Accommodation On The Gibb River Road
Station Stays, Wilderness Lodges, Wilderness Camps
There are quite a few excellent accommodation options along the Gibb River Road.
Most people camp, but even die hard bush campers like me don't mind the odd night with a hot shower and a meal that someone else cooked (and does the dishes for).
Also, some people would love to see all those beautiful gorges, but simply are not into camping at all. While I think it's more fun to rought it, you certainly don't have to.
Here are your options if you want a real bed along the Gibb River Road, listed in order from east to west.
Digger's Rest Station
Digger's Rest Station, a working cattle station, is technically not on the Gibb River Road itself. Rather, it is a great detour (or alternative route from the Pentecost River to Wyndham) that the more adventurous of my readers take.
The station is in a beautiful and remote area under the Cockburn Ranges, on the banks of the King River, near the intersection of the King River Road (out of Wyndham) and the Karunjie Track (from the Pentecost River). Diggers Rest offers accommodation (bush huts or air conditioned bunk house), camping (bush style or with facilities), home cooked meals, and a large range of activities, including great fishing and horse trekking. A taste of the real Kimberley.
El Questro Station
Only about 100 km from Kununurra (less than 50 km on the Gibb River Road), El Questro is by far the biggest and best known tourist venture in the Kimberley. Their marketing machine is so efficient that people overseas get the impression El Questro is the Kimberley, and the Kimberley is El Questro.
El Questro is owned by Voyages, the same mega corporation that also owns Yulara Resort at Uluru/Ayers Rock (among others). And like Yulara it receives mixed feedback.
Many people find that El Questro is too touristy. It is also perceived as overpriced. Others love the good facilities and professional service. I guess as usual, it all depends what you expect...
The land El Questro owns is absolutely beautiful. It's not that hard to get away from the touristy aspects of it and they do offer facilities for all budgets, right down to bushcamping.
El Questro is however huge, and you need to bring a lot of time (or money) to appreciate it. Most people do not have enough of either to fully appreciate what El Questro has to offer.
The easiest places to visit on El Questro are Emma Gorge, El Qestro Gorge and the Zebedee Hot Springs (where you get kicked out at lunch time to make room for the more illustruos clientele...) There are many more gorges and 4x4 tracks to explore, either by yourself or on a guided tour or cruise.
Those who could afford to see El Questro in style loved it. If you like a bit of luxury, check out the deals at Tripadvisor. You never know your luck...
Home Valley Station
Home Valley Station is situated right on the Gibb River Road, just on the other side of the Pentecost River Crossing.
The working cattle station is owned by the Indigenous Land Corporation. As an indigenous TAFE academy it offers programs for Aboriginal students and trainees from many communities in the Kimberley. Trainees study practical skills like fencing, welding or concreting, horsemanship and stock handling and also tourism.
Home Valley Station has been open to tourists since 2006 and then underwent another major renovation and upgrade in 2008, turning it into a full blown holiday resort.
Like El Questro they offer accommodation for all budgets, from luxury right down to bush camping by the river.
The river campground is definitely one of the most scenic in the Kimberley.
The food was fantastic last time I checked, but chefs change often in this part of the world. I hope you will still find the same delicious brand of Kimberley camp cooking meets five star cuisine in 2011.
Ellenbrae Station is roughly 230 km from Kununurra, and 70 km from the Gibb River Road/Kalumburu Road intersection.
Tourism is not the main focus of Ellenbrae, but they do welcome visitors. It's a small family run place and offers camping facilities and very limited accommodation in basic eco-bungalows. It's a genuine Kimberley bush residence... I love it here!
Drysdale River Station
The bar and beer garden looked very inviting, as did the whole place, and the people I talked to were lovely. I only fuelled up here, and stocked up on some essentials. I would have liked to stay longer. Next time...
Check out their website, it's friendly, very useful, and has good information. Just like the real thing!
Mt Elizabeth Station
Mt. Elizabeth Station is a working cattle station, 30 km off the Gibb River Road. The turn off is about 70 km after the Kalumburu Road intersection, 345 km from Derby.
