Get yourself a sturdy 4WD, fill it with food, fuel and water, arrange your free transit permit at www.dia.wa.gov.au, and then head north out of Broome to the Dampier Peninsula. Local indigenous operators offer mud-crabbing, fishing, camel riding and a range of accommodation, from million-star to eco-luxury tents.
Backtrack to the Great Northern Highway and continue to Derby, base for exploring the Buccaneer Archipelago – 1000 or so islands scattered across the Timor Sea. Options are limited for exploring at sea level; take a helicopter or seaplane joy flight over the islands, the Horizontal Falls or on to Freshwater Cove Wilderness Fishing Lodge if you want to experience what ‘remote’ really feels like. Donny Woolagoodja operates Wandjina Tours, accessing cultural sites by helicopter.
Derby’s also the starting point for the Gibb River Road – 700km through the heart of the Kimberley, almost all of it red dirt, cutting through ancient mountain ranges, savannah plains and offering plenty of detours along the way. Take time to turn off to gorgeous gorges such as Windjana (try not to trip over the many freshwater crocs).
Cross the King Leopold Ranges and stop for fuel and a chat with Nev at Over the Range, Imintji. Detour south to Mornington, the wildlife sanctuary run by the Australian Wildlife Conservancy, to see rare birds and native wildlife, or take a northerly detour to Drysdale River Station, the launch pad for chopper flights to spectacular Mitchell Falls.
You can’t travel the Top End without trying to catch a barramundi. Hairy Dog (Greg Harmon’s Adventure Tours) is one of the Kimberley’s most experienced fishing guides – and you’re guaranteed to see big crocs, too. At the end of the Gibb, you end up either in Kununurra (base for exploring the Ord River, Argyle Dam, the Bungle Bungle and beyond) or Wyndham – Western Australia’s most northerly port and a quirky little town worth a visit.
Kerry Lorimer travelled to Australia on assignment for Lonely Planet. You can follow her adventures on Lonely Planet: Roads Less Travelled, screening internationally on National Geographic.