5 Things You Need to Consider When Planning Your Travels in the Kimberley

  • Posted by Rosemary on 8 February 2018

The Kimberley region of Western Australia covers an area of almost 420,000 square kilometres and a population of just 39,000 persons. 

Most of the population lives in the main towns of Broome, Derby, Fitzroy Crossing, Halls Creek, Kununurra & Wyndham and with the exception of Aboriginal communities, cattle stations and a few remote accommodations, this leaves most of the region unpopulated and isolated! 

The rugged, ancient landscape is the major drawcard for visitors who travel from all corners of the world to see one of the last wilderness areas.

With the majority of services centres in and around the main townsites, being well prepared makes sense if you are planning to travel far from services.

Many visitors to the Kimberley are self-drivers who spend their time exploring in a myriad of vehicle combinations, whilst others are fly in/fly out visitors, so whatever your mode of  travel in the Kimberley there are a number of ‘challenges’ to consider to ensure you have a safe and memorable stay – for all the right reasons!

1. ALCOHOL RESTRICTIONS

Travellers to the Kimberley need to be aware that alcohol and alcohol purchasing restrictions are in force in some communities and in the towns.  If you wish to purchase alcohol on your travels, we recommend that you seek information locally as to what restrictions may currently apply as they can change from time to time without notice.  You may wish to purchase some supplies in Broome or Kununurra before departing on your travels.

Taking in the view at Home Valley Station Tourism Western Australia

Taking in the view at Home Valley Station (Photo credit: Tourism Western Australia)

2. MOBILE PHONE & INTERNET RECEPTION

Whilst mobile phone and internet reception is available in the major towns there is no mobile or internet reception along the Gibb River Road or in the Bungle Bungles. 

Not all mobile phone providers have services in the major towns so we recommend that you check out the coverage information with your provider before travelling, or view the coverage maps on their respective website.

Telstra mobile phone coverage is generally available along the Great Northern Highway but there are some black spots.

If you must have phone access at all times, we suggest hiring a satellite phone for your travels.

Travel tip: We have discovered one isolated location for mobile phone reception at the Cockburn Range Lookout on the Gibb River Road, which is about 13km east Home Valley Station!   But do not rely upon it.

Cockburn Range Lookout R. McGuigan

Cockburn Range Lookout (Photo credit: R. McGuigan)

 3. QUARANTINE RESTRICTIONS

When travelling into Western Australia by road or by air, quarantine restrictions apply.  You may be surprised at what you can and cannot bring into Western Australia and many travellers lose fruit and vegetables, honey and other materials that they have unwittingly brought to the border.

Western Australia's (DAFWA) Quarantine WA service operates border checkpoints as the first line of defence against incursions of unwanted pests, weeds and diseases, which could arrive on freight, cargo and other items brought in from interstate.  Road checkpoints at Kununurra and Eucla operate 24 hours a day throughout the year.  

We recommend that you view the interesting FAQ’s on the Department’s website.

Quarantine check point at the WA NT Border Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development

Quarantine checkpoint at the WA/NT Border (Photo credit: Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development)

4. ACCESS TO ABORIGINAL COMMUNITIES & PASTORAL STATIONS

Many Aboriginal communities are closed to visitors, so if you see signage indicating ‘no access’ please respect the privacy of the residents.

Many communities do welcome visitors as they embrace and develop their tourism activities.  We recommend that you call ahead to ensure that the community is open to visitors as communities may be unexpectedly closed for cultural reasons.  There may also be permit fees to pay upon entry

Transit Permits are designed to protect the privacy of Indigenous communities, preserve Indigenous heritage and culture, and safeguard the natural environment.  Importantly, they also assist in ensuring visitor safety.  You can apply for a permit online

Some pastoral stations, such as Mt Elizabeth Station embrace tourism as part of their business activities and due to limited facilities, booking ahead is highly recommended.     Station access is a privilege and you can find further information in the free booklet “Travelling in Outback Western Australia” prepared by the Department of Regional Development and Lands.  If you would like a PDF copy to be emailed to you, please send an email to us at

The pearl shell altar at the Church of the Sacred Heart Beagle Bay Community R. McGuigan

The pearl shell altar at the Church of the Sacred Heart, Beagle Bay Community (Photo credit: R. McGuigan)

5. ROAD CONDITIONS

The Gibb River Road is an ‘adventure road’ on the bucket list of many travellers and being aware of current road conditions can make or break the enjoyment of your journey.

Whilst the ‘dry’ season months of April/May to October/November rarely bring road closures due to weather events, the ‘wet’ season months of November to April can bring ad-hoc road closures.  

Generally, the Gibb River Road is closed from November/December until April/May because of flooding and the high-water levels at the river and creek crossings and watercourses. 

Authorities will not open the Gibb River Road until it is safe to traverse.  Every year the road opens on a different date.   The WA Department of Main Roads has a new “Travel Map” on their website that shows current road conditions. 

Some Kimberley roads are the responsibility of the 4 local Kimberley shires and their websites include road condition reports.   The shires are:

  • Shire of Broome
  • Shire of Derby-West Kimberley
  • Shire of Halls Creek
  • Shire of Wyndham-East Kimberley

Many cattle stations are unfenced and it is not uncommon to encounter wandering stock and wildlife.  Serious accidents can occur due to collisions with kangaroos, cattle and various other animals and birds.  If possible, avoid driving at dawn and dusk as these are the most dangerous times.  

Travel tip: Hire car companies in the Kimberley void insurance coverage on hire vehicles that are damaged when driven between dusk and dawn outside of the town sites.  We recommend you check the terms and conditions when you collect your hire vehicle.

Always check the road conditions before travelling the Gibb River Road R. McGuigan

Always check the road conditions before travelling the Gibb River Road (Photo credit: R. McGuigan)