Kununurra: Diamond of the North West
A three-hour flight from Perth or less than five-hours from Melbourne, Kununurra is the perfect base for exploring the East Kimberley. Wondering when’s the best time to go? While there are advantages to visiting the far north of WA in the wet season (hello, raging waterfalls), the dry season (May to October) is the most popular time to explore for its cool, comfortable night-time temperatures. And with tickets to May’s Ord Valley Muster on sale this month, now is the perfect time to plan your visit.
If you want to find out where Kununurra’s locals disappear to at sunset, head directly to Kelly’s Knob. The mottled peak of boulders on the rim of the outback town double as a magical vantage point. From the elevated lookout, people gather each evening to witness the Kimberley’s rusty red earth ignite in golden light. All at once, the vast landscape seems to glow like embers in a fire.
The 360-degree panorama grants an easy-access insight into what Kununurra and its surrounds have to offer. The town – a hub for the eastern Kimberley – is a place with a big heart and an even bigger backyard. Within its grid of wide roads, there are art galleries, diamond boutiques, country pubs and cafes. From the regional community, you can reach fern-fringed hot springs, UNESCO World Heritage-listed rock domes and one of the largest man-made lakes in Australia.
If there’s one thing you absolutely must do, it’s a scenic flight and land tour of Purnululu National Park and its captivating Bungle Bungle Range. Rounded rock formations rise from the earth, towering as high as 300 metres, wrapped in burnt orange and weathered grey bands. Witnessing them from the air allows you to take in their scale and breadth, with long shadows enhancing their size, while landing on the park’s dirt airstrip and venturing into the ranges reveals the domes’ rugged textures up close. Paths lead to enormous, eroded caverns, still pools and ancient Aboriginal rock art.
If you’re short on time, an impressive alternative is to head to Mirima National Park, about seven minutes’ drive out of Kununurra. Known as the ‘mini Bungle Bungle’, it’s a collection of banded and layered rock formations linked by walking tracks and an expansive lookout. Team the journey with a pulse-quickening trip over Ivanhoe Crossing, a 4WD-friendly causeway covered by the gushing white water of the Ord River.
Back in town, let your heart skip a beat as you try on glittering rings in the town’s diamond boutiques. With the area’s Argyle pink diamond mine set to close in 2020, you may have trouble taking them off – and not because of the band size.
Switch your attention to the waterway of the same name: Lake Argyle, either reached via a discovery flight over the 70 islands created by the dam’s construction, or by boat cruise from Kununurra. The mirror-flat lake is home to many non-threatening freshwater crocodiles.
Wrap things up with the most anticipated night of the year: the Kimberley Moon Experience on 16 May, 2020. Part of the 10-day Ord Valley Muster festival, it’s an outdoor party that can be cheap and cheerful, with eskies, picnic blankets and general admission tickets, or all-out fancy with a VIP river cruise, pink-carpet arrival and black-tie dinner. The night’s rock concert always goes off with a bang. For 2020, the festival also has new secret supper events and a free, family friendly closing party.