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A swimming hole in the Kimberley

SEE 7 BEAUTIFUL GORGES IN THE KIMBERLEY – the ultimate guide

Discover 7 Breathtaking Gorges in the Natural Landscape of the Kimberley   The Kimberley in Western Australia is one of the world’s last true wilderness areas. Remote, unspoiled, and spectacular,…

Discover 7 Breathtaking Gorges in the Natural Landscape of the Kimberley

 

The Kimberley in Western Australia is one of the world’s last true wilderness areas. Remote, unspoiled, and spectacular, Kimberley gorges have been evolving over more than 250 million years. Walking in these ancient gorges was a magical experience. Read on to discover the magnificent gorges I explored on an escorted road trip around the Kimberley.

 

The Kimberley is vast, covering 423,517 kilometres. To give this some perspective, the Kimberley is three times larger than England, twice the size of Victoria, or just slightly smaller than California.

The Kimberley is in the northernmost region of Western Australia. It is bordered on the west by the Indian Ocean, on the north by the Timor Sea, on the south by the Great Sandy Desert, and on the east by the Northern Territory. It is an isolated, rugged landscape of breathtaking beauty that leaves a lasting impression on your soul.

I was unable to determine just how many gorges there are in the Kimberley. However, I know that the seven gorges included in this blog post are but a drop in the Kimberley.

I came to the Kimberley on a 3-week holiday not knowing what to expect and not wanting to pre-empt what I would experience. I went with an open mind and left my heart there, tramped into the pindan (the red dirt that dominates the Kimberley landscape).

When it comes to describing landscapes, or in this case, gorges, a picture speaks a thousand words. I could use a thousand words for each description of the beautiful gorges in this post. Instead, I will provide a brief description of each gorge and let the images do the talking.

The locations of the gorges and the best time to visit them complete this guide to seven beautiful gorges in the Kimberley.

A map of The Kimberley region, showing mountains, gorges, roads and towns

Map showing the locations of Kimberley gorges (Courtesy of Derby Visitor Centre)

 

Read on to discover seven of the Kimberley’s beautiful gorges or jump straight to a specific gorge.

The order of gorges presented in this post is simply determined by the order in which I visited them on a 15-day escorted four-wheel-drive (4WD) Adventure of the Kimberley with APT.

Windjana Gorge (Bandilngan)

Windjana Gorge

 

Windjana Gorge is known by its indigenous name, Bandilngan. Located in Bunuba country, in Bandilngan (Windjana Gorge) National Park, the 3.5-kilometre gorge cuts through the Napier Range.

Bangilngan is a stunningly beautiful gorge. Dominating the scene is the Lennard River running through the gorge and majestic water-streaked cliff walls that tower 100 metres above you.

Bangilngan was once part of an inland sea. As you walk along the flat, sandy path through the gorge, it is possible to spot marine fossils. I only saw a couple of fossils, just above head height in the cliff walls, on the gorge walk, but I must admit, I was more interested in the gorgeous scenery that was unfolding around me.

The Kimberley is croc country. Johnston’s (freshwater) crocodiles (known as freshies) inhabit this unspoiled wilderness. I saw many sunning themselves on the sandy riverbank and floating in the water. Unlike their much larger saltwater cousins, freshies are not considered dangerous to humans. However, they can become aggressive and cause injury if disturbed. It is safest not to approach or swim near freshwater crocodiles.

Your best resource for essential information about Bandilngan (Windjana Gorge), including sites and activities, downloads and resources, park passes and fees, camping, safety, and alerts, is Western Australia’s Parks and Wildlife Service.

A river surrounded by trees and cliffs

Lennard River flows through Windjana Gorge

Getting there

Bandilngan (Windjana Gorge) is located on the Fairfield-Leopold Downs Road, off Gibb River Road. It is 146 kilometres northwest of Fitzroy Crossing and 144 kilometres east of Derby.

The only access is by unsealed roads. A four-wheel-drive (4WD) vehicle is recommended to access the park. The park is closed during the wet season as the roads are inaccessible.

