There are many places that grey nomads refer to as ‘hidden gems’, but few spots are better suited to the tag than the Northern Territory’s Keep River National Park.
While ‘big ticket’ destinations such as Uluru, Kakadu and the Bungle Bungles are rightfully seen as places that just ‘have’ to be visited, this small park nestled just east of the WA border has – in its typically understated way – quietly been blowing travellers’ proverbial socks off.
With a couple of great campsites, a myriad of wonderful walks, amazing wildlife, and a fascinating landscape, there aren’t any boxes that are left unticked.
Any grey nomads not currently planning to turn off the Victoria Highway about 50 kms east of Kununurra to check it out, should change their plans.
The striking beehive-shaped sandstone formations that define the park are most commonly referred to as ‘mini Bungle Bungles’ and this is a good a description as any. For those who know what they are looking for, past evidence of volcanic activity and massive marine deposits are all visible in the rocks and landforms.
The best way to appreciate the wonder of this place is to get out and amongst it, and the best way to do that is take one of the many possible walks. One of the most popular of these is the well-marked Goorrandalng Walk which starts at the Goorrandalng campground – about 18km from the park entrance – and leads visitors for an hour or so through the spectacular sandstone habitat. It’s one of those walks that can be done again and again at different times of the day as the light changes, and there’s always something different to see.
An easier walk is the 200-metre return Ginger’s Hill walk which leads to a traditional hawk-hunting hide, built from stone by a local Miriwoong elder. Apparently, Aboriginal hunters would sit in the hide and light a small fire to attract the birds to land nearby, and then they would grab and kill them. Fascinating stuff.
There are several cracking walks starting at the Jarnem campground – about 31km away from the park entrance – that explore the wonders of the ‘mini Bungle Bungles’. The 6km Nigli Gap Walk meanders though natural archways and gorges formed by the erosion of the soft sedentary sandstone. The 4.6km Jarnem Lookout Walk is slightly more challenging and has steep sections as it leads to a lookout offering stunning views of the Keep River floodplain and Jarnem escarpment.
The park falls within Aboriginal lands of the Miriwoong and Gadgerong people and there are several examples of rock art to be seen, most notably at the Nganalam art site.
After a busy day exploring, there are few more magical places to kick back and enjoy a well deserved Happy Hour than one of Keep River’s fabulous campsites. Grey nomads … this is living!