A Guide to the Gibb River Road

The Gibb river road is an epic road trip in Western Australia that is on a lot of peoples bucket lists. It travels through some amazing scenery with great stop of points along the way and hardly any of it is on tarmac (or bitumen if you’re Aussie) road which adds to the adventure.  When planning a trip there you might be wondering what the roads are like, what you should bring and what are places you can’t miss along the way – well then, you’ve come to the right place because I’m about to tell you all these things!

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What do I need to bring for the Gibb river road?

So, first off this is the outback so you’ll need the basics like sun tan lotion, a hat and some good loose clothing, there’s also opportunities for hiking and swimming so bring some good shoes and your bathers.

Although there are surprisingly quite a few places to fill up your fuel along the way it would suggest you bring at least one full jerry can and if you’re economical and don’t want to spend the crazy Gibb river fuel prices then maybe bring a couple.

Make sure you are stocked up on water! Although a few of the campsites do provide water its always important to have enough drinking water with you as this is really not a place you want to be dehydrated- I would suggest at least 3 litres of water per person per day. So, you’re hydrated but now you’re hungry- make sure you also bring enough food to last however long you plan to stay as there isn’t too many places to stop for a snack and the ones where you can could be quite pricey. It’s really ideal to have a fridge in your van for cool drinks and fresh foods but if you don’t have one you could get away with canned food.

There is zero phone signal along the Gibb which can be refreshing and a great way to get in touch with the amazing nature however if there is an emergency it could leave you in a bit of trouble – although the Gibb is pretty popular these days and someone would likely stop to help eventually it’s a great pre caution to have a satellite phone

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What are the road conditions like on the Gibb- do I need 4x4 experience?

A trip along the Gibb can have people questioning whether they are prepared or if they have enough experience and for good reason this used to be a very wild stretch of road however in recent years the conditions have improved a lot.

We had no 4x4 experience before Australia and felt that the Gibb wasn’t the worst unsealed road we had been by a long shot, it is a long stretch of unsealed road so of course you will need to take precautions and you will run into the usual things like corrugations, lots of dusty and rocky sections, but if you take it easy Its really not so bad.

Although we were pretty lucky and never used any of these things, I would suggest bringing a couple of spare tyres as I heard lots of stories of people blowing and puncturing tyres, a bottle jack so you can change your tyres and a puncture repair kit. There are a few places along the Gibb where you can have your tyres changed or car looked at but they are few and far between so be prepared.

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Bell gorge

How long will I need to cross the Gibb river road?

This really depends on you- technically you could cross it one day if you didn’t stop but with so many beautiful places to see along the way that seems like a waste. I would suggest at least a week but preferably 10 days – 2 weeks. We crossed it in just a week as we when we travelled some spots were still closed due to covid regulations and lack of business but if everywhere had been open we could have easily done 2 weeks.

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Galvans gorge

Where can I camp?

There are plenty of lovely stations along the way with bars/ shops/ hot showers and even serving meals if you’re willing to spend a little bit of money, however if you’re a cheapskate like me or just prefer something a little more remote I suggest downloading the wiki camps app, it’s great for finding free camping spots, we camped on a beautiful view point, by a little creek and so many more beautiful places.

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Widjana gorge

Now that I’m prepared, what spots should I not miss along the way?

We did the trip starting from derby and ending in Kununurra so I will list stops starting closest to derby.

Your first stop is a little bit off the main Gibb river road but it’s definitely worth the detour: windjana gorge,  you will need to pay a national park fee to enter this gorge and you can also choose to camp here, the campsite is lovely and has hot showers. it’s not only a beautiful landscape of what used to be part of an ancient reef system but it’s also one the best places to spot fresh water crocodiles, you can do a hike through the gorge and spot hundreds of the timid cousin to salties and this stop is worth it for that alone.

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Adcock gorge

Now that you’ve already detoured off the main road you might as well carry on a little to tunnel creek. You’ll need a flash light for this one and some clothing you don’t mind getting wet in as this hike takes you through a pitch-black cave with water sometimes chest deep, there’s also the added fun that you might run into a freshie in here but even though it’s hard to believe in the moment but they are more scared of you than you are of them. It’s only a short 750 metre walk but you’ll feel like a bad ass adventurer after it.

Next stop and one of my personal favourites is Bell gorge.  Another short hike brings you to a beautiful multi tiered waterfall, have a swim in the top to get that infinity pool feel and then take the short but steep hike down to the bottom pools for more swimming and a beautiful view of the falls.

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Then we move onto Adcock Gorge the water wasn’t flowing too much when we were there but the water was still beautiful with lots of fish and we managed to wonder up a bit and get a little waterfall shower which is bliss after a dusty day on the road.

After that you can head to Galvans gorge, it’s an easy 750 metre walk to this beautiful emerald green waterhole, round the right-hand side of the pool you’ll find a tree with a rope swing and you can also wade across a ledge to sit under the waterfall or jump in for a swim. A few people said they saw freshies here but we only saw a monitor lizard going for a dip

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Next up is manning gorge, you need to pay a small fee to enter this gorge or you can choose to stay at the campsite and then it is included in the price. To get to these falls you will need to do 3km hike starting with swimming across the manning river so make sure you wear your swimsuit! There is a small dingy to drag across the river with you so you can still take your camera, phone etc- once across follow the arrows and markers to the main waterfall.

After this you can choose to take a detour to Mitchell falls, unfortunately the road there was closed when we did the Gibb so I have no real experience to relay to you here, but it looks absolutely incredible, you will need to get as permit to access the falls, It is an 8.6k return hike and its suggested to have a high clearance 4wd as the road there is less developed than the main but of the Gibb so could be a little challenging but it looks completely worth it.

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From here you will pass a few big stations they were all closed when we went unfortunately but I have read good things about home valley and past there is El questro which is reason enough for me to come back and re-do the good, its complete with its own hot springs and the beautiful Emma gorge plus lots of other bush walks.

These are not all the stops along the way but they are the highlights the road is well signposted so you can detour to any of the sights signposted – we stopped at a few other places for lookouts, photo opportunities and waterholes.

After that you’re on the home stretch to Kununurru which is a great town in itself with plenty to do so don’t feel like you need to end your trip just yet, stay awhile!