A detour into the deep north Kimberley that few have experienced
Venture off the Gibb River Road on a detour that rewards you with jaw-dropping views of the wild escarpments, tropical rainforests and tiered falls of spectacular Mitchell River National Park, and culminates with world-class fishing on the remote north coast at Kalumburu Mission.
A true adventure and a challenging drive, the unsealed Kalumburu Road winds its way through changing tropical landscapes of incredible natural diversity and great cultural significance to the traditional land owners, the Wunambal people.
The section that climbs to the Mitchell Plateau leads you through patches of rainforest, dense stands of Livistona palms and eucalypt forests supporting an incredible variety of mammal, bird and reptile species.
Access to the main attraction, Mitchell Falls, is via the unsealed Mitchell Plateau track. You can opt to take a six-kilometre return hike, a short helicopter flight to the falls from the camping area, or walk one way and fly the other!. Along the route to Mitchell Falls you will pass by Little Mertens Falls and Big Mertens Fall, and you can choose to extend your adventure by including a drive to Surveyors Pool, walking the last 1km or so from the end of the track.
Continuing north, you’ll reach Western Australia’s most remote and isolated Aboriginal community at the historic Kalumburu Mission. This ancient and rugged landscape has been home to the Kwini, Gambra and Walmbi people for many thousands of years, and their stories are told in the Kalumburu Museum. The community invites you to discover its culture and experience some of the best fishing on Australia's coast.
While there is a service station and mission store, it is important to check with Derby Visitor Centre or Kununurra Visitor Centre regarding what facilities are available at the time of your visit.
How to get there
Kalumburu lies 570 kilometres from Kununurra (the eastern gateway to the Gibb River Road) and 715 kilometres from Derby (the western gateway to the Gibb River Road). Direct flights from Perth take you to Kununurra, and Derby is just over two hours’ drive from Broome, which is serviced by flights from Perth (year-round) and Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane (seasonal). The only road in and out of Mitchell Plateau and Kalumburu is the Kalumburu Road 4WD track. To access Mitchell River National Park, take the Mitchell Plateau Track, 160 kilometres north of the Gibb River Road junction.
Planning your drive
The Gibb River & Kalumburu Roads Travellers Guide ($5) is published by Derby Visitor Centre and contains maps and suggested itineraries, as well as tips for travelling in the Kimberley outback and comprehensive details on national parks, accommodation and tours.
A fully equipped, high clearance four wheel drive vehicle is required for this drive. You’ll also need to ensure you have fuel, water, food, mechanical and medical supplies. The road can be extremely corrugated, and the Mitchell Plateau Track is narrow with some steep inclines. Low speeds and caution while driving are essential.
If you intend visiting Kalumburu Mission, you’ll need a permit, which can be obtained from the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. Once you arrive in Kalumburu, another permit is required from the local community.
Vehicle hire and tours
For your self-drive adventure, you’ll find both car and camper van hire in Broome, and car hire options in Kununurra. Another option is to join a 4WD tour, allowing you to relax while someone else does the driving.
Accommodation includes camping sites, wilderness retreats and station stays. All are extremely popular and prior booking is strongly recommended. Please note, there is no free camping, and facilities at campsites are quite basic. It is recommended that you plan to be completely self-sufficient.
Best time to drive
The road is only accessible during the Dry Season (May to October). However, you can fly to Kalumburu all year round via light aircraft from Kununurra or Wyndham. Prior to travelling, check road conditions and closures with Derby and Kununurra visitor centres.
Allow 5 days to visit the Kalumburu Road and Mitchell Plateau with this itinerary.