The North-West Region of WA

This page has been accessed times since 16 July 2003.

The Challenger and van In September 2002 Enola and I set off on a five week holiday to the North-West Region of Western Australia. We decided to take the inland route so we headed up the Great Northern Highway, passing through Bindoon, New Norcia, Walebing, Bindi Bindi, Miling, Pithara, Dalwallinu, Wubin, and Paynes Find, before stopping for our first night at Mount Magnet.

Mount Magnet

Mount Magnet is located 355 miles (567 KM) north of Perth, and is the oldest surviving gold settlement of the Murchison region.
Mount Magnet gold mine A 37 km long tourist drive takes the visitor past open cut gold mines and other interesting features, including the Mount Warramboo Lookout which overlooks the town and the gold mines.
Mount Magnet cave One of the features on the Mount Magnet tourist drive is known as "The Cave"
After viewing the sights of Mount Magnet we pushed on to the North, passing through Cue and Meekatharra on our way to our next camp at Newman.


Newman is a modern town located 740 miles (1,184 KM) north of Perth. The town was established mainly to house the workforce at the nearby Mount Whaleback mine, the largest open cut iron ore mine in the world.
Mount Whaleback iron ore mine Processing plant at Mount WhalebackThe operators of the Mount Whaleback open cut iron ore mine conduct regular tours of the mine and processing facilities - book at the Tourist Information Centre
Haulpack dump truck at Mount Whaleback Haulpack dump truck at Mount WhalebackThe Mount Whaleback operation uses the largest Haulpack dump trucks in the world.
Opthalmia Dam Kalgan PoolThere are a lot of interesting places to visit near Newman, including Opthalmia Dam and Kalgan Pool. Information and maps are available at the Tourist Information Centre.
After spending two nights at Newman and seeing the nearby sights, we once again headed off along the Great Northern Highway. On the way we detoured to take a look at Wannu Munna.
Wanna Munna Wanna MunnaWanna Munna is an aboriginal art site 76 kilometres North of Newman. The dirt track leading in is good enough that we were able to tow the caravan to within about 100 metres of the pool.
After leaving Wunna Munna we continued on to Munjina (Auski) Roadhouse, 195 kilometres North-West of Newman. We left the van there and drove back about 35 kilometres to the turnoff into Karajini National Park. We were acting on incorrect advice that the roads into the park were too rough for a conventional caravan. As it turned out the roads into and within the park were better than some sealed roads we've driven on. Had we towed the van into the park we could have camped at the Fortescue camping area and spent a lot more time seeing the sights in the park.

Karajini National Park

Karajini National Park, located about 840 miles (1,344 KM) north of Perth, features breathtakingly beautiful scenery including scenic gorges, waterfalls and pools.
Fortescue Falls Circular PoolFortescue Falls and Circular Pool are two of the spectacular places to see within the park.
Kalamina Gorge Kalamina FallsKalamina Falls and Kalamina Gorge is another beautiful part of the park.
Red Gorge Jofre FallsFrom Kalamina we moved on to see Red Gorge and Joffre Falls. By the time we had seen Joffre the light was fading and we reluctantly headed back to the roadhouse at Munjina.
We would have loved to have spent more time at Karajini, but we had a pretty full itinerary planned and we only had five weeks to fit it all in. We will try to get there again on a future trip.

The next day we headed off from Munjina Roadhouse at 7.00 AM, with the aim of camping overnight at Stanley Rest Area, about 650 kilometres to the North.

Stanley Rest Area is an authorised overnight camping area 109 kilometres north-east of Sandfire Roadhouse (179 kilometres south-west of Roebuck Plains Roadhouse). Facilities include toilets, picnic tables and barbecues. Unfortunately the signage on the southern side must have been missing because we completely missed it.

As it was only about 3.00 PM we decided to push on the extra 60 kilometres to Goldwire Rest Area. Goldwire has everything that Stanley has except for the toilets, and since we carry a Porta-Potti in the caravan that didn't concern us.

