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Itinerary: 7 days in Kununurra, the East Kimberley

This week I parked up the Kombi and jumped into the Landcruiser as a guide for my brother’s touring company Kimberley Spirit. My job was to take photographer Brinkley Davies to as many East Kimberley hotspots as possible in 7 days, for her to get content for Tourism Australia. Here’s where we went … 

G’day!

I’m Melissa (Liss) Connell and this is my personal travel blog. The Slow Lane chronicles my Aussie adventures in my 1974 Kombi, with my furry sidekick Sandy (usually – this blog post is different to what I normally post). As the co-owner of Exploring Eden Media, I write articles (and post books) as I travel. Check the postage stamp on your book order and you’ll see where I am right now!

Words by Melissa Connell, pictures by Melissa Connell and Brinkley Davies.

September crossing the Pentecost (there’s normally water here) in the Landcruiser. Pic by Brinkley Davies.

We got up in the dark most mornings (for me, 4am every day) filling each day with activities; briefly stopping to eat and then editing photos late into the evening. I think that some of the deepest sleeps that I’ve ever had in my life occurred in the past week. The following is a synopsis of our daily activities. I hope it inspires you to come and explore Kununurra and the East Kimberley for yourself.

Quebec Namala (left) and Ted Carlton (right). Pic by Brinkley Davies.
Waringarri Arts. Pic by Brinkley Davies.

DAY 1. ARRIVE KUNUNURRA. WELCOME TO COUNTRY CEREMONY.

After putting on my Kimberley Spirit uniform, I drove to the airport to pick up Brinkley. We went straight to Waringarri Arts to join their Art Trail & Sunset Tour. This included a Mantha (traditional welcome to country ceremony) with Miriwoong man Ted Carlton. Ted then guided us up to a scenic lookout to watch sunset while we listened to stories; ate damper and bush honey and listened to him playing the didgeridoo. I highly recommend booking this tour for your first day of arrival into Kununurra!

Tour: Waringarri 2.5 hour Art Trail & Sunset Tour $85 adult. Book here.

Accommodation: Kimberleyland Waterfront Holiday Park in a lovely Waterfront Villa $235 per night. Book here.

Sunrise atop Elephant Rock with myself, Grace Hamill, Brinkley Davies and Sandy dog. Pic by Brinkley Davies.
Waiting for the sun. Pic by Brinkley Davies.

DAY 2. ELEPHANT ROCK SUNRISE; WARINGARRI ARTS; LAKE ARGYLE

I got up at 4am to drive into town and pick up Brinkley from Kimberleyland. We arrived to Elephant Rock at 4.30pm and climbed up for about 20 minutes. We watched a magical sunrise over the wetlands behind Elephant Rock, and we watched Lake Kununurra (the Upper Ord River) and the mango and sandalwood farms light up with the colours of a new day. We made mango smoothies for breakfast, then headed back to Waringarri Arts to walk around their gallery and watch Dora and Delaney Griffiths at work in the studio (their work with natural ochres is really beautiful).

Dora Griffiths at Waringarri Arts. iPhone snap by Melissa Connell.
Brinkley enjoys a million dollar view at Lake Argyle. Photo by Melissa Connell.

After lunch we took the 70km drive from Kununurra to Lake Argyle. We checked in to Lake Argyle Resort and went for a swim in their famous infinity pool before going next door to Lake Argyle Cruises to join their famous sunset cruise. Owner / Skipper Greg Smith provided an informative and, at times comedic commentary about the lake. We also got up close to freshwater crocs and wallaroos before eventually jumping in for a swim as the sun went down. We enjoyed live music and some mighty good tucker this evening at Lake Argyle Resort (Brinkley got room service so that she could edit photos while enjoying the lovely water breezes on the villa’s balcony).

Tour: Lake Argyle Cruises 3.5 hour Sunset Magic Cruise $95 adult. Book here.

Accommodation: Lake Argyle Resort in a breathtaking 2 Bedroom Lake View Villa $459 per night. Book here.

Me, croc spotting. Pic by Brinkley Davies.
Spotted one! Pic by Brinkley Davies.
Brinkley aboard Lake Argyle Cruises‘ boat. Photo by Melissa Connell.

DAY 3. PURNULULU NATIONAL PARK (BUNGLE BUNGLES)

Another 4am start today as we packed up and drove 70km back to Kununurra for Brinkley to jump aboard a flight with Kingfisher Tours to the world-heritage-listed Purnululu National Park. I spent the day in Kununurra, while Brinkley spent the day with Kingfisher’s local indigenous guide Bec Sampi. When I asked her what the highlight was, she said that it was listening to Bec singing in Cathedral Gorge. Kingfisher dropped Brinkley to the airstrip at Emma Gorge Resort. I took the 100km drive from Kununurra to Emma Gorge to pick her up for sunset d’oeuvres under a nearby boab tree.

Tour: Kingfisher Tours one day Bungle Bungles trek: Fly/4WD/Hike $750 adult. Book here.

Accommodation: Emma Gorge Resort in a tented cabin $324 per night. Book here.

Purnululu with Brinkley Davies and Bec Sampi. Pic by Brinkley Davies.
An almighty boab at El Questro. Pic by Melissa Connell.

