The Ultimate Gibb River Road Trip Guide
Are you ready for your next epic Australian adventure? Perhaps one of the countries great road and camping trips? Well, you have come to the right place! Welcome to the Gibb River Road.
One of the premier experiences outback Australia has to offer the Gibb River Road is a 660km+ journey that takes travelers through the heart of the Kimberley region in Western Australia. This iconic route attracts adventurers from all over the world, who come to experience one of Australia’s most exciting road trips through one of its most beautiful, pristine, and remote regions.
The old station road historically used for transporting cattle is now a destination in its own right. If you are lucky enough to find yourself with the opportunity to undertake a Gibb River Road trip you will be rewarded with a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.
But planning this adventure is no small feat, it takes careful planning and thorough research. Start here with our Gibb River Road itinerary and a list of tips for driving the Gibb River Road.
The Gibb River Road Itinerary
Aside from being an ‘outback experience’ and a ‘4WD adventure’ what is there to do on the Gibb River Road? What should a Gibb River Road itinerary look like?
With so many things to do along the Gibb River Road, your individual Gibb River Road itinerary will largely depend on how much time you have to spend driving and exploring.
This Gibb River Road itinerary is from Kununurra to Derby; Reverse it if you are coming in the other direction.
The minimum time you need to experience the Gibb River Road one way is 5 days. This itinerary takes you past the must-see destinations but this trip can easily be expanded by including the additional side trips listed, or by taking a slower pace and stopping and camping more frequently.
Day 1 – El Questro
You may have heard of El Questro before. Any advertisement touting the Gibb River Road will lean on the grandness of the El Questro Resort to capture your attention and have you packing your bags for the Gibb. With all of the experiences to be had at El Questro alone, there is little wonder why this premier destination has become the poster child for the Gibb River Road.
Day passes for El Questro costs $12 per person or you can get a seven-day pass for $22. Access to the attractions within the station is also included if you are camping here. The entry fee gives you access to all of the sights in El Questro as well as the toilet and showers. We have included a list below of the self-guided walking trails at El Questro, however, there are also a host of other tours including scenic flights, boat cruises, fishing excursions, and more that can be booked for your visit at El Questro.
Emma Gorge, with its magnificent 120-meter sandstone walls and crystal clear plunge pools, is a popular destination on the Gibb River Road and one of the best things to see at El Questro.
A 3.2-kilometer trail leads you further and further into the Cockburn Range along a moderately challenging track that requires the occasional boulder scramble. The trail culminates at a stunning waterfall with a refreshing plunge pool. A perfect end to this beautiful walk.
The Emma Gorge walk is a popular walk and is often crowded, so we recommend going early. The morning also tends to be the coolest part of the day which is an added bonus.
A short walk through the forest of Livistona Palms will lead you to the thermal pools of Zebedee Springs. The thermal pools are a great way to relax weary muscles from hard drives and long walks of the El Questro and the Gibb River Road.
The thermal pools are only open between 7:00 am – 12:00 pm, so make sure you plan your trip to Zebedee Springs accordingly.
Amalia Gorge is another self-guided walking trail in El Questro that is easily accessible. The 3.4-kilometer trail follows the creek bed into the heart of the gorge. A series of boulder hops and small rock climbs takes you past several pools until reaching the Amalia Gorge Waterfall.
The Amalia Gorge waterfall is not fed by an underground spring and can be dry during the months of July and August and the water can be stagnant.
The Amalia Gorge walk is slightly more challenging than the Emma Gorge walk due to increased rock scrambling, but the walk is beautiful and often less crowded than the popular Emma Gorge.
Side Trip: El Questro Gorge / Moonshine Gorge / Champagne Springs
If you have more time on your hands, the El Questro resort offers plenty of other self-guided walking trails to be explored as well as countless other guided tours. For more information on the guided tours, visit the El Questro website.
Visiting El Questro Gorge and Moonshine Gorge involves a deep river crossing that requires a four-wheel-drive equipped with a snorkel. Those with the time and proper gear should take the chance to see these stunning natural wonders.
El Questro Gorge
El Questro’s namesake, El Questro Gorge, is one of the most spectacular gorges on the station. The El Questro Gorge walk is one of the longer of the El Questro self-guided hikes at 7.2-kilometers. The first half of the trail meanders along a narrow creek to the first of two swimming holes. This section of the trail is relatively easy. The second section of the trail increases in difficulty until you reach the second swimming hole. But, those who venture onward to the end of the trail will be reward with a beautiful waterfall cascading into a lovely swimming hole.