Park entry fees apply.

Danggu Geikie Gorge

Jagged cliff contain a large body of water

Geikie Gorge has been carved by the Fitzroy River

 

Geikie Gorge is known as Darngku by the Bunuba traditional owners. Located in Danggu Geikie Gorge National Park in the Wunaamin Miliwundi Ranges (formerly King Leopold Ranges), the 30-metre-deep gorge has been carved by the Fitzroy River. The park’s entrance is on Leopold Downs Road.

Danggu Geikie Gorge is a spectacular gorge famed for its sheer white and grey cliff walls. The bleaching of the walls is thanks to the Fitzroy River’s massive flooding during the wet season.

The Fitzroy River is the second largest in the world – second only to the Amazon River. The park ranger clarified “largest” as that being the volume of water flowing through the gorge.

During the wet season, the river rises between 10–16 metres, polishing the walls of the gorge white and the flooding sections of the park with up to seven metres of water. The dry season sees the river transformed into a peaceful stream beneath the towering limestone cliffs. Honeycomb weathering is a fascinating feature of gorge walls.

There are several riverside walks in Danggu Geikie Gorge National Park. However, instead of walking through the gorge, we took a one-hour cruise on the Fitzroy River with the Department of Parks and Wildlife Service operated boat tour. One of the park rangers was our guide on the boat tour. I recommend taking the boat tour because it gives a unique perspective of the park, and the ranger’s commentary on the wildlife and geology of the gorge is insightful.

Visit Western Australia’s Department of Parks and Wildlife Service for all your essential information on Danggu Geikie Gorge.

Getting there

Danggu Geikie Gorge National Park is the most accessible national park in the Kimberley.

Travelling the Great Northern Highway, the park is 417 kilometres from Broome, 278 kilometres from Derby, and only 20 kilometres from Fitzroy Crossing. A four-wheel-drive vehicle is not required.

From Fitzroy Crossing, take Russ Road for 3-4 kilometres before turning left onto Geikie Gorge Road. The park’s entrance is at the end of Geikie Gorge Road.

Danggu Geikie Gorge National Park is a day-use park only, open from 6.30 am to 6.30 pm but closed during the wet season. No entry fees apply.

Cathedral Gorge

People sitting on sand surrounded by mountains

Cathedral Gorge in the Bungle Bungles

 

Cathedral Gorge is in the Bungle Bungle Range (also called the Bungle Bungles), in the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Purnululu National Park.

Cathedral Gorge is an enormous, circular cavern, forming a natural amphitheatre of red rock renowned for its acoustics. I have seen photos of orchestras playing in the cavern. While no one was singing to test the acoustics, I could hear conversations from around the cavern.

The waterfall that flows from the cavern roof can only be seen in the wet season when Purnululu National Park is closed. The day I visited, early in the dry season, there was no waterfall. But there remained a large pool of water in the centre of the cavern.

The walk into Cathedral Gorge is a two-kilometre return trail from Piccaninny Creek car park. The trail takes you past the orange and black striped domes, of which Purnululu National Park is most famous for. It is these characteristic striped formations that give the Bungle Bungles their nickname of ‘beehives’.

Classified as a moderate walk, the trail is rocky in parts, and there are metal ladders to help you up and down some tricky rocky sections.

The Bungle Bungle Range has been around for 350 million years but was only ‘discovered’ in 1983 when a documentary team spotted it from the air and brought it to world attention.

I recommend a helicopter flight over the Bungle Bungles to get spectacular views and an accurate idea of their scale.

An aerial view of an orange and black striped mountain range

The Bungle Bungle Ranges viewed from a helicopter

 

Getting there

Purnululu National Park is remote. It is in the East Kimberley, about 100 kilometres north of Halls Creek and 250 kilometres south of Kununurra.

