Article from ARB 4×4 Accessories.
Words & Photography by Trip In A Van.
If you’re after a real west coast experience with coastal camping that won’t break the budget, then keep reading. I can guarantee that by the end of this article and the five amazing beach camps we hit, you’ll be prepping your 4WD and fishing gear for the Pindan dirt of the Dampier Peninsula.
So Where Is This Place and How Do You Get There?
The Dampier Peninsula is situated north of Broome in the famous Kimberley area. Around half of the peninsula is Aboriginal land and most of the land, communities and campsites are managed by Aboriginal people.
So you’ve all heard of Broome and Cable Beach, right? Where you can ride the camel trains at sunset?
This is where you will start your Dampier Peninsula adventure. Make your way to Broome from wherever you are in the world and make sure to stay for a week or so to explore and load up on supplies before heading north up the peninsula.
Best Time to Visit
The dry season is the perfect time to visit the north of Western Australia. The months between May and October are ideal. This is generally the busiest time as well. Our trip was in September, which is the shoulder of the peak season and although a bit hotter, we found it way better without the extra crowds.
How Long Do You Need to Explore the Dampier Peninsula?
How long is a piece of string? It’s quite deceiving to look at this peninsula on a map; you may think a week or so would be long enough to explore. But let me tell you, you’d be wrong. Take as long as you can and explore as many camps, beaches and communities as you can fit in!
If you follow our trip below, give yourself seven days at a minimum.
The Right Gear
You will find every sort of accommodation available up here. If camping’s not for you, then there are plenty of options from beach shelters through to luxury safari tents.
If you’re like us, then hitch up the van, drop the tyre pressures and get cracking up the Cape Leveque access road. We saw everything from swags to motorhomes up here so it all comes down to how keen you are. In our opinion, you’d at least want a 4WD to be able to access the beaches along the way. The roughest part of the journey up here is the corrugated road. It can be dreadful at times, depending on where the road crews are with the grader.
Be sure to pack plenty of food and water. There are some small shops in the communities but the choices are limited so it’s best to load up in Broome before you leave.
There are no permits needed to access the Cape Leveque Road and the Dampier Peninsula, but there are some fees payable to access the remote communities for day visits. These fees can be paid at the community office when you drive in.
Be croc wise! There are crocodiles along this coastline so be sure to watch your kids and steer clear of the estuaries for swimming.
There isn’t a lot of phone service in the remote campsites so it’s a good idea to carry a sat phone and have a good UHF in your vehicle.
Grab a tide chart from the tackle shop in Broome while you’re stocking up on fishing gear. It will come in handy when you’re planning your beach trips.
As it was our first time taking the van up the Dampier Peninsula, we wanted to explore as many of the campsites as we could and find our favourites for the next time we visit. We spent two nights at each of the free camps on the way up to Pender Bay where we then spent five nights. One of the great things about the Dampier Peninsula is its close proximity to Broome. If you decide to stay longer, you can plan a resupply trip back into town.
First Camp: Willie Creek
This was our first campsite and by far the easiest to access as it’s only around 40 minutes from Broome. The access road in is used by tour buses to the Willie Creek Pearl Farm so it’s in relatively good condition. When you reach the Pearl Farm, take a right and there is a camping area that runs along the bank of Willie Creek. The track does get quite soft and sandy the further you drive along so we ended up in low range 4WD and tyre pressures down to drag the van through to our campsite. It’s usually great fishing here and we have managed to pull a few barra in over the years, but not this time unfortunately. Fishing the creeks up here can be tough as the tides are that big it’s hard to keep a bait in the water as it’s rushing in or out. We’ve done our best fishing an hour either side of high or low tide when the current slows down.
You’ll get a great sunset here as you look out to the mouth of the creek. Get the campfire going, kick back with a beer and enjoy your first night on the Dampier Peninsula with a Kimberley sunset.
Second Camp: Barred Creek
If you’ve ever thought you’ve had an absolute cracking beachfront campsite before, then think again! Because this spot takes the cake!
