Australia’s Wild West: El Questro

A short flight from Broome to Kununnura and then a shockingly loud and bumpy 80-minute drive down the Gibb River Road through the Kimberley, you’ll find El Questro. Its not all that hard to find as exits off the Gibb River road are few and far between. What is harder to find is a definition for the faux Spanish name of this wilderness resort. And that’s because it’s a meaningless name. More substantial than its title, however, is El Questro’s bounty of activities and natural marvels. You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who’s bored on this million-acre cattle-station-cum-retreat. I spent parts of three days and two nights exploring the property was in awe of both its size and beauty.


El Questro offers a range of accommodations from cabins to campgrounds to a luxury resort. I stayed in one of the tented cabins at their Emma Gorge facility and was once again surprised at the level of comfort that can be achieved in such modest and rustic facilities. I had a full-sized bed, and a tiny but fully-functional bathroom. Perhaps the only downfall was the very short shower door, the frame of which became a constant sparring partner for the crown of my head.

Beyond the accommodations, El Questro offers a range of activities for both guests and travelers simply passing through the Kimberley. Day passes are sold to those who are not staying at the resort. One could easily spend their entire stay simply traversing the many hiking trails that lead to natural hot springs and swimming holes throughout the property. A popular site is Zebedee Springs, where guests enjoy the thermal pools set within a forest of palm and fig trees. Adventurous travelers will find some ripe figs to snack on along the way. If you can’t differentiate bush tucker from poisonous flora, though, it’s best to ask one of the staff members for guidance.

The resort’s cruises on the Chamberlain River provide ample opportunity for crocodile spotting, as well as bird watching. But the most interactive part of the cruise is when the archer fish approach the boat. Archer fish eat insect that fly above the river. To hunt them, the fish shoot concentrated streams of water at their prey. Hold your hand over the side of the boat, and you’ll take a money shot from an archer yourself.

Perhaps the best way to start a day at El Questro is the Emma Gorge hike. It traverses a moderately difficult trail that requires a bit of bravery over some steep patches, but is rather accessible for anyone wearing a sturdy pair of shoes and with a good sense of balance. Along the way, you’ll encounter a stunning turquoise swimming hole. While it will be tempting to refresh yourself in these waters, your temperance will be rewarding a few hundred meters down the trail. There you will find Emma Gorge and its accompanying water fall. Visitors frolic in the cool, clear water and enjoy the privacy of this hidden gem. If you don’t want to share the experience with half of the population of El Questro, start your hike early and enjoy the the gorge before it becomes people soup.

While El Questro caters to people of all ages and incomes with its array of accommodations, it does seem as if younger travelers and backpackers stay at El Questro’s Station Township campground facilities. There you will find a more lively nightlife scene, complete with a bar, Saturday night barbecues and live entertainment. Over at the Emma Gorge accommodations, I was surrounded by grey nomads (Aussie slang for retirees on RV or tour holidays). While I get along with that demographic just fine, my evenings may have been a bit livelier at the Station Township. That said, I was more than happy to end my evenings at 9:30 so that I could begin my days shortly after sunrise rested and refreshed.

From bush tucker walks to horseback rides to fishing trips that require a helicopter, El Questro has activities to match every interest and budget. And they all take advantage of the Kimberley’s diverse ecosystem. El Questro’s best attribute is its location, and it takes full advantage of everything that the Kimberley has to offer. Just don’t expect to sleep much on the drive in. That Gibb River Road is like riding a wooden roller coaster.
For more information on El Questro, visit their website.

Mike Barish rode horses, flew in tiny planes and hiked across Western Australia on a trip sponsored by Tourism Western Australia. There were no restrictions on what he could cover or how many hamburgers he could eat. You can read other entries in his Australia’s Wild West series HERE.