You can cover some serious kilometres exploring the Kimberley’s remote, red rock landscape, so if you have kids on board, every destination had better impress!
From Broome’s Cable Beach to Cape Leveque, Kununurra to King Edward River, we’ve picked the best child-friendly destinations, croc-free swimming holes, campgrounds and mini-adventures for your little mini-me.
1. FREE CAMP THE DAMPIER PENINSULA
You don’t need to cart the kids all the way to the tip of Cape Leveque to experience Broome’s awesome tri-coloured coastline, and you don’t need to shell out a packet to stay right on the beach.
There’s a fantastic string of beachfront free camps that will save your budget after all those pricey Kimberley splurges. Wild camps at Willie Creek, Barred Creek, Quondong and James Price Point offer scenic camping and the chance for the kids to spend long days swimming, fishing, exploring lagoons, snorkelling and even whale watching from the pindan cliffs.
There’s a pearl farm at Willie Creek and you can launch your tinny from there, set the kids up with a line and try for a barra at Barred Creek, or head to Quondong Point or James Price Point for the best ocean views.
TOP TIP: Be totally self-sufficient, take ample supplies of water, use only existing firepits and retain your black and grey water for disposal back in Broome.
ROADS & RIGS: Although corrugated, the unsealed access roads are generally accessible to conventional vehicles, vans and campers during the winter dry season. You’ll find the camps signposted off Manari Road between 38 and 60km from Broome.
2. GANTHEAUME POINT
The laidback, end-of-day beach parties that take place beneath Gantheaume Point’s crumbling amber cliffs fill some of my best memories of Broome. Saluting the sun as it disappears over the sea, kids swim in the shallows, there’s beach cricket and sandcastles, and you, kicking back in a camp chair with the esky within reach. It’s Broome-time at its best!
Head here as the sun dips low and 4WD vehicles begin to gather on the sand; locals fresh from work lining up alongside dusty tourist rigs to host barefoot barbecues and join the incongruous mix of dogs, swimmers and sea kayakers. Beneath the historical lighthouse that towers above the beach, extreme low tides reveal a stampede of 130 million-year-old dinosaur footprints, and you can take a dip in Anastasia’s pool, high on the rocks.
TOP TIP: Leave the caravan or camper at the campsite for this one – unless you want to dig yourself out of the sand!
ROADS & RIGS: A 4WD track leads on to Gantheaume Point at the southern end of Cable Beach. The sand is hard and safe but watch the quick, incoming tide.
3. TUNNEL CREEK
In the late 1880s, this water-filled tunnel carved deep into WA’s oldest cave system was the secret hideout of Indigenous freedom fighter Jandamarra, responsible for the first organised gun attack on white settlers invading traditional Bunuba lands. Eager little eyes may be able to spot Jandamarra’s faded ochre paintings in a rock cave high above the entrance to Tunnel Creek.
On a hot day, a paddle through Tunnel Creek is really refreshing for kids and adults alike. Make it a real adventure by arming the kids with torches and let them wade through the darkess. At the end of the tunnel are deeper, sun-warmed pools and some shady spots for a picnic.
TOP TIP: Wear grippy, waterproof shoes and prepare to get wet.
ROADS & RIGS: To find Tunnel Creek NP, head 115km north-west from Fitzroy Crossing via a corrugated track. Four-wheel drive vehicles are required, and the road is best suited to offroad rigs. The park is generally inaccessible in the wet season.
4. BALMY NIGHTS IN BROOME
You can’t travel the Kimberley with your kids without visiting Broome – whether it’s your kicking off point, or it’s where to retreat to for some R&R after weeks of tackling the red dust.
Start with Cable Beach and the kids won’t be disappointed – it’s a 22km-long, kid-friendly stretch of shallow, see-through water with shimmering sands custom-made for sand castle building, beach cricket, camel riding and four wheel driving. You could also launch a sea kayak and paddle north, hire a wind surfer to catch the sea breeze or join a sunset cruise aboard an old pearl lugger.
Other activities around Broome that might tempt the littlies include saltwater crocodile feeding shows, a movie at the world’s oldest operating deckchair cinema, and tropical weekend markets.
TOP TIP: Hire an umbrella and beach lounge from the Broome Surf Lifesaving Club and get comfy on Cable Beach while you watch the kids splash in the surf. And don’t forget to book in advance if you plan on camping in Broome – it’s a popular spot!
ROADS & RIGS: Broome can be reached entirely by bitumen and is a hotspot for caravanners and campers of all shapes, sizes and rig types, especially in the winter/dry season.
5. THE MIGHTY MITCHELL
It’s the pinnacle of Kimberley hotspots, one of the furthest to reach and possibly the north-west’s crowning glory. Getting there demands a half-day detour off the Gibb River Road, but there’s a great swimming hole en-route.
Why tackle the extra kilometres? Three reasons: to float in the glorious plunge pools that gather on the lofty edge of Mertens Falls, to discover the sacred rock art hidden behind Mertens diamond-studded falls, and to trek to Mitchell Falls itself – a magical, four-tier cascade – all within walking distance from Mitchell Fall’s comfortable bush camp.
Set out early on your walk with a picnic in your day pack and take time swimming and enjoying the rock art before reaching the famous falls at trails’ end.
TOP TIP: Pick up icy treats for everyone when you refuel at Drysdale Station en-route to Mitchell River.
ROADS & RIGS: Mitchell River campground is located 260km off the Gibb River Road. A high clearance 4WD vehicle is required and conditions become rugged beyond King Edward River. The road is not open in the wet season and the river crossing will be closed if the water is too fast or too high
Caravans are not permitted in Mitchell River National Park due to the road conditions, however, offroad camper trailers are allowed.
Those with caravans can leave them at Drysdale Station for a small fee.
MEET THE AUTHOR
It’s been over 20 years since Catherine tackled her first Aussie Big Lap and she’s been recounting her travel tales ever since, working mostly with her partner, photographer David Bristow. The couple’s first book – Highway One, the Ultimate Australian Road Trip – was published in 2012.
With a background in journalism, magazine editing and as a newspaper manager, it’s long been the outback office that Catherine enjoys best. And when not exploring some dusty outback track, Catherine and her family live aboard a sailing catamaran in Cairns.
Photographer – David Bristow