Life on the Gibb River Road for a Week
Neville Hernon has called the Kimberley’s iconic Gibb River Road home for 22 years. Back in the day, he worked as a station mechanic on a local cattle station. Now he runs his own business, Over the Range Tyre and Mechanical Repairs, 30 kilometres west of Mount Barnett. Neville lives and works on the property year-round with his partner and their young daughter.
I love living up here on the Gibb River Road. I love the colours of the Kimberley. I love the freshwater rivers and streams. I love the birdlife. I love the people – they are fantastic. I love the weather, even the wet season – it brings the country back to life. It goes from a very dry, arid place to a really lush, tropical green place. The whole landscape just completely changes and it’s great watching storms roll in. I love that it is still a wild place.
When we have visitors, there are an awful lot of places to choose from to take them. We’re on a mountain range and on each side of the range are two beautiful gorges, Adcock Gorge and Galvan’s Gorge.
Galvan’s Gorge is unique. It’s nestled in a corner of a mountain range and is one of the most accessible gorges on the ‘Gibb’ – it’s just an easy 10-minute walk from the car park. It really is a pretty waterhole and a beautiful place for a swim, especially when the waterfall is flowing. Right at the top is a beautiful boab tree, and there’s some Aboriginal art there too – a big Wandjina (Aboriginal cloud and rock spirits often depicted in rock art). The rope swing is pretty popular as well. It’s a feel-good place.
The gem of the Gibb
I absolutely adore Bell Gorge. It’s the gem of the Gibb River Road. The gorge is massive and sits right beside a mountain range. It’s spring fed, so the water is pure and perfect, and there’s a series of waterfalls and a huge swimming hole. Silent Grove campground is magnificent too – a lot of visitors only book themselves in for one night but when they get there they often decide to stay a lot longer.
Spoilt for choice
Another great place is Mount Elizabeth Station. It’s a working cattle station with unique swimming holes, gorges and beautiful art sites. Then there’s Mornington Sanctuary, which is completely different. It’s more like desert, although the Fitzroy River does flow right through the property and it’s full of magnificent gorges, too. Their primary role at Mornington Sanctuary is to protect the environment, and you can see the huge difference that destocking cattle has made to the country in the last decade. You can even see rare Gouldian finches there.
Just down the road from us is an Aboriginal community called Kupungarri (Mount Barnett). Their campground is on the Manning River and from there you can walk to the magnificent Manning Gorge. We aren’t short of beautiful places to visit!
Driving the Gibb
Have the right vehicle and be prepared for the Gibb. You need a 4WD – these days you can hire them (from Broome and Kununurra) already set up with two spare tyres, recovery gear and all the camping gear that you need, including a fridge.
On a gravel road you generally reduce your tyre pressures a little bit to soften them up. That makes the drive more comfortable, but you have to lower your speed. Slow down when you come to creek crossings and in general, don’t hurry – that really is the secret.
To drive the Gibb, I’d probably start from Broome. From there, head for Derby at the start of the Gibb River Road. The town itself is worth a visit, as are all the nearby gorges. If you’re really keen and prepared for a rough road, a great side trip is to deviate off the Gibb River Road up to Mitchell Plateau and the much-photographed Mitchell Falls.
From the end of the Gibb, continue east to Kununurra, a beaut place to explore. Lake Argyle (located an hour and a half’s drive south of Kununurra) is another gem worth checking out. Then, circle back onto the main highway via the Bungle Bungles – an absolute must – through Halls Creek and Fitzroy Crossing back to Broome.
The Gibb is not that difficult anymore. The road is improving every year and it’s making all these places more accessible. Five years ago, you would hardly see a caravan on the Gibb and now every second vehicle is towing one.
Slow down and enjoy the view
A lot of people hit the Gibb River Road with a crazy itinerary. They think they’ve got to drive heaps of kilometres in a day. People always tell me they don’t have enough time to see everything – the place really takes them by surprise. I recommend a week to get a full experience, but you could easily fill ten days. They don’t realise how vast the Kimberley is, and how beautiful it is. You know, I’ve been here 22 years and I’m still exploring and seeing things I haven’t seen before. It still really excites me.