Originally built to transport beef out of the central Kimberley cattle stations to Wyndham and Derby, the “Gibb” cuts through the region’s heart, offering a vivid slice of this vast and rugged expanse. It’s 670km from its western end just south of Derby to its eastern end between Kununurra and Wyndham, 230km shorter than the Great Northern Highway. Although some people have mistaken it as such, the Gibb is no short cut, with corrugations and punctures guaranteed.
As a scenic drive in itself the Gibb is very satisfying, but it’s the wayside attractions that make this route what it is – the homesteads, gorges and pools here are almost uniformly spectacular, and offer a real glimpse of Outback Australia. A comprehensive Travellers Guide to the Inland Kimberley and Mitchell Plateau is available at local visitor centres and is worth picking up.
If you’re traversing the GRR west to east and want to spare your car the full ordeal, turn back at Manning Gorge and head down to the highway via Windjana Gorge – the best and most accessible gorges are along the western half of the GRR. If you just want a taste of the Gibb, it’s possible to visit Windjana Gorge and Tunnel Creek national parks in a day from Derby or Fitzroy Crossing; this snippet is just about doable in a solid 2WD in the Dry. Otherwise, a sturdy 4WD that you know how to maintain is a must – at the very least carry two spare tyres.