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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The drive into the park is very scenic and there are various turnoffs into places of interest, such as:
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.
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.
As you can imagine with 700,000 acres of wilderness park, there are heaps of things to explore. For starters:
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!
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.
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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.
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merry christmas 2017