Access to the park is via Spring Creek Track, from the Great Northern Highway approximately 250 km south of Kununurra, to the track’s end at the Purnululu National Park Visitor Centre.  The track is 53 km long and is usable only in the dry season and only by 4WD high clearance vehicles and off-road trailers. Safely navigating it takes approximately three hours. From the Purnululu National Park Visitor Centre, the trail is located a further 27 kilometres drive south.

It is advisable to check with the Department of Parks and Wildlife’s Kununurra office on 08 9168 4200 for the current weather forecast and road conditions before entering the park.

There is an entry fee to Purnululu National Park. Visitors must register at the Visitor Centre on arrival at the park.

For more information and alerts, visit Parks and Wildlife Service.

Echidna Chasm

Palm trees in front of an orange cliff

Echidna Chasm

 

At the northern end of Purnululu National Park is the spectacular, 180-metre-deep Echidna Chasm.

The chasm’s soring 200-metre-high red walls seem to glow where the sun shines on them. The liberal scattering of Livistonia palms found in the early section of the Echidna Chasm Walk are breathtaking and seem out of place. ‘Breathtaking’ takes on a whole different meaning as the walls of this crack in the rock, which is Echidna Chasm, become progressively narrower to barely a metre wide in places.

The two-kilometre return walk into the chasm begins at Echidna Chasm car park. The path into the chasm follows a very uneven, stony, dry creek bed. To make it to the end of the chasm requires scrambling over large fallen boulders and scaling ladders. The last 100 metres is the most challenging.

Getting there

The turn-off to Purnululu National Park is on the Great Northern Highway, approximately 250 kilometres southwest of Kununurra and 100 kilometres northeast of Halls Creek. From the turn-off, access to the park is via Spring Creek Track. This is a rugged track that is suitable for 4WD vehicles and single-axle off-road trailers only. Two-wheel-drive (2WD) vehicles may be refused entry. Caravans may be stored at the caravan park located at the turn-off (fees apply).

Spring Creek Track is a narrow, unsealed track with several creek crossings, some sharp corners, and ascents and descents. Allow approximately 2.5-3 hours for this 53-kilometre journey.

Echidna Chasm is 19 kilometres from Purnululu National Park Visitor Centre.

Entry and camping fees apply for Purnululu National Park. Visitors must register at the Visitor Centre on arrival at the park.

Purnululu National Park is closed during the wet season.

For more information and alerts, visit Parks and Wildlife Service.

Manning Gorge

A river surrounded by trees

Manning Creek in Manning Gorge

 

Manning Gorge is on Mount Barnett Station in the Wunaamin Miliwundi Ranges (formerly King Leopold Ranges).

The 5.6-kilometre return gorge walk starts at the Manning Gorge campground on Manning Creek, where you first must cross the creek to re-join the trail on the other side. You need to swim the 100 metres across Manning Creek, but there are available blue plastic drums cut in half to float your possession across the creek, keeping them dry as you swim. There is a rickety ladder, sort of secured to the riverbank, to help lower yourself into the creek.

The Manning Gorge walking trail follows an overland route rather than along the creek. It is a challenging walk over uneven, rocky terrain with some rock scrambling and climbing that gets progressively harder near the end. However, your reward at the end is a massive gorge with a huge waterfall-fed pool and smaller pools suitable for swimming.

Manning Gorge offers some of the most picturesque and safe swimming holes in the Kimberley. Even if you don’t walk to the gorge itself, a swim in Manning Creek with its tree-lined sandy riverbank is a delightful way to while away a few hours. Take a picnic lunch with you.

A waterfall and pools of water surrounded by rock formations

The waterfall and pools in Manning Gorge (Depositphotos_210779876)

 

Getting there

Manning Gorge is approximately 315 kilometres northeast of Derby via the Derby-Gibb River Road and 398 kilometres southwest of Kununurra via the Gibb River-Wyndham Road.

Manning Gorge is accessible only by 4WD. Be warned, Gibb River Road is a seriously corrugated dirt road with several river crossings.

