In the past few years, tourism in the area has grown considerably. Kununurra and the whole Kimberley Region is fast becoming one of the most sought after destinations by people who want to take advantage of this still untouched and beautiful land.
The vast Lake Argyle, together with the year round flow of the Ord River released from the reservoir, not only irrigates the agricultural land but provides a major tourist attraction, in the midst of the already magnificent scenery of the Kimberley.
The cloudless days and warm evenings of the dry season have always attracted visitors escaping the southern winter. An increasing number of tourists are now taking advantage of cheaper air fares and the completely sealed highway to visit the waterfalls and raging rivers of the tropical summer.
The development of the Kimberley region was based on the cattle industry, when early pioneers drove cattle across the top of Australia and from the south east to finally settle in the East Kimberley. Other stations were established in the West Kimberley and cattle numbers grew to a peak of more than 800,000 head in 1978.
The pastoral history of the area is well documented in books by Dame Mary Durack. The famed Durack homestead, built by Patsy Durack on a site now covered by Lake Argyle, has been reconstructed as a museum.
Kununurra was established in 1960 to service the Ord River Scheme. The Ord River was dammed in 1971 to form a storage reservoir, supplying water to one of Australia’s largest and most ambitious irrigation schemes. ‘Argyle Downs’, a one million acre cattle station, was flooded to create a vast and beautiful lake, the biggest man-made lake in Australia.
It is true to say that without agriculture Kununurra would not exist. It was the dream and persistence of pioneer Kimberley Durack that led to the first research station being established on the Ord River, more than 50 years ago. Later, the Kimberley Research Station was established jointly by the State and Commonwealth Governments. The site is now the Frank Wise Institute for Tropical Agricultural Research.
Prospecting and mining have been important to the development of the region and, in 1979, diamonds were discovered near Lake Argyle.
42km round trip, via Ivanhoe Road and Weaber Plains Road.
This bitumen road passes many of the irrigated farms, the Department of Agriculture WA Frank Wise Institute, the sugar mill and the cotton gin. There are no conducted tours for visitors to these establishments, however tours of the entire agricultural area are conducted from Kununurra and may be booked at the Visitor Centre.
7kms from town, this lake was formed in 1963 by Diversion Dam, over which the main highway passes, west of the town.
It provides water to the farming area by gravity fed irrigation channels. This beautiful spot provides recreation throughout the year, with a swimming beach upstream from the dam wall and boat cruises operating.
The wetlands around the lake are a haven for birds. The Ord River below the Diversion Dam is at its best during the wet season, when fish are most active.
A picturesque feature of the Ord River and a popular picnic and fishing spot. Ivanhoe Crossing is the first obstacle encountered by barramundi on their annual migration into freshwater, where they congregate in deep holes below the crossing at the start of the wet season.
Swimming is not recommended due to the presence of salt water crocodiles. No camping.
The best time for barra fishing is in the hotter months but fishing is available all year round. Other fish include sooty grunter (black bream), catfish (silver cobbler), shark, small tarpon or, in the lower reaches of the Ord, threadfin salmon.
Hidden Valley, in Mirima National Park, is only 2kms from town.
Several short walk trails allow you to explore this rugged sandstone range. Birds chorus early in the morning, while in the afternoon the sunset colours the sculpted rocks. Guided walks and slide nights are held from May to August.
There are many walking trails which teach you about native Australian Flora with boardwalks and steps carved into the stone for easy access. The rocks are vividly coloured with red and black layers, a result of a billion years of natural mountain building. A truly remarkable area that will really leave you uplifted and only a short walk from town.
Facilities in the park include tables, toilets and an information shelter.
The original highway between Wyndham and Darwin was re-aligned when Kununurra was built.
The road to Wyndham followed approximately the line of the present Ivanhoe Road and across Ivanhoe Crossing, fordable in the dry season before the dams allowed a flow of water throughout the year.
On the far side of the crossing the road can be rejoined via the Parry Creek Road which turns off the Duncan Highway, 14kms west of the town.
Access to Wyndham by this route is 4WD only.
2kms from Kununurra, on Speargrass Road, this high point, houses the telephone /television transmitters and storage tanks for the town’s water supply.
There is a lookout west of the highest point, providing views of the town and the Ord Valley. It is especially attractive at sunset.
The Argyle Diamond Mine produces approximately 38 million carats of diamonds per year - one third of the world’s annual production, making Argyle the largest diamond mine in the world.
Tours of the mine are available with Slingair. Visitors are able to enjoy a bus tour around the plant, visiting the diamond viewing room to see displays of rough and polished Argyle diamonds and enjoying a full buffet luncheon at the luxurious Argyle Village. For further enquiries contact Slingair.
Black Rock Falls
Celebrity Tree Park