Welcome to RV Daily

Are you hungry for the latest in RV news, reviews and travel?

At RV Daily, we’ll give you up-to-date news, reviews and videos on the latest caravans, campers and motorhomes.

ARE WE KILLING THE KIMBERLEY?

WORDS AND IMAGES MELINDA UYS

TRAVEL The Kimberley, WA

Unbelievably, finding a patch of this rugged landscape to yourself is about as easy as outswimming a hungry saltwater croc with your legs tied together

Vast. Remote. Harsh. All descriptors associated with the Kimberley, that immense swathe of country to the north of Western Australia where the vibe of the Crocodile Dundee soundtrack rings out across endless plains and echoes against impossibly beautiful ranges and landscapes. If you can hear it over the crowd gathered in the very same spot, that is.

During ‘The Season’ when the rains stop, roads become passable and southerners race to escape the chill from May till October, off-road RVs of every shape and size choke one of Australia’s wildest frontiers. The iconic Gibb River Road kicks up constant plumes of dust, Broome triples in size and the Dampier Peninsula is overrun with families, fishermen and busloads of tourists. It’s plain to see why the northern area of the Kimberley is such a popular destination, but for those who aren’t into caravan park turf wars over their eye-wateringly expensive six-metre square of dust, finding solitude or just not so much noise and humanity in this stunning landscape, can be difficult if not downright frustrating. The secret is out and that double-edged holiday sword has well and truly stabbed the region.

Tourism statistics for the Kimberley show a clear explosion in popularity, with Tourism WA recording a 29% increase in the number of interstate visitors and a whopping 62% increase in tourists who live in the state over the past five years. Couple this with Australia’s increasing love affair with RV and group tour travel and you have a perfect storm where small towns and communities are loved to death and remote areas become busier than Pitt Street on a Friday afternoon.

NEW
MODEL
ADVERTISEMENT
SCROLL TO CONTINUE

We experienced this ourselves during the 2019 season and having travelled through many of the same places at exactly the same time (late June) five years ago, the difference in experience was startling. This time, we witnessed bust ups over the availability of powered sites in endless check-in queues at Lake Argyle.

The Gibb’s easternmost stop, El Questro Station, is now a slick operation catering to everyone from campers in every kind of rig to glampers in boutique accommodation and anyone incapable of starting the day without a long macchiato and a kale, egg and haloumi wrap.

Zebedee Springs is still beautiful, but my human Tetris skills were put to the test as I attempted to fit in between every kind of cheek imaginable for a soak in that gorgeous water.

We rolled into Home Valley Station and beelined for the less crowded river camp, only to be dismayed around 4pm when tables, chairs and trestles with white table clothes, drinks and nibbles stations were set up for scores of tour groupers and campers from up at the Homestead, all looking to watch the Cockburn Ranges turn on the light show over dusk.

In Broome, we gaped as fellow caravanners literally drew a line in the sand marking out their perceived patch of sardine-like space in the park, after a single swag was set up a little too close to their home away from home. Perhaps the starkest difference was shown in black and white at the Gibb’s famous morning tea stop, Ellenbrae Station, where during the 2015 tourist season, 9451 jam and cream scones were sold to passing RVers. In 2018, that number almost doubled to 17,268.

ABOVE Half -strength lattes on soy are available at El Questro! // BELOW Human soup at Zebedee Springs

ABOVE Busy El Questro

ABOVE Lake Argyle Lineup // BELOW Cockburn Ranges at sunset

“Off-road RVs of every shape and size choke one of Australia’s wildest frontiers”

If your home away from home becomes unliveable following an insured event and you are more than 100km from home, a Club 4X4 Caravan or Camper Trailer policy will reimburse you up to $150.00 per day up to a maximum of $2,500.00 for temporary accommodation. That’s 16 days of accommodation costs covered while we work through your claim and the repair process.

It’s piece of mind if things don’t go to plan
on your adventures…

There’s no doubt jam and cream scones are delicious, but even clearer, tourism is a major industry and boon to the people of this far-flung region: a wonderful thing for any remote community in Australia. But the days of the Kimberley, and the Gibb River Road in particular, as an isolated and inaccessible frontier, the realm of hard-core travellers and a place to let go of life’s luxuries such as internet access, hot showers, kale and fancy coffee, are seemingly over. Even the Dampier Peninsula, another secluded white sand, blue water and red pindan feather in Tourism WA’s cap, is earmarked as the next region to undergo a tourist onslaught.

