Lake Argyle Resort has become a destination in its own right. Some 70km from Kununurra, this spot at the top of Australia's biggest freshwater lake has long been a daytrip for both locals and visitors, and an alternative caravanning and camping ground.
But now it has developed into a mini destination, mostly thanks to the resort. In fact, one coach company's tours from Darwin to Broome this dry season will stop here for three nights. And there's enough to fill those days.
Lake Argyle Resort is an unusual place. Lake Argyle was created with the completion of the Ord Dam in 1971, holding back the waters of the Ord River to create Australia's biggest expanse of freshwater, usually covering more than 900sqkm and perhaps 2000sqkm when in flood.
In January it was storing about 7000 gigalitres of water, which is fed into the Ord irrigation growing area.
But today, as we cruise on the lake after a record wet season, it is estimated to be holding 13,000 to 14,000 gigalitres of water. It's an extraordinary year in an extraordinary place.
Lake Argyle Resort has been constantly and dramatically improved since owner Charlie Sharpe took over in 2005, including a program of building new accommodation which continues this season. The star of the show is an infinity pool with a high view, overlooking the red-rock Kimberley landscape and the lake.
Charlie plans to add a lagoon, which the infinity pool will cascade into, and which will considerably increase the swimming area, and a sandy beach - the only safe, sandy swimming beach for 1000km.
The resort also has a bar and good meals.
- WHAT TO DO, WHERE TO STAY *
·The history of the dam and lake is interesting and the Durack Homestead Museum offers new displays this year. It tells the story of the Durack family, which in the 1870s drove cattle more than 1600km from Goulburn in New South Wales to settle here. The homestead was originally in what is now the bottom of the lake and was moved when the area was flooded. Lake Argyle Resort owner Charlie Sharpe is planning a weekly Durack Dinner at the Durack homestead.
·Lake Argyle Cruises offers trips on the lake (the Sunset Cruise is popular) and there will almost doubtless be glimpses of some of the 25,000 benign freshwater crocodiles thought to live in it - the biggest population of them in one place in the world. There are also Triple J boat tours on the Ord River.
·The area around the resort is ideal for adventure activities. There's the Lake Argyle Swim in May and the Lake Argyle Adventure Race in September.
·There's iconic bushwalking, particularly in the Carr Boyd Ranges. Lake Argyle Cruises will drop people off in one spot and pick them up in another.
·Helicopters will be based at Lake Argyle Resort this dry season, offering sightseeing flights.
·Fishing. Of course, fishing - both in the lake and its Spillway Creek, where the overflow water runs, and the upper Ord River. The lake is very healthy, with millions of fish of more than 20 species, the big drawcards being barramundi and silver cobbler. These are the big shovel-nosed catfish, which are a favourite freshwater eating fish in Australia. They are caught commercially in Lake Argyle and silver cobbler fillets sell for more than $20 a kilo. In the lake, they grow to almost 1.5m and weigh up to 40kg.
·The Keep River National Park, just over the nearby border in the Northern Territory, is a big drawcard. There are geological formations similar to the Bungle Bungle Range, Aboriginal sites and a number of signed walks, from the 200m of Ginger's Hill to a 7km loop.
·Also in the wind is the excellent suggestion of a rafting and kayaking course, as work on Spillway Creek may be required if the lake's volume is to be increased.
·Lake Argyle Resort makes a very comfortable base. Both the rooms and the caravan and camping ground are set among trees and lawns. The two-bedroom, cliff-top Lake View Grand Villas have a big kitchen-dining room with a full and kitted kitchen, a large main bedroom with a queen size and single beds, a second bedroom with a queensize bed and a modern bathroom with a big walk-in shower. And, of course, that big deck with a bigger view. There are smaller standalone rooms among the trees and more rooms will be built this year. There is also a number of single rooms.
·Charlie Sharpe has thoughts about adding horseriding to the mix.
·And then, of course, there are the freshwater crocodiles . . . At up to 4m, the Lake Argyle crocs are growing bigger because of good food sources. "They were born in a supermarket," Charlie says. Recent experiments also indicate that the cane toads which have arrived in the Kimberley may also have less impact on them - because they are used to high- quality food, they are more likely to bite once and release, and so less likely to ingest their poison, called bufotoxin. Because they were born in that supermarket, if something's not good, they let it go and get something else.
lakeargyle.com.au and 9168 7777