The Eastern Kimberley of Australia is one of my absolute favourite places in the world. If you are looking for the quintessential “outback” landscape, you’ll love the Kimberley with its red dirt and towering baobab trees. If you do visit the Eastern Kimberley in Western Australia, chances are you’ll make a stop in Kununurra, Miriwoong country. To help you make the most of this laidback town, here are the top things to do in Kununurra.
The best things to do in Kununurra
I was lucky enough to spend a month working in Kununurra, and I got to know the town pretty well. There are heaps of great things to do in Kununurra and around it, despite its relatively modest size. Here are my favourites.
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Beautiful painting by Margaret Peurmora at our Kira Kiro Art Centre in Kalumburu, working with delicate ochre brush strokes on a stunning depiction of the Wandjina, the almighty Rain Spirit and supreme Creator. Photo: Catherine Croll . #MargaretPeurmora #KiraKiro #Kalumburu #kimberleyart #aboriginalaustralia #aboriginalartist #indigenousartist #aboriginalart #indigenousart #thekimberleyaustralia #australianartist #deadly #aboriginalculture #wandjina #waringarriarts
I’ve never considered myself much of an art buff,
Although a large canvas might be a bit beyond your budget for a holiday souvenir, they sell beautiful cards and smaller gifts. Best of all, this is authentic Aboriginal art sold from an organisation that respects Aboriginal artists.
El Questro Station is one of the largest stations (massive land-holdings) in Australia. Unlike many others that are working farms, El Questro is used exclusively for tourism. One of the most popular activities on an offer is a walk to Emma Gorge, a beautiful swimming pool complete with a dramatic waterfall.
The hike is really beautiful, and the pool is just an amazing place to cool off after the walk. There are many others walks and activities on the property, however most are pretty expensive. Be sure to bring good shoes and some water as it can get hot, and the terrain is quite rocky.
Wild Mango Cafe
There’s a couple of great cafes in Kununurra but Wild Mango was definitely my favourite of them all! I might be a tad biased since they were playing my favourite song (Nick Cave – Into My Arms, not something you hear everyday) when I visited. However, I’m pretty sure their smoothies will win you over, even if the music doesn’t.
If the temperature permits, then their coffee is also really good, and their light meals are tasty as well. Definitely my favourite casual dining spot in Kununurra!
Mirima National Park
Mirima National Park is a huge, unique national park near the centre of Kununurra. There are many great hiking trails throughout the park, many of which end up at amazing lookouts. As you can see from the picture above, Mirima is unique due to the interesting rock formations found all around the park.
When I visited, there had been a fire that had singed the rocks and made it an even more dramatic sight. Even so, plants and animals thrive within the park, and can be spotted all along the way. In particular, keep your eyes peeled for kangaroos, wallabies and echidnas.
I love a good volunteer-led museum, and Kununurra has a great one. I always find it a joy to visit museums where the staff are there due to a real passion for the subject matter. This is definitely the case with the Kununurra Museum, which is run by the Kununurra Historical Society.
It’s a fairly modest museum, but they have a great selection of artefacts and various objects dating back up to 1,800 million years. It’s usually open from 12.30 – 5.30pm, but because it is volunteer-run, you need to call ahead or just check the sign on the door.
This was another surprise find for me, and one I definitely recommend as one of the best things to do in Kununurra! You don’t really expect to stumble upon a Wild West-themed distillery run by a Texan named Spike in the middle of the Australian outback, and yet that’s where I ended up. However, I’m glad I did, as it’s lot of fun!
You can try all of the liquors on offer, which are pretty tasty. It’s not just me who thinks so – The Hoochery was awarded the best Australian rum from 2014 to 2017 at San Francisco World Spirits Competition. If you’re lucky, you might also get to have a chat with Spike and find out what brought him to the Aussie outback. All in all, it’s a great place to visit while you’re in Kimberley.