Moonshine Gorge is a circuit trail that follows Moonshine Creek. Moonshine Gorge is the easiest of all of the self-guided walks in El Questro, This 5-kilometer trail should take you approximately 2.5 hours to complete and offers plenty of shade and places to swim along the trail.
The Champagne Springs walk at El Questro is the longest of all of the self-guided walks. The 9.6-kilometer return trail follows a river to an inviting and cooling pool at the end of the journey as well as a beautiful waterfall. The return journey follows the same trail back to the car park.
Where to stay: El Questro Resort or Home Valley Station (paid) or Pentecost River or Cockburn Ranges Lookout (free)
Day 2 – Ellenbrae Station
The second day on your Gibb River Road trip is spent mostly on the road. From the Pentecost River to Barnett Gorge the attraction to see here is simply the open road and the rugged beauty of the Australian outback.
The highlight of Day 2 is a stop-off at Ellenbrae Station for one of their homemade scones. Ellenbrae Station has been serving scones since 2005 and averages approximately 100 scones a day over the season (as many as 17,000+ in a given year).
Where to stay: Ellenbrae Station (paid) or Hann River (free)
Side Trip – Mitchell Falls
Those with an additional few days and a jerry can or two of fuel up their sleeves should take the opportunity to travel into the north Kimberley to Mitchell Falls and the Mitchell River National Park. This remote part of the Kimberley’s is one of the least traveled places in Australia, but also one of the most beautiful.
The Mitchell Falls and Mitchell River National Park are part of Wubambal Gaambera Country. To visit this Aboriginal land, a Uunguu Visitor Pass (UVP) must be purchased online in advance. The Uunguu Visitor Pass provides access to the Wunambal Gaambera Country for 5 – 20 days with starting prices beginning at $45 per person or $110 per family.
Where to stay: Drysdale River Station (paid)
Day 3 – Gorgeous Gibb River Road Gorges
Day 3 on your Gibb River Road itinerary is jam-packed full of gorgeous Gibb River Road gorges which are some of the best gorges in Australia. From Barnett Gorge to Manning Gorge, further on to Galvin’s Gorge, and lastly Adcock Gorge, this day is bound to be one for the books.
The first stop is Barnett Gorge or Jigngarrin. The gorge is part of the 24,000 square kilometer Wilinggin Indigenous Protected Area. The Jigngarrin walking trail is a 3-kilometer round trip in and out trail along the top of the gorge. The trail is marked by a series of cairns leading you to the upper gorge. From the welcome sign, approximately 250 meters from the carpark, cross the creek bed to continue along the trail keeping your eyes peeled for cairns and arrows.
Here you can enjoy the lush vegetation of the river, bask in the sun on the small beach and take a refreshing dip in the cool waters of the Barnett River.
You can also camp at Jigngarrin in the designated camping areas. If you do plan to camp here, please be respectful of the land that the Ngallagimda Aboriginal people have shared.
Manning Gorge and Manning Falls
Manning Gorge and Manning Falls was the highlight of all of the Gibb River Road gorges, so make sure you give yourself plenty of time to enjoy this beautiful place. The water cascades from the Barnett River into a series of deep plunge pools.
Unique to Manning Gorge, the first part of the hike requires you to swim across the Barnett River with small gear rafts made from plastic drums to ensure your belongings do not get wet.
From here, it is a 2.5-kilometer hike through the bushland to the picturesque Manning Falls. The hike is exposed, offering little to no shade along the way, so make sure to bring plenty of water, snacks and sunscreen for the journey.
The cool refreshing waters of Manning Falls will be much appreciated after the hike in. The journey should take between 1 – 1.5 hours each way.
If you are not planning on camping overnight at Manning Gorge, then you must arrive before 12:30 pm to complete the walk. The Mt. Barnett Roadhouse does not sell day passes to visitors after this time. Entry to the gorge is $10 per person and includes access to the gorge as well as shower and toilet facilities (hooray).
Galvin’s Gorge may be underrepresented when booklets tout the gorges along the Gibb River Road, but a side trip to this stunning gorge is well worth the detour. Just 13 kilometers south of Manning Gorge on the Gibb River Road is Galvin’s Gorge. A short 1-kilometer trek in takes you to a lush hidden oasis. While smaller compared to some of the other gorges, this Galvin’s is an idyllic place to spend the morning or afternoon swimming in the picture-perfect plunge pool.
