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Down on the Ranch at El Questro

  • May 26, 2017
  • By 50 Shades
  • 10 Comments
Down on the Ranch at El Questro

In some of the most remote parts of Australia it isn’t too unusual to camp on sprawling cattle stations or ranches. It is the quintessential ‘true blue’ Aussie experience as some of these stations are located amongst some of the most spectacular countryside. We experienced several station stays on our travels around Australia, but the one whose reputation preceded itself, was down on the ranch at El Questro in the East Kimberley region of North Western Australia.

El Questro, which somehow sounds like it has Spanish overtones, is located off the famous Gibb River Road 110 kilometres west of Kununurra on mostly sealed roads. It is described as being a Wilderness Park of 700,000 acres of vast and stunningly beautiful terrain. The park comprises of Emma Gorge, El Questro Station, El Questro Homestead and a camping ground. El Questro’s accommodation options range from luxury rooms at the homestead; to glamping in tented cabins; or pitching your own tent in their camping ground.

Down on the Ranch at El Questro

Entrance sign into El Questro Wilderness Park

Emma Gorge El Questro

We decided to do a day trip out of Wyndham to see what all the fuss was about this massive wilderness park. Once we hit the Gibb River Road it was only a distance of approximately 35 kms to Emma Gorge the first stop on our itinerary. The rugged Cockburn Ranges loomed in the distance and changed colour according to the time of day, from pale pink to ochre, orange and fiery reds.

Down on the Ranch at El Questro

The Gibb River Road & Cockburn Ranges in the distance

Once we arrived at Emma Gorge we paid our visitor permit fee for entering the park at the reception office of the campground. With a rough map in hand we set off through the tree lined, rocky bottomed shallow creek towards Emma Gorge Waterfalls. Criss-crossing the creek along the way and scrambling over large rocks and up steep creek banks, we eventually reached the waterfall.

Down on the Ranch at El Questro

Emma Gorge walk

Down on the Ranch at El Questro

An aqua blue water hole in the gorge

After approximately one hour of a challenging but picturesque walk we were rewarded with a cool oasis and a 65 metre droplet waterfall, surrounded by cliffs adorned with greenery. We discovered that Emma Gorge waterfall is also home to a trickle of a small thermal spring. The spring provides welcome warmth whilst swimming in the somewhat icy cold waters of the waterhole.

Down on the Ranch at El Questro

Emma Gorge Waterfall

Down on the Ranch at El Questro

The steep rocky escarpment in Emma Gorge

El Questro Wilderness Park

A further 11 kms along the Gibb River Road is the turnoff to El Questro. Although the dirt road it is in fairly good condition, there are several creek and river crossings that you have to negotiate, so it is strictly 4WD only. At one point the water in one of the creeks driving into El Questro Gorge came up over the bonnet of our 4WD.

Down on the Ranch at El Questro

One of the creek crossings in El Questro

The drive into the park is very scenic and there are various turnoffs into places of interest, such as:

  • Zebedee Springs – where a short walk through lush livistona and pandanus palms brings you to thermal springs and pools. Here you can soak for a while in the warm water in the small rock pools and trickling cascades in the creek.
Down on the Ranch at El Questro

Zebedee Springs

  • Champagne Springs– a challenging walk that takes you along the Pentecost River to a series of clear pools and a spring-fed waterfall.
Pentecost River, El Questro

Pentecost River

  • Moonshine Gorge– a circuit trail walk with great views and leads into tall cliff faces and livistona palms on both sides with several waterholes to rest and swim in.
 guests are offered complimentary excursions, allowing for a fully immersive Kimberley experience.

El Questro Gorge Rockface

  • El Questro Gorge– trek along a spring-fed creek through palms and fern-clad escarpments which brings you to a small swimming hole.
Down on the Ranch at El Questro

Entrance into El Questro Gorge

  • Chamberlain Gorge– a leisurely boat cruise through spectacular river gorges.
Down on the Ranch at El Questro

Branchos Lookout, El Questro

  • Explosion Gorge, Pigeon Hole and Saddleback Ridge– are all 4WD tracks that take you over rugged and challenging terrain to spectacular lookouts, waterholes and secret fishing spots.
 guests are offered complimentary excursions, allowing for a fully immersive Kimberley experience.

Rock pools and pretty streams in El Questro Gorge

El Questro Station & Homestead

Meanwhile down on the ranch, if you’re cashed up you can stay in luxury 5 star accommodation at El Questro Homestead. Perched atop the picturesque Chamberlain Gorge and River, the Homestead is a private and exclusive oasis hosting only 18 guests at a time. It boasts luxurious comfort, fine dining and guests are offered complimentary excursions, providing a fully immersive Kimberley experience.

 guests are offered complimentary excursions, allowing for a fully immersive Kimberley experience.

El Questro Homestead perched on Chamberlain Gorge Photo Credit: El Questro

Meanwhile the peasants have a selection of more affordable accommodation at The Station, the central hub of El Questro, offering air conditioned resort style bungalows, station tent accommodation or campsites on the Pentecost River. Here there is a Steakhouse Restaurant, Swinging Arm Bar and Grill and the general store.

Station and located close to Steakhouse Restaurant, Swinging Arm Bar and Grill and the general store.