With the final 92 kilometres of the dirt Broome-Cape Leveque Road set to be bituminised in late 2020, Tourism WA estimates that visitor numbers to the Dampier Peninsula will increase 36% by 2030, translating to 53,000 visitors compared to the 38,000 in 2018. Plans to dredge the Port of Broome to allow all-tidal access to cruise ships will introduce yet further income to the region’s tourism trade and ‘bums’ on sandy seats. For the RV community, plans for a revamp of Cape Leveque’s Kooljaman camp and an entirely new campground or ‘caravan hub’ near Djarindjin will undoubtedly make this pristine area yet another crowded hot spot.

However, all is not lost for those seeking affordable and uncrowded camping throughout the Kimberley, but be warned: if you’re after the luxury of hot water at any time, dust-free groundsheets and constant digital accessibility, you will be sorely disappointed. And that goes for a lot of the crowded, expensive campgrounds too: it is the Kimberley after all! The following, however, do offer spectacular scenery, fewer people and a much kinder experience for your hip pocket…

ABOVE Ellenbrae scone // BELOW The Gibb River Road remains treacherous

ABOVE The potential queue for baked goods at Ellenbrae Station

ABOVE Ellenbrae on manicured grass // BELOW Eastern exodus on the GRR

KEEP RIVER NATIONAL PARK (NT)

Technically just outside the Kimberley region, 3 kilometres from the WA border, Keep River National Park has been touted as a mini-Purnululu. The rock formations are just as beautiful, if on a smaller scale, but this goes for the crowds too. Try and time your visit to coincide with one of the best (free!) ranger talks I have ever, ever experienced, making this spectacular value for your remote bush moment.

Coordinates: Latitude -15.970419, Longitude 129.040168

Access: 2WD, but 18km of dirt road from the Victoria Highway.

Facilities: Toilets, firepits, no water.

Price: $3.30 per adult, per night. $7.70 per family, per night.

ABOVE Keep River NP campground // BELOW Ranges at Keep River NP

BELOW Keep River NP walks

PEACEFUL CAMPING OPTIONS

BARNETT RIVER GORGE FREE CAMP (WA)

Staying on the Gibb River Road ain’t cheap. Stations like El Questro, Home Valley and Manning River charge like wounded scrub bulls, but they offer facilities and access to spectacular natural sights in an isolated, harsh and imposing region. Free camps do exist, but you must be completely self-sufficient, with the Ngarinyin, traditional owners of Barnett River Gorge, offering their land as such. A small number of rough clearings along the creek provide privacy, seclusion and are in walking distance to one of the lesser-visited and yet most beautiful of the Gibb gorges.

Coordinates: Latitude -16.531682, Longitude 126.127426

Access: High-clearance 4WD only

Facilities: None

Price: Free

ABOVE A gorge to yourself is possible here!

BELOW Peace and quiet at Barnett River Gorge 

MOUNT HART WILDERNESS LODGE (WA)

It’s not cheap, but the water is hot and the facilities are great at Mt Hart Station, including sunset viewing decks, a very large and uncrowded grassy campground, an onsite swimming hole, communal campfires and excellent camp hosts. Be warned, the tour buses do visit this Gibb River Road outpost, but they stay up at the fancy homestead, which also allows the camping riff raff in for what are some pretty spectacular fish and chips or pizza.

Coordinates: Latitude -16.821068, Longitude 124.915927

Access: High-clearance 4WD only

Facilities: Water, toilets, showers, camp kitchen, firepits, washing machine, café.

Price: $18 per adult, per night, $10 per child, per night

ABOVE Mt Hart Camp Kitchen // BELOW Arty amenities at Mt Hart

BELOW Mt Hart campground swimming hole

PENDER BAY ESCAPE (WA)

This affordable little slice of paradise is tucked about halfway up the Dampier Peninsula deep in the coastal bush right on the cliffs of Pender Bay. With campsites numbered and a good deal of bush and space shielding you from your nearest neighbour, you can look out across the spectacular bay from your cliff-top perch in peace. The facilities are basic but with fishing, beachcombing and ocean gazing right out the front of your camper, what more could you ask for?

Coordinates: Latitude -16.775470, Longitude 122.610754

Access: High-clearance 4WD only

Facilities: Water, toilets, showers, firepits, laundry.

Price: $15 per person, per night. Children free.