The last of the day 3 gorges is Adcock Gorge. Adcock Gorge is another 20 kilometers past Galvin’s Gorge as you continue west towards Derby. Adcock Gorge is located 5 kilometers from the main road and is accessible via a 4WD track.
The walking trail into Adcock Gorge is only about 500 meters each way. The trail ends at a beautiful waterfall that cascades over a series of ledges into a small plunge pool.
Adcock Gorge is one of the lesser-visited Gibb River Road gorges, so you may be able to enjoy this beautiful oasis alone, especially toward the end of the day.
Where to stay: Mt. Barnett Roadhouse (paid) or Hann River (free)
Day 4 – King Leopold National Park and Bell Gorge
On the fourth day of your Gibb River Road camping itinerary will find yourself in the King Leopold National Park, the first and only Western Australia National Park that you will visit on this Gibb River Road camping itinerary.
As with the other Gibb River Road gorges, Bell Gorge is an idyllic oasis hidden in the Kimberleys. An easy 2-kilometer in-and-out trail takes you to the Bell Gorge waterfall where you can swim in the plunge pool or bask on the sunny rocks.
To reach the waterfall itself, it does require crossing the shallow waters at the top of the falls to continue to the base of the waterfalls.
We recommend packing a picnic lunch to make the most out of your time at Bell Gorge!
Where to stay: Bell Gorge Wilderness Lodge (paid) or Silent Grove camping (paid)
Side Trip: Bandilngan (Windjana Gorge) National Park
If you have more time, consider making the side trip to Bandilngan (Windjana Gorge) National Park. Approximately 40km off the Gibb River Road, this gorge is home to a large concentration of freshwater crocodiles. Hit the trails instead with a 7 km (3.5 km one way) in-and-out gorge walking trail that takes you deep into the gorge itself.
Where to stay: Windjana Gorge camping (paid)
Day 5 – Derby
The last and final day along the Gibb will thankfully be mostly paved as you make your way into Derby. Derby marks the end (or beginning) of this incredible remote 4WD experience in the Kimberley. But before you head off to Broome and the Dampier Peninsula, make sure to check out some of the things to do in Derby.
If you are lucky enough to time your road trip properly, the Mowanjum Festival is a great way to experience the culture of the Aboriginal people from the West Kimberley region. The festival takes place in early July and is one of Western Australia’s largest cultural celebrations.
Other things to do in Derby include:
- A stop to see the Boab Prison Tree.
- A visit the Mowanjum Art and Cultural Center on the outskirts of town.
- A trip to the Derby Jetty to experience the largest tide in Australia reaching heights of over 11 meters.
Gibb River Road Accommodation
If camping is not for you, then you will be thrilled to know that you can still complete a Gibb River Road trip. There are a handful of roadhouses and stations that offer accommodation.
El Questro is the premier resort destination along the Gibb River Road and offers a range of accommodation options for the outback traveler. From luxury accommodation in the El Questro Homestead which accommodates a maximum of 20 guests at one time to safari-style glamping tents at Emma Gorge, there is a range of accommodation suited to all types of budgets.
Home Valley Station
Home Valley Station is located just west of the Pentecost River Crossing. This station has a range of accommodation available from Family Suites to Homestead Deluxe Rooms. Rates start at AUD $425 for the Family Suite and AUD $275 for the Homestead Deluxe Rooms.
Ellenbrae Station is another station along the Gibb River Road offering basic accommodation. The basic accommodation does not include power in the rooms or an ensuite, however, a communal ablution block is available as well as a camp kitchen. One perk of staying at Ellenbrae, however, is the free scones with accommodation!
Prices begin at $130 for the safari tent and increase to $300 for the family room.
Drysdale River Station
If you plan to make the side trip to Mitchell Falls, a great Gibb River Road accommodation alternative is the Drysdale River Station. The Drysdale River Station offers a wide range of room accommodation from small and basic to queens with ensuites and even family accommodation. The station also offers a host of other amenities during the dry season such as an onsite licensed restaurant, a beer garden, fuel (diesel and unleaded), scenic flights of the surrounding area including Mitchell Falls, guided tours, and a small general store.
Mt. Elizabeth is another Gibb River Road accommodation option located approximately halfway along the Gibb River Road. Mt. Elizabeth offers a range of accommodation from camping to bed and breakfast packages.
