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Top End and the Kimberley Region

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Jul 7th, 2011, 08:00 AM
  #1
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Top End and the Kimberley Region

Just now in the planning stages of visiting the above areas sometime between mid May and mid June, 2012. Still undecided if the trip will be a combination of fly/self-drive, small group touring with APT, cruising or a combination of all. Don't think we want to attempt the full drive to cover all areas. We're from South Florida and would need more equipment than we plan to take so that's why we're considering breaking up the route with flights in between. We could explore the Darwin, Kakadu NP, Litchfield, Katherine area) with one rental and then fly onto Kununurra. After visiting there and going over to the Bungle Bungle and possibly El Questro, we could then fly into Broome. This would I think cut down on the expense of one way car rentals (especially if we book flights in between way in advance when specials are offered).

Recently, I read about cruises that are offered by the Coral Princess line. They apparently travel in the top end between Darwin and Cairns and in the Kimberley, between Broome and Darwin. They also include land package extensions using APT. I've attempted to find some reviews of this cruise line and specifically, these routes but so far have been unsuccessful. I always turn to the fodor guru's to answer my questions so I'm hoping someone out there has used this company or sailed these routes. If so, any feedback would be appreciated. Also, if you've used APT in these specific regions, I would love to hear your experience. This would help us decide if we should do as we've always done (self drive) or look to someone else to manage the specifics. We've actually been to the land down under 5 times and have loved it more and more each time (obviously).

thanks again
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Jul 8th, 2011, 12:39 AM
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Hi, there. My DH and I are leaving next Saturday (16 July) for 2 weeks self-driving from Darwin to Katherine via Litchfield and Kakadu, plus Daly Waters and Mataranka. We then go on the Ghan train overnight to Alice Springs for 6 nights. We hummed and haaed about whether or not to self-drive or do tours but we found that a lot of the tours from Darwin did not cover all the places and activities we wanted so driving won out. My DH is 70, I'm a few years younger so we're not spring chickens but we feel we have paced ourselves sensibly. I guess time will tell. Good luck with your planning.
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Jul 8th, 2011, 04:38 AM
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dottyp: thanks for the reply. Enjoy your trip. All of our self drives throughout Australia have been memorable. The Darwin to Katherine and back seems to be the simplest route. Its getting to the Bungle Bungle and El Questro and onto Broome that is a little more challenging. I'm hoping to get some feedback on APT's small group tours in these areas as well as the cruises offered. Don't know why I can't find any reviews of this cruise company/route but hoping someone is more enlightened. PS. We're not spring chickens either but the driving has never been problematic. Remember, slow and steady wins the race.
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Jul 8th, 2011, 03:59 PM
  #4
dkw
 
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My husband and I have travelled to the Kimberley a couple of times now. We have driven ourselves and stayed at several of the APT wilderness camps. The accommodations at these camps is great. The tents are comfortable...some are en suite. The meals are delicious as well. We have met many of the APT groups while staying at the camps and they seem more than pleased with their choice of tour.
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Jul 9th, 2011, 04:32 AM
  #5
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Thanks dkw. We'll probably end up doing the self drive as well. Just curious about the cruises offered which appear to utilize APT for their land package. What time of year did you travel in the Kimberley? We're thinking of starting in mid May.
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Jul 11th, 2011, 02:08 PM
  #6
dkw
 
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Hi there Lovingretirement. we traveled to the Kimberley both times in late August and had very hot weather one time and quite cold weather the other time. River crossings were quite low when we were there, but exciting nonetheless!

I'm sure you'll have a great time whatever you decide to do. It's a gorgeous area!!
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Jul 12th, 2011, 05:27 AM
  #7
 
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I wouldn't fly to Broome as you'll miss what I thought was the best road trip I've done in Australia: the Gibb River Rd. In fact, I wouldn't fly any part of the trip. It's an amazing part of the country - seeing it all from the ground gives you an appreciation what is arguably Australia's most remote and ruggedly beautiful areas.

My wife and I flew into Darwin, rented a car and visited Kakadu and Litchfield. We then returned the car and took a Greyhound to Katherine (staying there for a couple of nights) and then Kununurra. The bus was relatively inexpensive and it was very relaxing enjoying the changing scenery as we headed west into WA. In Kununnurra we toured Lake Argyle. Then we took a 6 day 4WD tour from a local outfit that took us on a camping expedition to the Bungles, El Questro and the gorges along the Gibb River Rd. The trip ended up Broome, where we stayed a couple of nights before flying back to Sydney. One of the best vacations we've taken!
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Jul 12th, 2011, 05:31 PM
  #8
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RalphR: Thanks for the info. Do you remember the name of the company you used for your 6 day adventure and what type of accomodations did you have along the way? Did you also take the Greyhound from Katherine to Kununurra or did you self drive that portion in order to stop and sightsee? Last (sorry for all the questions) what time of the year did you do this trip. We're trying to decide when the best time would be since we're pretty flexible as to when we can travel. Thanks again.
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Jul 13th, 2011, 07:28 PM
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Sorry, it was quite a long time ago (1997) so I've long since forgotten the name of the outfit. It was very basic, mostly catering to young backpackers. We slept out under the stars on "swags. Sure you can find a more up market tour, perhaps:

