|Timor Sea sunrise|
I'd never been to this part of the Kimberley. Not many people have. It's much less visited than the Kimberley coast around Broome in north-west Western Australia (spectacular as that is - see my Why you should go to the Kimberley post), mainly because it's so far away.
To get to the Berkeley River from, say, Sydney, you have to fly across Australia to Perth, north to Broome, east to Kununurra, which is only 35km from the Northern Territory border, then north again for an hour in a light plane until, finally, you land at a dusty private airstrip. Which makes you feel well off the map when you get there - in a good way.
|The Berkeley River, looking west|
Up close, they're airy, architect-designed corrugated-iron cabins on stilts, "sea-houses" that rest lightly on the landscape.
The lodge opened in 2012 and though it's not eco-certified, it is sustainable in all sorts of ways.
|Sky-villas on a sand dune|
|My blue-sky bathroom|
It's a five-star lodge, with five-star rates to match (see below), but the real privilege of staying at Berkeley River is having the opportunity to experience in this incredible place, with few reminders of the outside world. (There's no tv or mobile reception, and WiFi only in the main lodge.)
And croc country, of course. The only two "rules" at the lodge are actually survival tips: don't swim in the sea (there are tiger sharks, too) and stay at least five metres from the water's edge when walking on the beach.
|A pool with a view|
The lodge has one of the most beautiful hotel pools I've ever swum in: 20 metres, saltwater, with shade umbrellas at both ends and views across the river mouth to a sandstone escarpment that changes colour with the changing light.
And there are croc-free swimming holes. On our second day we cruised the coast in a small boat with guide Bruce Maycock, who has probably spent more time exploring this coastline than anyone, even camping for months at a time during the Wet season (an interview with Bruce is my next post). We landed on beaches striped with croc-tracks, rock-hopped up gorges to see ancient rock art and explored mangrove-lined inlets, but the highlight was our last stop, Atlantis Creek.
|One of my comrades at Atlantis pool|
All afternoon we swam, jumped off rocks and played in the water like kids at a pool party, until it was time to walk back to the boat and head home to the lodge.
We had other day-trips: beach drives to see turtle nests and stone tools used by long-gone indigenous locals, a river cruise up the Berkeley, a little fishing (not my thing, but a drawcard for a lot of guests) and an amazing (and not very no-impact, I confess) heli-sunset trip to the nearest peak, Mt Casuarina. And there was still time to do nothing in scenic splendour back at the lodge occasionally.
|Yours truly, loving her work|
I really didn't want to leave, but Berkeley does even that well, giving us a "rock star" departure.
|Our private twin-prop (for an hour)|
Before I knew it, we were buckled in and speeding down that dusty runway, rewinding the tape to the start of our trip. Was it really only four days ago? Maybe it was all just a dream.
Berkeley River Lodge is open between March and November every year and villas start at $1488 per couple per night, including all meals and most activities. Plus air transfers from Kununurra or Darwin with Kimberley Air Tours, best booked through the lodge.
Big thanks to Berkeley River Lodge and Tourism WA for an incredible experience in a must-see part of Australia and to Fairfax Traveller for the assignment (I didn't really forget I was working. Well, not often).