On the Ord River & Around Kununurra
Several operators offer tours on the Ord River and/or Lake Argyle, a man-made inland sea bigger than 19 Sydney Harbours and ringed by red hills. Both options are good, but do not miss the Ord trip. The Ord is one of the most picturesque waterways in Australia, lined with raw scenery and teeming with all kinds of wetland birds and freshwater crocodiles. Triple J Tours (tel. 1800/242 682 in Australia, or 08/9168 2682; www.triplejtours.net.au) runs excellent cruises, with several itineraries which vary from Dry season to Wet. The most popular starts with a 70km (43-mile) narrated coach ride to Lake Argyle, including a visit to the historic Durack homestead, and ends with a 55km (34-mile) cruise down the Ord back to Kununurra. The boat travels through rock-lined gorges and along still satiny reaches, and pulls in at numerous tranquil spots. This costs A$165 adults and A$125 children 15 and under, including pickup from your hotel and afternoon tea. You usually catch the sunset with flocks of birds going home over the river as the cruise is finishing. The same tour, plus a 2-hour cruise on Lake Argyle (lunch at your own expense), costs A$220 and A$165. Both tours operate April to October.
If you have a vehicle, Kununurra has a few sights worth visiting, including the Mirima (Hidden Valley) National Park, the Ivanhoe Crossing over the Ord River, and the Hoochery, Lot 300 Weaber Plains Rd. (tel. 08/9168 2122), a small distillery producing very acceptable rum in the middle of the irrigation area. The Lovell Gallery, 144 Konkerberry Dr. (tel. 08/9168 1781), has some excellent local artworks. Wyndham, 101km (63 miles) northwest of Kununurra, has the magnificent Five Rivers Lookout, with immense views taking in the five major rivers which flow into the mangrove-fringed Cambridge Gulf. On the way, take a short diversion to the bird sanctuary of Parry Lagoons Nature Reserve.
A full day on the river to fish for barramundi with Greg Harman's Ultimate Adventures (tel. 08/9168 2310) costs around A$320 per person, with a minimum of two people. Greg also offers half-days, and trips of 2 to 7 days at his Hairy Dog's Fishing Camp, April to October.
Outback Destinations (tel. 04/0742 5434; outbackdestinations.com) will tailor local tours to your requirements, such as trips to the Ord irrigation area or to Wyndham.
Diamonds in the Rough
Turning out an impressive 38 million carats a year is the world's biggest diamond mine, the Argyle Diamond Mine, 176km (109 miles) south from Kununurra. It is the only mine in the world that produces pink diamonds in commercial quantities; champagne, cognac, yellow, green, and white ones are also found. Slingair Heliwork (tel. 1800/095 500 in Australia, or 08/9169 1300; www.slingair.com.au) can take visitors to the mine. The visits include the process plant and diamond display room (closed shoes must be worn for security reasons!), and are part of two all-day tours. The flights also go over nearby Purnululu (Bungle Bungle) National Park and Lake Argyle, while one includes a helicopter trip around the Bungles. Costs are A$610, or A$920 with the helicopter flight. Children under 12 are not permitted on the mine tours.
A Faraway Adventure
This is about as far from everything as you can get. Nestled right in the middle of nowhere on the pristine Kimberley coast, a 70-minute flight from Kununurra, Faraway Bay (tel. 08/9169 1214; www.farawaybay.com.au) is an eco-friendly bush camp offering comfort, luxury, and tranquility on the edge of the Timor Sea. It won the Australian Tourism Award for Unique Accommodation in 2004, 2007, and 2008.
Spending a Day or More at El Questro Wilderness Park
You do not have to stay at El Questro in the eastern Kimberley, to enjoy the facilities. The 405,000-hectare (million-acre) cattle ranch has been turned into an Outback resort, providing a good introduction to the nature and attractions of the Kimberley without the distances and discomfort, but also without the real wilderness impact and isolation. It's still a working cattle station with 5,000 head of Brahman cattle, but you're unlikely to see any of this.
You can go barramundi fishing and heli-fishing in pristine wetlands and rivers; soak under palm trees in the thermal waters of Zebedee Springs; hike gorges with pockets of rainforest; cruise tranquil Chamberlain Gorge; horseback ride across stony plains; or join rangers on bird-watching or "bush tucker" tours. If you're short on time, the station's 10-hour ranger-guided day tour from Kununurra is a good option, for A$230 per person.
El Questro is open April 1 to October 31 (closed during the Wet) and offers a variety of accommodations options . All visitors must purchase a Wilderness Park Permit, valid for 7 days, for A$18; children under 12 go free.
Four-wheel-drive transfers for guests operate from Kununurra; a ranger drives and gives a commentary en route. The costs for daily scheduled transfers is A$82 per person one-way to Emma Gorge, A$98 to Station Township, or A$120 to Homestead. If driving yourself, take the Great Northern Highway 58km (36 miles) from Kununurra towards Wyndham, then the (unsealed) Gibb River Road 25km (16 miles) to Emma Gorge Resort. A separate turnoff 11km (7 miles) farther on leads to Station Township (16km/10 miles) and the Homestead (another 9km/5 1/2 miles). A light aircraft transfer from Kununurra will cost from A$570.
Station Township has the main facilities (bungalows, restaurant, store, airstrip, camping areas, stables, and so forth), and most tours and activities depart from here. Hiring a four-wheel-drive in Kununurra (check limitations) is recommended, to allow you to explore at your leisure and avoid the cost of transfers to and within the resort.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.