How can I see Mitchell Falls on a Kimberley cruise?

What are the Mitchells Falls?

The Mitchell Falls is one of my seven top Kimberley cruise icons but it many travellers choose not to see it.

These four-tiered falls (not three as people sometimes think) are the embodiment of the rugged Kimberley landscape. Framed in layered sandstone the falls were carved by water from the Mitchell River which has created four descending pools each with its own waterfall. They are spectacular.

The second tallest falls in Western Australia, the Mitchell Falls were named after former state premier Sir James Mitchell in 1921. Some 80km in height, the falls are best seen when there is enough water to plummet down all four falls. Of course, planning a trip in the wet season might not appeal, but it is worth considering this factor when booking your trip.

Getting to the Mitchell Falls from a Kimberley cruise is a challenge because they are about 30km inland from the coast. This is the only one of my 7 Kimberley cruise icons that is not viewable from sea or via a quick land excursion by foot. The only option is to take a helicopter trip. This is why some Kimberley cruise passengers choose not to see the falls as not everyone is a fan of this mode of transport. Nor is it cheap quite honestly– around $600 – $700 per person and even more on some vessels. Personally I think if you get the opportunity to see the falls you should take it.

In fact even for if you are travelling by car getting to the Mitchell Falls is not straight-forward as need a 4WD to the Mitchell Falls Camping Ground via the Gibb River Road. From the campsite it is a 6km round trip hike to the falls themselves).

The True North has its own helicopter but almost all the other operators work with third party helicopter companies to offer this excursion to their passengers. Usually you will have a briefing early on the cruise about the excursion and an opportunity to book. Virtually all the cruise operators do not need you to book this in advance; you book onboard and the cost is added to your on-board account to settle at the end of the cruise. The overall weight on board the aircraft is critical so you will be asked your weights at time of booking.

Picture taken from the ground view of Mitchell Falls

What is the helicopter excursion to Mitchell Falls like?

Usually you start with a transfer by boat to a beach. You’ll wait excitedly/nervously with your fellow travellers for your transport. You will hear them first before they appear over the rocks and land. They usually take 4 passengers. You will quickly get in and then you are off. I must mention that usually there are no rear doors, presumably to reduce weight, but don’t worry you are firmly strapped in. You will be given a headset so you can hear commentary from the pilot.

Picture taken from the ground view of Mitchell Falls

As you travel by air, you will notice the ever-changing landscape, very rugged rocky exposure morphing to forests of gum and white box and then to rainforest. Fan Palms are a rare sight, and Mitchell River National Park is only one of few places where you will see them in such numbers. If flying in a helicopter is new to you – well please try and relax, it really is quite safe. I know this is easy to say of course but it is an exhilarating trip. Once you get to the falls you will get a real appreciation for just how vast the Mitchell River is and take in the multiple drop points of the four-tiered falls. You will realise that view from the air makes the whole project worthwhile. The chopper pilots will allow you to view the falls from multiple angles, flying a figure of eight both letting you absorb the experience within the moment and by getting those precious mementos for the family album back at home.

Mitchell Falls from the air

You usually have the option of a quick landing as well enabling a quick walk for another view of the falls from terra firma and possibly an opportunity for a quick dip (not in the falls themselves). Home to a great variety of birds, reptiles and amphibians it is also one of the only places where you might be lucky enough to spot a Monjon (a rare rock wallaby) and unlucky enough to spot a rough-scaled python or saltwater crocodile.

As one of the most photographed sites in the Kimberley, it is always worth remembering that this place is both culturally and spiritually significant. In this instance, it is the Wunambal Gaambera and Willinggin people, who are the traditional owners and joint managers of the Mitchell River National Park.To the Wunambal people the falls are “Punamii-Uunpuu’.


About Jenny

I’m an expert in small ship cruising in the Kimberley and have completed four cruises on different vessels along this spectacular coastline. With a family I now work part-time so if you would like to have a chat with me about Kimberley cruising at a time that suits you book in a call here  and I will call you then.

Cruises in the Kimberley are not ‘one size fits all’ scenario; there are different ships and itineraries each offering their own special elements.  If you would like some general information to start your research then download my free guide to Kimberley cruising here.   I have also written some really interesting blogs (if I do say so myself) click here to have read.