Kununurra, WA's largest town north of Broome, is a place of abundance, writes Katrina Lobley.
Take the epic Gibb River Road, the Great Northern Highway or fly from Broome and you'll probably fetch up in Kununurra, the key town of the Kimberley's north-east. A welcoming oasis for visitors, it's surrounded by fertile valleys abundant with fresh water courtesy of the Ord River. Accommodation options in Kununurra have evolved to include the chic and boutique, alongside budget stays.
Pinctada Kimberley Grande
With pearl industry matriarch Marilynne Paspaley the force behind this 72-room resort, the property exudes high style. Two top-of-the-range spa suites feature original artwork and furnishings selected by Paspaley, as well as emblematic touches such as cowhide rugs, reflecting the Kimberley's cattle-country history. All rooms, whether they look out upon lush gardens or the 25-metre pool with its spa and lap lanes, incorporate cool polished concrete floors - a nice touch for this hot climate.
Freshwater East Kimberley Apartments
Opened in 2012, the one- and three-bedroom apartments here feature Kimberley-style outdoor showers, while two one-bedroom apartments have an outdoor bathroom with stone bath and double shower heads. With water cascading over rocks into the free-form pool, the property's swimming area is also a step up from the usual.
Kununurra Country Club
When Baz Luhrmann filmed his epic Australia in the area, crew members stayed at the centrally located low-rise Kununurra Country Club Resort. Leading lady Nicole Kidman and her husband, Keith Urban, regularly popped in for dinner. The club is also the property of choice for organisers of the annual Argyle Diamonds Ord Valley Muster (held from May 17-26 this year) when it comes to housing the music acts who headline the event's Airnorth Kimberley Moon Experience shows. This year's gig will feature Guy Sebastian, Gurrumul Yunupingu, James Reyne and Mark Seymour.
Lake Argyle Resort
The resort, perched high above Lake Argyle, about 70 kilometres from Kununurra, has a 35-metre infinity pool, which day-trippers pay for the pleasure of using. Accommodation options here range from safari-style cabins with shared bathrooms to four-bedroom villas with lake views. Activities centre on the lake, too, which sprawls for some 1000 square kilometres. Swim in the warm waters or take a cruise and discover islands that were once the tops of hills.
Ibis Styles Kununurra
A little closer to town than Freshwater and the Kimberley Grande, this 60-room hotel comes with a shaded pool and continental breakfast thrown in with the room rate.
Kimberley Cafe, in the town centre, has a line in burgers, wraps, pies, sandwiches and gluten-free baked goodies. Parents can also dispatch the kids to their own play area here. Kelly's Bar and Grill at the Kununurra Country Club is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.
Where to stay
Pinctada Kimberley Grande, thekimberleygrande.com.au
Freshwater East Kimberley Apartments, freshwaterapartments.net.au
The Kununurra Country Club, kununurracountryclub.com.au
Lake Argyle Resort, lakeargyle.com.au/accommodation
Ibis Styles Kununurra, ibis.com
The Hoochery (hoochery.com.au), which produces more than 50,000 bottles of rum a year. Its improbably named owner, Spike Dessert III, hosts taste tests and serves famed rum cake in the Hoochery's saloon-style showroom, complete with piano and chandeliers.
Indigenous art galleries and studios such as Waringarri, Warmun and Red Rock (visitkununurra.com).
Kimberley Fine Diamonds (kimberleydiamonds.com.au) for unique diamond and pearl creations.
The Mount Romance Sandalwood Factory (mtromance.com.au) for a sensory experience.
Browsing Zebra Rock Gallery's eclectic homewares and jewellery range (zebrarock.biz).
Out of the ordinary
On the Ellen DeGeneres television show this year, Nicole Kidman gave Kununurra a huge rap. She says swimming in the area's waterholes helped her fall pregnant as she filmed the movie Australia. You might not want a fertility-enhancing swim, but it's difficult to visit Kununurra without experiencing its waters. After all, much of the tourism here centres on the spectacularly scenic Ord River and man-made Lake Argyle (or Ord River Dam) upstream.
A must-do day trip is to take an Ord River cruise to the dam wall. The flat-bottomed boats used by Triple J Tours (triplejtours.com.au) are used to explore the nooks and crannies of the river, which is home to freshwater crocodiles, fish, and an extraordinary range of birds, such as jacanas and darters. On the river banks, you might be coolly observed by a rock wallaby or wallaroo. Lake Argyle Cruises (lakeargylecruises.com) runs morning and sunset cruises on the dam, as well as fishing trips. The species you're most likely to catch here is the silver cobbler, which weighs up to 40 kilograms, or the feisty sooty grunter.
Those who like to take things at their own pace can sign up for a self-guided Ord canoe trip with Go Wild Adventure Tours (gowild.com.au) of between one and three days' duration. Canoeists put in near the dam wall then simply go with the flow.
Where to eat
The PumpHouse Restaurant, cleverly built in a former pumping station just three kilometres from Kununurra's town centre, overlooks the Ord River (thepumphouserestaurant.com).
Sit inside among the old machinery or on the deck. Order a glass of wine and tuck into Wyndham saltwater barramundi, home-smoked barra or a bucket of prawns on ice.
PKG Bar and Grill, in the Pinctada Kimberley Grande, serves great steak and wood-fired pizza. Toppings include free-range pork belly, caramelised onion and pickled mango.
The Ivanhoe Cafe boasts that it's famous for its mango smoothie. Test the claim by enjoying the drink while sitting under the cafe's shady mango trees. The Ivanhoe serves the freshest locally grown produce as the area is full of farms.