Mt. Elizabeth also offers a wide range of things to see along the Gibb River Road if you have the time. A Gorge Pass can be purchased at the station and gives you access to the Wunnamurra Gorge and Warla Gorge. The Gorge Pass costs $15 for those staying at the station ($20 for all others) and helps pay the costs of the rangers and access roads to see these magnificent sights.
Bell Gorge Wilderness Lodge
The Bell Gorge Wilderness Lodge is the Gibb River Road APT accommodation. APT is an Australian luxury tour provider offering tours throughout Australia and abroad. The Bell Gorge Wilderness Lodge offers safari-tent-style camping overlooking the King Leopold Ranges. Each safari tent includes ensuite, hot water, and a flushing toilet! Each booking also includes dinner and breakfast in the cost.
Gibb River Road Camping
Those who are interested in camping along the Gibb River Road but prefer the luxury of a toilet and shower can find such accommodation at the roadhouses and stations that dot the Gibb River Road. Outside of the Gibb River Road accommodation mentioned above, you can also find paid Gibb River Road camping that offers basic amenities at the following roadhouses:
- Gibb River Road Station
- For only $30 per vehicle a night, the Gibb River Road Station offers basic camping facilities including a hot shower!
- Mt. Barnett Roadhouse
- Camping starts at $25/adult for the first night and $15/adult for additional nights. Kids under 14 of age camp for free! Amenities include hot showers and toilets as well as a sandy beach along the Barnett River.
- Charnley River Wilderness Camp
- An Australian Wildlife Conservatory, the Charnley River Wilderness Camp is home to over 200 species of birds and provides a refuge for endangered wildlife in the Kimberley. Camp under the stars in this special place for $26.50/adult per night and $12.50/child per night.
- Silent Grove (national park camping)
- Camping at Silent Grove in King Leopold National Park costs $17/adult ($3/child between ages of 3 – 16) and includes toilets and drinking water.
- Windjara Gorge campground (national park camping)
- Camping at Windjara Gorge costs $17/adult ($3/child between ages of 3 – 16) and includes toilets and drinking water.
Gibb River Road Free Camping
Free Camping along the Gibb River Road is one of the best reasons for tackling this stretch of the Australian Outback. The Gibb River Road free camping spots in our opinion are better in East Kimberley, but options are available in West Kimberley as well. We have included our favorite spots below, but make sure to check Wikicamps Australia for the most up-to-date information!
The Pentecost River
A popular place to stay on any Gibb River Road camping itinerary is along the eastern side of the Pentecost River. With the spectacular Pentecost River backdropped by the Cockburn Ranges, this is the perfect place to camp. This Gibb River Road camping spot is also a great place to watch the sunset casting brilliant colors back over the Cockburn Range.
The Cockburn Ranges Lookout
The Cockburn Range is the backdrop for the hero shots of the Gibb River Road. This impressive range is made all the more impressive as you watch the sunset casting brilliant colors over the range from your campsite. The one downside of this Gibb River Road free camping spot is that it is right next to the road. Given, however, that you are in a remote destination, the traffic is few and far in between especially after dark.
The Hann River
Camped on a sandy bank beside the clear waters of the Hann River this is one of the best Gibb River Road free camping spots. There is plenty of firewood to be collected here for an evening campfire, so don’t forget to bring your roasting marshmallows!
Tips for Driving the Gibb River Road
If you speak to three different people about driving Gibb River Road, you are likely to get three entirely different lists of answers.
Some of the most practical and helpful tips for driving the Gibb River Road are:
- Lower your tire pressure between 25 – 30 PSI IF AND ONLY IF you have 4WD tires. If you have road tires (like we do), DO NOT LOWER YOUR TIRES!
- Carry enough water for 5-8 liters per person per day
- Make sure your headlights are working and turn them on! You need them even during the day to ensure people can see you through the clouds of dust.
- Leave your caravan at home. While we have seen of a few caravans getting up and down the Gibb River Road, this road is best tackled with a simple tent.
- Make sure your vehicle is in working order. You don’t want your trip to be delayed because you forgot to go to your last car service.
- Drive slowly, the road is treacherous it is easy to shred a tire or lose traction on the loose surface f the road.
- Respect the other travelers on the road. Give them space to drive, space to camp and a friendly wave when you see them, you never know when tyou might be needing them to give you a lift or borrow a tool.
Looking for More Western Australia Travel Inspiration?
The Gibb River Road is just one of many incredible Western Australia travel destinations. Whether you are looking for more remote, outback adventures, stunning national parks, amazing beach locations, check out our other great Western Australia travel blog articles for WA travel inspiration!