ABOVE Clifftop campsites at Pender // BELOW Rustic Pender Bay reception

BELOW Quintessential Kimberley landscapes aplenty at Pender

QUONDONG POINT (WA)

Another free camp just 40km north of Broome at the very bottom of the Dampier Peninsula, Quondong Point is a poorly kept secret for those seeking beachside camping with a side of quintessential Kimberley eye candy. Despite this, finding a secluded patch of ground among the bush, or if you’re lucky, a spot right on the water is not difficult. Upon leaving the (currently) dirt Broome-Cape Leveque Road, the track in is sandy and at times very soft.

Coordinates: Latitude -17.588967, Longitude 122.168275

Access: High-clearance 4WD

Facilities: None

Price: Free

ABOVE Quondong camping can be ocean-side

BELOW Quondong Point

PISTOL CLUB, BROOME (WA)

When all the caravan parks in Broome are full, a number of overflow parks are permitted to open for a short time, with the Pistol Club offering one of the best. Facilities are limited, but you’ll have much more room to move than the much more expensive established parks. Wonderful onsite hosts make things easier too.

Coordinates: Latitude -17.988511, Longitude 122.209240

Access: 2WD

Facilities: Water, toilets, showers, power.

Price: $35 per powered site, per night, $25 per unpowered site, per night.

BELOW Pistol Club, Broome

TIPS TO BEAT THE KIMBERLEY CROWDS

BELOW Sunset over the Pentecost River

Smile
You are in a place of unparalleled natural beauty. That’s why there are heaps of other travelling punters breathing your oxygen. Just smile, take a deep breath and remember: you’re part of the crowd too.

4

Ask the locals
An often-untapped source of knowledge, people who live in the Kimberley are fiercely proud of the area: ask them where the best spot to go for sunset without the doof doof of a hundred personal Bluetooth speakers is, they’ll tell you. An uncrowded swimming hole? They know.

3

Be prepared to explore
Getting off the beaten track is always the best way to find some quiet beauty to explore. Go down the side tracks, check out the beach or gorge that isn’t on the tourist brochure, you might just find your piece of Kimberley magic. This is a harsh landscape, however, be prepared with spare parts, water and common sense.

2

Timing
Travelling in the shoulder seasons makes a lot of uncrowded sense, but in the Kimberley there are serious factors to consider. Too early and it could still be very wet, making creek crossings and dirt roads difficult, too late and the heat could be fierce, the waterfalls just wet smudges and the gorges dry. If you can’t avoid high season, at least avoid school holidays.

1

WORDS AND IMAGES MELINDA UYS

TRAVEL The Kimberley, WA

Vast. Remote. Harsh. All descriptors associated with the Kimberley, that immense swathe of country to the north of Western Australia where the vibe of the Crocodile Dundee soundtrack rings out across endless plains and echoes against impossibly beautiful ranges and landscapes. If you can hear it over the crowd gathered in the very same spot, that is.

During ‘The Season’ when the rains stop, roads become passable and southerners race to escape the chill from May till October, off-road RVs of every shape and size choke one of Australia’s wildest frontiers. The iconic Gibb River Road kicks up constant plumes of dust, Broome triples in size and the Dampier Peninsula is overrun with families, fishermen and busloads of tourists. It’s plain to see why the northern area of the Kimberley is such a popular destination, but for those who aren’t into caravan park turf wars over their eye-wateringly expensive six-metre square of dust, finding solitude or just not so much noise and humanity in this stunning landscape, can be difficult if not downright frustrating. The secret is out and that double-edged holiday sword has well and truly stabbed the region.

Tourism statistics for the Kimberley show a clear explosion in popularity, with Tourism WA recording a 29% increase in the number of interstate visitors and a whopping 62% increase in tourists who live in the state over the past five years. Couple this with Australia’s increasing love affair with RV and group tour travel and you have a perfect storm where small towns and communities are loved to death and remote areas become busier than Pitt Street on a Friday afternoon.

ARE WE KILLING THE KIMBERLEY?

Unbelievably, finding a patch of this rugged landscape to yourself is about as easy as outswimming a hungry saltwater croc with your legs tied together

NEW
MODEL
ADVERTISEMENT
SCROLL TO CONTINUE

ABOVE Half -strength lattes on soy are available at El Questro! // BELOW Human soup at Zebedee Springs

We experienced this ourselves during the 2019 season and having travelled through many of the same places at exactly the same time (late June) five years ago, the difference in experience was startling. This time, we witnessed bust ups over the availability of powered sites in endless check-in queues at Lake Argyle.

