Coffee Royal MemorialPrint Page Print this page


Photographs supplied by Dick Smith

The plaques commemorate the emergency landing of the Southern Cross in 1929 in the Kimberley Region which became known as the Coffee Royal landing site. 

In May 1981, entrepreneur Dick Smith rediscovered the site and he and his family left a plaque on a small memorial they erected in the area where they found shell casings and other evidence of the landing. In 2006 an additional plaque was erected at the site by Jack Evans.

In March 1929, en route from Sydney to England, the aeroplane "Southern Cross" with Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith as the pilot made an emergency landing on a mudflat near the mouth of the Glenelg River, in the Kimberley region of northern Western Australia. The Southern Cross was found and rescued after a fortnight's searching, with George Innes Beard, Albert Barunga and Wally from Kunmunya Mission, the first overland party to reach the downed aircraft.

“The men lived on scant rations caried in the plane, eked out by cooking mud snails; they even attempted to shoot birds which ventured close to camp.  The landing site became known as Coffee Royal.  When they released their plight, Smithy had mixed some coffee and brandy from the plane`s meagre emergency kit.”  Ansett Panorama magazine article, written by Dick Smith.

Two men (both old friends of Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith), Keith Vincent Anderson and Henry Smith 'Bobby' Hitchcock, in their Westland Widgeon plane named Kookaburra crash landed in the Tanami Desert in Central Australia and died of thirst and exposure on 12 April 1929 while on their way to help with the search. Despite Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith being exonerated by an official enquiry, many sections of the media and public felt that the forced landing, dubbed the 'Coffee Royal' incident had been a publicity stunt and that Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith was responsible for the deaths. His reputation within Australia never fully recovered during his lifetime.

Note :  There is no road access to this monument, and the park, it is only accessible by boat.

Safety information

Consider travelling within the park with a personal location beacon (PLB).

Mosquito-borne diseases can cause severe illnesses. Avoid being outside for 1-3 hours after sunset and around dawn. Dress in loose, long-sleeved clothing. Apply insect repellent on exposed areas of skin every four hours.

When you are entering the Kimberley or Pilbara regions, you are entering crocodile country. Two species of crocodile occur in Western Australia : the estuarine (or saltwater) crocodile and the freshwater crocodile. The estuarine crocodile is the largest living reptile and is considered to be a dangerous predator. Freshwater crocodiles are smaller and not as aggressive.

Pay attention to all warning signs, however just because a sign isn’t there doesn’t mean crocodiles aren’t present. If you are unsure don't swim, canoe or use small boats in estuaries, tidal rivers or pools.


GPS Coordinates:Lat: -15.613531
Long: 124.726663
Note: GPS Coordinates are approximate.
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Monument Type:Plaque
Monument Theme:Technology
Actual Event Start Date:01-April-1929
Actual Event End Date:12-April-1929


Approx. Monument Dedication Date:May-1981 & June-2006
Front Inscription

Plaque - May 1981 :


At this location in April, 1929, Charles Kingsford Smith and his crew awaited rescue.  Their aircraft, ‘The Southern Cross’ was forced to land here after 28 hours in the air during an attempt to fly from Sydney to Wyndham.


May 1981”

Plaque - June 2006 :

“Coffee Royal

It was near this spot on April 1st. 1929, that the famous monoplane Southern Cross made a forced landing due to shortage of fuel en route to England. The plane was making for a Wyndham stopover, but became disorientated due to a lost radio aerial and bad weather. The aircraft was crewed by the famous Australian aviators Charles Kingsford Smith and Charles Ulm with radio operator Tom McWilliams and navigator Harold Litchfield. They remained here for twelve days until rescued living on snails and coffee laced with brandy.

Hence the name “Coffee Royal”

This plaque was erected by Jack Evans in June 2006 to commemorate this historic event in Australia’s aviation history and enthusiastically supported by Charles Kingsford-Smith and John Ulm, sons of the two pilots. Erected by kind permission of the Worrora people who are custodians of this plaque with special help from Warren Barunga whose grandfather Albert, then 16 years old, was a member of the relieving party which set out from Port George Mission (now remembered as Kunmunya Mission) to make contact with the airmen.

Hawkins, Hook and Co, surveyors of Armidale NSW have graciously contributed toward the cost of this memorial.”

Source: MA
Monument details supplied by Monument Australia - www.monumentaustralia.org.au