by Charles



Kalumburu is the cultural centre of the Kimberleys – something you wouldn't know unless you stopped to look.

You might think it would be the Mowanjum Arts Centre at the start of the Gibb River Road, a not-to-be-missed feast of Wanjinas and other contemporary aboriginal art in a modern wanjina-shaped building where if you're lucky, you might, like us, pass the time of day with Donny Woolagoodja, the director, who designed the Wanjina for the opening ceremony of the Sydney Olympics. (Wanjina is pronounced with the emphasis on the first syllable).

And if you read Donny's book, Keeping the Wanjinas Fresh, you find there are some parallels with the Kalumburu story in terms of the positive effects of some missionaries in helping aboriginal people to live with confidence in a white man's world.

Most tourists use Kalumburu (emphasis on the second syllable) as a staging post for getting supplies and for fishing on the coast (best in a boat) or as a base for exploring further north. (There seems to be a competition between McGowan's and Honeymoon Bay – we heard a few negative reports about the latter). So people don't look too deeply into what's in Kalumburu itself. But if you spend some time at the mission, a great story begins to unfold.

Unfortunately 2008 is the last year of Father Anscar's highly entertaining and informative half hour tours that tend to go on for a couple of hours. He leaves April 2009. The extraordinary collection of aboriginal artifacts and gifts from all over the world that he has put together in the museum will be fully catalogued by then and hopefully a new guide will be able to step into his shoes. The exhibition is designed to show that aboriginal culture can stand tall alongside the cultures of the world.

2008 is the hundredth anniversary of the founding of the mission at Pago, a little further north: it moved to Kalumburu in the 1930s because there was a more reliable water supply. There were to be big celebrations on August 15th to mark the occasion.

at Pago

Getting to Pago is an adventure on the road and a mystery at the other end. Where the road turns a very sandy corner to the left, there's an oil drum on the right that marks a side track that takes you to some ruins by a boab tree. It has August 15th 1926 carved on it – an earlier anniversary. The ruins are the ruins of the pigsty! Apparently there are posts and the bread oven to be found nearby but we didn't know what we were looking for.

Don't bother to drive any further on this track, there's a fallen tree blocking it. The road on to the shore takes you past the house of the Waina family – they were friendly and helpful. Not much to see on the shore.

There is an interesting booklet that gives you the outline history of the mission, available from the mission office or takeaway. It's also worth reading the biography of Father Sanz, an extraordinary man who turned the mission into a self-sufficient farm providing work, purpose and health for the aboriginal community after the war.

When his work was destroyed by changes in government policy in the seventies, he retired back to his monastery in New Norcia, but returned to Kalumburu for a few years to die – which he did in June 2008, just before we arrived. There is a fascinating controversy over different approaches to helping the aboriginal community. (Memoirs of a Spanish Missionary Monk – obtainable at the Kimberley Bookshop in Broome).

Currently you'll find the army at Kalumburu, putting tarmac on the airfield, rebuilding the health centre and paying for the sealing of the road out to the beautiful beach at Marra Garra that's used for supplies. More politics at work!

Nowadays the Mission is supported by volunteers who come and stay for a few months. It's the end of an era and the beginning of a new one. If you take your time, you can't help but be touched by the peace of the place.

We were looking for a painting to take home and liked the Bradshaw style ones by the Waina family. Lily Waina's paintings sell for a fortune. Eventually we picked up a modest sized one by one of her granddaughters at the Mowanjum Arts Centre on our way out. She'd painted it there the day before!

Comments for Kalumburu

Click here to add your own comments

Nov 23, 2008
by: James Mason

Kalumburu is NOT the cultural centre of The Kimberley, it has very little visible culture. The mission systematically removed culture from the local tribes, along with their languages, dance, songs and their self-confidence, ever since it arrived in 1908.

Kalumburu is not on the road to anywhere, it is at the end of the road, apart from
Murra Gurra, Winanji Blue, McGowan's, Jacos, Honeymoon and Pago which are beaches all further on from Kalumburu, of which, only McGowan's, Jacos and Honeymoon, support tourists with very basic camping park facilities.

To say don't look too deeply into Kalumburu itself is to miss some amazing waterways, waterfalls, rock structures gorges, river views, river and beach fishing, and the rock art, not to mention the people themselves... it is a beautiful area for bushwalking, with many creeks of clear, cool freshwater and plenty of wildlife.

To listen to the mission story of Kalumburu is to miss the real story, the one from the locals...

There is no such person as Lily Waina... the famous 'old' lady artist in Kalumburu is Lily Karadada, she has work in the National Gallery and is now in her 90's and still paints with ochres as well as acrylics...

