The Cockburn Ranges rise and burn a fiery orange against the parched flat plains stretched out ahead. Dirt tickles my nose and dust forms mushroom clouds into the cobalt sky behind, as we snake through spinifex and burnt-out baobab trees. My horse, Rum, happily swaggers along after a man wearing a blue shirt, boots and a belt that would make Harley-Davidson proud.
An hour and a half’s drive up the Gibb River Road from Kununurra lies Home Valley Station: a cattle-mustering property set among 1.4 million untamed acres of the East Kimberley. It’s easy to see why Baz Luhrmann felt inspired to make the movie Australia here.
Riding into the station on my steed, the sun hangs low and red over the ranges, casting long shadows in the grass, I sit up taller, point my toes in and imagine I’m trotting alongside Hugh Jackman, my golden locks billowing in the breeze.
The handsome locals
The story of Home Valley is not that dissimilar to the fictitious Faraway Downs property in the film (Faraway Downs itself was actually filmed on a set in Kununurra). It was once a dilapidated cattle operation desperate for love, until a newlywed couple moved in. Now it’s owned by the Indigenous Land orporation and provides training and employment to town locals and indigenous communities. It also offers activities like fishing, horse riding, cattle mustering, and scenic helicopter flights – all with the film locales as the backdrop.
Accommodation on the property ranges from luxury eco tents to magnificent steel and timber villas, known as Grass Castles. These are situated on the edge of a peaceful creek and are reminiscent of the homesteads built by early settlers and portrayed in the movie.
Come sundown, guests gather around the Dusty Bar and Grill – a big old watering hole (or shed) that is the heart of the station. Beer barrels and farming bits-and bobs lay dotted around the grassy outskirts. Local musicians perform on stage, while delicious meals with bush tucker are served.
Alternatively, you can sip on champagne at Luhrmann’s Lookout and watch the sun turn the Cockburn Ranges every warm hue in a Pantone colour chart. Rumour has it, this is where Baz began painting the picture that became his masterpiece. It’s every bit as romantic as it sounds. It’s where you realise there’s no place quite like home.