The Gibb River Road in Western Australia’s north-west has in one way or another been an exciting last frontier for people since 1895. The King Leopold Ranges in the heart of the Kimberley region were impassable to early explorers, maybe they were just protecting their secrets – locations like Bell Gorge.
Nestled amongst the King Leopold Ranges, perched at 300m above sea level is perhaps the Gibb River Road’s most stunning waterfall and gorge system, definitely its most popular – Bell Gorge.
Bell Creek snakes its way through the Kimberley landscape. Hundreds of wet seasons and as many dry, have shaped the imposing yet stunningly beautiful escarpment and gorge that provide the tiered amphitheatre that Bell Creek plummets over to create these stunning cascades.
This waterfall beautifully shaped like a u, sits perfectly in a tiered gorge system. The walls of the gorge, a commanding 100m vertically up in places, dwarf all who stand looking up in awe.
To immerse yourself in this bit of the Kimberley’s natural beauty is to get lost in the passing of water from Bell Gorge, be it just for a short period of time in the grand scheme of this landscape.
How to get there:
Bell Gorge is situated in the King Leopold Ranges in Western Australia’s Kimberley region. You access the area via the Gibb River Road.
If you are travelling to see Bell Gorge exclusively you would travel from Derby at the western end of the Gibb River Road at a distance of 250km, roughly three hours.
Alternatively, you could also travel from Fitzroy Crossing via the Fairfield Leopold Downs Road,
Should you choose to travel from Fitzroy Crossing or make a detour from the Gibb River Road on route from Derby this post on Windjana Gorge & Tunnel Creek will be a useful read.
linking up with the Gibb River Road. This distance is 295km, roughly three & half hours (providing you don’t stop and explore Windjana Gorge & Tunnel Creek).
Please Note: Google Maps estimated travel times are very overstated.
If you are on a Gibb River Road adventure and you started at the eastern end up Wyndham, way well you’ll get to it eventually about 115km after passing Mount Barnett Roadhouse.
Travelling along the Gibb River Road you will come to the turn-off, once you turn off the Gibb River Road you will be on the Silent Grove Road which is 20km long and takes you to the campground.
The Carpark for the gorge is a further 10km from the campground.
Camping – Silent Grove Campground:
The campground at Silent Grove took its name from the old homestead at Mount House Station in which Bell Gorge used to be a part of before it was included in the King Leopold conservation park.
The campground does not take bookings, and on a daily basis it’s first in gets the better spots. The campground is divided into three sections – tour operators, general camping and a generator area.
There are approximately 200 camping sites or spots spread across the three areas, the facilities are good with flushing toilets, showers and taps for water located throughout the camping area. The water from the taps is good to drink. Fires are permitted at Silent Grove in the fire pits provided which are scattered throughout the camping space. Of course having a fire is dependent on the fire restrictions of the day and you must bring with you all your firewood.
This is a relaxed, comfortable riverside campground. A ranger is on site April – October.
Top Tip: The showers are solar hot water, they work great – just don’t leave your shower till too late in the day or it might well be cold, especially in the busy dry season months of June-August.
Cost of Camping – Silent Grove:
$13 per adult or $10 for concession card holders
$3 per child (5-15yrs)
Top Tip: The roads in and around this campground are rough at times, 4WD vehicle is required and only off-road campers and off-road caravans are permitted.
When to visit Bell Gorge:
Bell Gorge is most accessible during the dry season May – October. On the Silent Grove road into the campground, there are two small water crossings.
If you are travelling early in the season and depending on the size of the wet season there may still be water flowing in these creeks, care should be taken. July & August are the coldest months while September & October will be starting to warm up.
Top Tip: Local visitor centres are a wealth of unto date useful information, any doubts or questions ask.
The Walk into Bell Gorge:
From the campground, it is a 10km drive to the carpark and the start of the walk into Bell Gorge.
The distance of the walk is about 2km, which the racers will do in 45min and the slower amongst you in about 90min or 1.5hrs.
The walk starts with a descent which takes you over a rocky, however, a pretty good track, keep alert and be sure on your feet. The track then meanders along the creek, this is the most shaded section of the walk, before opening up onto the escarpment. A short walk gets you to the top of the falls and a view both up and down the gorge and of course the falls themselves.
It’s at this point the walk gets a little tougher, you have to cross the creek the rocks will be slippery and you will have to go barefoot.
Once on the other side the warm walk over the top of the escarpment will be completed, large rocks and spinifex are features of this section before a steepish descent down into the gorge.
This walk is by no means the easiest you will complete. Having said that it is totally achievable to anyone who is of pretty good fitness and sure of balance on their feet. Kids should be fine, five and up should do it comfortably.
Top Tip: The last bit of the walk home is uphill, be aware of this and leave a little in the tank. Take it easy.
The Gorge itself:
The reward for the walk down into the gorge is a swim in the plunge pool beneath the falls. The beautiful natural amphitheater down in the gorge is highlighted by enormous big flat rocks on one side and sheer vertical drops on the other.
The majority of people who make their way down to the falls, find themselves a beaut rock and park themselves, alternating between swimming and sunbathing.
It is so much more, don’t sell the gorge or yourself short and explore.
Be sure to swim or float down the gorge to the bottom falls, nowhere near as busy as the main one but equally as beautiful – explore, there is more than meets the eye here.
There are many rocks, rapids, over-hangs and generally less populated areas to explore and spend time in, a little extra effort will find you something memorable.
The plunge pool is deep and the water cold so be prepared to take an extra breath.
On the return walk or on another day altogether wander upstream. From where you cross the creek instead of wandering left over the top of the escarpment, go right and head upstream. There are no waterfalls up here, however, you will find tranquil pools fed by rapids, great to sit in for a cool off or for those with kids who don’t want to make the walk down into the gorge.
Again this is a beautiful area and one you will more or less have to yourself, even during the busiest periods.
At the top of the falls is one of nature’s most gorgeous infinity pools a wonderful place for a late afternoon dip, this pool has commanding views of the gorge. It’s a great place to stop for a cool off on the return walk or alternatively it’s a really nice place for a sunset dip, as the lowering sun softens the harshness of the surrounding escarpment and rocks bringing out beautifully warm colour, often reflected in the creek along with beaut boab trees.
Top Tip: if you are planning to still be at the top of the falls at sunset ensure you pack a torch in your backpack for the walk back. A lack of twilight means things get dark quick.
Top Tip:During the busy months of the dry season, things get crowded during the middle of the day. Get into the gorge early and take it in while it’s peaceful. Better wildlife spotting opportunities too.
Duration of stay:
Depending on the time of day you arrive and how long it takes you to set up camp, determines how much time you have left in that day. However, two days and two nights is about right for the average traveller. Having said that we have gone straight to Bell Gorge and stayed five days and filled in every day.
Planning your trip:
If you are planning a trip to Bell Gorge while staying in Broome it will be 470km to the campground. In addition to this it’s 10km one-way to Gorge carpark, 20km return to campground. Do it twice, that’s an additional 40km on top of the 470km for a total of 510km.
Please Note: These distances do not allow for side trips to Windjana Gorge or Tunnel Creek.
Your only fuel opportunity will be Derby.
If Bell Gorge is part of a bigger adventure coming from the east you can obtain fuel at Mount Barnett Roadhouse and Imintji Roadhouse and to the west, Derby.
As with most of the Kimberley’s best spots you have to put in a bit of effort to get a pretty big reward out – Bell Gorge is no exception to the rule.
Take the time to explore and put in the effort to find your piece of memorable and Bell Gorge will be a rewarding travel experience.
Have you been to or planning a trip to Bell Gorge? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section.