This is the fifth and final entry detailing my ten-day outback adventure around Western Australia’s remote Kimberley region. Catch up with the beginning of our trip off-roading the iconic Gibb River Road here, here and here, and check out our detour to the otherworldly, UNESCO Heritage-listed Bungle Bungles here!
DAYS 9 & 10: CAPE LEVEQUE AND MIDDLE LAGOON
When you already live in paradise, where do you go to get away from it all?
In Broome, it seemed, that place was Cape Leveque.
In the months I spent living in Broome, people name-dropped Cape Leveque constantly. Backpackers and long-termers alike raved about it, this place so beautiful it surpassed even our own beloved Cable Beach. I imagined Cape Leveque as a sublime sort of mirage, a higher paradise than any beach I’d ever seen.
Needless to say, we were dying to go.
Equipped with the four-wheel drive we needed to get there, we decided to leave time to explore the coast at the end of our trip. The drive spanned the whole of the Kimberley’s incredible diversity, from the ancient sandstone and palm-filled gorges of the Bungle Bungles to the night we spent camping surrounded by wallabies and eucalyptus-soaked air in the otherwise dusty and nondescript town of Fitzroy Crossing to — finally — the red dirt and brush-backed dunes we’d grown so used to in Broome.
It was early afternoon when we pulled into Kooljaman, an Aboriginal-owned wilderness camp that offers accomodation ranging from campsites to cabins to glamping. It is the only place to stay in Cape Leveque. Since we were nearing the very end of the tourist season, we were able to show up and get a camping spot without having booked in advance. During the main season, this would have been impossible — Kooljaman fills up fast.
We had no plans in Cape Leveque. After days of driving and hiking and swatting away flies, we wanted only to relax.
And so we did.
Jadine and I lay in the sand while Woody played with the four-wheel drive, looping around us in the Pajaro. We swam. We strolled. We worshipped the sun. Woody even saw an eagle ray leap out of the water.
We ended the day with two of my (er, everyone’s!) favorite things in life: sunset and pizza. I’ll be honest, though: as much as I live for sunsets, we barely made it through this one before rushing back up to Kooljaman. After a week of porridge and tuna in the outback, the thought of wood-fired pizza does certain things to your brain — trust me.
The best thing about pizza is that it loves to just keep on giving. Waking up to leftovers to snack on while we packed up camp was pretty much the perfect start to yet another relaxing, plan-free day in paradise.
Once again, we hit the beach.
I spent most of the morning wandering along the shore with my camera, and it struck me: this was paradise, but it wasn’t exactly the otherworldly, higher paradise of my dreams. It was an extension of the one I already called home.
I lived in Broome for nearly five months, and in all of that time, Cable Beach never once ceased to amaze me. Walking down the beach at Cape Leveque, I could easily imagine turning a corner and finding myself on a more familiar shore. It was all too obvious that Cable Beach and Cape Leveque marked two endpoints of the same coast. The similarities were impossible to miss, from the orange-red rock and gently sloping dunes to the quality of the sunsets and sparkling azure of the Indian Ocean.
Cape Leveque stunned, it was true, and its sand, I thought, was probably a little whiter than back in Broome. It wasn’t the unrivaled beach of my imagination, but I wasn’t disappointed in the least. In a way, I was relieved. Seeing Cape Leveque with my own eyes only made me more grateful for whatever impulse had led me to Broome, and more in awe of the extraordinary range of the Kimberley.
While I was dozing in the sun, Jadine and Woody had gotten to scheming.
Cape Leveque may be the star of the Dampier Peninsula, the reward waiting at its northernmost tip, but it’s certainly not the only attraction in the region. With 24 hours of freedom left with our rental vehicle, it was time to make our move.
And so, after stopping for a quick drink at Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm, we found ourselves at Middle Lagoon.
Middle Lagoon isn’t pristine like Cape Leveque. It feels rougher around the edges, with wilder water and natural debris washing onto the shore. Its beauty is rugged, its solitude blissful. Here, we shared the entire beachfront campground with only one other camper van.
It was the perfect place to end our trip.
We’d been on the road for only ten days, but it felt like far longer. Our trip had taken us off the grid and into the bush, into an outback more staggeringly lush and diverse than any version I could have dreamed up.
The coast felt like the right place to end our trip. We were within hours of Broome, not just the home where we had all met and started obsessing about the Gibb River Road, but also the southern boundary of the Kimberley. It was a fact I hadn’t fully appreciated until we’d traveled the region ourselves. This was a trip that almost didn’t happen, but I realized then that to have lived in Broome for all that time and not explored the Kimberley beyond would have been the single greatest mistake I could have made during my year in Australia.
It’s been, almost unbelievably, six months now since we ended our big Gibb River Road-Kimberley trip around the campfire at Middle Lagoon. It was the greatest road trip I’d never heard of, the road trip that defined Australia for me. And while I don’t know now, sitting on the other side of the world, when or if I’ll ever return, I know for sure that I’ll never stop longing for the Kimberley.