Simply gorge-ous: El Questro

The magic and mystery of the Kimberley reveals itself in this wonderful luxury homestead experience, writes Gary Allen.

Walking through the gorge it’s as if we have been dropped in the middle of Jurassic Park. Craggy red escarpments tower overhead while thick rainforest surrounds us. The ancient 25m-high rock walls are covered in rambling vines and ferns, and now and then we spot a rock wallaby. We come to a stream so clear and pure it is hard not to jump right in. We follow it to our destination, a beautiful oasis at the base of a small waterfall skirted by large boulders upon which we relax. The waterhole is large enough for a cooling swim.

Just to get to the El Questro Wilderness Park & Homestead in the remote Kimberley region of Western Australia requires a flight to Darwin, then on to Kununurra before embarking on a 100-minute 4WD journey to the homestead. Getting there is part of the adventure.

Our suite is perched above the Chamberlain Gorge. An oversized bathtub sits on the edge of the verandah and there’s a generous outdoor shower. Two comfy, large-cushioned chairs are the ideal spot from which to look out over the gorge and El Questro station to the wilderness beyond. Most of the walls in the suite have floor-to-ceiling windows, allowing for amazing views in all directions.

 


Accommodations perched on a rocky cliff at El Questro

 

After meeting the other guests at cocktail hour, we sit down for a superb meal. El Questro’s menu always includes prime Australian beef and its famous barramundi, paired with the finest West Australian wines. We are not alone in our intention to get to bed early, with the promise of so much to see and do over the next few days.

At El Questro, you want to hit the ground running every morning. We fit in several hikes and a river cruise on the Chamberlain – notable for archer fish spitting water at us from two metres away!

Undoubtedly, our favorite excursion is the hike to Emma Gorge. It’s a 45-minute drive from the lodge and then another 45 minutes to hike into the gorge, but the swimming hole is beautiful. Surrounded by steep rock walls with mini waterfalls cascading out of crevices and, allegedly, a small freshwater croc – we looked, but couldn’t find him – Emma Gorge is a glorious place to swim, relax and recharge. It’s one of three spots you can stay in the park, aside from the official campsites. Our guides keep us informed about everything from the flora and fauna to the geology. We even enjoy some Aboriginal bush tucker, discovering that sugar ants have a sweet-and-sour flavour.

In the evenings we talk with other guests about their adventures while enjoying delicious canapés and cocktails. Dining choices are: at the communal table, at a table for two overlooking the gorge, or on your own verandah. Sometimes you also get to see Charlie being fed. This chubby freshwater croc patiently waits below the cliff for fish to be tossed down.

El Questro is a popular start/end point to the True North Kimberley cruise. An unexpected bonus is that half of our group is joining the cruise, which means we get to know many of our shipmates before we even set foot on the boat.

 

 

... our favorite excursion is the hike to Emma Gorge. Surrounded by steep rock walls with mini waterfalls cascading out of crevices ... Emma Gorge is a glorious place to swim, relax and recharge.

 

Details

Rates start from A$1,969 per night twin-share. Includes dining and selected beverages, and guided tours within El Questro Valley. Transfers from Kununurra are $139 per person, one way. elquestro.com.au

 

Where to stay (in transit)

When travelling to the Kimberley from the east coast of Australia, Darwin is the closest main airport. We recommend the Adina Apartment Hotel in Darwin if stopping over before an early flight home or for exploring the capital of the Northern Territory while you’re there. Conveniently located, the hotel’s 121 one- and two-bedroom apartments are well-appointed and overlook the Darwin waterfront. Facilities include Curve Restaurant & Bar, a gym and a pool. The property is a 15-minute drive from Darwin Airport and 1km from the city centre. Rates from A$122 per night. tfehotels.com

 

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Weather to go

Peak season occurs between May and August, as the land is fresh and green and the waterfalls full after the wet season. Days are very warm, with an average of 33 degrees Celsius. June and July are the best months to visit, as clear weather is almost guaranteed. The temperatures at night drop very fast, with some areas such as the Bungle Bungles experiencing night frosts. September to November sees increasingly high temperatures, with an average of 39 degrees Celsius, before wet season occurs between December to March. This is the time to avoid, as temperatures remain in the high 30s with extreme humidity, and there is a high risk of floods and cyclones.

 

Best places to stay

Coming soon.

 
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