An entrance permit is required to access Manning Gorge, purchased at the Mount Barnett Roadhouse (one of the most remote roadhouses in Australia) – about seven kilometres from Manning Gorge campground.

Galvans Gorge

A lady swimming in a rock pool with a waterfall flowing down the rocks

Galvans Gorge

 

Galvans Gorge is the most accessible gorge along Gibb River Road. It is located on Mount Barnett Station, one kilometre off Gibb River Road in the Phillips Range.

Galvans Gorge is a pretty, little gorge that has it all:

  • A multi-tiered waterfall plunging down the rocky gorge.
  • A horseshoe-shaped natural pool at the bottom of the waterfall, ideal for a refreshing swim.
  • An abundance of lush vegetation framing the pool and providing shade for most of the day.
  • An iconic Boab tree standing guard at the top of the falls.
  • Ancient Windjana rock art on the gorge wall.

Galvans Gorge is a delightful spot to relax.

The walk into Galvans Gorge from the roadside car park is an easy, mostly flat, one kilometre (one way) track with rocky surfaces in several sections.

Getting there

Galvans Gorge is located 14 kilometres from Mt Barnett Roadhouse, approximately 290 kilometres west of Derby on Gibb River Road.

Gibb River Road is only accessible during the dry season.

Entry to Galvans Gorge is free

Bell Gorge

A creek running through rocky outcrops and tumbling into a waterfall. People walking and standing on the rocky ledge.

Bell Gorge at the top of the waterfall

 

Beautiful Bell Gorge, with its stunning landscape, is a photographer’s delight. If asked which was my favourite gorge on my Kimberley adventure, without hesitation, my response would be Bell Gorge.

Bell Gorge is in King Leopold Ranges Conservation Park (now referred to by its Aboriginal name, Wunaamin Miliwundi Ranges Conservation Park). It is described as one of the most picturesque and scenic gorges in the Kimberley, where Bell Creek drops 150 metres into a gorge to form a wide, U-shaped, stepped waterfall cascading into a deep pool. Bell Gorge is a wonderful swimming spot.

From the car park, it is a one-kilometre walk along a challenging rocky dry creek bed to reach the gorge. I say ‘challenging’ for two reasons:

  • there is a moderate incline at the beginning of the track, which had me puffing when walking back up on my return; and
  • the rocks you are walking on are all loose, making it necessary to concentrate on your balance.

However, at the end of the track, the gorge opens up to an impressive vista and rock pools at the top of the waterfall. One of the rock pools is a natural infinity pool, allowing you to swim right up to the edge of the waterfall.

Then, there is the swimming option of the deep pool below the waterfall. According to my travel companions who walked to the bottom swimming pool, the one-kilometre return trek is manageable but will test your hiking skills. First, you need to cross Bell Creek to the opposite side. As the rocks where you cross can be slippery, our guide recommended wearing socks (no shoes) to cross the creek. Apparently, this worked a treat. Once across the creek, you climb down a steep, rocky track (which you must climb back up again) to access the bottom swimming pool and swim below the waterfall within the gorge. My fellow travel companions told me the swim was delightful and well worth the challenging hike.

Don’t forget your sunscreen and take plenty of water.

Getting there

Bell Gorge is about 247 kilometres east of Derby along Gibb River Road. Turning off the Gibb River Road, Bell Gorge car park is approximately 30 kilometres along Silent Grove Road, a corrugated road requiring a 4WD.

Bell Gorge is in a national park, so entry fees apply, paid at Silent Grove campground. It is inaccessible during the wet season. Before travelling to Bell Gorge, it is advisable to check for alerts and closures.

When to go

The Kimberley has no summer or winter, just wet or dry due to its tropical monsoon climate. The wet season is November to April, and the dry season is May to October.

I travelled to the Kimberley in June, early in the region’s dry season. The daily temperatures ranged from the high 20s to low 30s degrees Celsius. The nights were cooler, and the only rain I experienced was one night when back in Broome at the end of the escorted tour.