Feb 11, 2009
nice update
by: Dominique

To concur with James, the update correcting the article errors is spot on. However the intention in the article suggests that Kalumburu is not culturally at the end of any road and that is also true.

May 10, 2009
Who's correct?
by: Charles

As I wrote, 'there is a fascinating controversy'. So, if you want to know the truth, you need to study both sides of the argument, starting with an open mind ....

Jun 01, 2009
Mr. James Mason you need to be corrected
by: Deodatus Fink

1. Kalumburu is one the richest cultural sites of Kimberley!
2. Kalumburu is not at the end of the road!
3. I guess you are one of the locals. I would appreciate if you tell us your full version of the Kalumburu Story.

Jun 24, 2009
An experience of a lifetime
by: Jane Edwards

My visit to Kalumburu was the most amazing of my life. Having taught some of the local children (at a Victorian boarding school), I believed the place to be the end of the road until I actually visited it! The students who were in my care were proud to show us their culture. We went fishing at McGowan's Beach and found turtle eggs - amazing! We swam in the river (the kids knew where the crocs weren't) and we got excited about the amazing rock art that can be found in the area. It's definitely not that figurative 'end of the road'.

Sep 09, 2009
Honeymoon Bay Camping
by: Pam

To say you have heard negative reports about camping at Honeymoon should not be said unless you have stayed there youself. We have been camping at Honeymoon Bay annually for the last 7 years and find it great, sure it is basic but that is what we're after, Les French, the owner and his family are very good people, this year camping there we did notice a decline in visitors because of this reason. I have never met anyone who has camped at Honeymoon dissatisfied, actually all campers that do come up there fall in love with the place in hoping to return.

Sep 10, 2009
Only one Kimberley in Australia
by: Will B

Just a minor correction for a common mistake. Kalumburu is in the Kimberley. Kimberley is singular.
Not sure what the "Kimberleys" are, unless you are including the one in Africa.

Sep 11, 2009
Leave us alone
by: Kimberley Local

Kalumburu is a beautiful place to see, but a bad place to live.

We the people of Kalumburu have huge problems, with alcohol, drugs, violence, poverty, tourists (yes tourists).

Please leave us alone and let us fix things

Nov 23, 2009
Problems YES and No
by: peter

Looking at all the back and forth it seems difficult to understand. But having stayed in Kalumburu for a while, yes it does have its problems, but nowhere near as many as some other communities that i have seen. It is clean and the locals are friendly and helpful when you get to know them.

Sure there are few that will give you the cold sholder or a strange look but that is the same everywhere. Les and most of his family at Honeymoon are great, and the only negative i have heard first hand was from some tourist who said that they were chased off by two middle aged women who i would have a guess would be Les's daughters.

Other than that the whole family is great and the place is on of those memorable places, and everyone should remember you are guest in someone else backyard. If you act arrogantly, think you have the right to do whatever you want, no one will give you the time of day. The same way you would act if some was inpolite at your place.

The area has a lot to offer if you take the time to look and this applies to the whole of the Kimberly and remote Australia. Remember the whole of Australia belongs to all Australians and we are all caretakers of it and its natrual beauty.

Jan 10, 2010
by: Francis

I have read these points and i feel a bit disturbed that some people who have just popped in and out of Kalumburu, or who have not even set foot there have a lot to say about us and our community.

It is sad for example that someone should make a judgement on our cultural heritage and the lose of it when if I asked you to define culture for us, you would not succeed to define it our way. Why don't you try to consult before speaking or better why not stay clear of things you do not understand. Giving half-truths or false information does destroy the value-judgements of others and in this way, you are actually hurting us and our country.

I wish to state for instance that the mission did actually promote our culture. If you are not sure, check and see who has written our language; who has put down a historical sketch; who has tried to offer guides around our past; who kept our dances going for so long; who is around to encourage us? If you will be honest, you will discover that the one you are attacking is the only one who has a true love and concern for our people.

You can go ahead and say many things about Kalumburu, but the only truth is that it is our country and here we will live. We do allow you to come and visit, but we do not allow you to speak for us in ways that would destroy our relationships and the future of our children. Respect those who have been and still are patient and loving to us.

May 17, 2010
What you people don't know
by: Kalumburu Local

I have lived here a long time and get shame when you people make out that Les French and family are a good mob.Read this.Frenchy has been at Honeymoon for nearly 20yrs and still hasn't made a change with all that money. Instead he and his wife and daughters play cards or have to fuel their childrens drug habits, he is a dodgy old man who is my grandad.He has always hated the family of McGowan, not becos of competition but because he hates them moving forward faster than him. As for McGowan mob they are being taken for a ride by thieving white people and are to blind to see it'. But it is good to see a change of veiw on the seaside.
As for all the rest of the Kalumburu mob, every one has a choice of moving forward, backwards or just standing still. With all the hand outs why would you want anything else. Culture is still alive and well but why would you want to practice this when you were told to believe in the blue eyed and blonde hair god.
The country and fishing and people are wonderful and I wouldn't live anywhere else in the world. Come and experience it for yourself, it's not all that bad. Don't always believe in what we are told until you tried it yourself.
Now my pop will be told I wrote this and will kick my arse.