This is a REAL working cattle station, not a tourist resort that still runs some cattle in the background.
Mt. Elizabeth Station offers homestead accommodation with a three course dinner, bed and breakfast.
There is also a very spacious and well appointed camping area. (Dinner at the homestead can be arranged for campers if you let them know ahead.)
You can explore Mt. Elizabeth Station by 4WD (self guided), there are a couple of beautiful gorges, hiking, swimming and fishing, and there are also several exceptional rock art sites that can be visited via an Aboriginal guided tour in a station vehicle.
Read more about Mount Elizabeth Station.
Charnley River Station
Charnley River Station, also a working cattle station, is located 42 km off the Gibb River Road. The turn off is about 165 km after the Kalumburu Road intersection, or 256 km from Derby.
This was the very first station along the Gibb River Road to offer accommodation to tourists. Back then it was known as Beverly Springs and run by Marion Nixon and her husband. (Marion became known for her book "Children in the Sun", where she describes her life bringing up her five children on the station).
The property is now run by Peter and Cheryl Camp who renamed it into Charnley River.
Accommodation at Charnley River is in solar powered "Rondavels" or in the homestead bunkhouse. Camping is also available and so are meals if you book them ahead.
You can take self guided driving tours, explore their many gorges on foot or by hired canoe, arrange a scenic flight or a guided tour, go fishing, birdwatching... It's not hard to keep yourself entertained for a few days.
Read more about Charnley River Station.
Mornington Wilderness Camp
This are the luxury safari tents at Mornington. The photos were sent in by a reader. (Thanks, Serge!)
The Mornington Wilderness Camp and Wildlife Sanctuary is a must see. It's a bit off the beaten track (90 km off the Gibb River Road to be precise), which makes it even more attractive. All friends or readers I spoke to rave about it.
There is of course a normal campground as well, you don't have to stay in the luxury tent, you can sleep in your own. Just like you have the choice of cooking your own meals and raiding your own esky, or visiting the restaurant and bar!
Read more about Mornington Wilderness Camp and Mornington Wilife Sanctuary.
Mount Hart Wilderness Lodge
Mt. Hart Wilderness Lodge is located 50 km off the Gibb River Road, and the turn off is about 200 km from Derby. A lot of visitors to Mt Hart fly in.
Accommodation is in two heritage homesteads and the prices include a three course dinner and a cooked/continental breakfast, as well as lunch and a complimentary cheese and champagne hamper if you spend more than two nights.
Camping is also available. The campground is 800 m north of the homestead on the Barker River and has good facilities.
Campers can book into the restaurant and use the "Three Dingoes" licensed bar.
And of course everyone has access to the magnificent country surrounding the homestead, including Annie Creek and Mt. Matthew Gorge.
Read more about Mount Hart Wilderness Lodge.
Birdwood Downs is a working cattle station very close the western end of the Gibb River Road. The focus of the property is on ecology and responsible environmental management.
If you are interested you can learn a bit about those topics on the offered guided tours, and gain insights into the day to day workings and the larger issues of the sustainable management of a Kimberley station.
Birdwood Downs is also home to the "Kimberley school of horsemanship" and offers guided trail rides on the property.
Accommodation is available in single bedroom Savannah Huts built from Kimberley colourstone and located in the homestead gardens.
Bathroom facilities are shared. Home-cooked breakfasts and dinners as well as lunch packs are also available.
That's it, all the places along the Gibb River Road where you can have a hot shower, buy a cooked meal, and sleep in a real bed!
What I didn't include is the tented accommodation that the giant touring company APT offers. You can read about them here.
Also check out the deals on offer at Tripadvisor. There's always the chance of picking up a real bargain in terms of flight + accommodation deals, car hire etc. (Last time I looked there were some good El Questro offers right at the bottom of that page. Also, below the featured specials, check the tab "Other Lodging". You sometimes find other Gibb River Road stations there.)