The Kimberley Region in Western Australia is now recognised worldwide as an unmatched Outback destination for nature lovers. With striking, diverse landscapes, unsealed dusty roads and very few residential properties scattered along hundreds of kilometres of Outback tracks, the Kimberley Region attracts anyone from families and young backpackers to luxury travel enthusiasts. It is along the Gibb River Road and its many side tracks that you will find the majority of the best swimming holes in the Kimberley, and breaking it down to just five is a real challenge. We have given it a go and compiled a list of the 5 best swimming holes in the Kimberley- and why we think they are worth a visit.
You guessed it, ElQuestro Gorge is located on ElQuestro Station, and a great choice for visitors looking for a challenging hike. If venturing all the way up the gorge to its last swimming hole, this expedition can easily fill most of a day. As soon as you enter the gorge, you find yourself surrounded by high palm trees. In fact, the hike is shady for most of the way- and most of the day- as the gorge is narrow and the surrounding gorge walls keep the walking track shady and temperatures down. There are numerous swimming holes along the way. As the water flows down the gorge it has created many small water pools between rock boulders and all you need to do is pick one. There are also good swimming spots in the creek fairly early on in the walk, depending on water levels. The most popular swimming holes are the ”half way pool” and the pool at the end of the Elquestro Gorge walk which also has a small waterfall. At the half way pool, continuing on requires climbing up and over a huge rock boulder, and from here on the hike becomes a lot more challenging. Lots of rock hoping and scrambling and some light climbing are required to make it to the end. Many visitors opt to stay at the half way pool and enjoy some swimming and relaxation time there, but if you like a challenge, definitely give it a go! We love this hike and the tropical, cool atmosphere in the gorge, with some of the best swimming holes in the Kimberley!
Galvan’s Gorge is the complete opposite to ElQuestro Gorge as far as hiking is concerned. It is probably the most easily accessible swimming opportunity along the Gibb River Road. A short and easy 10-15min walk up the creek leads you to this little piece of paradise perfect for a cool off or some relaxation time. The gorge and pool are shady for most of the day, so it is a great place to escape if it is hot- of course this means that the water in this swimming hole is also very cool, unless you are visiting late in the dry. Galvan’s Gorge is a very picturesque and photogenic gorge. There is a boab tree visible on top of the waterfall here which stars in many classic Kimberley shots. There is also a rope swing on a tree next to the pool which has been maintained for many years and has provided hours of joy to thousands of visitors.
Back into the hiking; to get to the swimming hole and waterfall at the end of Manning Gorge requires about an hour’s walk over rocky and undulating terrain. As the walk is mostly exposed, this can be a challenging hike when it is hot. Remember to have plenty of water with you! We have seen so many visitors on these walks without sufficient water, sometimes sharing as little as 500ml of water between a couple or family. When they realise it’s not enough, they sometimes try to refill their bottle under the waterfall, which is not a good habit! Remember, the Kimberley is cattle country so be careful when drinking from any watercourses if you don’t know what is upstream. Dehydration and sunburn can easily ruin a holiday, so please be mindful. But back to the fun bit; there are numerous swimming opportunities at Manning Gorge, beginning at the start of the walk where you need to cross a creek. This is a gorgeous swimming spot lined by trees with good views up the gorge and sandy beaches surrounding it. At Manning Falls, there is a large swimming hole and more opportunities to swim downstream. Manning Gorge is a big, open gorge with plenty of rock shelves to sit, lay or have a picnic on.
One of the most popular Kimberley waterholes, Bell Gorge never disappoints. The hike into the gorge is moderately challenging, with a steep rocky decent required to reach the swimming hole at the bottom of the falls (and a steep climb to get back up). If you’d rather not go down, you can still have a swim at the top of Bell Falls and enjoy the stunning views of the gorge below. There are a number of swimming holes here and they are relatively easy to access, which is partly responsible for the popularity of Bell Gorge. You can reach the top of the falls in less than 30 minutes from the car park. Bell Falls also flow nicely for most of the season and longer than many other waterfalls, because the Isdell River which flows through here is spring- fed.
Kind Edward River
King Edward River at Munurru has to be on this list. Munurru is not along the Gibb River Road, it is on the Mitchell Plateau reached via the Kalumburu Road. While Munurru is getting a lot less public attention than many other Kimberly attractions, it is an incredibly gorgeous place to stay a while! There is a campground here managed by the local indigenous corporation, currently undergoing some upgrades with intentions of adding shower blocks to the relatively new toilet blocks. But who needs showers when you can swim in the pristine waters of the Kind Edward River? The river is lined by trees and attracts plenty of birds. Further upstream, you will find more swimming holes and even a small waterfall. If you enjoy swimming, sun bathing and soaking up the sounds of nature, you can easily spend all day around here! Bring a tube and a hat and relax in Kimberley style.
Of course there are many more great swimming holes in the Kimberley. The best way to find them is by getting out there and exploring! Enjoy!