A little bit of our History

Kununurra sits on the banks of the mighty Ord River and is surrounded by 350 million-year-old sandstone ridges and rocky outcrops, including the World Heritage-listed Purnululu National Park (the Bungle Bungle Ranges).

Aboriginal history in the East Kimberley dates back more than 40,000 years and the Aboriginal rock art that exists in the Kimberley region is recognised as some of the best examples of rock paintings found anywhere in the world. The link from the Miriwoong people of today to their ancestors is evidenced through artwork, dancing, ceremonial and spiritual rites as well as in the strong family ties that bond family groups together.
European settlement of the East Kimberley region started after Michael Durack and a group of NSW pastoralists sailed into the Cambridge Gulf in search of suitable grazing country. Two years later, in 1884, the first cattle arrived after being driven overland from New South Wales and Queensland and white settlement on stations began.

In 1886, the township of Wyndham was surveyed, and in 1909 the WA government sent a representative to investigate the potential for tropical agriculture in the state’s north. Reports were favourable but progress was slow.

In 1923, Frank Wise, a Queensland Department of Agriculture officer, was appointed tropical advisor for the region and was a driving force initiating irrigated agriculture trials but it was almost 40 years before Diversion Dam was built.

The Kununurra Country Club Resort site started its life as a Public Works Department (PWD) facility during the early construction of the Ord Irrigation Scheme. Our main reception/restaurant building was the No. 1 Mess for the PWD and subsequently the birthplace of the Ord River Club, opened by the Premier David Brand 29 May 1961. It was a social hub for the developing community of Kununurra through the 1960’s and 70’s.

  • 88 Rooms
  • 47 Staff
  • 1 Pool
  • 1 Restaurant

In the early 1980’s Debbie and Peter Sayers leased and later purchased the former mess and single man’s quarters from the PWD with the vision of developing a hotel on the site. The Sayers initially provided budget accommodation, initially using the existing single-man’s quarters off the walkway near Reception, to establish the business. In addition, Choppy’s – a Chinese restaurant and takeaway – was opened to fund the development of the property. Within 10 years the Country Club grew to 88 rooms, a below-ground pool was installed and the restaurant was renovated. Under private ownership, the property remained an integral element in the social fabric of Kununurra.

Kununurra celebrated its 50th Birthday in 2011. The town now is regarded as one the state’s top tourism destinations and is a well-serviced, growing regional centre.

The $517 million Ord-East Kimberley Development Plan will increase the size of the Ord Irrigation area to about 29,000ha and provide major opportunities for sustainable economic and social development in the region.

Should you want to learn more of Aboriginal cultural heritage we highly recommend a visit to Waringarri Arts and the Mirima Language Centre. For a greater insight into European history, we highly recommend a visit to the Kununurra Historical Society’s museum just over the road from the Resort. Also well worth a visit is the Homestead at Lake Argyle. Local tour operators are a wealth of historical and contemporary local information and our team would be happy to ensure you find the perfect tour.