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WYNDHAM-KUNUNURRA... WA

Exploring the top of WA !!


WYNDHAM EXPLORE


I was looking forward to getting into Wyndham at the top of WA, especially after a month on the Gibb road for some decent food, shower and relaxation in a town. Exploring the Karunjie Track with its amazing history and stunning scenery I soon popped onto the King River Road and it wasn’t long before I hit the tar into Wyndham.

Now after spending a month on the Gibb, I wasn’t expecting too much around the Wyndham area, but boy was I surprised and after booking into the local caravan park I was off to explore the sights and sounds.

The first point of call was Wyndham’s 5 Rivers lookout just a few miles out of town. Now this lookout has to be one of the best ones I have ever been to with a massive wow factor. Aptly named for what you see, there are 5 rivers draining into Cambridge Gulf, which are, The Ord, Durack, Pentecost, Forrest and the King River. It’s a massive waterway that they flow into which not only provides an exit out to the gulf, but allows for recreational and commercial fishing.

At the lookout not only are there day facilities but an info board on Wyndham's history timeline. The first indigenous arrived in the area about 45,000 years ago where they lived through the top end, and descendants still live in the local area. The first contact with a white European man was in 1819 when Captain Parker surveyed the coastline and named the gulf, a nearby mountain range and the Adolphus Islands.

Movie forward 70 years to when cattle pioneers were looking for good country and to when gold was found to the south at Halls Creek in 1884. Wyndham was proclaimed as a town soon after and the construction of a meat works and an export wharf was soon built. Wyndham was the main port for the exportation of cattle throughout the whole Kimberley.

Down below the 5 Rivers lookout is the site of old Wyndham town that thrived until 1942, but the town was evacuated for fear of being bombed by the Japanese in WW11. Fortunately, the only casualty was the WA ship ‘’Koolama”, which eventually sunk in the river. The meat works and other port industries continued for another 40 years but economic reasons soon closed the remaining businesses down.

The port is used for export today shipping out iron ore, cattle, fuel and general freight. Today, the new site of Wyndham is 10km away, built on solid ground away from the mudflats and wet season massive water tides.

Around town there’s plenty more to explore, like out along the King River road where the Prison Boab tree is that holds some dark history when aboriginal prisoners would be forced to climb inside the hollow tree for their last overnight stay before facing the courts at Wyndham. Just past the tree, there's some exquisite and fascinating rock art.

To the east, Parry’s Lagoon ( or Marlgu Billabong ) is a permanent waterhole that’s now a designated nature reserve where dozens of different species of birds can be found and several large saltwater crocs call home, all accessible in the dry season.

Overlooking Parry’s Lagoon a Radio and telegraph station was built in 1914 to assist with ships entering the harbour and was used in WW1 for naval intelligence and assisting the tracking and sinking of the German ship, “Emden”.  After its closure, the building was relocated to the Wyndham port precinct and used as the Postmasters house. The house still stands today. Concrete house and water tank foundations are the only relics left at the telegraph station site.


AROUND KUNUNURRA

 

After a few days around Wyndham, it was time to move east towards the larger town of Kununurra ( or Kunna’s to the locals ) along Parry Creek road skirting the northern side of Ngamoowalem Conservation Park.

Roughly 90km to Kununurra this dirt road is a good alternative to the tar with several options to camp along the way. Harry Dogs fishing camp is situated on the Ord River and I perfect for those chasing Barra. Further towards Kunna’s, a short 4wd track leads you into Middle Springs Waterfall and Black Rock Falls.

I was there late in the dry season and even tho there was water in the pools, it wasn’t really inviting, but I can only imagine the intense amount of water that crashes over the rocks into the pools during the wet season.


Around the same turn-off to the falls is Buttons gap. Not noticeable as a major landmark, but several tracks lead down to the Ord River where free camping is permitted along the river. With nearly 4 km of campsites, with some pretty private, it's a beautiful spot to camp just outside Kununurra. But, this is big saltwater Croc country, so be very vigilant on camping, fishing and def no swimming in the river.

Further on towards Kununurra is the infamous Ivanhoe crossing. This long curved concrete causeway holds back water upstream from the Ord dam wall, and with a single-lane road on top, it's an exciting drive across. Keen fishos throw lures and live bait around trying to hook a Barra here, and going by the amount of fish scales on the rocks around the river bank, many fish get caught.

In town, Kununurra is an interesting place where many cultures come together. With local indigenous, and overseas fruit pickers and travellers staying in town - it's a busy place in the dry season. Only a few minutes to the east of town, Mirima NP is often regarded as the little Bungle Bungle’s. The local Miriuwung people welcome you to walk around in Mirima with respect admiring the towering sandstone eroded rock formations.

Walking trails meander through the array of beehive-type rock formations that date back millions of years and most of the trails lead you to lookouts or points of interest along the way.

Kununurra is also known as the food bowl of Western Australia where crops and huge plantations of sandalwood trees grow in the fertile soil and where abundant water is available from the Ord River scheme. Speaking of water, no trip to Kununurra isn’t complete without heading out to the absolutely massive Lake Argyle.

Spending time around Wyndham and Kununurra showed me that the whole area has so many places and things to explore and two things have stayed with me, one is that everything is huge up here and sometimes hard to capture through a lens and the other - I will be back.


WHERE

 

Wyndham and Kununurra are in the East Kimberly in WA and are regarded as the gateway to the Kimberly and the Gibb River Road. Cut off during the wet season, the whole area comes alive during winter when tourists flock to the area to explore the amazing and stunning areas. Located nearly 4000km NW of Brisbane, Wyndham is accessible by road and weekly flights, but a 4WD is highly recommended to explore the area and its culture fully.


WHAT TO SEE AND DO

 

From 2000-year-old Boab trees, aboriginal culture including stunning rock art and sites, through to white man history and some of the best landscape features in the top end, there is something for everyone. Time spent in Wyndham can be lost by exploring the 5 Rivers lookout, old Wyndham town, several cemeteries around town and natural wonders.

Kununurra is known for its diversity with Mirima NP right in the heart of town, the massive Old dam, great fishing and of course driving Ivanhoe crossing. Just out of Kununurra, a day can be spent at Argyle Dam either on the water or by visiting the many viewing points high above the waterline. Midway between Wyndham and Kununurra is El Questro resort with its natural wonders in the way of gorge walks, swimming holes and 4WD tracks.



OTHER IMPORTANT STUFF

 

During the warmer months and wet season, generally from November through to March the top end gets unbearable with humid and hot weather. Heavy rainfall with the chance of cyclones often shuts the area down during these times. I found a few days at Wyndham and a few days at nearby Kununurra was enough time to explore the sites.

To fully immerse yourself in the El Questro experience, a week was enough to wind down and relax. Plenty of camping and shopping options in the area depending on your needs. Information on seasonal closures, accommodation and activities in these areas can all be found online.


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