach). Better yet, only camp in camping grounds.
If you’re travelling with your pet (our staffy Quinn travels with us), don’t let them wander off or swim in ANY water where people aren’t swimming. Carry spare water in the car instead to splash pets with and use your cars air con to avoid dogs needing a swim.
“Salties” are the aggressive crocs because they are territorial. If you see any signs warning of Crocodiles, stay clear or better yet keep on driving.
“Freshies” you don’t really need to worry about. They aren’t naturally aggressive. We learnt that if you don’t bother them, they won’t bother you. The locals still swim even if someone has spotted a Freshie around the place. Always best to ask the locals at a patrol station / roadhouse / camping ground first if you’re not sure.