Kimberley Without 4WD Experience. Are We Mad?

by Annette

My daughter and I plan to hire a 4WD from Broome next September and drive across to Purnululu via Windjana and possibly Geike Gorges, then to camp at Purnululu and walk to Piccaninny & back before returning to Kooljaman.

We have no 4WD driving experience, although I worked for a safari company in Zimbabwe for years and so am pretty safety conscious about heat / crocodiles / bush walking, etc and we'll have a sat phone with us (comes with the 4WD).

Are we mad?! My cousin (lives in Perth) says we are... What do you think? (If I promise to ask the 4WD guy how to engage 4WD!)


Kimberley Without 4WD Experience Response

Hi Anette!

The trip you describe does not require any four wheel driving. You are barely touching the Kimberley, just skirting around the bottom, mostly along bitumen.

  • The road to Windjana Gorge is unsealed, maybe corrugated, but otherwise it's a normal road.

  • Geikie Gorge is all bitumen.

  • The track into Purnululu is the worst out of your selection but is not technically difficult to drive. It's very bumpy, that's all. The worst case scenario is that you have to drive much slower than you would like to or had planned to. The only time of the year it may be difficult is April/May because of the creek crossings. In September you will not see any water at all. Just take it easy.

  • The road to Kooljaman is being upgraded every year, the top half of it is sealed. The unsealed section that is left can be badly corrugated, which is a pain in the you know what, but it is certainly not difficult.

There are no saltwater crocodiles in the areas you are visiting. All the roads are very busy. You have a sat phone. I can't see where there is anything to worry about.

Don't speed, don't drive at dawn or dusk or night time. Take a hat and sunscreen and drink enough. Please, please, ignore your cousin, and enjoy your trip! :-)


I think you and your daughter should return to Kooljaman along the Gibb River Road, not the highway. It's unlikely that you will visit this part of the world again, and you would miss a lot if you only skirted the bottom corner. By the time you get to Purnululu you will know that your cousin exaggerated wildly, so maybe you could just keep that option open to decide when you get there? Although I realise that it is certainly a time issue.

Kimberley Without 4WD Experience Follow Up

Anette also asked in the comments:

  • I believe that we need to pre-book Kooljaman well in advance so that would set those dates?

  • Any ideas of other things we really don't want to miss? I'd love to get off the tarmac.

Hi again Anette!

Yes, I'd book Kooljaman in advance. However, if they are full, Middle Lagoon (which is on the way) is beautiful, too. So is One Arm Point (east of Kooljaman). You can't stay at One Arm Point itself, but there is a nice bush camping site before you get there, called Gambanan. (That's where they'd tell you to go anyway if you asked at One Arm Point.)
You can still visit Kooljaman during the day then if you like. I think they charge a 10 dollar day entry fee that gives you access to the beaches and all.

Seeing you only have two weeks the Gibb River Road is probably a bit too much to tackle. It certainly does not present any problems for your driving skills or experience, really. Anybody can drive the Gibb River Road. But you will run out of time. Three weeks would be a good time for a full round trip including Cape Leveque.

Other things you don't want to miss? Hmm. You didn't mention Tunnel Creek, but seeing it's next to Windjana I assumed you would visit it as well. I definitely would.
If you don't mind bush camping I can recommend the RAAF quarry on the same road. It's the most beautiful camp site I know of in the Kimberley at the moment.

Another good place to get off the tarmac if you don't find time for the Gibb River Road is the Duncan Road from Halls Creek. There are several nice camp sites not that far from Halls Creek. (Caroline Pool and Sawpit Gorge. Marella Gorge is my favourite, but it's a bit further and difficult to find.) Might be a nice detour for one night before heading back towards Broome along the bitumen.

Comments for Kimberley Without 4WD Experience. Are We Mad?

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Sep 01, 2007
Hi Birgit!
by: Anette

You are so great - always so enthusiastic in your response and that's encouraging :-)
I'm flexible, although I believe that we need to pre-book Kooljaman well in advance so that would set those dates? We have around two weeks to spend at the top end and then need to start thinking about getting back down to Perth & family to catch up. Any ideas of other things we really don't want to miss?
The idea is to get away, so if we can take other roads (perhaps as you say when we are a bit more confident having driven around for a few days) I'd love to get off the tarmac. I don't mind corrugated / dirt roads, done many years of teeth rattling / bum aching driving!

Sep 01, 2007
Thank You
by: Birgit

Thanks for the kudos :-).
I'll edit the main page to include the answers to your questions there. They are of interest for others as well.

May 18, 2018
Caroline Pool
by: Jenny McKellar

Hi Birgit,
Great to have you back and writing again!!
I was out on the Duncan Rd last August and was looking forward to taking my partner to camp at Caroline Pool as I had loved it the last time. But there was a sign up saying that the water had an algae problem and wasn't safe for swimming. The water level was also very low. It may be OK now however. So we went further up and camped instead by Palm Springs instead. Although it is right on the road and only has three camping spots it was beautiful and lovely to swim in with it being spring fed etc.

Hope this helps.

Kind Regards,

Thanks, Jenny! I emailed you. B.

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