The Kimberley has been recognised as a must-see destination for next year, with the influential international travel guide Lonely Planet describing it as “one of the most starkly beautiful” places on the globe.
The latest Lonely Planet guide has ranked the Kimberley as the second-best tourism region in the world, behind Sikkim in India.
It says the Kimberley is where Aboriginal culture rubs shoulders with exotic Asian influences, the rich come to spend millions of dollars on world-class pearls and celebrities fly in for luxurious sojourns.
But it warns potential visitors to “explore the area now, before big business encroaches”.
It says travelling in the Kimberley is not cheap and touring needs “military-like planning” to avoid being “stuck high and dry without fuel, food or worse — water”.
“Yet the rewards are many,” it says. “In our book, the Kimberley beats the Northern Territory’s Red Centre hands down.”
Tourism Minister Liza Harvey said the Lonely Planet endorsement was a big boost for the Kimberley’s global profile.
“Hopefully it will inspire a new wave of visitors to this extraordinary and unique wilderness region,” she said.
The guide says the Kimberley is “carved by giant gorges, dimpled with deep, cool pools and home to a coastline that could make Australian east coasters weep”.
“How long this area will remain below the radar is up for debate,” it says. “Last year the resources-rich Kimberley narrowly missed out on becoming the site of one of the largest natural gas projects to be given government approval in Australian history.”
“Explore the area now before big business encroaches further.”
Travelling the 660km Gibb River Road was identified as a life-changing experience and the ultimate road trip. It allows travellers to “gawp at the gorge-fest en route, muster cattle with Aborigines at Home Valley and lay your head under the Milky Way at a bush camp”.
It says the region is “not the land of witchetty grubs you might imagine”.
“Far from it,” it says. “The wild North West is gaining a reputation for gourmet.”
The Kimberley finished second, ahead of Yorkshire in England, Hokuriku in Japan and Texas in the US.
Lonely Planet also released its top ten tourism countries and cities. The top countries were Brazil, Antarctica, Scotland, Sweden and Malawi. The top cities were Paris, Trinidad, Cape Town, Riga and Zurich, with Adelaide in ninth.