If you want to avoid oppressive heat and humidity, cyclones, and flooded rivers, then travel to the Kimberley in the dry season. Much of the Kimberley is impassable during the wet season. Flooded rivers isolate towns, accommodation, and inhabitants during the wet season.

The national parks in the Kimberley are only accessible during the dry season.

Road conditions in the Kimberley can vary greatly and change rapidly. Refer to Parks and Wildlife Service for all your essential information on the Kimberley’s national parks.

Getting there and around

The Kimberley is remote. Even so, you have several options for getting to the Kimberley. I took a direct flight from Sydney to Broome (the ‘capital’ of the Kimberley) but, alternatively, you could drive, hop on a bus, or take a guided tour.

After a week on my own in Broome, I joined APT’s 15-day escorted 4WD adventure tour around the Kimberley. Our ‘4WD’ was a bus on steroids – the body of a bus on a truck chassis. It was on this tour that I was able to experience the beautiful gorges described above.

A 4WD is necessary for travelling around much of the Kimberley if you leave the tarred highway. You should also consider travelling with a satellite phone as there were several areas where there was no mobile phone coverage. At times, I did not even have SOS access on my phone.

The pleasures of travelling on an escorted tour were not having to worry about visitor passes or wondering how I would get from A to B or concerned about damaging my car (if I owned a 4WD) on severely corrugated dirt roads.

 

Disclaimer: This post contains no affiliate links. All views and opinions are my own and non-sponsored. Unless expressly stated, all photos are my own and remain the copyright © of Just Me Travel 2021.

 

Have you been to the Kimberley in Western Australia? Which gorges have you explored in the Kimberley that you would like to share with readers? Leave a comment below to share your thoughts on this blog post.

 

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Related posts

See more of the Kimberley:

-> The Ultimate Guide to 6 Safe Swimming Holes in the Kimberley, Australia

-> 15 Photos to Inspire You to Visit Broome, Western Australia

 

Author’s Note: Please check the latest travel restrictions before planning any trip, and always follow government advice.

 

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THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO 6 SAFE SWIMMING HOLES IN THE KIMBERLEY, AUSTRALIA

6 Breathtaking Swimming Holes in the Natural Landscape of the Kimberley   Swimming in water holes in the Kimberley, Western Australia, is a magical experience. However, the Kimberley is an…

6 Breathtaking Swimming Holes in the Natural Landscape of the Kimberley

 

Swimming in water holes in the Kimberley, Western Australia, is a magical experience. However, the Kimberley is an ancient landscape with an ancient animal – the crocodile. Crocodiles inhabit many of the Kimberley’s waterways. So, where is it safe to swim? Where can you find crocodile-free swimming holes? Read on to discover the wonderful swimming holes I enjoyed on an escorted road trip around the Kimberley.

 

A crocodile danger sign telling how to be croc safe around water

Be Croc Wise – crocodile safety signage

But first, be warned – crocodiles do kill. When travelling in the Kimberley, it is crucial to be croc wise. If travelling without a guide, read the croc warning signs and check with locals before swimming or even approaching the water.

The Kimberley covers hundreds of thousands of square kilometres across northern Western Australia – 423,517 to be exact. The Kimberley is vast, with cattle stations of a million acres or more. To give this some perspective, the Kimberley is three times larger than England or slightly smaller than California. As such, the six safe swimming holes I cover in this post are just a drop in the Kimberley.

I came to the Kimberley on a 3-week holiday not knowing what to expect and not wanting to pre-empt what I would experience. I went with an open mind and left my heart there, tramped into the pindan (the red dirt that dominates the Kimberley landscape).

The Kimberley is an area of breathtaking landscapes and scenery and rivers. I don’t know why I was surprised by the number of rivers we traversed. But it is those rivers that can provide some safe swimming holes in the Kimberley. And so, I say, “thank you” to the Kimberley for an extraordinary experience.

Knowing northern Australia is croc country, I was pleasantly surprised to find the Kimberley has so many safe swimming holes – safe from a predator thinking you are its next meal. Read on to discover six of the Kimberley’s safe swimming holes or jump straight to a specific waterhole.

