Part 1. Gibb River Road, The Kimberley – Windjana Gorge & Tunnel Creek

The Long Wait Is Over

If you’ve ever longed to travel through the Kimberley, you’ll be pretty excited when you finally turn onto the Gibb River Road. It’s a bit surreal – you’re finally here! The first 50 km or so is tar, then it’s dirt – woohoo!

The turnoff to the Gibb River Road near Derby WA
We finally made it, after years of dreaming!
The Gibb River Road, Kimberleys WA
Lots of dirt on the GRR.

First stop was Windjana Gorge. The Lennard River has cut through the Napier mountain range to form a spectacular gorge. This is a great spot for viewing freshwater crocodiles. They just love lazing in the warm pools and sunning themselves on the muddy banks.

Freshwater crocodiles at Windjana Gorge
We followed the walking track, then suddenly there they were – lots of freshwater crocodiles sunning themselves in the Lennard River.
Freshwater crocodiles at Windjana Gorge
A freshie doing its best log impersonation.
Freshwater crocodiles at Windjana Gorge
Time for a nap and some sun baking.

Freshies are quite a bit more “user-friendly”  than saltwater crocodiles. Simply put, freshies don’t eat people! But don’t corner them – like any creature, if freshies feel threatened then they’ll fight back.

A Coral Reef On Land – What’s The Story?

The mountain range is unlike any mountain range you’ll ever see. It was actually a coral reef! Originally 2km high and over 350 million years old, it stretched all the way north into the ocean then looped back around to the coast near the WA/NT border. It would have been huge.

Consequently, the campground is unique – and quite beautiful. Watching the sun rise over an ancient coral reef is not something you’ll experience every day!

While we’re talking about the campground – you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the flushing toilets and hot showers. We certainly didn’t expect such luxuries.

Windjana Gorge
The delightful Windjana Gorge.
Windjana Gorge
You can walk up the gorge if you’re so inclined. Take plenty of water.
Windjana Gorge
Windjana Gorge
So peaceful.
Napier Range, an ancient coral reef
The Napier Range is extraordinary. Such a beautiful campsite.
Napier Range, an ancient coral reef
One can only imagine how insanely rugged the Napier Range would be once you made it to the top.
Napier Range, an ancient coral reef
Imposing cliff faces everywhere you look.
Windjana Gorge walk
On the walking track towards Windjana Gorge.
Windjana Gorge walk
Napier Range is full of cracks and crevices.
Windjana Gorge
Hard to believe this was built by tiny sea creatures 350 million years ago.
Windjana Gorge
Strange colouring in the limestone cliffs.
An iconic road tree, Windjana Gorge
No Kimberley article is complete without a boab tree…
Napier Range, an ancient coral reef
Ripples and lines give the appearance of old age.
Napier Range at sunset
Late afternoon light transforms the cliffs. Think I could get used to this view!

This is the area where Jandamarra used to roam. This was his mob’s country – he was a Bunuba man. For more on Jandamarra’s extraordinary life, go here.

A Dutch/Irish Stockwoman

We met a young lady called Anna who was travelling Australia solo, in a Holden Commodore station wagon. She is Dutch/Irish – family moved from Holland to Ireland as a child. She had been working on a cattle station as a stockwoman near Camooweal QLD up until recently – 1.8 million acres and around 35,000 beef cattle.

Walking out of the caves, Tunnel Creek
Peta and Anna emerging from Tunnel Creek.

Prior to coming to Oz, Anna had travelled through many countries in the world and consequently had a very open mind and some amazing experiences. She was great company and we all enjoyed travelling with her.

Tunnel Creek – Up Close And Personal With Freshwater Crocs 

We took Anna down to Tunnel Creek with us (rough road, her car wouldn’t have made it). Tunnel Creek flows through the mountain range and has formed quite a large cave. We did the 750 m return walk through the tunnel.

There were lots of bats inside, both large and small. Also, we had to wade through the water in places which was fun – until we saw a set of red freshwater crocodile eyes in the torch light. So after that, wading was a bit less fun and a little more scary!

The entrance to Tunnel Creek
Clambering down into Tunnel Creek.
Wading through Tunnel Creek
The water was quite deep in places – a little unnerving when you know lots of freshwater crocs live in here.
Spectacular entry to Tunnel Creek at the downstream end
Reaching the downstream entry/exit.
Perfect spot for a swim, Tunnel Creek
Perfect spot to cool off.
Huge stalactites, Tunnel Creek
Giant stalactites in the caves.
Shafts of light penetrating Tunnel Creek
The lightshow inside Tunnel Creek was something else.
Still, crystal clear water, Tunnel Creek
Such a rich combination of colours. Note the tree roots that have penetrated the roof.
Calm and peaceful, deep in Tunnel Creek
The perfect hideout.

Tunnel Creek was Jandamarra’s hideout and the place where he was eventually shot. Would have made a great hideout – concealed entrance, pitch black caves, lots of little nooks and crannies inside and a few secret exits where the roof has collapsed.

A Reminder Of Our Brutal Past

On the way back to our campsite, we visited the ruins of the Lillimulura police outpost. Excellent interpretive signs present a short history of this place and of Jandamarra’s life. Refreshingly, no attempt has been made to whitewash our colonial history.

This area was a hot spot in the colonial wars. Police were posted here to root out Aboriginal people and either kill them or chain them together and march them into Derby. In return, police were paid a bounty for each person captured.

Jandamarra shot Constable Richardson here and freed his own family.

It would have been a frightening place to be posted – in the middle of nowhere and backing onto the mountain range. I can’t imagine sleep would have come very easily – there were lots of people out there just waiting to kill you…

Lillimulura police outpost, Kimberleys WA
The remains of Lillimulura police outpost.
Lillimulura police outpost, Kimberleys WA
A plaque for Constable Richardson, killed here by Jandamarra.

Windjana Gorge and surrounds are truly spectacular. What an excellent introduction to the Kimberley!

Next time: We explore Dalmanyi (Bell Gorge) and Dulundi (Silent Grove).

Windjana Gorge and Tunnel Creek are on Unggumi Country.

Looking for more information on the Gibb River Road? Then go here.

Plan your Gibb River Road Adventure

Download “Gibb River Road – A Traveller’s Guide” for info on what to see, road conditions, fuel and much more.

…at our FREE RESOURCES Page!

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Any errors or omissions are mine alone.


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