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The Kimberley is one of those parts of the world that creeps into your soul. It is vast, empty and ancient, awakening the wilder part of ourselves that remembers a time when we lived in closer relationship with the earth and nature. The Kimberley is far away from the noise and bustle of modern life; a part of north western Australia where you can truly be alone, with only the clear blue sky above you and the wind rustling through the branches to keep you company. But, being human, we still need a place to stay and eat when we are on vacation and stock up on necessities such as fuel and groceries. And one of the best places to kick back, relax and drink in the stunning views is at El Questro Station. If you are looking for a wilderness holiday, you will find that El Questro Station is one of the most unique resorts in Australia. It is a place where you can choose to revel in upmarket luxury at the El Questro homestead or, if you prefer, simply pitch your tent under a shady tree beside the Pentecost River.
Chamberlain Gorge, El Questro Station
How Did El Questro Station Get Started
Although El Questro is in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, it was actually the brainchild of an English aristocrat called Will Burrell and his wife Celia. The couple bought the property, which was then run as a cattle station but was in a very dilapidated condition, in 1991 and then decided that tourism may prove to be more profitable than running cattle, although even today around 8,000 cattle are run on the station. El Questro covers some 10,000 square kilometres to the west of Kununurra and is situated on the famous Gibb River Road. The station is mainly scrub savannah, intersected by red-hued hills and cliffs, dramatic gorges and four important river systems. This abundance of water means that El Questro is a haven for wildlife, including the fearsome salt water crocodiles. The Burrell’s sold El Questro to the Voyages Group in 2005, but it has now been owned and operated by Delaware North Parks and Resorts since 2010. The first tourist accommodation to be constructed was at Emma Gorge during the wet season of 1992, and the wilderness park had its official opening in May of the same year. The next project was the building of the super-luxurious El Questro Homestead, which was completed in October 1992. This was followed by The Station in May 1993, which, with its stone bungalows and camping areas, is now the focal hub of El Questro.
Getting To El Questro
El Questro is open during from the middle of April to the end of October every year, which is the dry season in the Kimberley. Most people who visit El Questro arrive by road, and the wilderness park is 110 kilometres away from Kununurra on the Gibb River Road. Kununurra has a small airport that is serviced by flights from Perth, Darwin, Broome and Argyle, and El Questro does run a transfer service to pick up visitors who arrive by air or bus in the town. If you only want to visit El Questro for the day, you can also book a day trip in the Kununurra Visitor Centre. Of course, if you are very rich and planning your stay at the El Questro Homestead, you can pop in on your helicopter or private plane!
Emma Gorge offers a stunning hike through the rocky gorge and along the creek. The scenery is spectacular, and there is a huge variety of plants, insects, butterflies and reptiles to be seen as you walk. Your hike is rewarded at the end of the gorge by a beautiful turquoise waterhole fringed by a waterfall that tumbles down the red sandstone of the rock face. This waterhole is the perfect place to swim and relax, and let your cares be soothed away by the hot Kimberley sun. The hike back along the gorge brings you to the resort, which consists of comfortable safari-style tented cabins, set in swaying green palms and lush gardens. To make sure that you don’t go hungry after your exertions, there is a restaurant and a bar, and there is also a general store and a laundry room. If you still have any energy left, you can splash around in the swimming pool or walk through the gardens.
El Questro Station, The Kimberley
Zebedee Thermal Springs
Have you ever been anywhere that reminds you of a land before time, a real Garden of Eden? Well one of those very special places is Zebedee Thermal Springs at El Questro Station. Zebedee Thermal Springs is a series of small pools and waterfalls, set in the rocks and surrounded by green palm trees and lush vegetation. The water that bubbles up from deep beneath the ground is warm and comforting, and all you have to do is find a pool to yourself and stretch out to feel that you have truly entered paradise. There is a parking area at Zebedee Thermal Springs and a visit is included in many of the tours.
The Station is now the heart of El Questro, and is built along the banks of the beautiful Pentecost River. There are different types of tourist accommodation to choose from at The Station, and you can opt to stay in a comfortable stone bungalow or pitch your tent on one of the 25 campsites, all of which are very private and secluded. There is an excellent swimming hole to cool off in and the Steakhouse restaurant to grab a hearty feed in. The Station is also the hub from where many of the many activities start.
El Questro Homestead
El Questro Homestead is situated high above the Chamberlain Gorge, and offers excellent views down the gorge and of the abundant wildlife. The Homestead retains its air of exclusivity by being well away from the other accommodation at El Questro, and only guests and staff are allowed in its grounds. Only twelve guests at a time can enjoy the privacy and luxury of the El Questro Homestead, and all of the rooms are en-suite with a terrace. The most prestigious accommodation at the Homestead is the superlative Chamberlain Suite which offers spectacular views from all of the windows as the building is extended so that it makes it seem that the Chamberlain Suite hangs over the very edge of the Chamberlain Gorge. The El Questro Homestead is set in very beautiful and very private tropical gardens, containing a swimming pool and tennis courts. If you book into the El Questro Homestead you are guaranteed to receive superb, personal service from the staff, gourmet dining under the stars and a choice of tours and activities tailored to your needs.
Activities at El Questro Station
Of course you could come to El Questro, find yourself a shady tree and just snooze your afternoon away. But if you feel a bit more active there are many different activities to take part in. One of the most popular is taking a cruise down the stunning Chamberlain Gorge. As you go for a gentle cruise between the rugged, red sandstone cliffs, you will be given an informative commentary on the geology and formation of the gorge, the wildlife and plants in the gorge, and the history of the Aboriginal people who were first people to live in the area going back thousands of years. If you are really lucky you may see a large saltwater crocodile poke their head above the surface of the water, so don’t trail your fingers over the side of the boat! If you are keen on fishing you can join in one of the 4WD fishing tours and catch yourself some barramundi to fry for supper, or if you are a twitcher join one of the fascinating bird watching tours. To really get the feel for what it would be like to work on an Australian cattle station, you can go horse riding on a two hour guided trail around the property. Of course, one of the very best places to fully appreciate how spectacular the stunning Kimberley scenery really is, is to take to the air and see it from above. At El Questro you can choose from a variety of scenic flights or tours by helicopter that take you to some spectacular sites that cannot be easily accessed on foot or by road.
So as you have seen, El Questro Station encompasses all of the romance and beauty of the Australian Outback and then some! As you watch the sun slip down behind the magnificent Cockburn Ranges, with a cold beer or wine in your hand, you will be so happy that you are enjoying time in one of the most beautiful and unspoiled places left on our planet.