Many Kimberley travellers don't know about our agricultural quarantine until they reach the border checkpoint at the Western Australia - Northern Territory border.
Only then do they find out what you can and can't bring into WA and the Kimberley, and often it means that a lot of perfectly good fruit and vegetables end up in the border checkpoint rubbish bins...
You can not bring fresh fruit, vegetables and some other things into the Kimberley or Western Australia!
This page tells you more about the quarantine. What exactly is it? Why is it in place? What can and can't you bring with you when you visit us?
You may already know that all of Australia has very strict quarantine laws and regulations. These restrictions don't usually cause problems for the average traveller. I can't imagine anybody flying into Australia with bags full of soil or fresh produce...
It's a different story when people travel around Australia. Backpackers but also campers and caravanners are often self sufficient rather than relying on restaurants, and often they carry fresh food stuffs in their vehicles.
Well, not only Australia as a whole is worried about travellers importing pests and diseases. Many weeds, pests and diseases that are present on the populated east coast haven't reached Western Australia yet, thanks to the incredible amounts of empty dry country in between...
However, seeds, bugs, their eggs, spores, microbes etc. can of course travel on plants, fruits and vegetables when they are transported, and therefore a lot of those can't be moved between states unless they are treated and certified. (A list of restricted items is at the bottom of this page.)
If you fly into WA you have to declare restricted items at the airport or risk massive fines. (But again, people who fly rarely carry much food.)
For people who enter WA driving there are two major border quarantine checkpoints. (That's right, there are only two main roads into WA...)
One is in the south of Australia (the SA-WA border near Eucla). The other checkpoint is on the Victoria Highway between Katherine and Kununurra, about 40 km east of Kununurra.
Now, that border checkpoint is particularly strict, because not only are you entering Western Australia, you are also entering the Ord River Irrigation Area.
The Ord River Irrigation Area is a major tropical fruit growing area, and it is the only area within Western Australia that is free of damaging fruit flies.
Fruit flies are not just an inconvenience. Due to our isolation, the long distances to markets and the associated costs, the growers here really rely on that fruit fly free status. To lose it would place a huge financial burden on agricultural businesses in the area and would make some of them not viable.
So please, don't do what I so often read on travel blogs, proudly reported by ignorant backpackers or caravanners: don't hide your fruit and vegetables to get them through the checkpoint. You may just wipe out some people's livelihoods to save a few cents on buying more oranges...
Even if your fruit didn't carry any disease, the fines are steep, and your car could be searched by sniffer dogs. So could your bag at the Kununurra airport, and mobile checkpoints may operate in other areas and on lesser roads.
To top it all off, we now also have the cane toads on our door step (though that's a different story for a different page on this site).
For now just let me assure you that your vehicle will be thoroughly searched. So when you leave Katherine, only take as much fresh food as you will eat before you reach Western Australia and Kununurra. Easy.
By the way, there are no such strict quarantine restrictions when you travel in the other direction, from WA into the NT. The quarantine is in place to protect WA and the ORIA region. You do not endanger our growers by exporting fruit fly free stuff from WA.