Derby

The Administrative centre of the southern Kimberley region. It has for many years served the beef cattle industry of the hinterland and is the mainland port for the Koolan Island and Cockatoo Island iron ore mines when they are operational.

Derby is located on the tidal mud flats on the edge of the King Sound. Along with Broome and Kununurra, it is one of only three towns in the Kimberley region to have a population over 2,000. Located on King Sound, Derby has the highest tidal range of any port in Australia (12m) and one of the highest tides of any port in the world. The highest tide is at the Bay of Fundy in Novia Scotia, Canada (15m).

Boab Week, which is named after the boab tree, is a week long festival that includes traditional events such as mud football, the Mardi Gras and other festivities.

Historically, Derby has played a major role in the Australian Royal Flying Doctor Service for the Kimberley Region.

History of Derby


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Where Is It?

216 km east north east of Broome on King Sound near the mouth of the Fitzroy River.

Things To See And Do


Boab Prison Tree and Myall's Bore

On the outskirts of town (7 km south on the Derby Highway) is the Boab or Baobab Prison Tree and the Myall's Bore.

The huge baobab tree was used as a lockup for Aboriginal prisoners. It was the last stopover point for patrols returning to Derby. Capable of holding a number of prisoners it has an entrance which is about one metre wide and two metres high.

The Bore, originally known as Miyarli Well, was originally sunk by a man called Mayall who in 1912 sank the bore to a depth of 322 metres. The daily flow of water was 315 000 litres. The bore was capped in 1980. Beside the bore stands a huge 120 metre long cattle trough which was built in about 1920 and is reputed to be the longest in the southern hemisphere. It is claimed, although it seems hard to imagine, that when the trough was in use 1000 head of cattle could be watered at one time.


Pigeon Heritage Trail

An excellent account of Pigeon's reign of terror and a discussion of the places connected with his operations around Derby can be found in The Pigeon Heritage Trail: Aboriginal-European Relations in the West Kimberley, 1890s which is available from the Derby Tourist Bureau in Clarendon Street, Derby. It has clear directions to the Old Derby Gaol in Loch Street and the old cemetery in Sutherland Street which has the grave of Pigeon's first victim, Police Constable Richardson


Natural features

Indian Ocean; King Sound; Swan Island (King Sound) Nature Reserve (120 km north-west); Tunnel Creek National Park (160 km); Windjana Gorge; Napier Range; Lennard River; Buccaneer Archipelago; Bonaparte Archipelago; Horizontal Falls; Fitzroy River; Low Rocks Nature Reserve (425 km north-east); Prince Regent River (270 km north-east). Minerals found in the hinterland include oil at Blina, diamonds in the Phillips Range, facing stone from the King Leopold Ranges and lead and zinc from Cadjebut.

Built features

abattoirs (established 1966); Bungarun Leprosarium graveyard; Mowanjum Aboriginal Mission (established 1956-81) and Mowanjum Community (art); (8 km south of Derby); Myalls Bore; Royal Flying Doctor base; Wharfinger's House; Jetty Tramway and Woolshed (operated 1900 to 1957); Adele Island Lighthouse; Glenroy Station & Meatworks (309 km NW of Derby); Curtin Detention Centre.

Heritage features

Boab prison tree; Derby wharf; Windjana Gorge Aboriginal art sites; Boulder Hill Aboriginal art sites (80 km north-east); Oombalai Aboriginal occupation and art site (60 km north); 'Mermaid' carved boab tree, Careening Bay

Surrounding Area

Buccaneer Archipelago

The wealth of Yampi Peninsula on WA's Kimberley coast lies not in its pastures, but in its rocks; and not on the mainland but across Yampi Sound on some of the 800 or so offshore islands of Buccaneer Archipelago which commemorates that first sighting by British navigator William Dampier and his companions. The iron-ores of Koolan and Cockatoo Islands are some of the first iron ore deposits to be mined in Australia by BHP, were known for some years before development began. The pearling luggers used to pick up the ironstone for ballast.

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Horizontal Waterfall

A horizontal, reversible waterfall at Talbot Bay is one of the most unusual of the attractions of Western Australia's Kimberley region. The falls are formed by the massive tides in the Buccaneer Archipelago, north of Derby, which rise at such a speed, large volumes of water are trapped behind the rock walls. The water is released again when the tide turns, causing the 'waterfall' to operate in reverse.

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Montgomery Reef

One of Australia's natural wonders, the reef is subject of one of the most significant and unusual tidal movements in the world. It is an extraordinary panorama of vast lagoons, tiny sandstone islets and a central mangrove island - but only when the tide is out. When the tides is in, all you see is the vast expanse of the ocean.

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Tunnel Creek

Tunnel Creek takes its name from the 750 metre long tunnel carved by flowing water out of the limestone of the Napier Range, and is part of the 375 to 350 million-year-old Devonian Reef system. To pass through it to the other side of Napier Range, you have to wade through long waterholes up your waist and at times up to your chest. In sections, it is pitch black so you need to carry a torch in one hand and your camera in your other.

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Windjana Gorge

The walls of Windjana Gorge rise abruptly from the wide alluvial floodplain of the Lennard River, reaching about 100 metres high in some places. The 3.5-kilometre long gorge cuts through the limestone of the Napier Range; part of an ancient barrier reef, which can also be seen at Geikie Gorge and Tunnel Creek National Parks. This gorge offers excellent long walks; it is also great location to observe freshwater crocodiles.

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