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Australia s North West
Australia's North West

I've arrived in Broome dozens of times and in all sorts of ways. By plane, of course, and usually from the south, feeling the massive landscape gradually taking over as the chocolate-rock and golden spinifex of the Pilbara inches by, then tracking up Eighty Mile Beach, wheeling out over Roebuck Bay and bursting onto the land. Sometimes from the east, out of Kununurra, mesmerised by the ancient Kimberley story revealed through the window, beneath me.

I've arrived after a few days in the vehicle, voyaging the land, pushing up through the Pilbara, stopping off in Karijini National Park and dipping into its gorges, a night and watch the karaoke at the Pier Hotel in Port Hedland, then hitting the long straight after the Sandfire Roadhouse. And I've arrived on the motorcycle, rolling off and sleeping in a swag on the roadside.

And it just doesn't matter how you arrive. The impact is the same. For to arrive in Broome is like falling against a palette of oil paint that has just two colours. There is the red earth - a colour as dense as raw muscle - and, above it, the turquoise of an ocean that blends up to the bleached sky.

It is pure drama.

Broome was always our secret - our winter getaway - but it's grown up a bit, and now it caters for the well-heeled as well as the sandy-footed. Ritzy resorts, congenial caravan parks, back at the backpackers'.

And then I'm on up the road, crossing the Fitzroy River at Willare road bridge and rolling into Derby, surrounded by the massive, crazed brown frame of the dried-out mudflats.

Then in past Mowanjum its arts centre and I'm on the Gibb River Road, heading east, calling in at stations, stopping the night in homestays, swimming in gorges, swagging it. Whatever. I'm here, rolling in the red of the Kimberley dust.

Mt Elizabeth half way, Home Valley all tizzed up, over the Pentecost River and mesmerised by the Cockburn Range burnished by last light.

I knew El Questro before it was developed for tourists, when they paid a dollar for each of the million acres of it. It always was a place where things came together. All those rivers - the King, Pentecost, Chamberlain, Salmond - with permanent water and gorges.

Kununurra is infused with fresh water too, all held back in Lake Argyle and trickling through its arteries. And further up, the pulse of the tides in Wyndham.

Scourfield's picks

• Pick a gorge in Karijini National Park. I'll choose Dales Gorge, enjoy the 4km return trail and swim there.

• Millstream, two hours' drive from Karratha, is the heartland of the Yindjibarndi people. It has cool pools and the old homestead is a window into the past.

• There are more than 10,000 rock engravings, some dating back 30,000 years on the Burrup Peninsula. Every Western Australian should know.

• The Dampier Peninsula, north of Broome, has some of the best indigenous operators in Australia. My pick? Stay at Kooljaman at Cape Leveque or Lombadina.

• Driving back south? Turn off before Port Hedland, through Marble Bar and Nullagine. Plan to spend the night there somewhere, and don't miss the Nullagine River.

• I love road houses. Take your pick. Sandfire, Minilya, Fortescue, Nanutarra, Capricorn. All classics. Have a coffee chill for me.

• Mt Meharry's the highest mountain in WA at 1245m. I celebrated a birthday up there and never regretted it.

• Kalgan Valley, just north of Newman, is a long valley with a pool at the end.

• Python Pool in Millstream-Chichester National Park, south of Roebourne, will provide just the chilly swim you need.

• Don't write off Tom Price. This is a good town, set in a brilliant area. Could I spend a few days there? Sure. (I have.)

• Wyndham Museum gets my vote for the most fascinating in WA. It's run by volunteers and open April to October. Derby's a close second. The Visitor Centre lends you the key to let yourself in.