At just over 700,000 acres in size and just over 100km from the nearest town,
El Questro is one of Australia’s unique little treasures. It’s located in the Kimberley region of Western Australia and is accessible from the Gibb River Road.
After turning off the Gibb River Road it’s a short drive until you reach Emma Gorge Resort, the first of the properties of El Questro, and home to the spectacular Emma Gorge.
A further drive along a dirt road and a few river crossings later you will reach The Station, which is the main hub of El Questro.
El Questro offers accommodation suitable for everyone and every budget, ranging from the luxury 5 star Homestead, to bungalows and powered and unpowered camping at The Station to the safari style tented cabins at the Emma Gorge Resort. We chose to stay at The Station on a powered camping site. It was convenient and close to the amenities, the shop, the bar and the swimming hole. It was very busy, like your typical caravan park, but everyone was so friendly and excited to tell you about their holiday and where they had explored that it didn’t really bother us too much! If you really do want to get away from the other travellers though, they do offer private secluded campsites along the river.
It really is worthwhile spending a few days at El Questro and exploring the property. We absolutely loved our stay. It wasn’t cheap and it’s very busy, so not to everyone’s liking, but we highly recommend it. They really have done a great job with this property, the amenities were great (you see a lot of bathrooms and toilets whilst camping and for a campground in the middle of nowhere, these are 5 star!). The outdoor ‘Swinging Arm Bar’ has a great atmosphere and we spent a night there sitting by the campfire listening to live music. They also have a restaurant which overlooks the river, offering great views with your meal.
As most of the waters in this part of Australia tend to be filled with crocodiles, it’s never a good idea to duck in for a swim! Although the Pentecost River runs through the property, they have a couple of fairly shallow rocky sections where they advise that it’s safe to swim.
This area is so diverse and after taking your time to explore you will see the landscape change from rugged sandstone ranges to rainforest areas and permanent waterfalls, as well as numerous beautiful gorges, it really is a magical place with so much to see.
We spent quite a bit of time exploring the 4WD tracks around the property and the signage on these tracks was perfect. So often you are left wondering where the track goes or if you should have turned somewhere, but not at El Questro. The tracks are well maintained and there is just the right amount of clear signage that you were never left wondering where to turn next.
Now yes this is a very popular place and during the peak tourist season it is full to the brim with excited tourists undertaking the iconic Gibb River Road! But whilst in the ‘township’ you are always surrounded by people, noise and activities, the property is so large that there are times whilst out exploring that you feel like you are the only people on earth. To stand on the edge of a cliff overlooking the remote rugged landscape below it is an amazing feeling, you feel so small in the middle of this enormous wilderness park.
During your stay you will never be bored, there is so much to do. Whether you are driving a 4WD track, trekking to one of the gorges, taking in one of the organised activities (for a cost) like barramundi fishing, horse ridding or exploring the remote areas by helicopter, or just catching up with fellow travellers at the bar, there is always something to keep you occupied.
I would have to say that my favourite place at El Questro was Zebedee Springs, absolutely loved it.
This is one of the most popular places to visit and is always very busy so you need to get there early. It’s only open to the public from 7am to 12pm daily, as after that it’s available for private tours or homestead guests only, so you can understand how popular this is.
Zebedee Springs is a permanent thermal spring which is fed via a fault line from a permanent supply of water from deep within the earth. The water temperature is between 28-32 degrees Celsius all year round. The surrounding cliff faces are up to 1800 million years old and are known as ‘King Leopold Sandstone’.
We left camp to drive out there just before 7am to ensure that we’d get in! From the car park it’s a walk of approximately 750m to the Zebedee Springs, via a beautiful trail lined with Livistona and Pandanus Palms until you reach the thermal pools. Here you can sit in the warm spring waters in a series of rock pools and waterfalls that cascade down from the forest. This is an incredibly beautiful site and take one visit here and you can see why it’s so popular. We spent an hour or so here just taking in the beautiful surroundings and chatting with other tourists. George didn’t go into the springs, but Shelly enjoyed a relaxing soak in the natural warm spring water.
As for the history of El Questro – back in 1903 a lease called “Spurling’s Pocket” was taken up on the land, but due to the rugged and rocky land, it wasn’t successful as a cattle station and ownership subsequently changed hands numerous times. In the late ’50’s it was first called El Questro. As well as cattle, the new owners grew and sold vegetables to the up and coming Kununurra township. After this it changed hands a few more times, finally having El Questro Wilderness Park open to the public in 1992.
After a couple more changes in ownership, El Questro was sold in March 2010 to the current owners, Delaware North Parks and Resorts, who are a member of Delaware North Companies, a nearly 100-year-old organisation whose family owned companies are innovators in hospitality, entertainment, food service and retail. Apparently this company has upgraded many of the facilities and continue to do so, so whilst it may not be Australian owned, they do seem to be spending the money and looking after the property and you can’t ask for more than that.
The views around this property are truly breathtaking and there are so many different places to see. It is a stunning place to visit, you will be surprised at what you experience in this little oasis in remote outback Australia. We definitely recommend a visit to El Questro.