A family's trip along the Gibb River Road, itinerary and costs

Famiy Portrait.jpg

A big thank you to Aaron and Jacqui from ‘Chaos In A Tin Can’ for this informative blog post! This post was originally written about their travel through the Kimberley, Australia and posted to their Facebook page in July 2018.

“Settle in guys, this is going to be a long one…

The Gibb River Road runs from Derby in the west through to Kununurra in the east.

The Kimberley is said to be one of the last untouched areas of Australia, who ever said that wasn’t here in the July school holidays.

We took our usual set up for this journey.

* 2011 Toyota LandCruiser
* 2017 Leader Gold Explorer 25ft
* 180 water in van
* 110 water in car
* 240 W roof solar 120 w blanket
* Honda 2kva generator

We ran with tyres at 30psi in both car and van. This has always worked well for our set up so we stuck with it. There was a lot of chatter amongst other campers about running hard tyres over the rocky shale sections of road but we decided not to test that theory and luckily all our tyres are still in tact.
As a side note, we don't carry tents or swags, we don't have the extra space or weight allowance so we were limited with some free camps being inaccessible to us.

Budget $ AUD

Food- 770
Fuel- 338
Camp grounds- 458
Alcohol- 204
Permits- 80
Phone cards- 12
Washing machines- 15
Helicopter flight- 750

Bell Gorge

Bell Gorge

Day 1: Tunnel Creek

We spent 3 hours exploring Tunnel Creek, most people don't take this long but the kids were loving it so we didn't rush. We saw baby bats, frogs and a couple of little freshwater crocs. To get through to the end you need to wade through the water, in some places it was up to mid thigh.
Camp- Windjana Gorge NP camp $26

Day 2: Windjana Gorge

We counted just over 30 freshwater crocs in varying sizes sunbaking here, a beautiful walk through the sandy gorge.
Camp- Silent Grove NP camp $26

We counted just over 30 freshwater crocs in varying sizes sunbaking here

Day 3: Bell Gorge

A bit of a drive in off the GRR with a couple of water crossings on the way. The walk to the top pools is a very easy path with a couple of rocky but still easy sections. At the top pools you get a beautiful view down the gorge and you can easily sit right at the top of the waterfalls. The bottom pools are a slightly harder climb down but only a short distance. We absolutely loved it here and spent most of the day swimming and climbing on rocks for an even better view. We're told the gorge continues on for even more lovely falls and pools. The water at the top is a great temperature at the moment, still a little chilly down the bottom.
Camp- Silent grove $26

Bell Gorge

Bell Gorge

Day 4: Adcock Gorge

Not as well signposted and often overlooked, you definitely need a 4x4 to get to the second carpark but it's not far to walk from the first. The walk to the gorge is rocky and not well marked but fairly short and not too difficult. You can wander around the falls and small pools around the bottom or climb up to the big pools at the top of the falls. We decided not to climb up with the kids as it was quite slippery.
Camp- freecamp

Day 5: Galvans Gorge

A nice easy walk with a fantastic reward. A clear pool with a very easy waterfall to swim up to and sit under the lovely warm water from the higher pools. 

Manning River- we set up camp and wandered down a few hundred metres with the SUP to the sandy banks of the river. There is a pull along boat to get across or you can wade to a rock island and easily spend the afternoon in the sunshine. 
Camp - Manning river camp $74 for two nights including gorge fees.

Manning River

Manning River

Day 6: Manning Gorge

There's a lot of hype about this walk. It's a 5km return but most of it is fairly easy, the exhausting part is that most of it is also very exposed, so 30 feels like 40. Powerade and marshmallows to the rescue. The gorge and falls itself are beautiful, a nice sandy walk in or plenty of rocks to jump off for the more adventurous.

Camp - See previous day

The gorge and falls itself are beautiful

Day 7: Drysdale Station

This is really just a stopover kind of place, it's expensive but you don't have a huge choice here. The sites are hot and dusty but the beer garden is lovely, grassy and shady, too hard to resist really. There is a shop and fuel. 
Homestead camp $38

Day 8: Munurru (King Edward) River

We arrived at camp around lunchtime set ourselves up and strolled down to the river for a dip, the water is clear and refreshing and it's not crowded at all. We have a huge site with our own fire pit, absolutely fantastic night here.