The Bar and Grill at El Questro Station

El Questro Activities

As you can imagine with 700,000 acres of wilderness park, there are heaps of things to explore. For starters:

  • See plunging waterfalls – some accessible only by helicopter others via an easy walk.
  • Hikes and treks –ranging in intensity.
  • Cool off in swimming holes and thermal springs.
  • Explore ancient gorges – many with lush tropical gardens and waterfalls.
  • Try your hand at some Barra fishing  – some locations are accessible by helicopter only.
  • Scale up to majestic lookouts where you will fully appreciate the expanse of the the Kimberley.
  • Boating on three mighty river systems that run through El Questro.
  • Watch out for wildlife and flora – home to 100 species of birds and many other unique wildlife and flora.
Down on the Ranch at El Questro

A bright yellow tree snake we encountered in El Questro Gorge

As day visitors we set off on our own adventure around the wilderness park, but if you’re staying here you can grab one of the many guided tours for a fee. There are scenic flights, helicopter tours, guided 4WD tours, boat cruises, guided hikes and horseriding tours. Take your pick!

Down on the Ranch at El Questro

Horseriding tours at The Station

It was an adventure filled day for us exploring this vast wilderness and we regrettably weren’t able to stay longer. We vowed that we would return with either a tent or camper trailer to spend some time camping at this magnificent station. We did discover however that even camping here does not come cheaply, but I guess you have to splurge now and again! I think this unique Kimberley experience would be well worth it.

Linking up with Weekend Travel Inspiration

 

 

By 50 Shades, May 26, 2017 Kathy was a 50 something year old when she started up this blog 4 years ago, but has since turned over another decade and is now 60. She is married with two adult children and lives on the Gold Coast in Queensland. She enjoys living life to the fullest and loves to keep fit and active by maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Some of her interests include reading, movies, travelling, cooking and blogging! Kathy works part-time as a freelance writer but her real passion is travelling and photographing brilliant destinations both within Australia and overseas and writing about it.
  • 10

50 Shades

Kathy was a 50 something year old when she started up this blog 4 years ago, but has since turned over another decade and is now 60. She is married with two adult children and lives on the Gold Coast in Queensland. She enjoys living life to the fullest and loves to keep fit and active by maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Some of her interests include reading, movies, travelling, cooking and blogging! Kathy works part-time as a freelance writer but her real passion is travelling and photographing brilliant destinations both within Australia and overseas and writing about it.

10 Comments
  • budget jan
    May 28, 2017

    Gosh you fitted a lot into that day Kathy. I would have been totally exhausted, but the pools at the end of the walks would be restorative! Beautiful country and photos to match. Thanks for the tour.

    • Kathy
      May 29, 2017

      We did a bit of a rush trip through El Questro I must admit, but we sure did pack a lot into our day here. It is a beautiful spot and as I said in the blog post we would like to visit for a few days again to explore some more. :)

  • Life Images by Jill
    June 1, 2017

    El Questro is a fabulous place to stay, though we thought when we were in the Kimberley last time it was outpricing itself somewhat. That being said, there is a lot to do at El Questro so it is certainly worth staying for a few days. It’s a beautiful spot and the gorge walks are wonderful and Zebedee Springs is a great place for a soak. We were lucky enough to secure one of the riverside campsites when we stayed a few years ago. No facilities, but we loved the bit of seclusion it gave us. Yes, station stays are great places to stay when travelling around Oz.

    • Kathy
      June 2, 2017

      I agree about El Questro being a bit pricey. They certainly have aimed at the market for the higher end station stay, catering for the rich and famous. We got kicked out of Zebedee Springs at 12 noon because the paying customers were given exclusive use of this area! However it is definitely worth spending a few days camping on the river away from the touristy part. Beautiful countryside! :)

  • Jim ~ Reflections Enroute
    June 4, 2017

    That was one gorgeously packed day. I think I could handle a stay at the station (at least in a tent or camping spot). I’m not sure about plunging through a river pr creek crossing like that. I guess you get used to it. #wkendtravelinspiration

    • Kathy
      June 4, 2017

      You do get used to the creek and river crossings. If you have a good sturdy 4WD it is relatively safe and easy to cross. You just need to wade through first to establish the depth and feel if there are any rocks in the creek bed. El Questro was one of my favourite station stays in Western Australia. :)

  • Rhonda Albom
    June 5, 2017

    I was in Australia last year but it was the wrong time of the year to visit the Kimberley. El Questro looks like a good place to visit with lots of options and price ranges. The other options I had checked out sounded much more expensive (well, maybe even more than the 5-star accommodation you mentioned).

    • Kathy
      June 5, 2017

      It is expensive visiting the North West of Australia because of its remoteness. My advice would be to hire a campervan or similar from Broome or Darwin and see it that way. A home on wheels is the ideal way to see The Kimberley. :)

  • Lyn aka The Travelling Lindfields
    June 12, 2017

    We head to The Kimberleys soon. We have three nights booked at El Questro Station so i read this post with interest. Thanks.

    • Kathy
      June 12, 2017

      I’m so jealous. I would love to spend 3 nights at El Questro at this time of year. We would really like to return here in the future and explore more of the Gibb River Road in The Kimberley. :)

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