The town of Derby is located on the tidal mud flats on the edge of the King Sound. It has the highest tidal range of any port in Australia.
The boab tree is a major feature of Derby and they are used as en entry statement of the main road into Derby. The Boab Tree is a protected species and many are transplanted to parklands, the golf course and road reserves so that they are not destroyed during development. The famous Boab Prison Tree is located 7 kilometres from the town.
The town has a population of some 4,000 people. Half of the population are Aboriginal Australians, with three different Aboriginal languages.
A high proportion of the population are employed in State and Commonwealth Departments or Instrumentalities such as Main Roads WA, Health Services and Education, and in providing services to outlying Aboriginal Communities. The remainder are small business people employed in servicing the mining, pastoral and tourism industries.
As a service town Derby offers all the amenities. It has recreation facilities including a swimming pool, library, art gallery, ovals and courts for football, cricket, tennis, squash, netball, basketball, rodeo and horse riding. A nine hold grassed golf course is another asset.
A good selection of shopping is available with two large supermarkets, clothing and furniture shops, newsagency, electrical goods, chemist, hotels and restaurants/cafes.
There are two primary schools, a high school and pre-school facilities. Health services are provided by the hospital and there are extended care facilities for the aged and infirm.
How to get to Derby
Derby is located 220 kilometres north east of Broome. Greyhound Australia offers a service five days a week between Broome and Darwin.
Derby Bus Service offers a Derby to Broome Service three times a week. At present no airlines fly direct from Perth to Derby, flightsare available into Broome with both Virgin Australia and Qantas.
Derby is the closest town and therefore the ideal stepping stone to the awesome gorges of the Gibb River Road and the spectacular display of the Horizontal Waterfalls and Buccaneer Archipelago.
The town had its origins in the pastoral and mining industries. It developed as a Port to service the pastoral properties along the Fitzroy River after the exploration of the area by Alexander Forrest in 1879. Pearl luggers collecting shell in the Buccaneer Archipelago also used the Port after it was established in 1883. Then the town boasted a police detachment and Government residence. By 1884 a hotel, jetty and tramway were being constructed – all firsts for the Kimberley. The 1886 gold rush at Hall’s Creek led to a boom in development.
The pastoral and mining industries and administration and tourism continued to be the main impetus in the town. Over the years oil has been found at Blina, diamonds at Ellendale facing stone Wunaamin-Milliwundi Ranges (formerly King Leopold Ranges) and lead and zinc at Cadjebut (approximately 100kms from Fitzroy Crossing).
The Bungarun (formerly the Derby Leprosarium) on the outskirts of the town was one of two in Western Australia that helped to contain an epidemic of the Leprosary from the 1930s to the 1980s. Now known as Hansen’s Disease it still occurs throughout the Kimberley, but is now controlled by drugs.
Communications have always been important for such an isolated town. The first scheduled Airmail Service in Australia commenced on December 5th, 1921 between Derby and Geraldton. West Australian Airways Ltd. run by Norman Brearley, began this service and at one time the Perth to Derby service was the world’s longest passenger airline route. More information about Derby’s history can be found at Wharfinger House Museum. Check with the Visitor Centre for opening times.