Rugged and red, with towering waterfalls, Aboriginal rock art, huge tidal variations, saltwater and freshwater crocodiles, thousands of islands and less people per square kilometer than almost anywhere else on earth, the ancient 163,521-square-mile Kimberley region on the north side of Western Australia offers a wilderness cruising experience like no other.
Broome, on the west coast of the Dampier Peninsula, is a gateway to the region; from here, either fly north into the heart of the Kimberley and cruise back, or cruise north and fly back. For a weeklong Southern Kimberley experience, begin by flying nearly 300 miles northeast from Broome to the fan palm-forested Mitchell Plateau. From here, a helicopter will whisk you over the tiered Mitchell Falls (a place of cultural and spiritual significance for the Wunambal people) and down to the Hunter River wilderness and your yacht.
Cruising up the Hunter River to Careening Bay, you’ll enter the mouth of the Prince Regent River. Beneath the stark gaze of Mount Trafalgar and Mount Waterloo, venture past sandstone cliffs and gorges toward the beautiful terraced rock formations of Kings Cascades, where you can (cautiously) observe large saltwater crocs.
The following day sample some of the world's best oysters, straight from the rocks in Camden Harbor, where the Kimberley’s first European settlement was attempted (and soon abandoned) in the 1860s. Then cruise through Kuri Bay, the region’s first pearling settlement, to Langii, where the sandstone “Petrified Warriors” represent warriors killed in an Aboriginal Dreamtime battle.
Linger here awhile fishing for barramundi and threadfin salmon in Doubtful Bay; exploring 154-square-mile marine life-rich Montgomery Reef, an inshore reef that appears to rise from the ocean on a falling tide; trekking to Raft Point’s Aboriginal rock art cave galleries; and photographing the Horizontal Waterfalls, a pair of breaks in the McLarty Range.
When to go:
Travel between April and September, the Kimberley’s dry season.
Pearl of a tour
While wandering Broome’s Chinatown, delve into the town’s maritime and pearling heritage at Pearl Luggers, where guided tours explore the hazards of early pearl diving and offer a taste of pearl shell meat.
Try before you buy (a six-pack)
Broome’s fiery Cable Beach sunsets demand a spicy beer. At award- winning Matso’s Broome Brewery, housed in a circa-1910 former bank, you can sample chili beer and other intriguing brews, such as lychee and ginger/mango.
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