May 18, 2010
What I experienced at Honeymoon.
by: Franky

I was able to travel to the end of the road and ended up in a small yet beautiful community called Kalumburu. The people were shy at first then they really opened up and it was a wonderful experience, unlike no other. My journey then took me to a scenic lookout and I found out that it was McGowan Island Camping. Lush green lawn shady trees overlooking a beach that would catch the after noon sunset so I was told. But there was just way too many tourist so I was pointed to Honeymoon Beach and said to look for the infamous Les French. On arrival I drove in and pulled up along side the shed that had the office. What I saw was totally different to McGowan, no lawn just gravel, no shady trees, only a tin shack that seemed to be the toilets,just a real basic out camp.
I ended up meeting Les who is a character in his own right, really loves to talk a lot and brag about his big catches of the week. Anyhow we were talking prices that seemed a bit steep at the time but then settled becos I was conned by Mr French.
As I was handing Les money for my 2 night stay and boating tour a middle aged lady with long hair approached us and rudely interupted me and Les
"Dad give money, I'm going to town with these bloody kids"she said. Then she looked at me and asked "where did you come from"?.
I drove all the way from Margaret River, up the Gibb Road and ended up in Kalumburu". I then added that Ï dropped into McGowan to check it out but it was too full, so I here".
All of a sudden this lady started going off. Shouting outrageous comments and demanding that Les get rid of me becos I pulled into McGowan. Still standing there with Les not saying anything she snatched my money from Les'hands and stormed off screaming "Get rid of those white C**ts, they want to go McGowan F**K them off now".
Without any further ado I jumped into my car and drove as fast as I could back to McGowan. Where there I was comforted given a hot cuppa and was let to stay for 3 days at a discount price considering what had just happened.
Word of advice to all who travel to the far North.
Kalumburu and its people are great, art, culture and freindliness is around.
When you want to go camping NEVER go to HONEYMOON becos they may seem to be nice but I assure you they have hidden demons that I seen first hand.

Sep 14, 2010
Art, Culture and Life in Kalumburu !!!
by: Anonymous

My goodness!! This is the first time I seen this website and I can honestly say "come on!! .. It is one thing to be gracious and be nice to other but it is completely irresponsible to hide the truth and pretend to be naive and say that it's nice what's not nice .. and say that rodden bananas like you know who is not rodden!! .. It is absolutely sad that some unfortunate tourists experienced such horrible treatment at Honey Moon and I say to you .. thank you for your honesty and warning others not to go there!! Everyone deserves to be safe where ever they go in the Kimberley .. as for Kalumburu, it is a very nice spot but it's people need a lot of attention and help mentally to drive them in the right direction of life .. and as I am writing some one here saying to me, what these people need is someone to help them manage their anger, hunger, and their sex!!

Sep 15, 2010
Art, Culture, and Life in Kalumburu
by: Anonymous

Dear Francis

As per your comment "define our culture".. I bet if I ask you to define "culture" in Aboriginal Kalumburu you will not succeed either. In Australia we have the freedom of speech and can express our views on first hand experiences during our visits to Kalumburu as well as other places and meeting different people.

And in our visit for more than a week we saw no culture being practised in Kalumburu so what dancing you're on about?? .. and if the language were written, did the mission go any further to exercise teaching the young people to speak the language and preserve it that way?? .. the most frequent words we heard were f**k'n c**t! .. is this part of the culture that when some of the tourists declined to buy the local's paintings they were call f**k'n white c**ts??

Encouraged?? .. had you and the mission succeeded in your encouragement of the people of Kalumburu, their relationships are healed and the future of the young children are secured .. the adults would no longer impose their sexual gratifications on young and vulnerable children destroying their lives and their future.

With all due respect to Kalumburu and its people, it is a very nice spot to visit and there are great people that we've met there but there's also another side of the coin that we've experienced and some of those experiences were not very pleasant.

Apr 29, 2011
Kids and Kalumburu
by: Paul

I guess when you read all of the previous comments you probably come away with a "should I, shouldn't I" attitude.

Experiences with the local population can definitely be negative or positive...but that can be said for just about anywhere on the planet.

