Vansittart Bar & Jar Island

By June 15, 2019 June 26th, 2019 Australia, Travel Stories

On my recent Silversea Kimberley cruise from Darwin to Broome I visited some fascinating places.  I didn’t think it was possible but each day just got better and better, Vansittart Bay and Jar Island were no exception. The beautiful bay and little island not only offer stunning scenery but also has a fascinating past of ancient Aboriginal Art and a WW2 plane wreck.

Vansittart Bay is a beautifully protected large bay with numerous small islands and secluded coves located 640 kilometres north east of Broome.  The golden beach is framed by large sandstone outcrops topped with sandstone blocks that looked as though they were strewn there by a giant. Within the sandstone are weathered nodules of iron, known as ochre which was used as the pigment for the rock art.

The bay is also the famous historical site of a WW2 allied DC3 aircraft lying forlornly in the scrub on the eastern shore of the bay. Despite enduring the heat, fire and storms of the Kimberley, the wreckage is remarkably well preserved.

Jar Island is located in the southern part of Vansittart Bay and is a striking sight with sandy beaches, rocky sandstone outcrops and a spectacular array of caves. Surrounding the island are the turquoise waters of the Timor sea.  The island is rugged landscape which is dotted with numerous plant life. A range of animals have made Jar Island their home including the golden-backed tree rat, echidnas and an array of birds who nest on the island.

Although Jar Island is worth the visit just for its picturesque surrounds, it is best known for the ancient Aboriginal rock art which can be found across the island. There are art sites at numerous locations on the island and these are spectacular depictions of both the Wandjina and Gwion Gwion, also known as Bradshaw rock art styles. Some of the ancient rock art of the Kimberley is thought to be an incredible 50,000 to 60,000 years old. Much of the art on Jar Island is remarkably well preserved due to their location under rock ledges and inside caves which protects them from the elements. While the Wandjina art on Jar Island is estimated to be around 1,000 years old, the characteristic elongated figures of the Gwion Gwion rock art is far older with estimates of 30,000 to 40,000 years old.

Jar Island was named by Phillip Parker King who was famous for surveying the coastline of the Kimberley and the name was chosen due to shards of pottery which were found there. This pottery is thought to have been brought to the island by the Macassan traders who originate from Indonesia and had been travelling to the Kimberley coastline for centuries to trade with the Aboriginal people.

Next stop the magnificent Hunter River region.