http://www.discoverwest.com.au/tours...our-92742.html

We took the Greyhound all the way from Darwin to Kununurra, with a 2 night stop in Katherine en route.
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Jul 14th, 2011, 03:29 AM
  #10
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Thanks again RalphR. I'll look into the above company as well as APT. We're well past the backpacking and sleeping under the stars stage. At this age, would prefer indoor plumbing.
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Jul 14th, 2011, 11:49 AM
  #11
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dkw: just a few more questions. You mentioned you drove to the Kimberley region two times. What was the route you took on each of those trips (starting/ending points). Did you do a one way rental or did you return to the starting point. Also, do you remember which of the APT's wildnerness camps were not ensuite? Thanks for any info you can provide. Still trying to decide what we want to do. Thanks again.
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Jul 14th, 2011, 12:39 PM
  #12
dkw
 
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First trip we started in Kununurra and returned to Kununnura, avoiding the one way rentals fees.

We visited the Bungle Bungles and stayed in an APT wilderness camp there (en-suite bathrooms). Then backtracked a bit over to the Gibb River road and spent a couple nights at Home Valley Station in one of their Bunkhouse Rooms...a very comfortable motel/hotel type room. then we spent a few nights at Emma Gorge resort in the tents there. Very nice, a bit more luxurious than the Bungle Bungle tents and en-suite as well.

Our most recent trip started at the other end of the Gibb River Road in Broome. Firstly, we spent a few nights at the lovely Eco Beach Resort, south of Broome. We stayed in a villa, but they do have tents there...not sure if they are en-suite.

We then traveled to the Bell Gorge APTcamp and spent 3 nights. At the time, they were just converting the tents to en-suite. The camp is pretty conveniently located to Bell Gorge, but is a good distance away from Tunnel Creek and Windjana Gorge, although we did both as a day trip from Bell Gorge Camp.

We then returned to spend a few nights in Broome.

The trip reports ( with links to some pics) I wrote after each trip are here:

http://www.fodors.com/community/aust...p-report.cfm?4

http://www.fodors.com/community/aust...-kimberley.cfm

I can't say enough about the APT camps...they are really well run, professional operations. My husband now has decided that his dream retirement job is to go cook on the BBQ at one of these camps.

Let me know if you have any more questions. I'm happy to help!!
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Jul 15th, 2011, 03:28 AM
  #13
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Thanks again dkw. That was great information and sounds like a great trip. I especially liked the ensuite aspect of the tents. Did you fly in/out of Kununnura from Darwin? How far in advance did you do your bookings for lodging?
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Jul 15th, 2011, 10:21 AM
  #14
 
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I like the poster who recommended the all ground option. A top end trip has been one of my Australian dream destinations. I've been to Australia twice but only Fraser Island to Sydney and then Melbourne and Tasmania. I haven't been to any of the more remote areas.

You miss a lot when you fly.
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Jul 15th, 2011, 02:43 PM
  #15
dkw
 
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First trip we flew in and out of Kununnura by way of Darwin. Had to overnight in Darwin. We stayed in the hotel across from the airport....big mistake!! All the flights from Darwin are at crazy times so we heard Jets overhead ALL NIGHT!!! Not a peaceful night sleep...

The second trip we flew in and out of Broome.

We booked about 4-5 months in advance and had to be really flexible with our dates as is was difficult to book into the APT camps. For self-driver they only have a few vacancies per night and they can get booked in rather quickly. As I remember, the most difficult to book was the camp at the Bungle Bungles.
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Jul 16th, 2011, 03:18 AM
  #16
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Thanks again dkw. I didn't get a chance to read your trip reports until after sending my last round of questions. both trips sounded fantastic although some of the hikes were rather challenging. We were in Darwin about 25 yrs ago (when we were spring chickens) and the climb to Jim Jim Falls (up/down bolders) sounds familiar to what you described. Also had a "freshie" in the swimming hole but I wasn't brave enough then to chance it, although the locals and their kids were all in. You can tell we're no longer spring chickens (but still in good shape), if we did that hike 25 yrs ago. Don't know how challenged I would want to be now. Might decide to include some, but not all of yours. Will start now to organize what we would include and decide on the best time of year to go.
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