Kalumburu is an experience on many levels and if you want a cloisted holiday experience then Kalumburu isn't for you.

Scratch the surface of life in Kalumburu and you will find problems. However the people who I have met there, and the magnificence of the country far outweighs any negatives.

I have traveled to Kalumburu from the Gibb river and while I didn't stay in Kalumburu and chose to stay at McGowans instead, I never felt the sense of hostility that some of these comments portray.
I camped at McGowans with four kids under nine
and found the whole experience fantastic and was sorry to leave.

Its not five star, possibly not even one star but you make it work for you and that's the important bit. You need to wake up in the morning with the attitude that anything is possible.

My kids and I had an amazing time here and I will certainly be looking forward to returning albeit with stronger fishing line.

Nov 04, 2011
by: Anonymous

How much do you pay to climb the whitefella Sydney bridge?

Just in case you do not know, it is:
$208 Monday-Friday (per adult),
$212 Saturday-Sunday (per adult),
$298 Dawn (per adult).

It is $50 per vehicle (up to 4 people) that much for staying on Blackfella land for a week or longer?


Feb 10, 2012
by: jon aitchison.

Reading these coments about the Kalumburu people reminded me of my 4 1/2 years there as an essentail service officer. I got to see the people in a way few could and I enjoyed the characters and the stories of the war years and the yanks out at Trustcott.

The old spanish nuns were great and I was in the cook house for most smoko breaks making them a cup of tea and always welcomed with a smile and hello.

Plenty of fresh fish was my calling card and one would say you are one in a million. Then the other would say no he isn't. He is one in two million (nun humour).

I would say to those who wish to go there to keep an open mind towards these people and this place, be aware of your surroundings and plan your time there well.

Good luck to all who are willing to do this journey!

Apr 30, 2012
Our Family Loved Honeymoon
by: Anonymous

I travelled to Kulmburu 2 years ago with my 4 children, all under the age of 12 and stayed at Honeymoon. People there were great, fishing was great and I do not have even one bad word to say about the place. We are going back again this year and think it is one of the best places to go and have a holiday without the rat race of every day life.

May 20, 2012
My View on Kalumburu
by: gerald

By accident, I found this site.

I have been going annually for probably 15 years plus to Kalumburu, dragging a heavy boat behind me. First at McGowans when John Malatadj (apologies for the spelling) and George ran the Camp. After John died, went further on to Honeymoon where the best fishing areas and the Drysdale were closer. George also moved on to Honeymoon and is there now (2012).

All I can say its a a wonderful experience for anyone lucky enough to get there so don't be put off by some of the negative reports I read on this site. Some people would complain about everything.

I still have many friends there in the Aboriginal Community. Les is a friend, his wife Ruth and daughters and all have a great sense of humour. Lily Karadada is alive but is in a wheel chair and Jack regrettably passed on.

If you have the opportunity to take the trip, believe me, you won't regret it.

May 23, 2012
Great Page
by: Sophie

This page is wild great. lovly piches :)

Cheeers Sophie! Well Done! How do you do it?


Jun 26, 2012
It sounds lively
by: Steve

I'm heading up to Kalumburu in August with my wife and four friends.

We're planning on staying at Mc Gowans because we heard it was really nice, no other reason.

It sounds like the Kalumburu arae is like a lot of other small remote places with it's problems and characters.

I can't wait to get up there and experience it.
I promise I won't be trying to upset anyone, just have a holiday.

Sep 16, 2012
People Don't Know How Hard It Is
by: Lancho Davey (French)

To people who think that were jealous, or of others success, or of there business developing quicker. Were not!!

To my COUSIN whoever that may be?? That wrote the comment about MY GRAND FATHER; I have worked by his side. And at a young age l learned how hard it is to get things up and running. I am the only one that done the hard times with pop. I got pulled out of school to work and give him a hand at honeymoon bay.

We do not get help from the government or any indigenes co!! I've had to leave to work to earn money to support honeymoon, in order to keep it running. The cost of thing we need to get shipped cost money. The fuel in the community is $3.40 per liters; the income in the community is very low.

So how can u get things moving? Whoever your r COUSIN come and talk to me if u got the guts!!
FRANK I'm sorry for your experience at honeymoon bay but we all have people in our family that like to start trouble.


My pop (les) and I (Lancho or young les) run Honeymoon bay if anyone wants to come and experience my way of life your most welcome.

Sep 19, 2012
by: gerald paech

Just to confirm Lancho comments/views on Les French (Grandfather), they are accurate and some of the earlier comments by supposedly Tourists are ill informed, I have n ever found Les anything but helpful to Tourists, I often wonder what some people expect.Anyway Lancho keep the good work up.