King Edward River camping

King Edward River camping

Day 9: Mitchell Falls

This was such a huge day for us! We decided not to take the van right up as we had heard the road was awful so we left at 6am and took two hours to drive up. We had booked a helicopter flight in to Mitchell Falls as we weren't confident we could walk the kids in and out and get back to camp before dark. It is a really short flight to the falls but the kids absolutely loved it, especially Ned (4) who got to ride shotgun. Mitchell Falls was very impressive from the air but even more so standing at the top. The great thing about flying in early was that we got to spend the day heading back slowly and stopped for a swim at every opportunity. We absolutely loved Little Mertens falls, stopped for a swim at the bottom and had lunch sitting behind the falls then headed up the top for a dip in the natural spa. It still took us all day and we didn't make it back before dark.

We had booked a helicopter flight in to Mitchell Falls as we weren’t confident we could walk the kids in and out and get back to camp before dark
Mitchell Fals helicopter

Mitchell Fals helicopter

Day 10: King Edward River and falls

A well deserved recovery day swimming in the river and playing in the rapids a bit further downstream. This is a top camp here, the first set of falls are lovely but we didn't make it further down to the second.

Day 11: CAMPING AT Ellenbrae STATION

We were actually aiming for the Gibb River freecamp which is amazing but was shut down at some point while we were up north. On we went to Ellenbrae Station. The homestead area was lovely and green, the camping area not quite so nice. There is a swimming hole and a gorge you can drive down to which is a nice start to the day. Prices seem to be creeping up and up as we travel further east $40 per night and $4.50 per scone.

The entrance gate to Home Valley Station

The entrance gate to Home Valley Station

I’ve been waiting to drive through these spectacular gates for quite some time now

Day 12: Home Valley Station

I've been waiting to drive through these spectacular gates for quite some time now. HV8 was absolutely chockers but the staff here bent over backwards to make sure we found a spot that would work for our van. We had a lovely afternoon at the pool and spent way too much cash at Rusty’s.

Unpowered camping $40pn

Day 13: Parry creek

We had planned to head for El Questro but needed a break from the crowds so we headed up to Parry Creek Farm Tourist Resort and Caravan Park this gave us some much needed space to spread out.

Day 14-15: Wyndham

We spent a couple of days exploring the Five Rivers lookout, the Prison tree, Old telegraph hill, bird watching at Marlu billabong and testing out the famous croc and Barra pies. Glad we stopped by here there was quite a bit to do.

Glad we stopped by here there was quite a bit to do

Day 16: Emma Gorge

We had heard so much and seen so many pictures of this place it was hard to believe we were finally here. The walk is pretty easy and not too long, only one trickier bit at Turquoise Pool to get through to the end. It was pretty awesome and the kids loved climbing up into the thermal pools at the side. Otherwise the water is freezing, which makes it easier to get a photo with no one in it.

Emma Gorge

Emma Gorge

Day 17: Zebedee springs

What's not to love about hot springs, such a wonderful way to start the day, it’s only open to the public till midday which is a shame because its probably a great way to end the day too. Get here early, quite a few groups appeared to be permanent fixtures by the time we arrived at 9 and hadn't moved two hours later when we left.

It’s only open to the public till midday

El Questro gorge - The walk to halfway pool is easy and a really lovely walk, the hallway pool is lovely and theres lots of little spots to swim. To continue you need to scale a few boulders or a small waterfall and the walk becomes much harder. Sadly we didn't leave enough time in the day after staying too long in the hot springs so Aaron continued alone while I swam with the kids. This is a bit of a regret as in hindsight we probably could have made it.

Turquoise Pool, Emma Gorge

Turquoise Pool, Emma Gorge

That's it, we made it, it was incredible and we had such a fantastic time, we met so many wonderful people and saw so many amazing things. This has been without doubt the most expensive part of our travels so far but it was worth every penny.

Things that we found -

*There is plenty of water available at most places. 
*Fresh fruit available at Imintji at reasonable prices.
*There are NO dump points on the Gibb.
*We carried enough cash and smaller denominations to pay for all the camps we planned but there was EFTPOS and ATMs available at the community stores and Roadhouse.
*Shop for absolutely everything in Kununurra or Broome, some groceries and alcohol are available but it will cost you!
*No problems with fuel availability although it can be expensive.
*No one seems to use radios even when overtaking through the dust.
*Don't expect oncoming traffic to slow down.
*National park camps on the Gibb are awesome, toilets, showers and potable water.
*Grab a copy of 100 Things To See In The Kimberley, before you head across.