Halls Creek, Western Australia
Kimberley outback tours have a tendency to rush out into the bush, heading straight for the landscapes of El Questro, Purnululu National Park, and the Gibb River Road. Understandable: few places rival the Kimberley for stunning scenery, thanks to the region’s waterfalls, river gorges, red dirt, and eerie rock formations. But spend some time in Halls Creek, one of the region’s remote towns, and you’ll discover a fascinating gold rush history.
The land now known as Halls Creek has been occupied for thousands of years by the Jaru and Kija people, an important place exchange thanks to trading paths stretching from the desert to the Kimberley coast.
European settlers first came to the region in the late 19th century, following the discovery of gold. In 1885, Charlie Hall (after whom the town is named) and Jack Slattery prospected for gold in the region, accumulating over 200 ounces of gold – including a huge 28 ounce nugget. It was the first gold found in Western Australia, and sparked a short-lived gold rush. More than 15,000 people descended on Halls Creek from around the world. At its peak of population, the town had a hospital, post office, stores, and a hotel.
The Gold Rush lasted only three months, though the town subsequently became a centre for cattle trading. By 1954, old Halls Creek was abandoned, as residents moved to a new town site, 15 kilometres away.
Old Halls Creek is a strange and eerie ghost town. Wander around and you’ll see the ruins of the old settlement, decaying buildings, street signs, and the old post office that once linked this mining town to the world. Particularly evocative is the Old Halls Creek Cemetery, a testament to the tragic unpreparedness of white settlers for the harshness of desert life. One grave, dating back to 1909, is the burial place of a man who died of thirst in the Tanami Desert.
The cemetery is also home to the grave of James ‘Jimmy’ Darcy, whose story inspired an icon of Australia: the Royal Flying Doctor Service. When Darcy, a stockman, had an accident at work, he was brought by buggy to Halls Creek, a journey taking over 12 hours. On his arrival, it was found that the town had no hospital or doctor. The town postmaster sent a telegraph to Dr J. Holland in Perth, who, communicating in Morse Code, diagnosed Darcy has having a ruptured bladder. Dr. Holland encouraged the postmaster to immediately operate on Darcy, using the tools at hand – a pen knife and razor! The operation took seven hours – with no anaesthetic – and made a turn for the worse the following day. Dr Holland travelled by car and boat, but got there too late: Darcy had died. The story nonetheless gripped the Australian public, highlighting problems of access to medicine in rural areas, which encouraged Rev. John Flynn to establish the Royal Flying Doctor Service.
Today, Halls Creek has a population of 1,576, and is a major hub for surrounding Aboriginal communities. The town population is almost 67% Indigenous Australian. Major industries include mining, farming, and tourism.
Halls Creek is the gateway to many of the natural wonders of the Kimberley region. It is the closest settlement (at around 100 km away) to Purnululu National Park, home to the UNESCO World Heritage Listed Bungle Bungle Range, as well as other sites including the Cathedral Gorge, Echidna Chasm, and the Piccaninny Creek Lookout. Head to the range by 4WD, or scenic flight from Kununurra.
Odyssey Traveller visits Halls Creek as part of our tour of the Kimberley. Beginning and ending in Broome, our tour takes in the landscapes of the beautiful Kimberley region. We drive the iconic Gibb River Road in a comfortable 4WD, stopping off at all the major sights: Belle Gorge, Windjana Gorge National Park, Tunnel Creek, Mitchell River Gorge, and Galvans Gorge. Turning away from the Gibb River, we visit El Questro Wilderness Park, home to Emma Gorge, Chamberlain Gorge, and the Pentecost River. Once a thriving cattle station, El Questro has been turned into a wilderness park, with accommodation ranging from tented cabins to luxury rooms in the old El Questro station. Our tour visits the manmade Lake Argyle near Kununurra on the Western Australia/ Northern Territory border, home to an extensive population of freshwater crocodiles. We also explore the stunning Indian Ocean Kimberley Coast, where ‘the red sands meet the Timor Sea’, visiting Cable Beach, Roebuck Bay, and Gantheaume Point near Broome; Cape Leveque and the Dampier Peninsula; Yampi Sound; and Cygnet Bay.
Our outback tours don’t just focus on the tourist sites: we delve into the history of the region, visiting Fitzroy Crossing on the Fitzroy River, and learn about the dark side of the region’s history at the Boab Prison Tree, one of the region’s distinctive boab trees, that is rumoured to have been used as a prison for local Aboriginal people in the 1890s.
Spanning accros Australia‘s north west from Broome to Darwin, the Kimberley is the most remote region in Australia, over 400, 000 square kilometres of land with a population of only 40, 000. The east Kimberley is a virtually untouched wilderness, with major landmarks such as the Bungle Bungles only ‘discovered’ by Europeans in the 1980s.
Our tour of the Kimberley is designed especially for mature and senior travellers. Led by a tour guide chosen for their local knowledge, we move in small groups of around 6-12 like-minded people. Our Kimberley tour is all-inclusive, including accommodation, attractions, and travel in a comfortable 4WD. For more information, click here, and head to this page to learn more about our Australia and outback tours.
Articles about the Kimberley and Australia published by Odyssey Traveller:
For all the articles Odyssey Traveller has published for mature aged and senior travellers, click through on this link.
External articles to assist you on your visit to the Kimberley:
Selected small group package tours of Australia
15 daysMay, Aug, Jun, Sep
Small group tour of Australia's Kimberley
Visiting Western Australia
From A$14,250 AUDView Tour
18 daysMay, Aug, Oct, Feb, Mar +2
Small group tour of Australia's Flinders ranges
Visiting South Australia
From A$12,570 AUDView Tour
15 daysFeb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun +4
Small group tour of outback Queensland
Visiting New South Wales, Queensland
From A$9,080 AUDView Tour
15 daysAug, Sep, Oct
Wildflowers tour of Western Australia
Visiting Western Australia
From A$9,890 AUDView Tour
Articles about the Kimberley
Aboriginal Rock Art in the Kimberley, Australia
The Kimberley is explored on a small group tour for mature and senior travelers, couples or singles. Both Aboriginal community is studied and an appreciation of the wet and dry seasons. This guide on the Kimberley assists the traveler as you start from Broome and travel round via Halls creek and Purnunulu national park over some 17 days in a group of up to 12 people.
Lake Argyle, Australia
Understand why Lake Argyle exists before joining a small group package tour for mature and senior travellers of Western Australia's Kimberley region in the preferred dry season. Limited to 12 travellers for your peace of mind we learn about the landscapes and the aboriginal stories often via the rock art in far North.
Purnululu National Park, Australia
The Australian Outback: A Definitive Guide
Explore learn and consider what is the outback in this article. For mature and senior travelers considering joining a small group package tours into the outback to see, learn and explore about this unique place, not only the landscape but the Aboriginal approach to living. On each of the tours for couples and the single traveler you learn something different but fascinating, from Outback Queensland, the Flinders, Broken Hill and the Kimberley and the wildflowers all contribute to this question, what is the outback?
The Kimberley: A Definitive Guide
This article supports the small group package tours for mature and senior travellers, couples and solo travellers to Western Australia's Kimberley region. Learn about the wet and dry seasons and the fascinating Aboriginal history as well as the Bungle Bungles, Lake Argyle, Halls creek and resort of Broome.
Wet and dry seasons in the Kimberley, Australia
Learn about the wet and dry season in the Kimberley to support your understanding of the Aboriginal communities lifestyle as you explore on a small group package tour for mature and senior travelers exploring as a couple or solo traveller. Read our peace of mind statement for post covid-19 travel.