Kununurra capital of the East Kimberley Western Australia

To those who don’t live in Australia, it is a remote and distant country near the bottom of the world that is thousands of miles from anywhere.  To those that do live in Australia, we are glad that is distant from Europe and North America because that’s part of what makes this unique.  To Australians, the most remote and distance part of our country is the Kimberleys on the north western part of the country, and Kununurra is right there, in the middle of the remoteness.

It has to be said that you do need to travel a long way to get to Kununurra.  To drive to Kununurra from Perth, the Capital of Western Australia of which Kununurra is a part, is longer than driving to Sydney from Perth, and Sydney is on the other side of a wide continent.  As Australians say, Kununurra is a bloody long way from anywhere.

Which is why it is a magnet for tourists?

Kununurra is a new town, it was only built in the 1960s to support the Ord Dam Project, the thinking at that time being that the huge tracts of land there could be irrigated with waters from the dam, and Kununurra could be at the centre of the fruit bowl of Asia.  Many of the crops they tried just didn’t work out, and the Ord Irrigation Region was a bit of a flop for a while.  Nowadays, the farmers are quite a bit savvier than their predecessors, and many crops are flourishing there.  Which is great, because Kununurra mangoes are delicious.

Even though Kununurra is the largest town in the East Kimberley it has a population of around just 4,000 people.  But even so, its numbers do swell with visitors, especially during the dry season when it’s easier to drive the Gibb River Road, a trip that now has legendary status due to the extraordinary beauty of the scenery you witness during the drive.

One of the best ways to work out your bearings is to drive up to the Kelly’s Knob Lookout to survey the view before you.  If you go up in the late afternoon you’ll also be treated to some wonderful sunsets.

A great way to enjoy the Kununurra region is from a boat, and there are cruise companies which offer various itineraries on Lake Kununurra.  One of these cruises takes you on a 55km cruise through the Carlton Gorge to the Ord Dam.  It is a fantastic experience, but if you decide to have a swim, do keep in mind that you will be sharing the water with crocodiles.  Fortunately, these tend to be freshwater crocs which are smaller and more polite than the saltwater behemoths you will see further downstream from Kununurra.

A visit to Kununurra is not complete without a trip to Lake Argyle, and the Argyle Dam.  In Australia we have a method of measuring volumes of water called Sydharbs, which is named after Sydney Harbour, the world’s largest natural harbour.  One Sydharb is equal to the volume of water in Sydney Harbour, Lake Argyle is the largest man made body of water in Australia, and is 22 sydharbs in volume.  When you go out onto Lake Argyle on a boat, it is like being on an inland sea.  One of the best ways to see Lake Argyle in all of its glory it to fly over it, and one of the best reasons to fly over it is to fly out to see the Bungle Bungle Range, the route takes you over Lake Argyle and also over the Argyle Diamond Mine, which is one of the richest diamond mines in the world, and is famous for its rare pink diamonds.  Unfortunately, you can’t land there, nor do they give out free samples.

There are a few national parks near Kununurra.  These include the Drysdale River National Park, Mirima National Park, Mitchell River National Park and Parry Lagoons.  Accessible from Kununurra is Purnululu National Park, the location of the incredible Bungle Bungles Ranges.

If you don’t have a vehicle there are a number of tour operators in the town, but it would be handier to have a vehicle, especially if it is four-wheel drive as there are not a lot of sealed roads around Kununurra except for main roads.

Accommodation is limited, and can get full during peak season.  Kununurra has a couple of caravan parks, two resorts, apartments, hotel and motels plus a backpackers.  The majority of people who visit Kununurra do hitch their own accommodation to the back of their vehicles, so if you are more inclined towards staying in a solid room of whatever extravagance it would be best to book beforehand.

Skywest Airlines has regular flights from both Perth and Darwin, and there are three airlines which have flights from Darwin.  There is also a scheduled daily bus service that links Broome and Darwin from Kununurra.

Kununurra is a place people fall in love with once they see it.  Outside of the town the land is wild, rugged and spectacularly beautiful.  Take the trouble to visit and you won’t be disappointed.

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