Australia’s Wild West: Cowboy Life at Home Valley

An hour’s drive down the Gibb River Road from El Questro, in the shadow of the striking Cockburn Range, sits Home Valley Station. The spirits of the Kimberley’s settler history and cowboy culture are alive and well at this Outback resort. Its location is so fantastic and pristine, in fact, that it was used for many scenes in the film Australia. Sure, you’ll find flat screen televisions and wireless internet access here, but you’ll have to get past the cows, horses and flooded roads first. This is no American dude ranch. It’s a slice of Outback life that many Australians still relish to this day. Home Valley preserves that lifestyle, and its natural theater, in a way that allows visitors to experience a holiday that is an more about participation than pampering.


Home Valley embraces the concept of experiential travel. It expects its guests to be active and engaged and provides activities that allow visitors to take on the role of a cowboy while still sleeping comfortably at night. My cabin was beyond comfortable, with a queen-sized bed, satellite television and bucolic view of the neighboring creek. But little time would be spent relaxing, as Home Valley is no place for couch potatoes.

As anticipated, a resort embracing cowboy culture also has guided horseback rides. My relationship with horses is tepid at best. I’ve eaten horse twice and I think they can sense this. Every time I get on a horse, they react first with indifference and then graduate to annoyance. Disdain comes later, as the animal learns how ignorant I am about his movements. Still, Ivan, Home Valley’s aboriginal guide who who grew up not far from the resort, led our group confidently through the property. With the Cockburn Range always lurking in the background and livestock joining us along the way, it was hard to not feel as if I had been transported back to the time when people were first trying to settle the Outback. Outside of the restaurant and reception area, the majority of Home Valley is pristine, untouched wilderness that is ripe for exploration.

The Pentecost River cuts right through Home Valley and is home to a fascinating variety of wildlife thanks to it being tidal. As such, beyond your typical barramundi and catfish, you will also find sharks and stingrays. This diverse ecosystem makes for some interesting fishing. Of course, if you’re in Australia, you’re really only hoping to catch a barramundi that you can grill up for dinner. I spent an afternoon on the Pentecost hoping to impress the locals with a barra worth sharing. Instead, I was left with nothing more than stories of hooking a shark and my inability to understand why a stingray would want to hang out in a river.

Despite my fishing failures, the day was a success, as I turned my t-shirt tan into a tank top tan (lotion up when you’re in the Kimberley) and I enjoyed some of the most timeless surroundings I’ve ever witnessed.

Home Valley has two scenic lookouts that are perfect for watching the sunset. The Cockburn Range becomes a chameleon as its colors morph in response to the ebbing of the sun. Shades of rust and crimson provide a fitting backdrop as another day in the Kimberley comes to an end.

As I departed Home Valley, I felt as if I had visited not only the Kimberley of today, but the Outback of Australia’s settler past. And sometimes the best journey’s take us not just to physical destinations but transcend boundaries of time. Home Valley’s creature comforts may make it a resort, but it’s the environment that makes it a time machine.

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.