Travelling the Gibb River Road is something you must do at least once in your lifetime. It’s a fantastic stretch of road with gorges, waterfalls, and incredible views over the Kimberley region for you to enjoy.
The Gibb river road is seasonal and the road is only open in the dry season (between April and September). April and May are usually the best months to travel on the Gibb River Road when the road is open and the waterfalls are in full stream.
Here’s what you need to know about when planning a time to travel this dirt road between Wyndham and Derby in Western Australia.
Table of Contents
Best Time to Travel the Gibb River Road
The road generally opens in early April and closes in early December.
It’s best to travel the Gibb River Road between April and September, in the early part of the dry season. The earlier you go, the more waterfalls and water crossings you will have to explore. As the dry season continues, some waterfalls will slow down to a trickle or disappear altogether.
April, May, and June are the best months to travel the Gibb River Road
The dry and warm winter weather means you’ll enjoy the drive, all the attractions are open, and you’ll see plenty of exciting waterfalls. Some attractions along the Gibb River Road close by the end of September, so you need to go before then.
October and November are the worst months to go
The humidity increases and the travel is far less pleasant. The road becomes more corrugated as the season progresses, and the heat makes camping almost unbearable.
You cannot travel the Gibb River Road in the wet season.
The Kimberley region has a definite wet season, affecting the Gibb River Road. You won’t be able to drive the road at all between December and March as the rivers rise with the rains and floods block the road.
Travelling in this region during the wet season is uncomfortable anyway, as the high tropical areas experience incredibly high humidity and frequent deluges of rain. The road is closed throughout the wet season.
Check the road opening information from the Western Australian government site, as the exact date the road opens and closes depends on the weather and the road conditions.
When is the Gibb River Road Graded?
The Gibb River Road gets graded at the start of the dry season – at the end of March or early April when the road is reopened after the wet season. It is only graded once.
The later in the season, the more corrugations you will face. It is another reason why April and May are the best months to drive on the Gibb River Road.
A graded road is relatively smooth and easy to drive on. Later in the dry season, you’ll find it a bumpy, uncomfortable drive when the corrugations get bad.
The Pentecost River meanders along parts of the Gibb River Road, and the crossings at places are low and subject to flooding. During the wet season, the road floods in some areas. In April, you’ll find you must cross several waterways, which may have between centimetres and a metre of water over them.
As the season progresses, the water levels decrease, and the difficulty of water crossings also declines. By September, you won’t have water crossings more than a couple of centimetres to worry about, and many rivers are dry. However, by the end of the dry season in November, you can see big washouts and water crossings again.
Visiting Gorges and Attractions
You’ll love visiting some of the gorges and attractions of this distinctive area. Here are just a few of the best that you’ll want to plan to visit. Here’s a full guide to the magnificent gorges you can find on the Gibb River Road.
This gorge is a 40-minute drive off the Gibb River Road and has spectacular waterfalls cascading at any time of the year. Stay at the Silent Grove campsite to spend time exploring Bell Gorge.
From the carpark, it’s a gently sloping 4km return walk to view the waterfall from the top. Swimming in the base pool at Bell Gorge is fantastic, but you must be fit enough to climb over the rocks to get there.
Emma Gorge and El Questro Station
Emma Gorge is probably one of the most famous gorges of the Kimberleys, and you’ll find staying at El Questro Station worth the effort to get here. El Questro is 24km off the Gibb River Road from the Kununurra end of the road.
El Questro Station has many attractions, including restaurants and a bar. You do have two water crossings to get here. Allow at least three hours to hike to Emma Gorge and swim in the pool before returning to El Questro Station for the night.
Stay at the Mount Barnett Roadhouse to get to Manning Gorge, where you can swim in several pools. The waterfalls cascade early in the dry season and are particularly spectacular to photograph.
Canoeing on the river is the best way to explore the stunning Dimond Gorge. You’ll see the gorge walls rising above you as you paddle through several pools and river windings.
Planning Your Gibb River Road Trip
Depending on the time of year, and your direction of travel, you’ll want to spend at least a week exploring the Gibb River Road. Plan your trip carefully so you will travel the Gibb River Road in the right season, between April and September.
Whether driving from Kununurra in the east or Derby in the west, you’ll want to plan which attractions and gorges you wish to explore.
Study the map of the Gibb River Road and decide which gorges you want to visit. Then, plan your trip, allowing time to hike, swim, and explore the canyons and where you will stay at night.
Many attractions, tours, and places to camp or stay in the Kimberley region will fill up quickly, so it’s best to book ahead, especially in the peak season.
Book ahead because some campsites fill up quickly in the peak season, and you’ll struggle to find somewhere else close by if you arrive and there are no spots available.
Check our guide with the best camping spots in Gibb River Road (free and paid) for more info!
There are roadhouses along the way that will provide essential grocery items, but you will need to stock up before you go. Don’t forget to allow for plenty of water, as you’ll need to drink at least 4 litres every hike and up to 8 litres per person per day in warm weather.
Filling up with fuel is cheaper at Derby or Kununurra, but you’ll probably need at least one fill-up on the way or a top-up. If you don’t want to pay top prices, you may want to carry a jerry can or a few.
Driving the Gibb River Road is an adventure and an experience you’ll never forget. Preparing and careful planning will help you ensure the experience is unforgettable for all the right reasons. Don’t forget you’ll be driving on gravel and dirt roads with corrugations, so you’ll want to ensure your vehicle is in top condition before you go.
Did You Know?
The Gibb River Road started as a trade route for cattle trucks. There are still many working cattle stations in the region, and you’ll be staying at a few while you make your way along the Gibb River Road.
The 660km road is famous, and people worldwide come to Australia to travel the Gibb River Road. It’s an unforgettable adventure and a time you’ll cherish.
How many days do you need for Gibb River Road?
Driving the Gibb River Road takes about ten days or less if you keep to the gorges and attractions close to the road (detours about 20 km off the road). Some impressive gorges are further detours from the road, and if you want to explore some of those, you’ll want to add another two to four days to your itinerary.
Although a truck driver can drive Gibb River Road in one day or two, this does not entail any stops to explore, hike, and see the attractions that make Gibb River Road special.
What is the best time of year to visit the Kimberleys?
The best time to visit the Kimberleys is during the dry season, especially from April to early September. By late September and October, the weather becomes even hotter, with higher humidity, leading into the wet season.
Many roads close during the wet season (December to March) and the extreme humidity and deluges of rain make travelling at this time uncomfortable.
How rough is Gibb River Road?
While the Gibb River Road is mostly gravel or dirt, it can get extremely rough, especially at the end of the dry season when the road needs regrading. It is a road used by cattle trucks, so you won’t be winching your car up steep mountains, but it does get very corrugated.
The route is easier to travel earlier in the dry season, right after the road has been graded. You will find some water crossings, especially early in the dry season, but these are usually fine to drive through.
The Bottom Line
The Gibb River Road is an adventure and something you’ll want to tick off your bucket list. You need to know about the road conditions and understand that it is 660km of mostly dirt or gravel road, with some asphalt at either end.
It’s closed during the wet season between December and March each year and is graded only when it is opened, at the start of the dry season, in April.
Driving the Gibb River Road is best during April, May, and June, although the official ‘season’ for travellers is until the end of September.
Many ‘attractions’ close at the end of September. But you can still travel on the Gibb River Road throughout October and most of November, depending on the weather and when the wet season starts.
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