Nov 14, 2012
by: Anonymous

Wow, what an entertaining thread! McGowans vs French!

Nov 28, 2012
by: Anonymous

I am very suspicious of the young catholic priest with blond curly hair and the young kids. The locals seamed scared of the self imposed manager, Bevan. Great museum with its war time history and local art; I was there about 2 years ago, worth a visit

Mar 17, 2013
Kalumburu is not the end of the track
by: MO

Kalumburu is not the end of the track. The track to Pago ruins continues on to Matilda Rock and then further on to Lullby, another 25 kilometres or so past Pago ruins.. There are tracks off to the sides that take you in a variety of directions all the way along this track to the north. I have been up and down this track on dozens of occasions and only found it difficult around late February and March when surface water on some black soil areas had us using the vehicle winch. Some of the water crossings were between 700-900mm deep but proved no real problem if carefully negotiated.
Following the track north will bring you out about 5 k's south-west of the Drysdale mouth.

Once you have passed Pago ruins you will drive past an old Grader long abandoned, the next track to your left about a k on will take you to Matilda rock and other beaches and headlands that are well worth the look. Continuing up the track from Matilda turn-off you will come across a few turn-offs to the left that take you to places like Glenn bay and the mouths of a number of creeks, these are better tackled in the winter(dry) when surface water is not an issue. A small tinny or car topper will be invaluable in this area as the mouths of the estuaries and creeks are shallow and have an excellent assortment of Barra, Jacks, Cod and Salmon not to mention the odd 'muddie'. This area is inhospitable country and care must be taken when negotiating through creeks and on the track itself as washouts and wild cattle can cause erosion and unforgiving holes that are hard to see sometimes. Never negotiate this track to the north of Pago by night, it is far too hazardous with the potential for much to go pear shaped in a hurry.
The tracks become water courses during the wet as they are below ground level and offer the easiest and quickest way for water to drain away. Don’t be tempted to leave the track and blaze a new one, far better to stick to the original track even though it may be under water.

Matt Waina cut a two blade width track adjacent to this track in November 2012; it is fine when it’s dry but deadly in the wet. It takes about 2-3 weeks of zero rainfall for these tracks to dry out completely and some of the creeks will be running hard while others are dry, when negotiating this country is aware that you’re on your own so plan well and enjoy some great country.

Mar 17, 2013
Kalumburu Clarrie Local Guide
by: Sheila

To get the most out of your visit to Kalumburu I recommend a tour with a gentleman and local tour guide Clarrie. You can get in touch with him through the office next to the local shop.

He will give you an excellent tour of rock art paintings in the rocky outcrops of the area, explaining the history culture and lives of his people in a time before the white fella came to town. He will point out bush tucker and more importantly what not to eat.

Clarrie is a born story teller and in his quiet understated way provides an informative and entertaining tour with memories which last long after the dust has settled.

Mar 28, 2013
Shaka Zulu
by: gary dunn

I have camped at les and Ruth's camp grounds and I can honestly say I have greatly enjoyed their hospitality. I hope to visit again this year. Onya lancho, your grand dad is a great friendly gentleman. I hope the fishing is still good. Cheers!!

May 04, 2013
by: Artemez

Healthy Land, Healthy People! Thank you Josie Farrer for being the guiding light for the Kimberley!

Jun 28, 2013
How Long?
by: Anonymous

How long from Perth to Kalumburu? I know how many K's but how many hours drive?

Jul 11, 2013
Father Anscar
by: Motherhen

While we felt privileged to meet this dynamic, entertaining and knowledgeable man in 2008 before he retired, he did extend his stay until 2011.

The collection of artefacts from around the world is amazing, and given enough time, Father Anscar cold tell a story about each and every one of them and how they came to this small and remote town of Kalumburu.

Sep 26, 2013
Looking for Moses
by: Charlotte

Last year I had the privilege to meet a remarkable man in Broome, called Moses. We stood watching the madness of humanity late at night on the Broome streets. Our shared sadness initiated a conversation which has stayed with me ever since. Moses lives in Kalumburu and I would dearly love to make contact with him. A message could be left for me on this link. Thank you.

Dec 08, 2013
Kalumburu & Honeymoon
by: The Off Roader

Great fishing amazing coastline sensational. Met the the French family seemed pretty nice people. My 4th trip from S.A

Had a great trip didn't have much to do with anyone BUT THE FISH.
By geez that Kulumburu Township has gone downhill 2013.

Shop is great packed with everything you need expensive but good fresh food very clean and nice help-full people who run it. as I say expensive but then considering the location no wonder. Mission looks great fuel very expensive roads crap as usual lotsa flash houses but the joint looks neglected.

