Many of you will know we have not long gotten back from 5 amazing weeks in the Kimberley.
We’ve also compiled a giant guide including where to go, what to see, where to get fuel and water, tours worth doing, passes required, itineraries and costs here – The Ultimate guide to the Kimberley.
We ended up doing just under 9,000km in 5 weeks. Another decent trip for our 80 series Land Cruiser. A lot of people around Perth thought we were mad planning so much driving, but the reality is, with such a big state (and limited annual leave) you don’t have much choice! In the first two days we did 2250km, and the last 4 we did about 3500km.
The drive up and down was not much fun at all, but its unavoidable. We knew the holiday was really starting and ending in Broome, and accepted the fact that we would have to do a lot of driving to get there and back.
In actual fact, once we got to Broome, we effectively only did 3300km in 31 days. Just over 100km a day; not much driving at all. We only had about 4 days where we spent more than a couple of hours in the car, and most places we stayed at for at least 2 nights, which was fantastic.
Australia is a massive place, and we made the sacrifice to burn the oil getting up to the Kimberley and back as quickly as possible, to maximize the time we had there to enjoy ourselves.
Here is a rough map of where we travelled
Sarah and I both took 24 days of annual leave. Combined with one public holiday, and we had 5 weeks off work, and a total of 36 days. Having only ever been away for 3 weeks at the most before, we were extremely happy to have such a substantial break.
We’ve found two weeks is good, but not quite long enough to truly relax. The 3 weeks we did a few years back to Karijini, Karratha, Exmouth and back down the coast was amazing; the extra week makes all the difference. 5 weeks was truly epic, and something I’d highly recommend, if you can bear not taking any annual leave for over a year!
We knew this trip wasn’t going to be cheap, but at the same time, knew it would be worth every cent. We spent a fair bit of money on tours and additional expenses too (it’s the trip of a lifetime, right?!), so I’ve broken it down for you all. Considering this would be one of the more expensive trips you could do with a 4WD, we were extremely happy with the final expenses.
I mentioned above this trip was just myself and Sarah, with a 1990 turbo diesel land cruiser. The more people you go with, the cheaper it generally is. If you want to know how to reduce your costs, and what to expect when you go around Australia, check this out; What does it cost to travel Australia?
The cost of fuel on a trip like this is always going to be the major expense. Our 80 Series Landcruiser was loaded up with a massive amount of gear, and especially on the way up and down we stuck to 110km/h as much as possible, to reduce the driving time.
Overall, we spent $2330 on diesel. The fuel prices were very reasonable really, with the most expensive fuel at Mt Barnett, for $1.99 per litre. Other than that, everywhere else we filled up at was under $1.58 per litre. Here’s how to Accurately work out your 4WD’s fuel economy.
We’ve found that normally the cost of food when you are travelling doesn’t really change dramatically compared to when you are at home. Sure, it goes up a bit, because each food item costs a small percentage more than it would at home, you eat food that is more suited for camping, and we probably get a few extra snack foods that we wouldn’t normally have at home. At the end of the day though, whether you are at home or out travelling, you have to eat!
Our total food cost was around $1600 for the 5 weeks. We spent nearly $400 on meals out, and we did bring some food home; (It’s not so easy to run down to the grocery store to get food when the nearest one is several hundred kays away!) you need to carry extra supplies. We most certainly did spend quite a bit on nice dinners out, as well as a handful of quick bakery stops early in the morning!
It’s not often you get the chance to see a place like the Kimberley, and we went on a number of tours over the 5 weeks, which were amazing. We hired a gorge ($165) and did a bird watching tour at Mornington ($120), went to the crocodile park in Broome ($70), went on an aboriginal tour at Cape Leveque with Brian Lee ($200), spent 6 hours on Lake argyle by boat seeing the best of the area ($310), and did an 18 minute helicopter flight at the Bungles ($540). Total cost; $1500.
Not cheap, I know, but I can’t say I really regret any of it!
We spent 32 of the 35 nights in our Oztent, at paid camp grounds. The other 3 nights were spent at a motel in Newman, a lovely Airbnb room in Broome and a little unit in Carnarvon on the way home.
DPAW sites ranged from $10 – $12.5 per person, per night, with the station stays $15 -$25 per person per night.
The total accommodation cost was just a smidge over $1500. Pretty good really, when you compare it to other forms of travel accommodation. That, and the camp fee’s are a lot more expensive in the Kimberley than the majority of Australia.
How does that compare?
So, the total cost of 5 weeks away, from Perth to the Kimberley and back was nearly $7400. Fuel was 32% of the cost, food was 22%, tours were 21% and accommodation was also 21%.
