Kununurra - The Last Frontier in WA

Closer to Darwin than its own capital Perth 3000km away, Kununurra is often described as the last frontier.

Situated at the heart of the East Kimberley in northern West Australia, Kununurra is a green oasis in the red dirt that in the local Aboriginal language means “the meeting of the big waters.”

My family and I were lucky enough to live there for three months in the mild season before the wet a few years ago. It is hot all year round with two distinct seasons; the wet (November – January) and the dry.  Many roads are closed during the wet season so it is best to travel in the dry and plan ahead.

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Although approximately 100 km from the ocean, it is surrounded by rivers, gorges, creeks and waterways; many filled with crocodiles, both fresh and saltie.  So it pays to take note of signage and talk to the locals before taking a dip to escape the heat.

Exploring the region starts in the centre of town with most of the following highlights being only a walk or short drive away.

Kelly’s Knob

On the edge of the town centre, a walk away if fit and active, is Kelly’s Knob – a large rock that is just over 190 metres high.  There is a road most of the way to the top but the final stretch is a small hike.  

It is best done in the cool of late afternoon or early evening where the climb will be rewarded with an amazing sunset over the surrounding plains, farm land, town site, lake and ranges. The colours are spectacular so don’t forget the camera.

Elephant Rock or Sleeping Buddha

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This is a large rock formation that from one angle looks like the head of a large elephant and from the other, a Buddha sleeping. The rock can be seen from the shores of Lily Creek Lagoon at the town’s entrance.

For an even better view, hire a small dingy from the local caravan park and putt around the creek and Lake Kununurra.  In the wet there are small waterfalls to be seen only a short distance along the lake.

At the foot of Elephant Rock there is some Aboriginal rock art only a short walk from the edge of the lake.  This is where local knowledge comes in handy so ask around and the locals will be happy to help out and point the way.

Mirima National Park (or Hidden Valley)

Again this is only a small distance from the edge of town.  Known as the mini Bungle Bungles, Mirima is a great place to get a feel for the ancient Kimberley landscape if time is short.  The national park has great walking tracks and the rock colours are amazing.  Don’t forget plenty of drinking water to counter the heat.

Celebrity Tree Park

For a walk in the shade, check out Celebrity Tree Park which is located on the main highway on the edge of Lily Creek Lagoon.  The park displays a variety of tree species that were planted in honour of famous visitors to the town, including Princess Anne and movie legend Baz Luhrmann.  One of the highlights has to be a large boab, an unusual tree that is a true Kimberley icon.

Paddy’s Market

For those wanting to experience local produce, art and craft, or just taste the delights of a mango ice-cream, visit Paddy’s Market.  This runs in the dry season on Saturdays from 8.00am till lunch and is held at Whitegum Park just across from the Kununurra Visitor Centre.

There are many other wonderful things to see only a short drive from Kununurra. These include Ivanhoe Crossing, the Diversion Dam, Packsaddle Plains and Molly Springs.

There are also endless day trips options from Kununurra. Some include Lake Argyle, the Ord River, Wyndham and its famous crocodile park, El Questro and the Bungle Bungles.  Contact Kununurra Visitor Centre for further details on 08-9168-1177.

Getting to Kununurra

If time is tight, take a flight from Perth or Darwin. You can connect to these two capitals through Kununurra. To drive is a wonderful experience that many “grey nomads” take on as it can include the infamous Gibb River Road. This is a trip that has to be well planned due to the road and weather conditions. But that is another story.

If you have been to this part of the East Kimberley and would like to share your travel story then we would love to hear from you.

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