The landscapes of Australia’s North West are grand, vivid and colourful. Start in Broome and the Bungle Bungles where it’s easy to imagine yourself as an early pioneer, a buccaneer or a character in an outback movie.
The visual impact is immense: rocky red cliffs and soaring gorges, mesmerising sunsets and dramatic rugged coastline with deserted beaches, coral reefs and secluded fishing spots.
The vastness of the landscape and the vivid colours of the land, sea and sky engage you in a world that is so utterly and completely different to the rest of Australia. It’s no surprise the region has been a popular choice with filmmakers; recent filming include musical comedy Bran Nue Dae, which showcases Broome and the Kimberley coast, and Baz Luhrmann’s box office movie “Australia”.
The North West is wilderness of over a million square kilometres of bush, canyons, mountains and rivers, with the Kimberley in the north and the Pilbara in the south.
Remote and intensely colourful, Broome is a gateway to the Kimberley. It’s a feast for the eyes with dazzling blue skies, orange-red pindan soil and boab trees. Gardens grow with ghost gums, palms, frangipani, hibiscus and bougainvillea.
There’s an air of mystery in Broome. Discovered by English buccaneer William Dampier, 2350 kilometres from Perth on the shores of the Indian Ocean, pearl showrooms are dotted among art galleries and cafes serving wine, coffee and fresh barramundi.
Here, you never know whom you might bump into. Famous faces often slip quietly into Broome. And for those who love art or pearls, Broome is the kind of place you could easily spend up big.
Another gateway to the Kimberley, Kununurra, has a laid-back pastoral vibe and a population of about 5000 residents. Its main diamond showroom, Kimberley Fine Diamonds, does a roaring trade in pink Argyle diamonds, some fetching $100,000 or more.
Driving in the outback is an unforgettable experience. Take the Gibb River Road, which was once an old stock route used to drive cattle to Wyndham. The two lane dirt and gravel highway runs past gorges, stations and through a landscape dotted with boab trees, mountain ranges, valleys, hot springs and waterfalls.
Another Kimberley delight is the World Heritage-listed Purnululu National Park where a flight-seeing trip shows off the spectacular beehive dome-shaped sandstone towers. A light aircraft flight to the national park from Kununurra usually flies over Lake Argyle which, during the wet season, can swell to 40 times the size of Sydney Harbour.
The Pilbara region has some of the world’s most ancient landscapes which date back two billion years ago and cover an area of 400,000 square kilometres. Most people associate the Pilbara with massive iron ore mining, rail and port operations that came with the mining boom. But it’s also home to many natural wonders, national parks and some of the country’s most precious ancient aboriginal rock art. Its remoteness makes it a wonderful destination for rugged outback driving and camping under the stars.
Of the Pilbara’s three national parks, Karijini National Park is best for its dramatic creeks, spectacular gorges and towering sheer-sided chasms up to 100 metres deep.
Newman, the gateway to Rudall River National Park, is the place to go for tours of the largest open-cut iron ore mine in the world. While Millstream-Chichester National Park is a picture-perfect riot of wildflowers in winter.
The Dampier Archipelago and Mackerel Islands on the Pilbara coast has hundreds of islands with dazzling white beaches and untouched coral gardens. The Dampier coast is also where turtles nest and migrating humpback whales frolic.
Fly to Perth with Qantas, Jetstar or Virgin Blue then on to destinations in the northwest such as Broome, Kununurra, Karratha and Port Hedland. Qantas operates direct flights to Broome from Sydney on Tuesdays and Saturdays from April to October.
Experience the open spaces of the North West in a 4WD; rentals are available in most major towns. The regions are also serviced by Greyhound Australia.
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