Natural Beauty

12 October 2010

It’s a long way from anywhere, but the lengthy haul to Kununurra rewards visitors like few other self-drive destinations in Western Australia

If scenery and birdlife is your thing, then Kununurra, in the East Kimberley and not far from the NT border, surpasses all the other regional towns. Just stepping out your back door in most cases will have you marvelling at the array of birds flitting around, and without much effort you will see beautiful red rock ranges rising from the ground no matter which way you look.


Kununurra has recently been in the spotlight as being one of the locations where the blockbuster Australia movie was filmed. But the real star of this area is its natural beauty. Established in 1963, Kununurra was set up to service the Ord River Irrigation Scheme. It is this scheme that has provided this town of 6500 residents with a home like no other in the north-west.


The abundant water that surrounds the town has been created by the construction of the Diversion Dam. Lake Kununurra is the main body of water and it harbours a variety of wetlands that offer permanent homes to a huge range of birds as well as bats, fish, turtles, crocodiles and water monitors.


Combine this with the surrounding red rock formations of Kellys Knob, Hidden Valley, the Sleeping Buddah and the nearby Deception Ranges, and you have the unlikely coalescence of rugged outback interspersed with calming tranquil beauty.


Choosing which location to camp at is a difficult task given they all have a lot to offer. Three parks are on the water. Lakeside Resort and Kimberleyland are on Lily Creek Lagoon and close to town. Sunsets from both parks are divine, and from Kimberleyland you can see a variety of birds nesting in (dead) trees in the lagoon.

From both locations you could spot freshwater crocodiles at night using a torch.


Discovery Parks Lake Kununurra (formerly known as Kona) is situated on the main body of the lake, right next to an excellent restaurant and the local golf course. It is very, very shady and offers sites right on the water’s edge.


The Hidden Valley Tourist Park is right next to the national park (NP) of the same name. It has increased in size in recent years adding another 70 powered sites. Hidden Valley NP is like a mini Bungle Bungles and offers around five different walks, which can be accessed from the caravan park. Town Caravan Park is about to be renamed Travelfresh Kununurra and is undergoing some serious renovations including a restaurant on site. Ivanhoe Village Tourist Park offers a five-star rating and an excellent reputation. It is part of the Big4 chain. The seventh spot is at the Agricultural Showgrounds (opposite Ivanhoe), which is ideal for dogs or big rigs. It is an easy walk into town from both sites.


From any of these parks, you could be sitting under your awning and at least 10 different bird species could pass by you. Finches (at least five different varieties), ibis, honeyeaters, bowerbirds, babblers and willie wagtails are a certainty, but depending on which location you have chosen you could easily be viewing herons, egrets, jacanas, cormorants, darters, woodswallows, fairy martins, pigeons, kookaburras, kingfishers, pelicans, osprey, ducks, parrots and perhaps even a clamorous reed warbler or cisticola.


In particular the busy crimson finches, the rainbow bee eaters and the swooping woodswallows are always a delight to watch. And how refreshing – no seagulls, sparrows, starlings, Indian miners or blackbirds!


A natural phenomenon that occurs pretty well 365 days of the year is the late afternoon expedition of thousands of fruit bats, which sees them launch from their tree colonies into the sky in their masses at sunset in search of food. This can be viewed from just about anywhere in Kununurra, and it is definitely worth stopping and watching. You won’t believe the spectacle of it until you witness it.


If you ever tire of the wildlife at your back door (which on the lake will includes freshwater crocodiles), you can head off for a daytrip out of town to discover other scenic rarities. Lake Argyle, 70km away, is a stunning drive and will provide panoramas you’d expect from the movie. In the other direction, Wyndham, 100km away, is the land of the boab and home to the Cockburn Ranges, one of the region’s best. Don’t miss the Five Rivers Lookout.


A best-kept secret is the Parry’s Creek Farm (near Wyndham), which is not a farm as such, but more like an eco-retreat and natural wildlife park complete with cabins, camping ground and café. The lunches are wholesome, fresh and tasty, and much, much better than what you’d expect from such a remote operation.


The Keep River National Park (51km) and El Questro Station (110km) are another two ‘out of town’ options, and the best things about all of these destinations is that you can stay overnight at them all if a daytrip just isn’t enough.


In my books, a must-do is a trip on Lake Kununurra, the Ord River or Lake Argyle. If you don’t get out on the water in this location you are missing the heart and soul of this town. Triple J Tours, the BBQ Boat or Lake Argyle Cruises all offer excellent experiences. For the more eco-minded or budget oriented there are canoes and paddle boats for hire. The ultimate experience is probably Triple J Cruises ‘LAOrd’ which navigates the entire length of Lake Kununurra and part of the Ord River (55km) and spends three hours on the ‘big lake’ ($250).


Another reason Kununurra is in the spotlight is due to the advance of the dreaded cane toad. First introduced in Queensland in 1935, it is threatening to penetrate the west. Several groups are trying to slow the advance of these pests and keep Kununurra and WA cane toad free, as they are a threat to a range of wildlife and the unique biodiversity of the region.


Toad mustering is now an annual event in the area. If you would like more information or to help, contact the Stop the Toad Foundation on (08) 9420 7266 or go to




Driving distance from Perth – 3200km
Driving distance from Broome – 1100km
Driving distance from Darwin – 830km




  1. Boat Cruise on Lake Kununurra and/or the Ord River. or
  2. Drive to Lake Argyle, fish and chips at the pub, afternoon tea in the picnic grounds (boat cruises available).
  3. Day tour to Wyndham with lunch at the spectacular Parry’s Creek Farm.
  4. Venture across the border to the Keep River National Park.
  5. Scour the valley – fresh produce, rock work, locally made rum, Hidden Valley National Park, Ivanhoe Crossing and much more.
  7. The Lakeside Resort and Caravan Park has two nights a week that present good eating value. Wednesday night is steak night, where for $20 you get a decent-size steak, salad and a jacket potato. Friday nights is fish and chips for $15. Fish is tasty, chips are good.
  8. Zebra Rock Gallery – at only $1 entry, this attraction is a must-do. Apart from watching the stone workers on site you can have lunch, feed the frenetic catfish, bird watch (they have a very large group of friendly peacocks that are a delight for kids) or buy a very unique souvenir of the area.
  9. The Hoochery is a small pot distillery currently producing over 1000 bottles a week of 80% proof sugar cane spirit. Short tours are available or you can just enjoy a tasting for only $2. Try the Cane Royale Liqueur! (700ml 28% alc $49.50 per bottle inc GST)
  10. For all local information and tour bookings you should contact the very helpful crew at the Kununurra Visitor Centre on (08) 9168 1177 or go to





Discovery Holiday Parks – Lake Kununurra (formerly known as Kona Caravan Park)

Kimberleyland Caravan Park (on Lily Creek Lagoon)

Lakeside Resort

(motel and caravans also on Lily Creek Lagoon and also take dogs)




Ivanhoe Village Caravan Resort (Big 4 Holiday Parks)




Town Caravan Park




Kununurra Agricultural Showgrounds

By Vanessa Hayden

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