The order of swimming holes presented in this post is simply determined by the order in which I swam in them on a 15-day escorted four-wheel-drive (4WD) Adventure of the Kimberley with APT.

Zebedee Springs

Pools of water between palm trees

Zebedee Springs in El Questro Wilderness Park

 

Relax and soak your cares away in Zebedee Springs – a series of rocky thermal pools and trickling waterfalls shaded by towering Livistona palms. Located in the El Questro Wilderness Park, Zebedee Springs is an oasis in the Kimberley.

The Springs are fed by a fault line from a permanent supply of water deep within the earth. The water temperature is a constant 28-32 degrees Celsius year-round.

Access to Zebedee Springs is only possible during the dry season – May to October. It is an easy, 10 to 15 minute walk (one way) into the thermal pools – approximately 600 metres return. The track is mostly flat with some loose rocks and the occasional muddy patch.

Take care entering the pools as the rocks can be slippery.

I had injured my shoulder prior to our visit to Zebedee Springs. I found the swim very therapeutic.

If self-driving, Zebedee Springs is open from 7 am to 12 pm. Entry into El Questro Wilderness Park requires a valid park permit. If on an escorted tour or staying at El Questro, afternoon visits to Zebedee Springs are available at allocated time slots.

El Questro is situated in the East Kimberley, 110 kilometres west of Kununurra by road. To reach Zebedee Springs and El Questro, you can drive from Kununurra on the 4WD Gibb River Road, book a transfer by road or air from Kununurra, or join a guided tour.

When self-driving into El Questro Wilderness Park or anywhere else in the Kimberley, it is crucial to remain up-to-date on road conditions and other relevant information.

Mitchell River

A river with rocky riverbanks and rocks in the river

Cool off in the Mitchell River

 

The Mitchell River cascades 97 metres over four distinct tiers to form Mitchell Falls – one of the most iconic landmarks in the Kimberley. Swimming below the sacred falls is not allowed, but there is excellent swimming in the river above. And this is where I spent an enjoyable couple of hours with a picnic lunch and a swim to cool off.

I helicoptered onto a rocky plateau beside the Mitchell River. After a hike around the ridge for great views of Mitchell Falls, I was ready for a swim. Entering the river required some bottom sliding over slippery rocks. I found it necessary to be aware of what was underneath me in the water due to submerged rocks. But it was a great swim in a magnificent landscape.

Coming from an area in Australia where my local river originates high up in the Alps, I expected Mitchell River to be freezing, no matter how hot the day. I was pleasantly surprised at how warm the river water was. Obviously not fed by snowmelt!

Mitchell Falls is in the remote Mitchell River National Park in the Kimberley. Access to the Park is by 4WD only and is closed during the wet season (November to April).

Once in the National Park, you can walk up to Mitchell Falls via a trail described as a moderate to difficult 8.6-kilometre return walk, requiring some rock hopping with areas providing little shade. Or, like me, you can get a helicopter to Mitchell River at the top of the Falls – an irreplaceable experience.

Access to Mitchell Falls requires a Uunguu Visitor Pass.

King Edward River

An elderly woman swimming in a river with trees and palms lining the riverbank.

I take a swim in the King Edward river – photograph by Diana House

 

Still on Mitchell Plateau, a short walk from Munurru (King Edward River) Campground on Port Warrender Road, with Wandjina and Gwion-Gwion (Bradshaw) Rock Art Galleries nearby, the King Edward River provides an idyllic swimming hole.

The swimming hole offers deep, crystal clear water. There is even a pool ladder bolted to the rocks to allow easy access in and out of the water. The King Edward River is a great place to cool off from the dry season heat.

As children, my siblings and I were always told we must wait half an hour after eating before swimming. This warning, our parents told us, was to prevent downing due to having a full stomach. The walk from the shaded picnic tables where we had lunch was five minutes to our swim in the King Edward River. No one drowned!

