Derby – the highest tide in Australia and 2nd in the World


Derby is a small town located in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. Along with Broome and Kununurra, it is one of only three towns in the region with a population exceeding 2000.

Despite its size, Derby offers several interesting places to explore. One of the most famous is the Derby wharf, which experiences tides of up to 11.8 meters, making it the second-highest tidal range in the world after the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia.

Derby - the highest tide in Australia
Derby – the highest tide in Australia

One of the best things about Derby is that you can drive around the wharf, park your car, and start fishing. We were amazed by the Derby wharf, which experiences the highest tides we’ve seen so far.

In addition to the wharf, there are several other interesting places to explore in Derby. These include the Wharfingers House Museum (open on request), Old Derby Gaol,  Norval GalleryMowanjum Aboriginal Art & Culture Centre, Derby Pioneer Cemetery, and the Baob Prison Tree (which is the second prison tree we’ve seen on our trip – see our post from Wyndham for more information).

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Small town and repairs

Upon arriving in Derby, we noticed that dust had gotten everywhere, so the first thing we did was clean the trailer. Unfortunately, after enduring numerous corrugations on the Gibb River Road, we discovered that a few things had broken, such as the small battery doors. We immediately contacted the camper service to order repairs.

Unfortunately, some of the damage was beyond repair, and we were informed that we needed to travel all the way to Perth to have it fixed. Until then, we couldn’t take the trailer on any serious off-road excursions.

Derby wharf sunset
Derby wharf sunset
Travel Spiced Life

It’s essential to be prepared when off-roading in remote areas. Bringing spare parts and tools to do repairs on your own is a smart idea because often there are no services around.

Old Gaol

The following day, after cleaning up from the Gibb River Road, we visited the Old Derby Gaol. This is where Aboriginal people were held back in 1906, and the experience was incredibly sobering.

The entire building looked like a bicycle shed, except that the floor had chains attached to it, to which people were shackled at night. The overall impression was very depressing, and it was a stark reminder of the injustices that Aboriginal people have faced in Australia’s history.

Derby Old Gaol
Derby Old Gaol

Fishing from Derby wharf (11.8 m highest tide)

Upon our arrival in Derby, we purchased the necessary fishing gear, including hooks, weights, and other items. We only had gear suitable for catching barramundi, so we needed to acquire equipment for ocean fishing.

We were advised that we could safely fish from the pier, which is elevated and out of reach of crocodiles, as long as we stayed away from the rocks below.

Derby wharf
Derby wharf – I really enjoyed fishing there

In the evening, Marius went to “wet the line” and test out our new fishing gear. The best time for fishing is typically an hour before the highest tide, but unfortunately, it was already past high tide by the time he started.

Despite this, Marius tried his luck but didn’t have any bites. Instead, he caught a crab, but we decided to release it back into the water since we didn’t know any good crab recipes just yet.

Surprising catch – 5 kg Mulloway

The following day, Marius went fishing at high tide once again, taking plenty of cold beer with him. I think he thoroughly enjoyed his time out on the water. Before he left, he promised to be back in an hour.

However, he ended up staying out for 2.5 hours, and when he returned, he had a huge fish with him! It turned out to be a mulloway (jewfish), measuring 90 cm long and weighing 5 kg – an absolute giant!

Derby - my biggest catch - mulloway
Derby – my biggest catch – mulloway

Half of the campsite came to see the huge fish when Marius brought it back. I personally hoped that someone would offer to teach us how to fillet the fish, but most people just took pictures and disappeared!

We struggled for a while, not knowing how to properly fillet the fish, until a guy camping next to us came over with a special knife, very thin, and showed us how to separate the meat from the bones. Thanks to his help, we were able to create eight dinner portions from the one fish! Not bad at all.

Derby - the highest tide in Australia
Derby – the highest tide in Australia

That evening, we enjoyed a delicious dinner made from the fresh and tasty fish. It was the freshest fish we had eaten in a long time. Marius, on the other hand, had become a campsite celebrity. Everyone knew him already and constantly asked him about what rig and bait he used, and even came with their own rods. It was amusing because this was Marius’ first real fishing experience.

After spending three days in Derby, our next big adventure was exploring the Dampier Peninsula. We had high expectations for this area, with its stunning cliffs, white sand beaches, and turquoise waters. We were excited to see what it had in store for us!

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Are there any other attractions in Derby?

Pigeon Heritage Trail – it is a story of the Aboriginal tracker Pigeon who led a successful, armed rebellion against European settlers. It is a self-guided trail that takes you to different places where you learn the history of Pigeon. Get more information from Derby Visitor Centre.

Wharfingers House Museum – open on request museum that holds various displays related to the town’s history. You can obtain the key from Derby Visitor Centre.

Myall’s Bore – the bore was created by a man called Mayall who sank it to a depth of 322 meters.  It is located 7 km from Derby. They claim it was possible to water a long trough for 1000 cattle at one time.

Old Cemetery – the cemetery is located in Lovegrove Street and is part of the Pigeon Heritage Trail. It has graves of first Pigeon’s victim and Aboriginal tracker ‘Larry’.

Mowanjum Aboriginal Art & Culture Centre – located 13 km from Derby it is an Aboriginal Art Centre that is home to unique Wandjina figures. You can meet the artist and buy paintings, prints, clothing, books, or videos.

Norval Gallery – the gallery is located at the beginning of Derby, 5 km from the wharf. It is Mark Norval’s work, past and present plus other artwork from local artists. Dogs are more than welcome to visit too.

Windjana Gorge and Tunnel Creek – located 150 km from Derby, Windjana Gorge is home to freshwater crocodiles and this is the only place in Australia it is almost guaranteed to see them. Close to the gorge is Tunnel Creek – Australia’s oldest cave system.

Read more from our post about Windjana Gorge and Tunnel Creek.

Is there a road to Horizontal Falls?

There is no road to Horizontal Falls. The only way to get there is by boat or seaplane. From Derby, typically you can take a boat or a scenic flight to reach the falls.

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4WD Equipment Checklist

GPS Navigator or compass

Maxtrax – if you get bogged, you can use it for additional traction

Tire Deflator – deflate tires quickly when going on dirt or 4WD

Air Compressor – inflate tires quickly after going back on bitumen (we use MM)

Tire Repair Kit – to fix the tire by yourself when you don’t have access to the tire shop (we use Oztrail)

UHF Radio – for communication with your mates and in emergency

Full Recovery Kit (with Dampener Blanket) – must-have if you are going on real off-road

High Lift Jack – useful if you do serious 4WD tracks

Shovel – useful if you get bogged, also good for campfire cooking

Fuel funnel with water filter – additional protection when fueling up in dodgy places

Additional fuel canisters

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