Tunnel Creek National Park
Nestled up in the far north of Western Australia in the often forgotten region known as the Kimberley lies yet another spectacular national park. The Kimberley has a reputation for being one of the most precious, untouched, and unimaginable wilderness regions remaining in the world today. This ancient landscape expands over hundreds of thousands of square miles which can make planning a trip here a bit difficult. However, you must include Tunnel Creek National Park on your Kimberley bucket list.
What actually is Tunnel National Park?
Part of WA’s oldest cave system this 750 meter long tunnel sits beneath an ancient mountain range. Carved out over the last few million years this tunnel is now home to bats, freshwater crocs, olive pythons, and the occasional tourist. The walk will take you through from one side of the Napier range to the other as you wade through freshwater pools and sand along the way. If you had been going on this very same walk over 375 million years ago you would actually be snorkeling in an ancient reef system! The Napier Range is the limestone remains of this ancient reef.
Where is it?
About a 3 hour drive east of Derby and 1.5 hours west of Fitzroy Crossing. You can reach Tunnel Creek from both the Gibb River Road or the Great Northern Highway. The road is unsealed although is reasonably accessible for 2wd vehicles.
What to bring and do?
Bring a really, really, really strong torch! Trust us when you are 350 meters deep in the tunnel you will be thankful to have something stronger than your phone torch. Other than that, wear some old sneakers or reef shoes and be prepared to be wet and walk through water that is just above knee height. You will start your descent by weaving between some large boulders and doing a few rock scrambles that will take you to the entrance. Soon you will enter into the darkness of the 15 meter wide and 12 meter high tunnel. Walking along the sandbanks of the creek with the occasional wading through some sections. For those of you who are a bit afraid of the dark do not fear. At about the halfway mark there is a section that previously caved in and you will be able to catch some natural sunlight finding its way down here. As you near the end on the other side look up to admire the stunning stalactites and local bats. Rest up here and look around for the aboriginal cave art before starting your journey back through the tunnel.
Best time to visit?
In terms of seasons, Tunnel Creek is closed during the wet season (summer months). Usually it is open between April and November but if you are travelling there in the shoulder season (April-May or October-November) be sure to check conditions first. In terms of time of day, Tunnel Creek is an amazing day trip so be sure to head out there early and enjoy the day. You can also stop in at Windjana Gorge National Park which is just a 30 minutes’ drive away.
What else is there to do?
Take in the history of this amazing site by booking a guided tour with the Bunuba elders (only available during dry season). Through this tour you will learn all about the cultural significance and history of this ancient wonderland as well as the famous story of Jandamarra, a famous Bunuba leader from the late 1800s. He was a police tracker and a resistance leader fighting to defend his country. He eventually was sought out by the police and sought refuge in Tunnel Creek before eventually being found and killed in that very location.