Just over $300 of that was spent on bits for the 4WD, which you (hopefully) won’t have to spend!
Overall then, we spent an average of $205 per day, or $102.5 per person per day.
Could you do it cheaper?
Absolutely. I went through our spreadsheet, and highlighted anything we could have cut down on – dinners out, tours, accommodation outside of the tent and you end up with $2200 of possible saved money. Our helicopter ride alone was $540. A lot of money, but a lot of fun too!
If you have a more economical vehicle you’d save a fair bit of money too. I go into the fuel figures below.
What did we see?
We covered a lot of places in 5 weeks, and loved pretty well all of them.
Newman (1 night) , Broome (3 nights), Middle Lagoon at Cape Leveque (2 nights), Kooljaman at Cape Leveque (3 nights), Windjana Gorge and Tunnel Creek (1 night), Bell Gorge (2 nights), Mornington wildlife sanctuary (3 nights) , Manning Gorge and Mt Elizabeth (3 nights), Mitchell Falls (2 nights), Ellenbrae (1 night) El Questro (5 nights), Lake Argyle (3 nights), Bungle Bungles (2 nights), 80 Mile beach south of Broome (2 nights) and Carnarvon (1 night).
All up, our 1HDT 4.2 turbo diesel engine averaged 16.8L per hundred kilometers, over the 9000km. At the time I can’t say I was super impressed by the fuel usage (especially with so many modern vehicles absolutely annihilating that!), but our 4WD was loaded up to the hilt with roof racks, slightly bigger tyres and we chose to spend less time on the road by doing the speed limit than slowing down and trying to conserve fuel.
If you aren’t sure how to work this out, have a read of this: How to accurately work out your 4WD’s fuel economy.
Comparing it to a number of other full size 4WD wagons that are set up for long distance touring and its actually pretty normal!. Life is full of compromise; you can’t have the benefits of an older vehicle that is loaded up to the hilt with the fuel economy of a modern turbo diesel!
Was it worth it?
People say that the Kimberley is a trip of a lifetime, and I have to agree. We had an incredible time, and would love to head back. Originally we were going to go with others, but for a few reasons they pulled out. We decided to go ahead with it as a couple, with one vehicle, and loved the trip.
I really struggle to express how amazing the Kimberley is. Words (and even photos to an extent) just don’t do this place justice. You’ve got to head up here and explore it for yourself!
Photos and videos
We took a massive number of photos and video. All up, around 6500 photos and videos, totalling just over half a terrabyte! I will be adding some of these to our site over the next few months. In case you missed the 5 photo posts already, here they are:
Did anything go wrong?
As always, things don’t go exactly as you’d like them to. We had a number of things go wrong, none of which were really much of an issue in the long run. I’ve got a separate post that will cover this, later on.
Nothing very serious at all went wrong with our 80 series, but we did have a few issues with the fridge, batteries, after market horn and the factory oil pressure sensor. You can read the full post here – What went wrong in the Kimberley?
How long do you need?
I was impressed to see a huge number of travellers from the eastern states. I’d even go as far as to say the local sand gropers were outnumbered! Some were from Queensland, but there were many that were visiting from further south. Many were doing long trips, but plenty only had 5 – 8 weeks off, to do the Kimberley (and sometimes the Pilbara and parts of the WA coast!).
We met a couple from Victoria who had 8 weeks off, and had driven to the Kimberley in a few days, did the Gibb River Road, Cape Leveque and continued on around the western coast, back to home. Almost a full lap of Australia in 8 weeks!
I would say as a minimum though, you want at least 7 nights on the Gibb River Road, and probably 3 at Cape Leveque. Add in the Bungle Bungles, Lake Argyle and a few more of the hundreds of places you could stop and enjoy, and you can make it as long as you want.
Our favourite place kept changing as we travelled, but in the end we gave up trying to choose. Every place you go to is stunning, and is different to the others you have been to.
For a long time we thought Wunumurra Gorge was our favourite gorge, but then you do El Questro Gorge, and albeit completely different, its just as beautiful.
We loved Cape Leveque, Mt Elizabeth, El Questro and Lake Argyle the most. Stunning, stunning places that we would most certainly go back to. However, we weren’t disappointed with any of the places we went to. The Kimberley is so diverse and picturesque you can pretty well head anywhere and know you will have a good time.
Keen for another trip report?
In 2018, we took our Soft Floor Camper Trailer and Isuzu Dmax on a 3 month long service leave trip from Perth through the Pilbara, Kimberley, Northern Territory and back down the Coral Coast to Perth. If you are interested in reading about it, check this out – 3 months with a camper trailer, 4WD and toddler.