Cruising the Ord River - A Scenic Afternoon Feast

  • Posted by R. McGuigan on 28 July 2016

Visitors to Kununurra in the far north east Kimberley can choose from a number of scenic tour experiences to view some of the region’s rugged scenery. On this occasion our choice was a tour that took us to both Lake Argyle and the Ord River in a coach/cruise combination. 

With the tour commencing at 11.30am, we were able to enjoy a lazy morning before we were picked up by coach at our Kununurra accommodation and travelled the 70kms (1 hour) journey to Lake Argyle.  Our first stop was a visit to the Durack Homestead Museum, which was relocated from its original position in the 1970s.  This was done before it was inundated by the damming of the Ord River that consumed most of the Argyle Downs Station to create Lake Argyle.  

Visiting the homestead provided an insight into how the family lived in the tough Kimberley climate and in the grounds you will find some gravestones of members of the famous Durack family.  (You can read more about this fascinating family’s history in Mary Durack’s book “Kings in Grass Castles”).   Our guide also pointed out a bowerbird which had set up home in the gardens of the museum and seemingly tolerant of the daily tourist invasion.

Durack Museum Kununurra Best Of The Kimberley

Image: R. McGuigan - Durack Homestead Museum

A short drive later we arrived Lake Argyle Resort, which is perched high on the banks of the Lake.  The resort accommodation includes cabins and villas, caravan park and campground, camp kitchen, BBQ’s and a cafe.  They are justly proud of their infinity swimming pool from which you have one of the best views in Australia.   

Our coach took us slowly across the broad, but surprisingly small, Dam Wall that holds back up to a staggering 10,700,000,000 cubic metres of water (at full capacity).

 Dam Wall Kununurra Best Of The Kimberley

Image: R McGuigan - Lake Argyle dam wall

At the base of the dam wall is a delightful park area that offers picnic facilities and from there we boarded our Triple J Tours boat for the 55kms cruise back to Kununurra.  Triple J Tours boasts that the 55kms journey is the longest river cruise in Australia, and from the moment you step onto the shaded vessel the visual feast continues being surrounded by stunning, rugged cliffs.   (It is a comfort to find there is an onboard toilet and chilled water and soft drinks were also provided during the cruise.)

 Triple J Tours

Image: Triple J Tours

Our cruise guide, Grant, was watchful for flora or fauna that us not-so-wide-eyed tourists might not spot.  Viewing crocodiles in the wild is what we wanted and we did see a few.  The little ones that blend into logs or basking on a muddy riverbank can be deceptive to spot.  Grant deftly manoeuvred the vessel to points of interest, spent time explaining what we were looking at and provided fascinating facts about the development of Lake Argyle and the Ord Irrigation Scheme.

The spectacular Carlton Gorge is a highlight of this tour.  With its soaring, craggy faces, the afternoon sun highlighted the intense colours, and with reflections on an almost still waterway, this cruise is one of my favourite tours in the Kimberley.

 Kununurra Riverbank Best Of The Kimberley

Image: R. McGuigan - Ord River gorges

Downstream we drew up to a small jetty on the riverbank where we alighted to find a camp set up with shaded picnic tables, seating and toilet facilities.  Grant was swift in arranging our afternoon tea (he’s obviously done this before!) of fresh scones, cake, sliced fruit, tea and coffee.

Refreshed, we were soon cruising through more stunning gorges back to Kununurra.  As we entered Lake Kununurra we cruised past the rocky formation known locally as Sleeping Buddha and then deviated into some of the creeks and lagoons to view birds and lush river bank vegetation.

As the sun set over the surrounding hills, we arrived back at the Triple J Tours marina on the shores of the lake, where our coach was awaiting to return us to our accommodation in the township.

Sunset Lake Kununurra Best Of The Kimberley

Image R McGuigan  - sunset Lake Kununurra 

This tour and cruise departs Kununurra at 11.30am and returns at approximately 5.30pm.   Lunch is not included, so we recommend that you either have a late breakfast or an early lunch before the tour.  Some of our fellow passengers had packed a sandwich to eat whilst on the coach journey. 

There is plenty to eat at afternoon tea!   Triple J Tours are an award-winning, Kununurra based tour operator and they pick up and drop off at Kununurra accommodation, so you can sit back, relax, let someone else guide you – just enjoy the ride!

We suggest taking a warm jacket in the cooler months as the early evening can be quite cool on the water. 

Tours operate during the Kimberley’s dry season months of April to October.