Derby – first sight of the West Coast

Derby, a very different kind of town

Derby was the first town established in the West Kimberley and is an important hub because of it’s port and the notorious Gibb River Road, which gives access to all the enormous cattle stations across the top – allowing them to get their cattle to abattoirs and markets. It has a permanent population of 4000 but in the dry tourist season add a couple of thousand to that.  There are many businesses in town up for sale, including the historic Spinifex Hotel (The Spini).

The Spinifex is the oldest Hotel in Derby and at the Port end of town.

It has seen better days and was up for auction when we were there.

I suspect that it might be replaced by units – there are a lot of units being build in this section of town.

The mineral riches of the area provide a lot of employment at times but also some instability. When BHP shut their large iron ore mining operation nearby the town went into decline for a decade.

First Sight of the West Coast

All lit up for the night shift, the shifts at the export facility at the end of a wharf more than a km. long depend on the high tides

The usefulness of Derby as a Port is affected by its having the largest tidal surge in Australia. The Jetty, rebuilt recently travels over more than a kilometer of mudflats to a new export facility for Zinc concentrate. The shallow King Sound means that ore carriers anchor 20 km. off the coast and are serviced by barges that can only be filled during a five-hour window of high tide. Even the barges have to be moored 6 km offshore at high tide.

At high tide the Barge heads to the ramp to be filled from containers,

bought in by road trains then go the 20 km. off shore to be loaded onto Asia bound ore carriers.

The strength of the tidal surges meeting the sediment-laden Fitzroy River means that the ocean is permanently the colour of Milk chocolate. That, and the presence of very large and hungry Estuarine crocodiles (salties) means that there is no swimming all year round in the Derby ocean, despite the heat and humidity.

The sun sets over the ocean behind the export facility at Derby.

More than a km. off shore and the mud is still solid enough to driver over. It only gets to be wet mud in heavy rain and during kind tide events


4 thoughts on “Derby – first sight of the West Coast

    • H Paula – I suspect the Spini might go for a bit more than your $6000 bankroll. I also think it is probably heiritage listed, needing a lot of work to get it up to scratch. I wasn’t aware that you desired to be a publican? The English lass behind the bar who offered to take our photo (sorry about the “Blues Brothers” look with sunnies and silly hat) had been in town for 6 hours having overlanded from London. It’s that kind of town. I will email the photo since it won’t let me put an image in a comment.

  1. Gaz and Julie, really enjoying your blog, cant help but be envious, not only the holiday but the weather, it’s pretty dismal down here in Adelaide. How’s Julie going? I think the thought of 5 months away was a bit daunting for her before you left.

    • Hi Wayne, sorry it took me a while to reply – too busy with emails!
      We have extended our stay in Broome another three days – way are going to the “Opera at the Beach” on Cable Beach on Saturday night. Definitely higher class than a camel ride (did that in Egypt under the Great Pyramids – I think that’s a trump!)
      Day temperatures are low thirties getting to mid 20’s overnight with a cooling breeze. I think we are both starting to really get into the swing of it. The first 6 weeks were full on with lots of long drives on bad roads, dodgy caravan parks sometimes but amazing places to visit.
      We anticipate some more consistent travelling over the next two weeks or so to Perth, where we will stay a fortnight

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