May 18, 2014
by: R&R

We have been sailing the Kimberley Coast for years and often call into McGowan Island Camp to buy diesel for our boat. We have also anchored at Honeymoon Bay a number of times. I would say we have become good mates with the team at McGowan's.

We get a good laugh at the expense of the campers who drive their $100,000 FWD rigs in from the city, then complain about paying $20 per night to stay at these extremely remote camping grounds. They winge about not having power for their hair dryer, the shower doesn't have hot water, or they have to bring their own dunny paper.

Perhaps this small minority of city 4WD'ers should try living in a place where almost everything must be barged in from Darwin at great expense, you generate your own electricity, your water comes from a solar pump bore, you maintain the local roads yourself, you maintain all the equipment required to keep the place running, plus many other costs and jobs that most people would never have to pay for, or they would simply get someone else to do for them.

McGowan and Honeymoon do all this with no help from the Government and with both the camp's incomes coming from a tourist season that can be as short as 3-4 months per year when the Gibb or Kalumburu Roads are closed due to wet season flooding.

Fortunately, the majority of 4WD travelers who venture this far off the tar seal, have a more realistic and pragmatic attitude towards bush camping grounds such as McGowan Island and Honeymoon Bay.

We stay well clear of the local politics, but there is no doubt, the local's attitudes, culture and local politics are very different from "City Culture" and if your feelings are going to be hurt by a few "F's and C"s", or you are not willing to put up with some rugged local perspectives and a different approach to life, then this is not the place for you to visit. But, going by our experiences, you will be missing out on a very special place and some very special people.

GO McGOWAN and HONEYMOON!! Both are worth a visit and you can make your own decision where to stay when you get there.

May 19, 2014
by: Gerald. Paech

That last comment was amusing and spot on.George is now back at Honeymoon so things will be even better. Les should Lancho read this my sympathy following the passing of Ruth,I always enjoyed pulling her leg and she gave me as good as I gave her.bBedt wishes. Gerald

Aug 13, 2014
Kulumburu and surrounds
by: Snatchem

Without doubt the most disappointing place we visited on our trip of a life time to the Kimberley in May this year.
It's about time the community catered for the travellers who undertake the arduous road from GRR to the town.
We visited the town to see history only to be met with closed church,closed museum and rudeness from some who obviously consider they control the town.
Most people recognise the importance of the Tourist Dollar!
However there seems a number of folk who may be volunteers from Catholic Parish's around the country who do work hard,try to be helpful ,but have no support.
Contrary to the opinion of some recent posters I can confirm McGowans Caravan Park is a dump!
Kulumburu reeks of history that should be shared but will only become a destination when the old guard moves out of the way.
The town could easily become an Icon of Indiginous culture but it needs an aboriginal leader to step up now !!!!!

Aug 14, 2014
Response to snatchem
by: Gerald

Snatched Kalumburu obviously not for you
1.the Church is not there for the benefit of the odd tourist, it's not open every day like a City Cathedral.
2.Father Anscay developed the Museum, from memory it was open in the mornings by Father Anscay who is no longer in Kalumburu..No doubt the local store or Church run shop would have advised you of the opening hours.

3. Many years since I stopped at McGowans. Preferring Honeymoon due to the better fishing however I doubt very much if McGowans is as you described it as a "dump"

4 .mCGowans and Honeymoon do survive on Tourists but the rest of the Kalumburu population don't. and couldn't care less if you decide to travel the Gibb River Road then to Kalumburu.

5 Kalumbiru is not 5 star and never has been, every thing comes in my barge from Darwin so accept the limitations

Aug 14, 2014
Moses, Where is he?
by: MO

Moses Karadada lives in Kalumburu and moves in and out of the community.
Best to call the shop, clinic and corporation to ask if he is in town.
Local Police may know as well.

Aug 14, 2014
Response to Gerald
by: Snatchem

As a very proud West Aussie I had a real ambition to see Kulumburu and hopefully witness a society and town proud of their heritage and past.
Reading some of the earlier posts in this thread there appears to be major underlining problems which I obviously felt and witnessed during my short stay in the town.
The locals have no direction
There seems no motivation
There is no local industry.
The biggest and most impressive structure is the Police station
Like it or not Tourism is an answer - it will not destroy the town but will breath some much needed motivation into the locals.
On a positive note the young kids who sit on the verandah of the shop were bubbly and fun loving and they deserve a better future don't you think?
Finally my recollection of the Catholic faith was that a Church door is never closed !!!

