About halfway along the Gibb River Road is a turnoff that heads north to Mitchell Falls. If you are well prepared for the trip, do it – the drive might be long but the hike to the falls is worth it.
Located in the Northern Kimberley, the Mitchell Plateau is home to the Mitchell River National Park, which covers about 115,000 hectares of rugged wilderness. The road in is more rough than the western end of the Gibb River Road, with lots of sharp, rocky bits, river crossings and muddy tracks with big red puddles.
We saw a few dingoes that looked more like wild dogs and passed forests of livistona palms which really added some great character to the landscape.
Our first stop along the Gibb River-Kalumburu Road, Miners Pool is a great place to stop and rest. The camping area is equipped with oil barrel toilets and camping fees are payable at the Drysdale Homestead.
We needed to top up on fuel and water so we pulled into Drysdale H/S. As expected, fuel prices were through the roof – even more expensive than the Nullarbor – petrol was about $2.40 p/L while diesel was $2.35 p/L. The store wasn’t much different, with flour going at $6 a kilo and a box of shapes was just over $5.
Drinking water was free though, and we filled up every vessel we could. There is also a beer garden and food outlet, and the people that we met were really friendly.
In between the King Edward River and the Mitchell Falls National Park is a rest stop that overlooks a valley filled with livistona palms. It’s a great view and worth stopping to take a look and stretch your legs before you continue on towards Mitchell Falls.
Mitchell Falls (Punamii-inpuu)
Located within the Mitchell River National Park. Entry fees apply but if you have a WA Parks Pass you’re all sorted.
The 8km walk to the falls proved to be a great day out. Some parts of the track were rocky and difficult while other parts are level and easy. There were heaps of flowers along the way, as well as lizards and frogs. Make sure you wear your togs because there are heaps of waterholes for a nice swim. The area is sacred to the Wunambal people, please respect the area and approach waterholes quietly and courteously.
Little Merten Falls – This was the first water feature of the day, and even though it’s called Little Merten Falls, it’s a long drop down into the waterhole. We saw a goanna basking in the sun, and climbed down behind the waterfall to check out an Aboriginal art gallery with a few Bradshaw style drawings. We stopped here on our way back to camp to cool off under the spray.
Big Merten Falls – When we arrived, we could see why this was called the Big Merten Falls. The drop down in the gorge was at least 100 metres and it was daunting to look down. We crossed the river via stepping stones at the top of the waterfall.
Mitchell Falls – Wow – so much water, power and noise! The hike was definitely worth the view as the Mitchell River cascades 150 metres down into the gorge. The water in the river is drinkable so we sat down, had lunch and rehydrated before heading back to camp.
It’s $7 per adult per night to camp, and the facilities include Jumanji drop toilets, fire pits and generator/no-generator zones. Ultimately, it didn’t really matter whether you were camped next to a generator or not, it was bloody noisy all day because of the helicopter operation next to the campsites that flew tourists over the Mitchell Falls.
The campfire curfew was between 4pm and 8am, which is just enough time to make dinner and breakfast! While we were cooking up some faux fried rice, we got some camping neighbours and they turned out to be a great couple. Andrea and James (aka Fox & Lamb) were holidaying for 2 weeks in their Lambcruiser and were on their way back home. We sat around the fire, chatted and sucked cans well into the night, shared stories and had some great laughs. It was totes awesomeballs to meet these guys – absolute tits!
After spending the night at Mitchell Falls, we headed north to Surveyor Pool in the morning. Access to the pool is via a 4WD track with 2-3 metre tall grass on either side, plus a short walk to the river.
It was like an oasis – the river tumbled down into a beautiful pool surrounded by pandanus and livistona palms. We only saw one saltwater croc – and that was enough to confirm that we weren’t going to climb down into the gorge. We stayed on top of the falls and had a refreshing dip in the shallow rapids.
The scenery in the east of the Kimberley is really picturesque. In the distance and at the side of the road, there were fantastic rocky outcrops, escarpments and mountains. Once we got back on the Gibb River Road, the scenery became more striking but the road became shittier. We were now a few days into our Kimberley adventure and we were definitely grateful for all our recovery gear, but felt silly that we didn’t properly stock up on supplies.
Take care of your vehicle
Don’t go during the Wet Season between September and April. The roads are often closed or impassable and if you get stuck, it’ll cost you big time. The Dry Season is best – and if you go at the start of the season there will be more greenery and water.
Check with locals about the road conditions and always be prepared with spare tyres, a tyre repair kit, and even a snorkel to get you over the river crossings. Petrol vehicles need not apply.
We did a shocking job of stocking up before entering the remote Kimberley. Sure, there are stores within the homesteads where you can buy essential items, but we couldn’t justify playing $6 for a kilo of flour when we could have prepared better and got it for only $1.
Good things to stockpile include WATER, crackers, peanut butter, rice, tinned tuna, carrots, potatoes, canned vegetables and meals. If you want to make damper, you’ll also need flour, butter and milk or milk powder.
As soon as we got there, we wanted to leave. Emma Gorge is occupied by a big, fancy pants resort with green grass, a gift shop, restaurant and stylish accommodation. Plus, we had to pay $10 each just to be there. We declined and left.
When you reach the end of the Gibb River Road, turn north at the Great Northern Highway and head towards Wyndham. The Grotto is about 15kms up the road and is a shaded waterhole within a gorge. There are 140 manmade steps down into the gorge and it’s a nice place to cool off.
During the Wet Season, there is a gush of water that pours down into the gorge. It was a little dry when we were there so the water was murky and stagnant, but it was still a nice place to be. Plus, the water can be up to 175m deep.
Warmun (Turkey Creek)
The roadhouse is a great place to stop and shop for groceries or a decent steak sandwich, and there is a nifty mechanic in town in case you need any spare parts for your 4WD. Warmun is one of the Kimberley’s largest communities with a population of over 400. Please be respectful – Warmun is a closed aboriginal community.
The Bungle Bungles
A relatively new discovery in the Kimberley, the Bungle Bungles and Purnululu National Park are definitely worth the 2 hour drive along the 50km dirt road. Check out our post on the Bungle Bungles here.