The best places to swim along the Gibb River Road by Adam Bowen, Kimberley Off-Road Adventure Tours

Have you ever wondered what to see along the Gibb River Road?

Or, where to swim? Or, how long the gorge walks are? 

This is a shortlist of the more popular swimming waterholes that are not too far from the Gibb River Road. The list guides you from East to West…. and, yes, I know there are many more, but this is a brief guide to the easy to access places.

A good tip is to take your mask and snorkel into the swimming holes.  There are loads of fish, turtles, freshwater shrimp and water monitors found in most waterholes.

All the gorges with a # are places we visit on our 9-day Kimberley Off-road Adventure Tour.

If you require any information about other parts of the top end of Australia please see our website - www.kimberleyoffroadtours.com.  I also run trips through Arnhem Land, the Gulf Country and Kakadu National Park.

# Emma Gorge

This is one of the better-known waterfalls on El Questro station, which means you’ll need to pay entry fees.  The walk starts from the resort and takes about 45 minutes over rocky ground.  You’ll arrive at a clear pool with a tall falla

Emma Gorge, El Questro Station, Kimberley  Photo credit: Kimberley Off-Road Adventure Tours

Emma Gorge, El Questro Station, Kimberley

Photo credit: Kimberley Off-Road Adventure Tours

El Questro Gorge in the Kimberley  Photo credit: Kimberley Off-Road Adventure Tours

El Questro Gorge in the Kimberley

Photo credit: Kimberley Off-Road Adventure Tours

El Questro waterholes

This is a list of the waterholes in order of my favourite first.

Please note there is a fee to access El Questro station.

# 1: El Questro Gorge, 4-5km walk, 4 hours. Difficult grade.

2: Amalia Gorge, 3-4km walk, 2-3 hours. Medium grade.

3: Champagne Pools, 8-9k walk, 4-5 hours. Medium grade.

# 4: Zebedee Springs, 400m walk, 10 minutes. Easy grade.

5: Moonshine Gorge, 200m walk, 5 minutes.  Easy or long walking options available.

6: Jackeroos waterhole, 50m walk, 2 minutes. Easy grade.

7: Station pools at campground.

Bindoola Falls

These falls are on Home Valley Station are about 10km past the station turn-off, access is via the truck parking bay on the Gibb River Road.  It’s a medium walk to the falls, 1km return. These are best seen early in the dry season as they dry up quickly after the wet.

Hann River

About 10km before the Mt Elizabeth turn-off you cross over the Hann River. This is a nice clear flowing river up until late July and it is perfect for a dip to break up a long drive over corrugations. It’s not deep and has a sandy bottom.  You can free camp here too.

A Short-eared Rock-wallaby in the Kimberley WA  Photo credit: Kimberley Off-Road Adventure Tours

A Short-eared Rock-wallaby in the Kimberley WA

Photo credit: Kimberley Off-Road Adventure Tours

Barnett River Gorge

This gorge is located about 40km east of Mt Barnett and is looked after by the local indigenous rangers who allow free access into the gorge.  It’s changed in recent times and the car park has now been moved so it is 1km from the gorge.  It’s an easy walk in along the old road and then a sandy trail to the swimming area.  The gorge is very nice and has a small cascade at the far end.  It’s a great spot to see Short-eared Rock-wallabies and bird life.

# Galvans Gorge

This is a little gem, it is picture perfect and about 15km west of Mt Barnett.  It’s an easy grade, 15 minute walk to the falls and entry is free.  On top of the falls there is a Boab tree and on the right-hand wall of the gorge, behind the pandanus trees, there is a fine example of Wandjana rock art.

# Manning Gorge

This is a must do in the early dry when there is a huge amount of water flowing over the falls. Access is via the Mt Barnett Roadhouse. There is an entry fee to the gorge which goes to the local indigenous owners. The walk starts from the campground where there is a river crossing; if you’re lucky there’s a small boat to use but if not, you’ll need to swim across about 40m. The walk takes an hour or so each way and is medium grade.  Allow at least half a day to explore and swim at the gorge.  There are good examples of Bradshaw Rock Art found here.

