Getaway: Berkeley River in the remote east Kimberley

Casuarina Falls. Photo: Tony Hewitt

Casuarina Falls. Photo: Tony Hewitt

Waking up in your villa, having an outdoor shower in the early-morning sun and then wandering out to the deck with a capsule coffee to see the shimmering blue Timor Sea is a spectacular way to start a day.

Finally, after years of hearing about its splendour, I’ve made it to the Kimberley. And I’ve found a magnificent way to do it. Berkeley River Lodge, a luxury resort and my home for four days, sits at the junction of the Timor Sea and the Berkeley River, in the remote east Kimberley.

One-hundred-and-fifty kilometres from the nearest town, Wyndham, the lodge is accessible only by light plane. You truly are entering another world.

A stay here is an extraordinary window to this special part of the world, its freshwater (and croc-free) waterholes, its superbly intact ancient indigenous rock art and an array of wildlife, one species of which – the saltwater crocs – you want to watch from a bit of a distance.

 

Peter Wilmoth was a guest of Berkeley River Lodge.

 

Stay

Berkeley River Lodge

Berkeley River Lodge. Photo: Tony Hewitt

Berkeley River Lodge. Photo: Tony Hewitt

We touch down on the airstrip after a spectacular hour-long flight in a light plane from Kununurra, and it’s straight to breakfast in Dunes restaurant.

We check into our five-star ocean-view villa in the dunes, which has balconies overlooking the Timor Sea.

We are told not to bother locking up. Like the rooms themselves – beach-house casual with polished floorboards, outdoor bathroom and all blending into the environment – the vibe is ultra-relaxed.

Eat

Photo: Tony Hewitt

Photo: Tony Hewitt

Guests dine together each night at a communal table overlooking the sea; the five-course meal is matched with Western Australian wines.

In the warm Kimberley air, it’s a superb location to share stories and wine, with a short walk (or buggy ride) back to your room.

We enjoyed local delicacies such as barramundi paperback parcels, then moved on to salt-and-pepper crocodile with lime zest, fresh cod nectar, and seared Berkeley River spotted cod, matched with wine from Margaret River.

Season

Closed from November 3 to March 6 due to the wet season.

Cost

Prices for March-November start from $1488 a room twin-share for three nights, including meals, beverages and activities.

Getting there

We flew to Perth, then to Kununurra. From there, the lodge is a one-hour flight in a light plane

 

Do

Indigenous Rock Art. Photo: Tony Hewitt

Indigenous Rock Art. Photo: Tony Hewitt

The lodge organises activities according to your interests. Barramundi fishing is hugely popular. We take a boat trip down the Berkeley River with Bruce Maycock, our highly knowledgeable guide, to spots where he knows the barras bite.

We visit three emerald waterholes, each one bigger and more amazing than the last. The final waterhole is the size of the MCG and fringed by towering red cliffs and escarpments that are the site of spectacular waterfalls in the wet. Our group of six float around in the temperate fresh water – it’s croc-safe and you’re always told when it isn’t. Hard to drag yourself away.

As this is saltwater croc country – they’re the dangerous ones – there’s no swimming in the ocean. It is strongly suggested that you take care even walking on the beach.

Swimming is done in croc-safe waterholes and in the infinity pool overlooking the ocean. Drinks are brought poolside.

Swimming. Photo: Tony Hewitt

Swimming. Photo: Tony Hewitt

Bruce takes us to visit caves and rock ledges featuring ancient Indigenous rock art. Indigenous communities chose these ledges high above the waterholes to live, and the art they left is still intact.

We take a beach cruise on which Bruce shows us sites where turtles lay their eggs.

In the late afternoon we take a chopper ride provided by Truenorth Helicopters to the top of Mount Casuarina, where our guide sets up a picnic table with a white tablecloth and a selection of cheeses.

With a view over the red Kimberley savannah below, as birds soar in the still air, it’s a staggeringly beautiful place to watch the sun set.

Sightseeing. Photo: Tony Hewitt

Sightseeing. Photo: Tony Hewitt

Summary: My stay easily matched the huge expectation. An absolute winner of a trip, a mix of natural wonders, fascinating Indigenous culture, wonderful service and conversation from our hosts.

It’s surprisingly easy to get to from Melbourne. Shelve those thoughts of WA being another country. Grab a good book for the flight and experience this amazing part of Australia. Highly recommended.

Berkeley River Lodge. Photo: Tony Hewitt

Berkeley River Lodge. Photo: Tony Hewitt

 

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