Kununurra Leisure Centre
Kununurra is many things, but frosty cold, it ain’t! Particularly if you visit during the warmer or more humid months, then chances are you’ll find yourself dreaming about jumping into a nice cold swimming pool. Luckily, I have a great options for you – the pool at the Kununurra Leisure Centre!
For just a few dollars, you can spend a whole day enjoying the refreshing cool water of the swimming pool. If you’re staying for longer, you can even get a month long pass! As well as the leisure centre, there’s also an affordable gym you can sign up for (or so I hear. I don’t go to the gym.)
You can’t visit the Australian outback without meeting some of our adorable native wildlife. Luckily, there’s a great place to do so in Kununurra! Kangaroo Haven Wildlife Rescue cares for native Australian animals such as kangaroo joeys, with a view to releasing them back into the wild wherever possible.
Visits to the Kangaroo Haven not only allow you to get up close to these adorable animals (you might even get to help feed a baby joey!), but it also supports their great work. It’s only $10 per person (amazing!) but you do need to book ahead, so that there are no large crowds that overwhelm the animals.
Another absolutely gorgeous place you have to see near Kununurra is the Ord River. In fact, it’s believed that the name “Kununurra” draws inspiration from the fact that it’s located near this big river. And big it is! The scenery is very dramatic, with rugged cliff-faces on either side of the river.
You might also be lucky enough to spot some native wildlife at the river. Crocodiles, in particular, are known to hang out in the Ord River, and spotting one is definitely a thrill! Maybe just don’t choose the Ord River for swimming…
Lake Argyle is a little way from Kununurra, but it’s well worth making the trip. The views on the way are absolutely spectacular – make sure to keep your eyes out for the yellow “Kimberley Rose”!
The views once you actually arrive at this enormous manmade lake are pretty incredible, too. You can also learn more about Argyle Diamonds, and, if you’re way richer than me, maybe even buy one! Or, if you’re more on a backpacker budget, pop by the caravan park to go for a swim overlooking the lake. It’s definitely one of the best things to do in Kununurra!
This is a bit of a thrill, especially if you aren’t used to outback driving. Basically, Ivanhoe Crossing is a road over a river, but it’s extremely low. In fact, the water laps right over it, especially in wet season. It is usually easily passable, though, especially if you have a four wheel drive.
You might catch some people swimming off the crossing, however I’d definitely give it a miss. These waters are seriously croc infested. I joined some friends to do a spot of fishing a bit downstream from the Ivanhoe Crossing – you can only imagine my terror when my torch caught the yellow reflections from crocodile eyes! My friends, however, found it hilarious and just offered up advice to “run in a zig-zagging motion” if one took up chase.
Luckily, I didn’t have to try it out!
The Big Baobab Tree
There are a lot of baobabs around Kununurra, but it’s easy to spot The Big Baobab Tree. This thing is seriously freaking massive – don’t be fooled, I think of myself as pretty tall (5’9) and it made me look like a tiny ant. You’ve definitely got to stop for a photo, and to be wowed by its enormous size.
The Big Baobab Tree is more than just a curiosity in Kununurra. It’s also an important meeting place, and, like many other of the trees, has been used by Miriwoong people for thousands of years. Baobabs are generally filled with fresh water, meaning they were a great water source in the harsh desert landscape.
Located about 20 minutes away from “downtown” Kununurra, Molly Springs is another great place to cool off in a beautiful natural pool. Even though this place is super gorgeous, it seems to be quite the hidden gem – so much so I was a bit reluctant to include it on this list!
It’s especially full during wet season, but it’s also possible to swim during the dry. Make sure you bring some sturdy shoes and sunscreen! There’s a toilet near the carpark if you want to get changed with a little more privacy.
If you’re looking for a fancy dinner in Kununurra, I definitely recommend paying a visit to the Pumphouse Restaurant! The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus there’s a bar. The dinner menu is a little on the pricey side, but it’s one of the best places to try a deliciously cooked Barramundi.
Looking for another outback experience, down south? What about Camping in Wilpena Pound?