It's majestic, unforgettable, awe-inspiring and formidably remote.

Book-ended by Broome and Kununurra, the Kimberley region is one of the most sparsely populated regions in the world, home to just 25,000 residents, most of whom are Aboriginal.

Over the course of 11 days, my guided holiday with AAT Kings clocked up over 3000km, traversing the Kimberley from Broome to Darwin, on remote highways and dusty tracks.

The unfolding landscape is surprisingly diverse and ever-changing, where arid tracts of flat baked earth and its red pindan soil yield to verdant savannah woodland and tropical grassland; there are oasis-like wetlands, aflutter with stunning birdlife, sprawling cattle stations, and towering sandstone ranges sliced and diced by gorges, where rivers rage in the wet season.


Loosely sectioned into two sub-regions, West Kimberley unfurls its manifold glories on an eastward track from Broome to Halls Creek.

After a rustic morning tea break at the Willare Roadhouse, where the rusty-red sandy soil fanned across the forecourt, and 82-tyred, 50m-long road trains pulled in to refuel, we soaked up the eye-popping sights of Derby.

Pinned to the edge of the Northwest Continental Shelf, at the base of King Sound, Derby has one the world's highest tidal ranges, where water levels rise and fall by a colossal 11.5m. We ogled this marvel of nature at the Derby jetty, a sweeping circular-shaped pier, constructed on extremely high stilts.

Kimberley's trademark tree, the boab, is an infatuating, ever-present sight. They can live for 1500 years, making them Australia's oldest living being. Every tree seems to assume its own quirky character and their crazily shaped twisting branches spawn fat boab nuts the size of duck eggs.

Just out of Derby, we were transfixed by the Boab Prison Tree, a monumental, super-sized specimen, dated at over 1000 years old. With a circumference of over 14m, it was shockingly used as a "prison cell" in the 1890s by police, as they transported Aboriginals to the main jail in Derby.

Our AAT Kings travel director, Delma, previously worked as a nurse in the Kimberley and provided some upfront, sobering insights into the appalling plight of the local Aboriginal people today. Their communities are racked by alcohol abuse, domestic violence and a severe diabetes epidemic - "A people lost between two cultures," as Delma put it.

But tourism is manifestly opening up more and more job opportunities. We visited a particularly remote Aboriginal community school, home to the Yiyili people, a community of 250 people scattered across Louisa Downs who now own and operate the cattle station.

Alongside the school, we admired the local artworks in Laari Gallery, a superb place to purchase an uber-authentic piece of indigenous art.

Gorge a retina-burning highlight

My runaway scenic highlight in the West Kimberley was encountering the blazing grandeur of Geike Gorge, at sundown.

The mighty Fitzroy River has carved a deep gorge into the remains of the ancient limestone barrier reef, which snakes across the west Kimberley. During the wet season, the river rises over 16 metres, permanently staining the gorge's vertiginous limestone walls, white.

A frisson of delight regularly rippled through our group when we spotted freshwater crocodiles sunning themselves on the water's edge.

The boat tours are expertly guided by Bunuba Aboriginal people, who provided fascinating insights into the cultural richness of the gorge.

But nothing can compete with the blazing theatrical splendour of the lowering sun striking those cliff walls, seemingly setting them on fire - and the water, through its reflected glory. It's a retina-burner.

Just 20 minutes from Geike Gorge, our overnight stop was at Fitzroy Crossing, just one of two towns in the 1000km stretch of West Kimberley.

In full flood, the Fitzroy River rises 13m in height and could fill Sydney Harbour in just six hours.

At Halls Creek, don't miss snapping a shot of the fabulously carved statue in the town square.

In 1885, Russian Jack was working in the Halls Creek goldmines and famously pushed his sick friend in a wheelbarrow 300km through the Great Sandy Desert to Wyndham, which was the nearest town with a medical centre back in those days.

His heroic, epic journey is immortalised beautifully in this elaborate bronze statue.

A bronze statue of goldminer Russian Jack, who famously pushed his sick friend in a wheelbarrow 300km to the medical centre in Wyndham
A bronze statue of goldminer Russian Jack, who famously pushed his sick friend in a wheelbarrow 300km to the medical centre in Wyndham