More than any other region in Australia, the Kimberley allows you to examine the origins of the Australian continent. The oldest rocks in the Kimberley were formed some 2000 million years ago and virtually all Kimberley rocks are more than 400 million years old. The Kimberley is unique because, unlike most other areas in the world, very little geological activity has occurred since the rock formations were formed. The last period of intense mountain building in the Kimberley was 1700 million years ago.
The Kimberley region offers some mind-numbing statistics: With an area of approx. 421,000 sq. km, the region is larger than Japan and much larger than the United Kingdom. Yet, in this vast area, there are only three towns with a population over 2,000, and a total population of only about 35,000 for the region.
Although Captain Cook was the first European to explore the east coast of the continent, he certainly did not discover Australia. Before he set foot on this great land in 1770, people had visited the north-west corner of the continent for hundreds, if not thousands of years.
The first arrivals were Aboriginals (at least 40,000 years before anyone else), and they came to stay. Chinese and Arab traders also made brief contact with the Kimberley coast in the centuries before the first Europeans landed here. The earliest recorded European exploration of the Kimberley coast was a Dutchman, Abel Tasman in 1644. The best known early explorer was the Englishman William Dampier aboard the Cygnet who sailed into King Sound in 1688. Dampier’s exploits are commemorated by Kimberley place names that include Roebuck Bay, Cygnet Bay, and the Buccaneer Archipelago.
The Kimberley coastline is arguably one of the most dramatic in the world and, in particular, the area from the Buccaneer Archipelago to the Bonaparte Archipelago. This diverse coastline is timeless but far from static with 12 metre tides (the second largest in the world) providing two way cascades of water twice a day. This part of the Kimberley coast is inaccessible by land and so retains its untouched beauty.
An alternative is to cruise the coastline in purpose built ships. These range in size and will accommodate small groups of up to 12 or larger parties of over 70. The larger boats have more facilities and may offer a wider range of tours and trips whereas the smaller tour boats offer a more personalised service. Most cruises start and finish at Darwin, Broome or Wyndham and duck in and out of the many inlets, gorges and bays as well as visit offshore islands and reefs. All cruises will include boat trips to beaches, waterfalls and billabongs and some offer helicopter flights to more remote areas or entry to see rock art caves.
If you prefer to get even closer to nature you can try one of the many canoeing and Sea kayaking expeditions. It’s a great way to experience the majesty of the gorges, the tranquillity of the rivers and ocean and the beauty of the region’s abundant wildlife.