The Gibb’s easternmost stop, El Questro Station, is now a slick operation catering to everyone from campers in every kind of rig to glampers in boutique accommodation and anyone incapable of starting the day without a long macchiato and a kale, egg and haloumi wrap.

Zebedee Springs is still beautiful, but my human Tetris skills were put to the test as I attempted to fit in between every kind of cheek imaginable for a soak in that gorgeous water.

We rolled into Home Valley Station and beelined for the less crowded river camp, only to be dismayed around 4pm when tables, chairs and trestles with white table clothes, drinks and nibbles stations were set up for scores of tour groupers and campers from up at the Homestead, all looking to watch the Cockburn Ranges turn on the light show over dusk.

In Broome, we gaped as fellow caravanners literally drew a line in the sand marking out their perceived patch of sardine-like space in the park, after a single swag was set up a little too close to their home away from home. Perhaps the starkest difference was shown in black and white at the Gibb’s famous morning tea stop, Ellenbrae Station, where during the 2015 tourist season, 9451 jam and cream scones were sold to passing RVers. In 2018, that number almost doubled to 17,268.

ABOVE Busy El Questro

ABOVE Lake Argyle Lineup // BELOW Cockburn Ranges at sunset

“Off-road RVs of every shape and size choke one of Australia’s wildest frontiers”

ADVERTISEMENT
SCROLL TO CONTINUE

ABOVE Ellenbrae scone // BELOW The Gibb River Road remains treacherous

There’s no doubt jam and cream scones are delicious, but even clearer, tourism is a major industry and boon to the people of this far-flung region: a wonderful thing for any remote community in Australia. But the days of the Kimberley, and the Gibb River Road in particular, as an isolated and inaccessible frontier, the realm of hard-core travellers and a place to let go of life’s luxuries such as internet access, hot showers, kale and fancy coffee, are seemingly over. Even the Dampier Peninsula, another secluded white sand, blue water and red pindan feather in Tourism WA’s cap, is earmarked as the next region to undergo a tourist onslaught.

With the final 92 kilometres of the dirt Broome-Cape Leveque Road set to be bituminised in late 2020, Tourism WA estimates that visitor numbers to the Dampier Peninsula will increase 36% by 2030, translating to 53,000 visitors compared to the 38,000 in 2018. Plans to dredge the Port of Broome to allow all-tidal access to cruise ships will introduce yet further income to the region’s tourism trade and ‘bums’ on sandy seats. For the RV community, plans for a revamp of Cape Leveque’s Kooljaman camp and an entirely new campground or ‘caravan hub’ near Djarindjin will undoubtedly make this pristine area yet another crowded hot spot.

However, all is not lost for those seeking affordable and uncrowded camping throughout the Kimberley, but be warned: if you’re after the luxury of hot water at any time, dust-free groundsheets and constant digital accessibility, you will be sorely disappointed. And that goes for a lot of the crowded, expensive campgrounds too: it is the Kimberley after all! The following, however, do offer spectacular scenery, fewer people and a much kinder experience for your hip pocket…

ABOVE The potential queue for baked goods at Ellenbrae Station

ABOVE Ellenbrae on manicured grass // BELOW Eastern exodus on the GRR

KEEP RIVER NATIONAL PARK (NT)

Technically just outside the Kimberley region, 3 kilometres from the WA border, Keep River National Park has been touted as a mini-Purnululu. The rock formations are just as beautiful, if on a smaller scale, but this goes for the crowds too. Try and time your visit to coincide with one of the best (free!) ranger talks I have ever, ever experienced, making this spectacular value for your remote bush moment.

Coordinates: Latitude -15.970419, Longitude 129.040168

Access: 2WD, but 18km of dirt road from the Victoria Highway.

Facilities: Toilets, firepits, no water.

Price: $3.30 per adult, per night. $7.70 per family, per night.

ABOVE Keep River NP campground // BELOW Ranges at Keep River NP

PEACEFUL CAMPING OPTIONS

BELOW Keep River NP walks

BARNETT RIVER GORGE FREE CAMP (WA)

Staying on the Gibb River Road ain’t cheap. Stations like El Questro, Home Valley and Manning River charge like wounded scrub bulls, but they offer facilities and access to spectacular natural sights in an isolated, harsh and imposing region. Free camps do exist, but you must be completely self-sufficient, with the Ngarinyin, traditional owners of Barnett River Gorge, offering their land as such. A small number of rough clearings along the creek provide privacy, seclusion and are in walking distance to one of the lesser-visited and yet most beautiful of the Gibb gorges.