Jan 15, 2015
Love Kalumburu
by: Kerrie

Stumbled across this site -,so will comment. Spent 3 months at the end if the dry season, 2014 at Honeymoon. The kids attended Kalumburu school and we felt part of a great family. I just love it up there - as a tourist, an outsider - I felt welcomed into a beautiful family and experienced a different way of life. I have to thank the family at Honeymoon for your warmth and willingness to share, I have to thank the kind people of Kalumburu for welcoming us into your community. Well worth the 1000's of km - and we will be back. A life changer if you open your eyes and heart!!

Apr 24, 2015
ill be there soon
by: barry

hi all i'm comming up your way in july and i hope that it's evry thing that I hope it to be
I judge people by how they treat me not what others say or do
hope to meet you all then

May 02, 2015
We Will See For Ourselves
by: MikeR

Look forward to visiting this part of the country August this year. I have no doubt there are local politics and social issues a plenty etc. etc. etc. I have dragged my carcass and my families all over Aus for 30 years + and have been to many remote and not so remote communities, both black and white.

Almost without exception I have found the locals reflect, like a mirror, the attitudes and actions of visitors/tourists. Jeez, I've endured enough smart arse out-of-towners to just want to see the back of them and I wasn't even the local. My expectation of visiting Kulumbaru is no different to anywhere else in the Aussie back blocks - show some respect to the locals, you will probably get it back, pull ya horns in and enjoy a different part of the planet...don't judge. Dig a bit deeper if you get the opportunity.


Apr 27, 2016
Kalumburu (Home)
by: Desley Gallagher

Discard all the negative comments, Kalumburu is a great place.

Aug 02, 2016
Honeymoon Bay and Kalumburu
by: Val

My husband and I visited the area a few years ago to catch up with my brother who has spent several months a year at Honeymoon Bay every year for about the last 15 to 20 years. He likens it to paradise!!!
We think that area of Australia including all of the Kimberley is amazing.
We met Les and some of his family members who were very friendly and welcoming.
We camped at Honeymoon and sure it wasn't five-star but we had done our research and didn't expect it to be. However, the warm welcome, the serenity, the climate and the scenery etc. well and truly outweighed the lack of a few home comforts.
We would love to have the opportunity to visit the area again and stay longer than before.
I was shocked to read a number of negative and biased comments.

Aug 05, 2016
Been there...done that!
by: Miker

I placed a post a little over 12 months ago saying we were heading up to Kulumbaru in Aug/Sept 2015 and we would of course form our own opinions.

Well we have. We travelled through Kulumbaru and were very impressed with the friendly and genuinely helpful locals. I think, quite frankly I'd probably be a little more jaded if I were a local with a steady stream of tourists shuffling through. The community was clean, well provisioned and well orderly.

We visited both camp areas and stayed at McGowan's for no other reason than shade and beach proximity. It was a very enjoyable few days and we met and chatted with the owner (can't recall his name right now). Had a few beers with him and his mob on the beach and shared some of my homemade Beef Jerky. Got his views on the world - the black fellas place in it, and relationships with the white community. He was frank and his opinions pretty valid in my books.

We left on a Saturday morning and drove back through town. We caught the tail end of a small riot as it were. Apparently some of the boys had gotten into the grog the previous night and things got a bit dodgy. The shops shut up, the cop's car had it's windscreen smashed and there was a general push and shove session between the locals with many armed with sticks, fence pailings etc.

We never felt targeted as tourists/whites. This was local/family business. It did of course leave an impression.

It was what it was. A slice of reality in this community. I would suggest not uncommon, nor indicative.

Would we go back? In an instant!

As a white middle class male who has never walked in their shoes I would never judge, but have a right to my opinions.

I hope the community continues to embrace us travellers, albeit in increasing numbers, and if you've not been to this part of the world, do yourself a favour and have a squizz. It definitely has a magic to it.

Mike Rowley.

Aug 06, 2016

by: Birgit

Thank you, Mike, for your perceptive, thoughtful and well worded comment.

Jan 12, 2017
by: Oni

Visited the place 3 times over the last few years, absolutely love it. Stayed right on the beach in Honeymoon Bay, everyone leaves you alone. Facilities basic but didn't expect anything different. Fishing awesome and everyone friendly.
What I did notice in town is that they get a delivery of fruit and veg once a week on Tuesdays I think. The tourist rush into the shop and buy it all in the dry season and there is nothing left for the locals.
I felt sorry for them. Why would the shop sell all the fresh food to the tourist or not increase their stock levels sufficiently in the busy season? I would think the locals should have prioriy.
The track in from Drysdale gets a bit overgrown after the wet and you feel like you are lost for many kilometres. Use your GPS.
I would go back again.

