A holiday destination’s weather and climate are usually a critical factor when planning where to travel next. When visiting Northern Australia with its sometimes extreme weather conditions, timing is important. The Kimberley Region in the far North- West of Australia is characterised by complex weather patterns; Local indigenous groups have always differentiated between at least six different seasons, identified, amongst other, by what food sources are available- for example which plants are fruiting and how the wildlife behaves at different times of the year.
For the traveller, it is important to know that due to the weather in the Kimberley Region, popular visitor attractions are not always accessible. Heavy rains and swelling rivers prevent access to the Kimberleys central plateau area via the unsealed Gibb River Road between around November and late April each year. During this time, you can only access the Great Northern Highway which runs through the South of the Kimberley. However, access to the Bungles off the highway is also closed and even the highway can get cut off under heavy rain.
During the Kimberleys dry season from May to October, access via the Gibb River Road is possible as soon as rivers are low enough and the road is dry. The exact time depends on how much rain the Kimberly receives in any given wet season- opening is usually scheduled for May 1.
When is the best time to visit the Kimberley in the dry season?
June to August is the most popular time to visit the Kimberley Region. Day time temperatures are around 28- 30 degrees Celsius with blue skies, while temperatures at night decline to approximately 18- 20 degrees (however some areas can get much colder at night). There is almost no chance of rain and a cool south easterly breeze is common. The disadvantage of travelling between June & August is that the Kimberley Region can get quite busy. The Kimberley has become a very popular travel destination and particularly during Australian winter school holidays many families take to the road. Popular campgrounds and attractions can be crowded. If you are looking for a quieter time to visit the Kimberley, travel at the start or end of the season.
We recommend May – mid June as the best time of the year to visit the Kimberley Region in Western Australia
From May to mid June, the Kimberleys rivers and waterfalls are still pumping from their recent wet season top up. There is surface water around, keeping the country fresh. At the same time, the wet season’s high temperatures and humidity have passed and the weather is comfortable. Days and nights are a little bit warmer than in July, however, that is not necessarily a bad thing as it saves you from some pretty freezing overnight camps. The chance to get some rain, particularly early in May, is higher- but isn’t that part of the adventure?
If you are a photographer, May is the perfect time to visit the Kimberley. The critical factor for photographers is to travel before seasonal controlled burn offs start- otherwise the smoke in the air might show on your pictures. Burning usually starts when the lower story of the local vegetation is dry enough to carry fire, but the nights get so cool and damp that the fire dies off slowly- typically in mid June. Another factor is that increased traffic in the busy season leads to more dust on the roads, which can also get in the way of the perfect shot.
September and October are also good months to visit the Kimberley Region if you prefer to avoid the most busy time. After that, most stations and attractions along the Gibb River Road close to visitors. While September can still see a fair amount of tourist traffic, it is definitely less busy than in July/ August. If you travel in October, you are very likely to have some of the Kimberley attractions all or almost all to yourself and there is little traffic on the Gibb. However, you will need to be able to tolerate some heat and humidity. It is not uncommon for temperatures to exceed 35 degrees Celsius during the day even in mid September, combined with high humidity levels. Overnight temperatures are still in the mid to high twenties. Therefore it is not the best time for strenuous hikes, but short hikes, swimming, scenic drives and perhaps a few nights in air conditioned accommodation still offer a great holiday experience.
Interested in visiting the Kimberley on a guided 4WD tour? Check out our Kimberley Tours