Wunambal Gaambera Traditional Owners manage Mitchell Plateau. Please check which sites in Wunambal Gaambera Country require a Uunguu Visitor Pass to access.

Two men swimming in a river with a rocky riverbank and a ladder into the river

Swimming in the King Edward River

 

Manning Creek

A creek with rocks in it and surrounded by trees

Manning Creek swimming hole

 

Leaving Drysdale River Station, a million-acre working cattle station where we had spent the last two nights, we headed for our next two nights stop at Bell Gorge Wilderness Camp. After a short drive (in kilometres) on the seriously corrugated Kalumburu Road, we found ourselves back on the iconic Gibb River Road (also corrugated).

Today saw us experiencing two swimming holes – Manning Creek and Galvans Gorge.

Our first stop was at Manning Gorge campground for a picnic lunch on Mount Barnett Station in the King Leopold Ranges, North West Kimberley. A few minutes walk from the campground brings you to the picturesque Manning Creek, with its trees lining the sandy riverbank. There is a rickety ladder from which you can enter the creek. Don’t dive into the creek because rocks are submerged beneath the water.

As with our swim in the King Edward River, we did not wait the ‘obligatory’ half an hour after eating before plunging into the Manning Creek. No one drowned! I am beginning to think my parents were spinning a furphy. The trouble is, I passed the same myth onto my children.

An entrance permit is required to access the Manning Creek swimming hole, purchased at the Mount Barnett Roadhouse (one of the most remote roadhouses in Australia) – about seven kilometres from Manning Gorge campground.

Galvans Gorge

A pool of water with a waterfall flowing into the pool. A man swimming in the pool near the waterfall.

Galvans Gorge swimming hole

 

Still on Mount Barnett Station, Galvans Gorge is a pretty little gorge located along the Gibb River Road in the Phillips Range about 15 kilometres west of Mount Barnett.

My guidebook describes the access to Galvans Gorge as an easy, 750-metre walk from the car park off Gibb River Road. Our guide described the path as one kilometre (one way) of flat surfaces, followed by rocky surfaces, then more flat surfaces. Both were right.

Sit on a rock with the waterfall cascading onto your shoulders and down your back for an invigorating massage. While we were at Galvans Gorge, some young people were swinging from a rope on a tree overhanging the waterhole and jumping into the swimming hole. I have read the rope swing is maintained, but I wasn’t going to risk it. On the wall behind the rope swing, you will find ancient Windjana rock art.

The Boab tree standing guard at the top of the waterfall is a native of the Kimberley and an iconic Kimberley symbol.

The gorge and swimming hole are shaded most of the day, making it a perfect spot to escape from the heat. Entry is free.

Bell Gorge

People swimming and standing in a creek surrounded by cliffs

Swimming at Bell Gorge

 

If asked which was my favourite swimming hole, unhesitantly, my response would be Bell Gorge. Its spectacular landscape is a photographer’s delight, and the swimming holes don’t disappoint.

Bell Gorge is in King Leopold Ranges Conservation Park (now referred to by its Aboriginal name, Wunaamin Miliwundi Ranges Conservation Park) and about 247 kilometres east of Derby along the Gibb River Road. Turning off the Gibb River Road, Bell Gorge car park is approximately 30 kilometres along Silent Grove Road, a corrugated road requiring a 4WD.

From the car park, it is a one-kilometre walk along a challenging rocky track to reach the waterfall and swimming holes. I say ‘challenging’ for two reasons:

  • there is a moderate incline at the beginning of the track, which had me puffing when walking back up on my return; and
  • the rocks you are walking on are all loose, making it necessary to concentrate on your balance.

However, at the end of the track, the gorge opens up to a stunning vista and the rock pools at the top of the waterfall. One of the rock pools is a natural infinity pool, allowing you to swim right up to the edge of the waterfall.

