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A region of red dust, endless skies, stunning sunsets, big rivers and huge gorges, the Kimberley is often romantically described as Australia’s last frontier. It’s a wilderness dotted with barely viable cattle stations, isolated Aboriginal communities and, increasingly, vast tracts of Aboriginal land, all edged with a ragged, tide-swept coastline inhabited chiefly by crocodiles, secluded pearling operations and a couple of exclusive, fly-in getaways. The land is king here, with devoted locals making annual pilgrimages to their favourite spots armed with only a swag and an esky in the Dry, before retreating in the Wet. When the dry season sets in around April, tourism in the Kimberley gradually comes back to life, with tours running mainly between thriving Broome and Kununurra along the iconic Gibb River Road, or down to the mysterious Bungle Bungles, south of Highway 1 near Halls Creek. Adventurous travellers are increasingly heading for the stirring scenery around Cape Leveque and Mitchell River National Park: the many warnings that accompany journeys to these parts can be daunting, but armed with a good 4WD and a dash of Outback knowledge you should be fine.

The harsh realities of indigenous life are displayed at every turn in the Kimberley, particularly in towns along the highway such as Halls Creek and Fitzroy Crossing. One of the less confronting manifestations of this is the region’s array of Aboriginal art; Broome’s narrow streets are crammed with gorgeous small galleries, while rural rocks hold many examples of enigmatic Wandjina paintings and the slender Bradshaw figures, some thought to be around 17,000 years old.

The best time to visit is from June to September, the coolest months; by late September the heat is already building up and even Highway 1 closes periodically from January to March following storms or cyclones. Night comes early and fast in the Kimberley – most visitors adapt to a routine of rising with the sun (often the best time to get some driving done) and retiring soon after sunset. Temperatures can stay stifling into the early hours, so a 4WD and a mozzie dome can be preferable to a campervan in these parts – make sure you erect tents and insect domes well away from waterholes in crocodile country.

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