The Kimberley Coast is a spectacular part of our country yet only a lucky few get to witness it. The Kimberley region is massive in size (423,517 square km in fact) with a coast-line of 12000 km and more than 2500 islands. Yep; it’s huge.
We are often asked ‘what are the must see sights of a Kimberley cruise” Well here are my top 7 picks.
Note that Kimberley cruise itineraries need a degree of flexibility; these are expedition cruises operating in a wilderness, so it is not realistic to have a rigid schedule. Occasionally certain locations have to be missed out on a Kimberley cruise due to factors beyond the operator’s control – such as environmental safeguards, adverse tides or a request from the traditional owners to not land in some places. But in general, you are pretty much guaranteed to see these icons on most Kimberley cruises.
Undoubtedly the Number One Kimberley cruise experience that most people ask for is this; the majestic Horizontal Waterfalls. Massive tidal movements create a waterfall effect as water banks up against one side of the narrow cliff passage, to be repeated again on the turning tide. The sight of the turquoise blue water rushing between the rugged red hills is a unique experience which demonstrates the awesome power of the Kimberley tides. Even more exhilarating is powering through the falls in a speedy boat. Cross it off your bucket list today!
The King George Falls plunges an extraordinary 100 metres over a sandstone cliff into tidal waters. It marks the end of a 10-kilometre gorge carved by the King George River on its way to Koolama Bay. This is a truly astounding and picturesque visual. The Falls are a magnificent sight at any time of the cruising season but of course they are at that most spectacular at the end of the Wet Season (March-May) as hundreds of gallons of water tumbles down the rockface every second.
Note the King George Falls are not part of Kimberley cruise itineraries that start or finish at the Hunter River.
Montgomery Reef, Australia’s largest inshore reef, is a spectacle to behold as the entire reef appears to rise from the ocean on a falling tide of up to 10m. Of course it is the tide going out that gives it this effect – the actual rise is not rising!. These powerful outgoing tides, form hundreds of babbling waterfalls that expose a vast reef, shallow lagoons, sea-grass beds and occasional islets. Best experienced right up close in a small boat.
4. Mermaid Tree
There is plenty of history in the Kimberley; both ancient and comparatively recent. A major highlight of colonial history is the National Heritage-listed Mermaid boab tree, located at Careening Bay in Prince Regent National Park. Careening Bay was named by Lieutenant Phillip Parker King after his ship, HMC Mermaid, was careened there in order to repair a leak. While waiting for the Mermaid to be repaired Lieutenant Phillip Parker King had members of his crew inscribe a boab tree with the words HMC MERMAID 1820, to record his visit. HMC stands for ‘Her Majesty’s Cutter’ by the way.
5. Ancient Rock Art
Two major traditions of rock art are seen in the Kimberley – Gwion Gwion Bradshaw figures and Wandjina rock art. Claimed to be some of the earliest figurative art, the Gwion Gwion or Gyorn Gyorn paintings were first seen by European eyes in the late 1890’s. Their distinguishing feature is the stick-like human figures, often depicted with adornments of tassels or sashes. No Kimberley cruise would be complete without viewing these amazing traditions and you will usually see both types during your cruise.
I love the Mitchell Falls and most Kimberley cruises offer the opportunity to view them which is why they are on my list. However these falls are not on the Kimberley coast but around 30km inland. To view these four inter-connected waterfalls on a Kimberley cruise requires and optional (travel industry jargon for ‘will cost extra’) for a helicopter trip to view them from the air. In my opinion this is definitely worth seeing if you get the opportunity.
The beautiful terraced waterfall of the King Cascade is located on the Prince Regent River in the East Kimberley region. See water cascading over terraced rock formations and ideally stand in the invigorating crystal cool waters themselves.. Oh and you may catch a glimpse of a saltwater crocodile lurking in pools below the falls.
Please note I cannot give a 100% guarantee on what you will see on a Kimberley cruise but the operators that we work with are more than aware of what are passengers are expecting to see and will do their utmost to ensure you will see them. With the important caveats that I indicated about King George Falls and Mitchell Falls, I am confident that you will see most (and for the vast majority of cruises) all these icons. But if one or two are particularly important to you then why not book a call with me for a chat about the different Kimberley cruise options?
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.