Manning Gorge in the Kimberley WA  Photo credit: Kimberley Off-Road Adventure Tours

Manning Gorge in the Kimberley WA

Photo credit: Kimberley Off-Road Adventure Tours

# Adcock Gorge

Adcock gorge is located about 30km west of Mt Barnett with a 8km drive in.  Entry is free and the walk is easy and takes about 15 minutes. I would recommend parking before the little creek crossing where the no camping signs are and then walking, as the track is constantly changing and I have seen a few damaged cars over the years.  On the left-hand side of the gorge is a great place to see the Brown Tree snake and the Magnificent Tree frog.

Saddler Springs

A kilometre before Imintji you cross over this creek, just before the crossing there is a track which takes you to a nice lilly-filled pool that may still have a rope swing.  On the left after crossing the creek, there is a track which takes you to the APT wilderness camp, on the right is a track to the waterhole.  In recent years “No Camping” signs have been put up at the waterhole.   

# Bell Gorge

Bell Gorge is one of the best places to visit along the Kimberley’s Gibb River Road.  It’s a 30-minute walk to the falls from the car park.  There is an ankle-deep creek crossing to get to the bottom of the first set of falls, so you may need to take your shoes off.  The second set of falls is roughly a 200m walk or you can swim downstream to the top of these falls where there is a great view down the gorge.  I suggest allowing 3 or 4 hours here for the walk and swim.  This is a national park, so entry fees apply.

Bell Gorge in the Kimberley, western Australia  Photo credit: Kimberley Off-Road Adventure Tours

Bell Gorge in the Kimberley, western Australia

Photo credit: Kimberley Off-Road Adventure Tours

Bell Creek

Just before you head into the King Leopold Ranges there are dirt tracks on both sides just after the creek. These take you to some nice swimming spots on the creek.  I noticed last year it’s become really busy with free campers which leads me to believe it’s been put on WikiCamps; therefore I’d stick to the tracks on the left, as they’re less popular so you may get the pools all to yourself.

Dog Chain Creek

About 2km before the Lennard River Gorge turn-off you pass over Dog Chain Creek. On the right you will see a clearing; here there is a nice pool with blue lilies and lots of shade by the water.  I’ve often stopped here for lunch and a swim, and people also free camp here.

# Windjana Gorge

This is a limestone gorge. A few people decide to swim here although its not recommended.  There are sometimes a huge number of Freshwater crocodiles in the water and they have been known to be aggressive.  There are no waterfalls in this gorge, it’s an open-style gorge.  It’s an easy grade walk, only 800m return from the car park.  In my opinion this gorge is a highlight of the Kimberley and certainly worth a visit, it’s different to other gorges along the Gibb River Road and there is an abundant of wildlife found here.  This is in a National Park so entry fees apply.

# Tunnel Creek

This is an easy 2km walk through a 750m limestone cave formed by the creek flowing through. You will need a torch as there are places where you walk through water sometimes knee-high.  There are stalactite and stalagmite formations within the tunnel and also many different types of bats including the endangered Ghost. There are many Aboriginal paintings and occupation sites in and around Tunnel Creek and you are asked to please respect these areas.  There is a swimming hole at the end of the tunnel.  By late dry season it goes a bit stagnant so I wouldn’t recommend swimming due to bat poo in the water!

Tunnel Creek in the Kimberley WA  Photo credit: Kimberley Off-Road Adventure Tours

Tunnel Creek in the Kimberley WA

Photo credit: Kimberley Off-Road Adventure Tours

Enjoy your travels whether you come on a Kimberley tour with us or go it alone… there are so many adventures to enjoy! All the best - Adam Bowen, Guide and Owner, Kimberley Off-road Adventure Tours