What did concern us was when the odometer ticked over past 720 and we still hadn't found Goldwire. Somehow we'd managed to miss both camp areas!!

We ended up pushing on all the way to Broome, arriving at Palm Grove Caravan Park just on 6.00 PM, having covered 857 kilometres for the day. This set a new record for us towing the caravan, one which we will probably never break.

We prefer to cover about 500 per day when towing, with the occasional 700 exception. Anything over that and the risk of fatigue related accidents increases alarmingly. Enola and I always stop every two hours for a brew and to change drivers, but we still don't like to tempt fate by pushing too far. We also prefer to stop driving well before dusk, as this is when there is the greatest danger of hitting kangaroos and other animals on the road.


Broome is sometimes referred to as the "tourist mecca" of the North. Located about 1,400 miles (2,232 KM) north of Perth, the town was once the centre of a large pearling industry supplying pearl shell to the world. Plastics just about put an end to the pearling industry, but the cultured pearl industry is now expanding in the region.

Visitors can take guided tours of Willie Creek Pearl Farm which is located about 38 kilometres by road from Broome. You can travel by airconditioned coach from Broome or drive yourself, but if you choose this option a 4 wheel drive is strongly recommended.

Broome is one of the favoured destinations for those seeking to escape the cold of the south during the months of April to September.

Outside these months life becomes a little uncomfortable as the temperature and humidity rises, and the summer also coincides with the cyclone season.

Despite this, there is still a lot of attraction in and around Broome whatever the time of year.
Cable Beach at high tide looking NorthCable Beach at high tide looking South Cable Beach at low tide looking NorthCable Beach at low tide looking SouthOne of the best known attractions of Broome is the famed Cable Beach. At high tide there is only a narrow strip of pristine white sand visible, but when the tide goes out, falling as much as 8 metres, the people come out, the stalls go up, and the beach to the north becomes a highway on which vehicles spread out for miles.
Another well known attraction of Broome is the dinosaur's footprints off Gantheaume Point. These are only visible at very low tides, and we were fortunate enough to be in Broome at just the right time.
Dinosaur's Footprints off Gantheaume Point Replica of Dinosaur's FootprintsThe first photo is of the actual footprints. According to my GPS the elevation at my feet was one foot below sea level. The second photo is of the replica which is located on top of the cliff near the lighthouse.
The times of the extreme low tides at Broome are also the occasion of the "Staircase to the Sun" and "Staircase to the Moon". These are unique in the way the setting sun (and later the rising moon) is reflected off the mudflats at the bottom of the tide.
Dinosaur's Footprints on Roebuck Bay We were in town at the right time to take a "Staircase to the Sun" flight on the hovercraft "Spirit of Broome", which allowed us to see more dinosaur's footprints.
Dinosaur's Footprints on Roebuck Bay The dinosaur's footprints off Gantheaume Point are those of the relatively small carnivore Megalosaurus Broomensis. The footprints of a much larger herbivorous dinosaur can be seen about 15 kilometres to the East, close to the Pindan cliffs on the shores of Roebuck Bay.
Dinosaur's Footprints on Roebuck Bay Dinosaur's Footprints on Roebuck BayAccess to these footprints from the shore is restricted because this part of the bay adjoins the Broome Aboriginal Reserve. We were able to approach from the sea on board the Spirit of Broome.
Cocktail party on Roebuck Bay The "Staircase to the Sun" flight on Spirit of Broome includes a most enjoyable cocktail party on the bay while waiting for the sun to set.
Staircase to the Sun on Roebuck Bay Staircase to the Sun on Roebuck BayA digital camera is not the best tool for capturing the Staircase to the Sun but I did my best.

Our schedule didn't allow us to wait around in Broome for the "Staircase to the Moon", but we managed a preview of what it would look like about two weeks later when we were at Hearson Cove on the Burrup Peninsula (near Dampier).

There are many other places of interest in and around Broome, including the Broome Historical Society Museum, featuring the history of the pearling industry and other aspects of the town's past.