Jan 31, 2017
Great time at Honeymoon Bay
by: Wayne

I booked a trip in 1995 with Les at Honeymoon Bay with 4 friends from Sydney who flew in after I drove in with the supplies.
Our experience with Les ranged from interesting to fantastic. We booked 2 boats with Les who arranged numerous trips down the Drysdale River, Lush Point and Drysdale River.

We were experienced fishermen and traveler and now 20 years on we all agree that Honeymoon Bay was the best trip for any of us.

Les in his own style was the perfect host, I have no idea who McGowen is but you can't go past Honeymoon Bay for the experience of a lifetime, definitely not 5 star but a 5 star experience.

This is something you have to do once in your life... call Les and ask him to arrange a trip up the Drysdale to fish under the waterfall and the creeks, catch mud crabs, sit under waterfalls, try not to get eaten by crocodiles... haha, this is an adventure affordable to anyone with a heart for adventure... I hope to bring my sons soon to see what other adventures are around Honeymoon Bay... Cheers, Wayne Austin

Nov 05, 2017
Honeymoon vs. McGowan's
by: Tommy & Kate

We stayed in both Honeymoon and McGowan's for a week in each this June 2017 dry season.

Despite dropping into McGowan's on the way to check it out, we first stayed at Honeymoon as our mates were already there waiting for us. We found the Honeymoon Bay managers (Joy and Lancho?) to be lovely people and were always willing to go out of their way to assist us. Apparently Les only pops his head in every month or so as he mainly lives in Kununurra these days. Fishing off the beach was pretty good and fishing in their charter boat at $200 per person was well worth the money. Not much shade though and facilities were very basic and somewhat rustic. Drinking water was very ordinary sadly. They had wifi and a public phone but no mobile phone access anywhere up this way. A yellow tourist permit ($50 per vehicle purchased from Kalumburu) was required to stay here.

After a week at Honeymoon we then all went to stay at the wonderful McGowan's Sunset Beach campground 7km south-west of Honeymoon. We found the new caretaker (Matt) to be very friendly and very helpful. Plenty of shady trees to camp under too which was a bonus. Really good fishing from the beach and plenty of huge oysters around the rocks. We really enjoyed the 20-30min (low-tide) walk over to McGowan's Island 100m off-shore as well. No fishing charters here, but they apparently get on well with the guys at Honeymoon these days, and Lancho will also take McGowan guests on his fishing charters which is a bonus. Beautiful drinking water at McGowan's which was a BIG bonus. No wifi or phone, but they said they would have it all sorted by 2018. The yellow tourist permit was also required to stay there too.

We loved the small Aboriginal town of Kalumburu. The locals were very friendly and it was a pleasure seeing the local art gallery, water holes and Aboriginal rock paintings in the gorges nearby. The two shops in town were well stocked and they told us that they always order excess stock over the dry season to account for the extra tourists - so we didn't feel so bad buying goods knowing that the locals wouldn't be disadvantaged. The barge from Darwin comes in every fortnight with fresh food and other supplies. The only fuel (diesel $3 per litre and petrol $2.70 per litre) is obtainable at the mission store (from 7.30am-11am/1.30-4pm Mon-Fri and 8am-11am Sat).

We had a fantastic few weeks up there and we will be back in a couple of years. We found all the entries on WikiCamps to give some good info as well!

Thanks for the detailed update, Tommy and Kate! Appreciate it.

Jun 14, 2021
McGowan Island naming NEW
by: Anonymous

To clear up all the stories of how the island was named, these are the facts. The Hmas Arrow, a naval patrol boat out of Darwin, surveyed the Sound in 1974. No islands were named at the time so the crew picked an island. Able seaman radio operator McGowan chose the now McGowan Island. The ship consequently sank during cyclone tracey with the loss of two crewmen

Click here to add your own comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Mitchell Falls.

Travelling to the Kimberley?

The FREE Kimberley Pocket Guide
A great introduction to travel in the Kimberley region and along the Gibb. This free resource will answer all the questions you might have in the early stages of planning a trip.

Destination Kimberley
The full Kimberley travel guide shows you how to make the most of your adventure at Australia's last frontier. Destination Kimberley includes the most detailed and most current guide to the Gibb River Road available anywhere. Also called "The Bible" by its readers.

Travelling to the Northern Territory?

Destination Top End offers the same comprehensive, detailed insider information for the tropical regions of the Northern Territory. Be the best informed traveller in the Kakadu, Litchfield and Katherine Gorge national parks and beyond!

A must have if you travel to or from Darwin.

NEW! Destination Red Centre is the latest addition in this popular series. Monica Coleman takes you through Australia's red Outback heart, offering all the detail and insider tips that you have come to know and love about our guides. With special emphasis on Aboriginal communities and culture.

A must have if you travel to or from Alice Springs/Uluru.

Return to top

Return to home page