Towns in Australia

Exploring Australia, town by town

Derby WA


Postcode: 6728

Derby is a town in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. Along with Broome and Kununurra, it is one of only three towns in the Kimberley to have a population over 2,000. Located on King Sound, Derby has the highest tides in Australia, with the peak differential between low and high tide reaching 11.8 metres.

During World War II, Derby was bombed by Japanese planes because of an air base and jetty that was steadily used by Australian forces. More recently, refugees were housed at Royal Australian Air Force Base Curtin which is located to the north of Derby.

The Boab festival is a week long festival that includes traditional events such as mud football, watermelon seed spitting, the Mardi Gras and other festivities.

Historically, Derby has played a major role in the Australian Royal Flying Doctor Service for the Kimberley Region. Also, the boab tree featured above was actually used as a prison, hence the name the “Prison Boab”.

The Derby region was first explored in 1688 by William Dampier. This statement, now widely accepted, is, in part, one of those strange cases of the rewriting of history. Dampier was one of the crew of the Cygnet which sailed around the King Sound area for three months in 1688. The Cygnet was actually under the command of Captain Read but it was Dampier who, upon his return to England, published A New Voyage Round the World and thus was incorrectly credited as leading the expedition which anchored in Cygnet Bay and sailed around King Sound.

It was in A New Voyage Round the World that Dampier made his observations about the Aborigines of Western Australia and the poor quality of Western Australia. These observations ensured that no one in Britain took any great interest in Australia for the next century.