The second swimming option at Bell Gorge is below the waterfall, where the falls form a deep pool. According to my travel companions who trekked to the bottom swimming hole, the trek is manageable but will test your hiking skills. First, you need to cross Bell Creek to the opposite side. As the rocks where you cross can be slippery, our guide recommended wearing socks (no shoes) to cross the creek. Apparently, this worked a treat. Once across the creek, you climb down a steep, rocky track (which you have to climb back up again) to access the bottom swimming hole and swim below the waterfall within the gorge. I was told the swim was delightful and well worth the challenging hike.

Bell Gorge is in a national park, so entry fees apply. It is inaccessible during the wet season. Before travelling to Bell Gorge, it is advisable to check for alerts and closures.

Don’t forget your sunscreen and take plenty of water.

People walking on a path of small rocks through bush

The rocky track into Bell Gorge

 

People swimming in a rock pool where the waterfall enters

Swimming in the pool below the waterfall at Bell Gorge

 

Except for Manning Creek, where you can change in the toilet/shower block, the swimming holes listed in this post do not have anywhere to change into your swimmers. Rather than bare my naked backside to my fellow travellers, I wore my swimmers under my clothes.

When to go

The Kimberley has no summer or winter, just wet or dry due to its tropical monsoon climate. I travelled to the Kimberley in June, early in the region’s dry season. The daily temperatures ranged from the high 20s to low 30s degrees Celsius. While this might sound high to some people, the humidity was so mild I didn’t feel especially hot but did appreciate the air conditioning on the bus and the wild swimming opportunities. The nights were cooler, and the only rain I experienced was one night when back in Broome at the end of the escorted tour.

If you want to avoid oppressive heat and humidity, cyclones, and flooded rivers, then travel to the Kimberley from May to October in the dry season. Much of the Kimberley is impassable during the wet season, from November to April. Flooded rivers isolate towns, accommodation, and inhabitants during the wet season.

The Gibb River Road is only accessible during the dry season.

Getting there and around

The Kimberley is truly remote. Even so, you have several options for getting to the Kimberley. I took a direct flight from Sydney to Broome (the ‘capital’ of the Kimberley) but, alternatively, you could drive, hop on a bus, or take a guided tour.

After a week on my own in Broome, I joined APT’s 15-day escorted 4WD adventure tour around the Kimberley. Our ‘4WD’ was a bus on steroids – the body of a bus on a truck chassis. It was on this tour that I was able to experience the safe swimming holes described above.

A 4WD is necessary for travelling around much of the Kimberley if you leave the tarred highway. You should also consider travelling with a satellite phone as there were several areas where there was no mobile phone coverage. At times, I did not even have SOS access on my phone.

The pleasures of travelling on an escorted tour were not having to worry about visitor passes or wondering how I would get from A to B or concerned about damaging my car (if I owned a 4WD) on severely corrugated dirt roads.

The only drawback of being on an escorted group tour was the lack of time to spend at the swimming holes; to thoroughly enjoy them and relax. Taking food and drink and a good book, I could easily have spent a whole day at each swimming hole. Instead, we were in and out of the swimming spots after a quick dip.

I would like to leave you with a related children’s song (lyrics by Jack Lawrence; © Walt Disney Music Company):

A blue and pink music note Never smile at a crocodile
No, you can’t get friendly with a crocodile
Don’t be taken in by his welcome grin
He’s imagining how well you’d fit within his skin

 

Disclaimer: This post contains no affiliate links. All views and opinions are my own and non-sponsored. Unless expressly stated, all photos are my own and remain the copyright of Joanna Rath.

 

Comment below to share your thoughts on this blog post.
Have you been to the Kimberley? Do you have a safe swimming hole in the Kimberley you would like to share with readers?

 

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Related post

See more of the Kimberley:

-> See 7 Beautiful Gorges in the Kimberley – the ultimate guide

-> 15 Photos to Inspire You to Visit Broome, Western Australia

 

To read my other posts on Australia, check out: https://justme.travel/category/destinations/oceania/australia/

 

Author’s Note: Please check the latest travel restrictions before planning any trip, and always follow government advice.

 

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