The most northerly district of Western Australia, the Kimberleys cover an area of 420,518 km2 - three times that of England. Despite the sparse population and low rainfall in parts of the area, the region is increasingly important to the economy of the state. There is iron ore at Yampi Sound and the most productive pastoral area is centred on the Ord River scheme. A pearl-culture establishment is located on the coast north of Derby and there is the possibility of the development of a large prawn fishery; bauxite has been located on the shores of Admiralty Gulf on the north coast. For many years the economy of this region has been based on beef cattle. Sheep-farming is also popular, with abattoirs located at Broome, Derby and Wyndham.
The coast of the Kimberleys was sighted by Dutch navigators and later by William Dampier. The area was first penetrated by Alexander Forrest in 1879 and small deposits of gold were discovered there in 1881.