Derby is located two hours north of Broome in Western Australia’s north west. With its friendly, easygoing outback character, it has become a popular stopover for visitors heading in to the gorge country of the vast north.
Derby was the first town to be settled in the Kimberley and is the main access point to Gibb River Road, Windjana Gorge National Park, Tunnel Creek and the small islands of the Buccaneer Archipelago. The warm winters and hot humid summers provide perfect conditions for watching the highest tides in Australia, peaking at over 11 metres.
The streets have a distinctive character as Derby is the home to the boab tree. In the early days, Derby serviced the fledgling pastoral industry of the interior and the pearl shell industry of the Buccaneer Archipelago. Its prosperity depended on the economic fluctuations of the mining and pastoral industries of its hinterland.
Today it is a regional administrative and supply centre with approximately 5,000 permanent residents. A variety of accommodation, shops and restaurants make for a pleasant stay.
Some of Derby’s attractions include Wharfinger’s House Museum, the Botanical Gardens and the Royal Flying Doctor Base and School of the Air. Aboriginal art and design is on show at a gallery in the town. Hotels, motels, self-catering accommodation and caravan parks are available for visitors in Derby.
Old Derby Gaol
The oldest building still standing in Derby, the gaol dates back to 1906. The Old Derby Gaol is symbolic of what the authorities felt was appropriate for keeping law and order in this remote part of Australia.
The gaol is minimal to say the least! It differs to others in that it is not a substantial stone or brick structure but is constructed of galvanised iron and bars only. Chain rings can still be seen on the concrete floor.
An interpretive centre, next to the gaol outlines the history of the building and the impact of policing policy on the mainly Aboriginal inmates. The Old Derby Gaol is a registered National and State Heritage Site.
Located two kilometres east of Derby townsite, this wharf experiences the highest tidal range of any wharf in Australia, the tide can reach up to an amazing 12 metres. The Derby Jetty is at the eastern end of King Sound, an area of water known for its shifting mud banks and swirling tides making navigation very difficult.
The present jetty, constructed in 1963/64, replaced a wooden structure dating from 1885, and was used for the export of live cattle. The last commercial ship visited the port in 1980.
Boab Prison Tree
This huge tree is believed to be around 1,500 years old and has a girth of 14.7 metres. It was used as staging point for prisoners being walked into Derby in the early days.
The Prison Tree is a registered Aboriginal Site. Visitors are requested to respect the cultural sensitivity of the site and not climb into or approach close to the tree. (See the Boab Prison Tree Interpretative Pavilion located on site for further information).
Derby Pioneer Cemetery
The Derby Pioneer Cemetery dates back to the early pioneering days and reveals the hardships of those times. A great many graves are without headstones but those there tell of hard and painful times.
A tangible reminder of the story of the Aboriginal Jandamarra (Pigeon) can be seen on the gravestone of one of his victims, Constable Richardson. A booklet telling of the resistance of the Aboriginal people to the new settlers is available from the Derby Visitor Centre.