DAY 4. EL QUESTRO GORGE; ZEBEDEE SPRINGS; SCENIC SUNSET

This morning Brinkley joined El Questro’s staff for a 4 hour return hike of El Questro Gorge. This is one of the Kimberley’s most scenic walks, navigating through a ferny chasm and walking alongside a flowing creek the whole way. There are a couple of great swimming spots, including the halfway pool. This is a great place to stop, for those that don’t want to do the whole walk. After hiking El Questro Gorge, I picked up Brinkley and we headed to Zebedee thermal springs for a relaxing soak in the mineral rich waters. This afternoon, Brinkley joined El Questro’s 4 hour tour of Explosion Gorge and the stunning Branco’s Lookout. This is the pick of the spots for sunset at ELQ.

Tour: Explosion Gorge and Branco’s Lookout for Sunset. Book here.

Accommodation: Emma Gorge Resort. in a tented cabin $324 per night. Book here.

El Questro Gorge. Pic supplied by Brinkley Davies.
Emma Gorge. Pic by Melissa Connell.
Spotted one! Pic by Melissa Connell.
Brinkley keeps a copy of our book ‘100 Things To See In The Kimberley’ on hand throughout our adventures.

DAY 5. EMMA GORGE; MIRI MIRI; PENTECOST RIVER; HOME VALLEY STATION

We packed a lot in today, beginning with a 7am walk into Emma Gorge (approx. 45 minutes from the tented cabin at Emma Gorge Resort). We were lucky to have the whole gorge to ourselves while everyone else was waking up and eating their breakfast. After a dip in the chilly waters, we headed back to Emma Gorge for breakfast before jumping onto a chopper to Miri Miri Falls.

Brinkley at Miri Miri. Pic by Melissa Connell.
Me, taking time out at Miri Miri. Pic by Brinkley Davies.
The noble steed. Pic by Melissa Connell.

Miri Miri was incredible and highly recommended. Our chopper landed right by the waterfall and we enjoyed exclusive use of the swimming hole, although the waterfall was just a trickle. This didn’t detract at all from the breathtaking scenery of the towering gorge and the turquoise water. After landing back at Emma Gorge we hit the road to Home Valley Station, stopping for photos at the Pentecost River. We arrived just in time to join Home Valley’s sunset tour with indigenous guide, Alfie. Highly recommended!

Tour: Miri Miri with Helispirit, 2 hours for $425 pp (3 people) or $525 (2 people). Book here.

Tour: Cockburn Range sunset tour with Home Valley, 2 hours for $97 per adult. Book here.

Accommodation: Home Valley Station in a Grass Castle $350 per night. Book here.

A bull named ‘Moo’ at Home Valley Station. Snap by Melissa Connell.
Welcome gates at Home Valley Station. Pic by Brinkley Davies.
Grass Castle at Home Valley Station. Pic by Brinkley Davies.

DAY 6. WYNDHAM; MARLGU BILLABONG; IVANHOE CROSSING; LOWER ORD; KANGAROO SANCTUARY

Today was the ‘wildlife day’. We had breakfast at Home Valley Station (amazingly, they serve acai bowls!) then we continued east back along the Gibb River Road, taking the turn-off north onto the Great Northern Highway toward Wyndham. In Wyndham we took some happy snaps at the giant croc statue on the way into town and then the Dreamtime Statues in Warriu Park.

Greg from Ultimate Adventures takes us on a trip down the Lower Ord River. Snap by Melissa Connell.
Croc spotting on the Lower Ord with Ultimate Adventures. Snap by Brinkley Davies.

We stopped by the bakery before heading up to the Bastion / Five Rivers Lookout. Next, we turned off onto the corrugated Parry Creek Road. This track lead us to the wildlife paradise that is Marlgu Billabong. We spotted many birds including Jabiru, a Great Egret, lots of Magpie Geese and Finch. We continued down the track to Ultimate Adventures, where Greg ‘Hairy Dog’ Harman took us on an incredible tour of the Lower Ord River. We spotted lots of saltwater crocs, wallaroos on the river bank and also a huge flying fox colony. We continued back to Kununurra via Ivanhoe water crossing, then we ended the afternoon with Mandy at Kangaroo Haven wildlife rescue. What a day!

Tour: Ultimate Adventures $80 per person (min. 3) and then Kangaroo Haven for a $10 donation.

Accommodation: Kununurra Country Club in a Club Room $324 per night. Book here.

Kangaroo Haven. Snap by Brinkley Davies.
Kangaroo Haven. Snap by  Melissa Connell.

DAY 7. FAREWELL KUNUNURRA

This morning it was sadly time for Brinkley to say farewell from Kununurra, after grabbing a morning smoothie from Wild Mango Cafe of course! It was a pleasure to show Brinkley around the East Kimberley. Keep a look out for her photos in upcoming Tourism Australia campaigns!

East Kimberley dreaming. Snap by  Melissa Connell.

Thanks for reading! Drop back from time-to-time as Sandy and I continue our journey to the Kimberley, Western Australia (I will upload more blogs – read them all here). And please – if any of the information has changed or if you know of more great spots, please leave them in the comments below 🙂

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