Coordinates: Latitude -16.531682, Longitude 126.127426

Access: High-clearance 4WD only

Facilities: None

Price: Free

ABOVE A gorge to yourself is possible here!

BELOW Peace and quiet at Barnett River Gorge 

MOUNT HART WILDERNESS LODGE (WA)

It’s not cheap, but the water is hot and the facilities are great at Mt Hart Station, including sunset viewing decks, a very large and uncrowded grassy campground, an onsite swimming hole, communal campfires and excellent camp hosts. Be warned, the tour buses do visit this Gibb River Road outpost, but they stay up at the fancy homestead, which also allows the camping riff raff in for what are some pretty spectacular fish and chips or pizza.

Coordinates: Latitude -16.821068, Longitude 124.915927

Access: High-clearance 4WD only

Facilities: Water, toilets, showers, camp kitchen, firepits, washing machine, café.

Price: $18 per adult, per night, $10 per child, per night

ABOVE Mt Hart Camp Kitchen // BELOW Arty amenities at Mt Hart

BELOW Mt Hart campground swimming hole

PENDER BAY ESCAPE (WA)

This affordable little slice of paradise is tucked about halfway up the Dampier Peninsula deep in the coastal bush right on the cliffs of Pender Bay. With campsites numbered and a good deal of bush and space shielding you from your nearest neighbour, you can look out across the spectacular bay from your cliff-top perch in peace. The facilities are basic but with fishing, beachcombing and ocean gazing right out the front of your camper, what more could you ask for?

Coordinates: Latitude -16.775470, Longitude 122.610754

Access: High-clearance 4WD only

Facilities: Water, toilets, showers, firepits, laundry.

Price: $15 per person, per night. Children free.

ABOVE Clifftop campsites at Pender // BELOW Rustic Pender Bay reception

BELOW Quintessential Kimberley landscapes aplenty at Pender

QUONDONG POINT (WA)

Another free camp just 40km north of Broome at the very bottom of the Dampier Peninsula, Quondong Point is a poorly kept secret for those seeking beachside camping with a side of quintessential Kimberley eye candy. Despite this, finding a secluded patch of ground among the bush, or if you’re lucky, a spot right on the water is not difficult. Upon leaving the (currently) dirt Broome-Cape Leveque Road, the track in is sandy and at times very soft.

Coordinates: Latitude -17.588967, Longitude 122.168275

Access: High-clearance 4WD

Facilities: None

Price: Free

ABOVE Quondong camping can be ocean-side

BELOW Quondong Point

PISTOL CLUB, BROOME (WA)

When all the caravan parks in Broome are full, a number of overflow parks are permitted to open for a short time, with the Pistol Club offering one of the best. Facilities are limited, but you’ll have much more room to move than the much more expensive established parks. Wonderful onsite hosts make things easier too.

Coordinates: Latitude -17.988511, Longitude 122.209240

Access: 2WD

Facilities: Water, toilets, showers, power.

Price: $35 per powered site, per night, $25 per unpowered site, per night.

BELOW Pistol Club, Broome

TIPS TO BEAT THE KIMBERLEY CROWDS

BELOW Sunset over the Pentecost River

Timing
Travelling in the shoulder seasons makes a lot of uncrowded sense, but in the Kimberley there are serious factors to consider. Too early and it could still be very wet, making creek crossings and dirt roads difficult, too late and the heat could be fierce, the waterfalls just wet smudges and the gorges dry. If you can’t avoid high season, at least avoid school holidays.

1

Be prepared to explore
Getting off the beaten track is always the best way to find some quiet beauty to explore. Go down the side tracks, check out the beach or gorge that isn’t on the tourist brochure, you might just find your piece of Kimberley magic. This is a harsh landscape, however, be prepared with spare parts, water and common sense.

2

Ask the locals
An often-untapped source of knowledge, people who live in the Kimberley are fiercely proud of the area: ask them where the best spot to go for sunset without the doof doof of a hundred personal Bluetooth speakers is, they’ll tell you. An uncrowded swimming hole? They know.

3

Smile
You are in a place of unparalleled natural beauty. That’s why there are heaps of other travelling punters breathing your oxygen. Just smile, take a deep breath and remember: you’re part of the crowd too.

4