After a week in Broome we left the caravan on site at the caravan park, loaded up the Challenger with tent and camping gear, and headed East. Two hours drive got us as far as Derby's Prison Boab Tree and the nearby Myall's Bore.
Derby's Prison Boab Tree Trough at Myall's BoreThe Prison Boab Tree is believed to be about 1,500 years old and the trunk measures nearly 15 metres around. Myall's Bore is 322 metres deep and feeds into a trough 120 metres long, the longest trough in the southern hemisphere.


Derby is located about 1,495 miles (2,391 KM) north of Perth, and is the jumping off point for some of the most spectacular scenery in Australia.

Derby was the first town to be settled in the Kimberley Region and boasts the highest tides in Australia, regularly recording tides of over 11 metres.

Local attractions include Wharfinger's Museum, the Pioneer Cemetery, the School of The Air, the Joonjoo Botanical Trail and the Palm Garden.

Derby is also a good spot to enjoy crabbing, fishing from the jetty, barramundi fishing and bird watching.

After seeing the sights of Derby we pushed on to Windjana Gorge and Tunnel Creek. Our course took us along the first section of the Gibb River Road, a 695 kilometre long dirt road which ultimately leads to Wyndham.
Windjana GorgeWindjana GorgeWindjana Gorge is a five kilometre long gorge containing some of the best examples of fossil reef complexes in the world. A nearby campsite provides toilets, showers, water, and fireplaces. A small fee for camping is payable to the Park Ranger.
Freshwater Crocodile at Windjana GorgeThe gorge is also home to one of the largest colonies of Johnson River (Freshwater) Crocodiles in Australia. The one shown is a particularly good looking specimen which allowed me to approach within a few metres. I was unable to coax Enola closer than about 100 metres once I told her there was a live (and wild) crocodile in the gorge.
Tunnel CreekTunnel Creek is one of the great natural wonders of the Kimberley, an 800 metre long natural tunnel cut beneath the Napier Range. The photo shows the sight of a rockfall, the only place in the tunnel where there is any natural light.
From Tunnel Creek we continued on to Fitzroy Crossing where we pitched our tent at Fitzroy River Lodge. We were surprised to find that fuel was 12 cents per litre cheaper at the Lodge than it was at the roadhouse in town.

A spectacular attraction just 20 kilometres from Fitzroy Crossing is Geikie Gorge, with it's 30 metre high walls showing the signs of centuries of wet season flooding.
Geikie GorgeGeikie GorgeFrom April to October you can enjoy a half day river cruise run by the traditional owners the Darlngunya Aboriginal Corporation, or a one hour cruise run by the the rangers from CALM (Department of Conservation and Land Management).
Geikie GorgeBrolgas in Geikie GorgeGeikie Gorge is a haven for many types of fish and wildlife including freshwater crocodiles and brolgas.
From Fitzroy Crossing we pushed on past Halls Creek to Purnululu National Park (also referred to as "The Bungle Bungles"). The turnoff into the park is about 107 kilometres North of Halls Creek and the 52 kilometre long track in is designated "Four Wheel Drive Only".

When we drove in there were four water crossings each about 45 centimetres deep, and the track is definitely not suited to conventional vehicles or even the so-called "Soft Roaders". It is against the law to travel the track in a conventional vehicle, and caravans are also banned on the track.
Beehive Domes in Purnululu National Park (the Bungle Bungles)Most of the park was closed at the time of our visit because of bushfires which had devastated the park just a few days earlier.
Beehive Domes in Purnululu National Park (the Bungle Bungles)Beehive Domes in Purnululu National Park (the Bungle Bungles)The world renowned Beehive Domes in the southern part of the park were accessible and seeing these up close made the trip in well worth the effort.
Cathedral GorgeAnother impressive feature is Cathedral Gorge which is an easy walk in from the car park.
From Purnululu National Park we pushed on to Kununurra and Lake Argyle.
Lake ArgyleLake ArgyleLake Argyle.

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