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Published: July 18th 2012
on the way up to Wyndham
In 1819 Phillip Parker King was the first European to visit the area. He was commissioned to find a river 'likely to lead to an interior navigation of the great continent'. King found the Cambridge Gulf, which he named after the Duke of Cambridge, and then sailed up a river which was subsequently named after him. Finding no fresh water on the mudflats, he departed.
The town of Wyndham was established after finds of gold in Halls Creek by John Forrest in 1886 as the major port and trading station of the East Kimberley. By mid 1886, the town was booming, there were six pubs, one of which was a two-storey building. Ships brought in at least five thousand miners who headed off to the Halls Creek goldfields. It is known that during this boom there were times when up to 16 vessels were moored in Cambridge Gulf.
However, by 1888, the gold rush at Halls Creek had ended and the fortunes of Wyndham had declined and the town became a tiny settlement serving the pastoral interests in the East Kimberley. By 1912, money had virtually disappeared from the Wyndham economy, and purchases
on the way up to Wyndham
were paid for using promissory notes known as "shinplasters". (I’ve had a few of them!)
During World War II, the town was attacked several times by Japanese aircraft, (some parts of Port Wyndham still look like they are bombed!).
Wyndham's significance again as a service centre became crucial for the construction of both the Ord River Diversion Dam and the town of Kununurra in the early 1960s. But with the growth of Kununurra as a larger (population) centre, the significance of Wyndham as a service centre again diminished by the 1980s. Wyndham has recently experienced growth and development again as a port servicing the live export of cattle from the region, as well as for the new mines that have opened that are now shipping ore from the port.
Wyndham is split into two areas. The original town site of Wyndham Port is situated on the Cambridge Gulf, while Wyndham's Three Mile area is the residential and shopping area of the town.
Wyndham is Western Australia's most northern town has one of the hottest annual average temperatures in Australia. Wyndham is a historic town and I am sure that I read somewhere it had a colourful
and frontier period in its past where the law was made on the run by locals totting pistols on their hips etc. Not sure where I read or heard that but I could imagine this far flung Northern outback town with a ‘maverick’ period in its history, it all looks like it would fit. We enjoyed our stay in Wyndham and found plenty to do and see.
One of the ‘must sees’ is the five rivers lookout and the Bastion Range. Sitting 330 mtrs above and behind the port area is the five rivers lookout where we witnessed a magnificent sunset over the Cambridge Gulf one night with a bottle of wine, great. From here you can see where the 5 rivers, the King, Ord, Durack, Pentecost and Forrest, flow into the Cambridge Gulf as well as looking down onto the ore loading and the live cattle export facilities. The Bastion range, or Daharwi Range, is a spectacular backdrop to Wyndham and the port.
The Wyndham Port is a historic port founded in 1885 and today plays an important part the pastoral and mining industries as well as a hugely economic part in Wyndham’s survival. Many historic buildings
still stand as a testament to the early days and you can only speculate as to what could be done with the old main street of the port if a visionary with bucket loads of ‘cash’ came in and restored and developed the area for tourism, think mini Freo or Port Adelaide.
The Wyndham croc farm was also a great visit where we saw old ‘rogue crocs’, heard lots of Kimberley ‘stories’, fed crocs and heard about the croc leather industry, a great morning out without the commercial input of some popular ’croc shows’. Wyndham also has a prisoner Boab tree which was out 30klm along the Karunjie Track which we visited. The track follows the King river and after being at the croc farm that morning we were not even game to get out of the car! We also visited some indigenous cave paintings near the Moochalabra Dam which we thought were well worth the trip in. The Afghan cemetery is just out of town towards Kununurra and contains the graves of the Afghan settlers and cameleers (1890’s) who provided an important an important means of transport between the cattle stations and towns of the region. The graves
a renovation special, it does have waterfrontage to Chamberlain Gulf (crocs will visit the garden)...one for The Gronows!
are large due to the lead camel often being buried with its master !
We stayed in town at the Wyndham Caravan Park where Fiona was a great host and pointed us in the direction of the Five Rivers Café where we think that so far on this trip, they made the best Mango Smoothies we have had. Another most notable attraction in Wyndham is the price of fuel ! They advertise as the cheapest fuel in the Kimberley’s and they were by nearly 10 cents and I was told by the local police that this is always the case !
So Wyndham, don’t bypass it, another town, like Derby, that gets missed by many as it is a 100klm out of the way and therefore not on the direct route to where you are headed but there is a lot to see and do here, and you can fill up on cheap fuel at the same time.
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