There are a few choices of campsites at Barred Creek. You can take the easy option and stay by the creek, which is not far off the access road, or you can follow your off road maps and take the track around the creek and onto the beachfront where you can pull up on the entrance to Barred Creek.
Be warned, though: this comes with lasting memories because you’ll more than earn your stripes! The track is tight and there are a lot of overhanging branches and saltbushes that don’t mind running their fingers down the paintwork of your car and van. And be sure to check the tides here so the sand spot you’re about to camp on won’t end up under water on a big high tide.
We pulled up at the access to the beach and walked down to check the track conditions before driving down to set up. Keep an eye out for turtles as the tide comes in and out; we saw dozens drifting along with the current. No luck again with the fishing, apart from one big run that resulted in getting bitten off. But I’m sure at the right time of year this place would have to produce some good fish.
With about 270 degrees of water views, we kicked back with a frothy, threw a line in and got the campfire ready for the night. Once again, we were spoilt with an unforgettable sunset.
Third Camp: Quondong Point
We moved another hour up the track to yet another amazing beach camp. It’s hard to think you can find a better spot than the last up here but it just keeps giving! They all have their own little differences that make them unique.
Quondong Point is yet another huge camping area with plenty of options for clifftop camps, bush camps or a few that are right down near the beach.
This site would be my pick if we had a boat with us on our travels. It has a great protected beach that you can access with your 4WD and launch a tinny or rooftopper. The guys that were lucky enough to head out were getting great catches of spanish mackerel and reef fish from only a few hundred metres off shore.
We found a great site down near the beach with easy access onto the sand. At high tide here, there is a fantastic swimming area to spend a few hours.
It would also be my tip for those with big rigs like motorhomes or buses. There is a section of campground at the start where we saw plenty of big 2WD rigs set up.
Fourth Camp: James Price Point
No bull, it actually feels like you are camping on Mars. Another 30 minutes north of Quondong Point, you will find one of the most spectacular spots on the Dampier Peninsula. The colours up here are just mental. The bluest water, pure white sand and pindan cliffs make for one of the most gorgeous settings to camp in.
Again, there is so much room to choose a campsite here. We decided on camping on a big flat area of red dirt surrounded by cliffs. This made it easy for us to walk down to the beach for a fish on high tide. There are also clifftop camps and if you head along the beach for a few kilometres, you can find a nice little hidey hole to park up and set up camp.
Fishing, beach driving, swimming and campfires! Does it get much better?
Fifth Camp: Pender Bay
One of our favourite places in four years of travelling Australia, Pender Bay is 190 kilometres north of Broome and a real escape. Now this spot isn’t free but for around $30 a night, you can stay and experience a vibe that’s just magical. It’s not just the scenery here that makes it great.
Our five days were spent swimming, fishing and exploring the surrounding beaches and rock pools.
Again, this place would be perfect for a tinny with some great fishing to be had just off shore. We managed to get a few small reef fish off the rocks but they were nothing compared to the big blue bones and coral trouts the boys were getting from their boats.
There are a whole load of clifftop camps available with beach access down to the
turquoise waters. There is also 4WD beach access to get down and launch your tinny or just set up the awning and relax for the day. There’s perfect swimming for the kids here as well.
If you’re a keen explorer like us, head around the rocks at low tide and walk up to the caves and the rock pool. It’s a fair mission of around 45 minutes hopping over rocks but it’s definitely worth it. You will find one of the biggest coastal caves we have ever seen and also a magnificent secluded rock pool that’s great for a dip after the big walk.
No bull, it actually feels like you are camping on Mars… Fishing, beach driving, swimming and campfires! Does it get much better?
And that concludes our insane trip up the Dampier Peninsula and guess what? We didn’t even make it to the top! There are so many more bush retreats and campgrounds on the way to Cape Leveque, but we will have to leave that until next time. When we have a tinny!
Cheers and safe travels.