Having safely crossed the Pentecost River, you don’t have to endure the infamous Gibb River Road corrugations for too long; the turnoff to Western Australia's Home Valley Station is hard to miss.
The massive gates shaped as a Kimberley boab grant you entry to the most beautiful driveway in this part of the country, the words above proudly cut into the steel: “Welcome to the outback oasis that is HV8.”
Home Valley Station, along with Karunjie and Durack River Stations, were purchased by the Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation (ILSC) in 1999 on behalf of the traditional owners, the Balanggarra and Nyaliga people. HV8 was developed and turned into a pastoral, tourist and Indigenous training centre in 2008 while also offering sustainable employment for local Indigenous men and women.
The 3.5-million-acre property is managed by Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia which also manages Ayers Rock Resort, Longitude 131° and Mossman Gorge Centre ILSC and runs the Voyages Indigenous Training and Employment Program.
The aim of the program is to train Indigenous people in all aspects of the station’s operation and students are selected from all over Australia.
DUSTY BAR & GRILL
This is a perfect meeting place and an iconic part of the HV8 story. It was built by Ian Sinnamon, a man who recognised tourism as a way forward for the station. Depicting the makings of a gentleman, he would invite station owners and staff from around the area, requesting they wore ties. I doubt Ian would recognise it now — the Dusty Bar & Grill has had a serious makeover.
Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner it can become very busy on nights when the entertainers are in town. Dinner is where you'll be spoiled with local produce including bush tucker in the form of herbs, seeds and flowers. The tin lids are kept entertained with the outdoor cinema screening movies while the adults share travel stories around the campfire.
There is no shortage of tour options at HV8 to enhance your stay. Whether it be fishing, a tour of the station, enjoying Happy Hour on the sunset tour or experience the Kimberley from the air on a helicopter, there’s sure to be an organised outing for everyone.
Northbound Charters is your organising body and you can choose between boat or shore fishing or both. I decided that the boat fishing option would suit me the best. Not only was I going to float along the Pentecost River, but I was in one of the best spots to hook a barramundi in Australia.
I was joined by Peter and Sue, a couple from the southwest corner of WA on their first big caravan trip. Our expert guide was Zack Klein and he soon had us at the ready, fishing rods in hand as we trolled the river. I was a bit unnerved when we spotted big croc after big croc sunning themselves on the shoreline, but I felt safer in a boat than I would on the bank.
I have never landed a barra, so when my line went tight, I was excited. Keeping the rod at the right angle to reduce the chance of the fish exploding from the water and spitting the lure, I reeled in a real baby barra. It was a quick catch and release before we returned to trolling.
Peter snagged a 59cm beauty before I followed suit, the biggest catch of my life (after my wife of course). Sue finished the tour off with a nice-sized 40cm beauty and we felt great having each caught an elusive barramundi.
Alfie was our guide for the station tour and a graduate of the Voyages Indigenous Training and Employment program. Before jumping into a dusty old troop carrier, Alfie showed us around the old stockmen’s quarters next to the Dusty Bar and explained how a bull-catcher works. It would have been challenging sleeping under the hot corrugated roof with no luxuries or protection from flies and mosquitoes.
As we drove up to the stunning Bindoola Falls, Alfie educated us on some of the bush tucker found on the property. The Boab is not only the symbol of the Kimberley, it's a bush smorgasbord. The leaves are great for salad, the roots are twined and used for fishing line, whilst the soft bark is best for leaving messages. The nuts are used for carving and its flesh, high in vitamin C, is healthy eating.
Kimberley Heather is also known as ‘turkey bush’ or ‘tourist bush’ as it starts flowering at the same time as the tourists arrive. The Kapok tree is used as a calendar by Indigenous locals to judge the laying and hatching of salt crocodile eggs. The pretty-but-useless little purple flowers found in the region are named Mula Mula bush.
We spent time exploring Bindoola Falls. The falls only flow during the wet season, however, the lower pool is permanent. It is safe to swim here but some rock hopping is required to reach the lower pool and you'll have to share with freshwater crocodiles.
After stopping at ‘Telstra Hill’ for some great views of the Cockburn Range we drove down to the camping area by the Pentecost River for some croc spotting but, with so many people about, they were all hiding. There is also a concrete boat ramp here giving easy access when the tide is up.
Picture yourself relaxing with a glass of wine or an ice-cold beer, enjoying a seasonal platter while watching the Cockburn Range glow as the sun sets behind you. This is all possible and to top it off, the lookout is reserved for sunset tours, so you won’t have to put up with a horde of backpackers crashing your party.
Climb onboard with Professional Helicopter Services and check out the Pentecost River, Cockburn Range and HV8 from a different perspective. And if you love the thought of flying to a remote site to fish for barramundi, all you need do is ask.
There are several picturesque walking trails within HV8 ranging from easy to hard and most starting near the campground.
The Cockburn lookout trail offers wonderful views, especially at sunset while the Mount Baldy lookout trail is a moderate walk that rewards you with uninterrupted panoramic views of mesa country and the Cockburn Ranges.
The Wildflower Valley circuit trail is perfect for nature photography, bird watching and wildflowers.
The more difficult walks are the Bindoola Gorge trail and the Bindoola Gorge lookout trail. Both offer spectacular views of the gorge as well as open savannah woodland, permanent waterholes and local wildlife — take your camera.
There are two camping options at HV8, one is a beautifully grassed area at the station, the other is bush camping down by the Pentecost River. If you decide to leave your caravan in Kununurra, there are several accommodation options to suit everyone.
The homestead campground has all the facilities, powered and unpowered sites, clean amenities blocks with hot showers and flushing toilets, laundry, children’s playground and access to the lagoon-style pool. It is also walking distance to reception and the Dusty Bar & Grill.
The Pentecost River Bush Camp is 4km from the homestead via a locked gate. With perfect views of the Cockburn Range and excellent fishing spots, you will also have access to shade shelters and clean amenities with hot showers and flushing toilets.
For those wanting to try something different, the safari-style Eco Tents are a great option, offering a little bit of luxury and a bed that beats what’s in your caravan. A daily buffet breakfast is also included. The Guesthouse rooms have the added bonus of air-conditioning and ensuite as well as being a short stroll to the pool reserved for house guests (nice and peaceful).
The most luxurious and comfortable accommodation is the Grass Castles. A spacious room, king-sized bed, modern ensuite and a deck that overlooks Bindoola Creek as well as all the mod cons you need.
The ILSC and Voyages have performed an amazing job in getting HV8 to where it is today. With so many things to do, you will never have enough time. That’s OK, it means you just have to come back.