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Halls Creek, Western Australia

Halls Creek, Western Australia

An Antipodean travel company serving world travellers since 1983

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. 

Spectacular landscape in the Kimberley, Australia.

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.

The distinctive orange and grey stripes of the Bungle Bungle mountains, seen from above. Halls Creek is the closest town to the Bungle Bungles.

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.

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