Outdoor adventures in Kununurra, Western Australia
We spent two weeks in Kununurra, Western Australia in 2016, and we absolutely loved our first big family adventure! Kununurra is at the eastern end of the Kimberleys, not far from the border to the Northern Territory. It is very different from our southern home state Victoria, and it’s spectacularly beautiful. We visited in the dry season, which being a tropical climate, meant the weather was a perfect 30°C each day (and this was in winter when back home it was a shivery 10 – 15 degrees!)
Though Ant and I have explored most of Australia, we had never been to the top end of WA. We all loved the differences that such a climate brings. Activities like wading through creek shallows, crossing a flowing river in the car, and scampering over rocky hills were wonderful adventures. And the flora and fauna were obviously different too, and we marvelled at the bulging boab trees, abundant water and lush greenery, being constantly aware of crocodiles, and finding frogs in the drain pipes!
Costs and amenities
The town of Kununurra is young and growing, and has most amenities that small cities have. However, I was amazed and sad to learn that the town does not yet have a recycling service. Bottled water is very popular there, so the amount of recyclable plastic going into landfill must be huge.
Being quite remote, supermarkets are always busy and can run out of popular items before new stock arrives. Eating out is expensive, and accommodation in Kununurra can also get pricey in the popular dry season. There are several caravan parks in town to choose from, as well as hotels and other accommodation options. We were fortunate to be able to stay with our friends who knew the region well and were very gracious to host us all that time.
Flights to Kununurra are also expensive from most parts of Australia, as it is just so far away! We recommend booking flights very early to get the best prices for travel in the dry season.
Despite the costs, Kununurra is a great base to stay to explore the natural wonders of this stunning part of Australia, and we were lucky to experience both north and south of it. These were our top adventures:
This was undoubtedly our favourite place! We went twice, once on a day trip and once on the way back from camping at El Questro station. Zebedee Springs is a naturally heated series of rock pools that seems tailor-made for people to nestle into and relax. The water is as warm as a bath, and the pools are lovely sizes to have privacy for small groups, or even personal use if it’s not too busy. The setting is stunning; with red rock faces that glow golden in the morning sun, abundant greenery and clear fresh water, it felt as if we had made it to an oasis in paradise. No wonder Dante commented that he wanted to live there forever!
Zebedee is about 100km north of Kununurra, and is only open to the public from 8am – 12pm daily. The afternoons are reserved for exclusive use of the guests of the upmarket accommodation in El Questro. We were sorry to leave it both times, and would definitely recommend it if you’re anywhere remotely close to northern WA.
Camping at El Questro station
El Questro Wilderness Park is a huge former cattle station, that encompasses Zebedee and other natural springs, waterfalls, gorges (including Emma Gorge), ranges and several accommodation options. We camped at the station for two nights, and it was our first experience of camping with many other people. It was great fun! The kids met other kids and designed their own games together, and we paddled and splashed in the rock pools and shallows surrounding the camp site. We also got bogged in the sand collecting firewood, which was a great experience in working together and getting help! And we drove out to the spectacular sights of Saddleback Ridge and Branco’s look out, both of which were difficult 4 wheel-drive only excursions.
You can camp in the main Black Cockadoo campground or find your own private waterfront spot. More information and other accommodation options are detailed on their website: https://www.elquestro.com.au/stay
This is a lovely little swimming hole that is definitely not heated! It is only about 30km from Kununurra and is usually quiet. Allegra was stunned to see little fish come up to her toes! They nibble the excess skin off if you can stay still enough. We said they were giving her a kiss and she still talks about them fondly.
Kerri took me only on this fairly challenging upwards trek, to the highest point in the area. It is just out of the Kununurra township and provides amazing views of the whole surrounding region. I would have struggled to carry Allegra all the way up, and it would take a long time for very small legs to reach the top. The track is quite safe for bigger kids to climb though. Our friend Lenni loves it there and has been climbing it since she was four.
At the top it does have a caged telecom tower that is covered in radiation warning signs! I think staying close to it for extended periods would be quite bad for your health.
This is an enormous artificial lake 70km south of Kununurra. It was filled in the 1970’s and has been extensively studied since. Supporters claim that creating it has had more benefit than detriment to the ecosystem:
As far as it is known, all 26 species of fish have survived, the original count of 350 crocodiles has increased to an estimated 35,000 and the birdlife has increased over a thousand fold.”
We took a sunset cruise on the last night of our visit, and it was very informative and scenic. We took a quick dip in the water, and saw a crocodile, rock wallabies and huge golden orb spider webs. We also experienced a truly beautiful sunset.
I’m not sure that learning about the Lake’s ecosystem and environmental issues would outweigh the negative impact of motorboats regularly touring it or not. The operator also fed the crocodile and rock wallabies to keep them coming into view for the daily tours, and this isn’t a good idea to support wild animals’ health and behaviour. Having said that, the tour was certainly informative about the health of the lake and its inhabitants, history and events. And our guide reminded us to be very careful about not leaving any trace of our visit behind.
Celebrity Tree Park
There is a wonderful park and playground in the centre of Kununurra, called Celebrity Tree Park. We spent a happy afternoon exploring and playing there, admiring the boab trees and the Ord River. The play equipment was great for kids of all ages, and they just loved having loads of room to run and enjoy the beautiful weather.
There is so much more to explore throughout the top end of Western Australia and the Northern Territory, but being so vast, you really need a lot of time to do it justice. I can see us taking a big trip to this part of Australia in the future, perhaps when our kids are much older and we can handle long treks and more physical adventures. We are ever thankful to our friends Matt, Kerri, Addison and Lenni for hosting us and taking us on these wonderful adventures!
Read about other Australian adventures we’ve had:
- Camping at the culturally- and historically-significant Mungo National Park, New South Wales,
- All the details from our visit to the heart of Australia, Uluru. Includes food, activities and responsible travel tips.
- Our Adelaide to Uluru Road Trip highlights all of the towns and sights along the way and our (mis)adventures in our renovated caravan!
- Another way to explore the outdoors: Riding an e-bike in Melbourne!
And if you’re interested in more outdoor adventures in spectacular Northern Australia, this post details many waterfalls in the Atherton Tablelands, Far North Queensland.
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