You can pick up the Gunbarrel from either Wiluna
in the west, or Giles (Warakurna Roadhouse
) in the east and so it is usually done as an extension/beginning of a Canning Stock Route
Trek Note, West McDonald Ranges Trek Note or The Tanami Track
. However technically, the Gunbarrel Highway is the section to the east of Carnegie
Homestead through to Yulara
(via Jackie Junction
and Docker River).
The full stretch is an isolated desert track of 1400km. In general, washaways, heavy corrugations, stone, sand and flood plains are all typical elements of the drive, but the track is graded occasionally by the Wiluna
Shire Council from Wiluna
through to 180km east of Carnegie
. There are excellent bush camps, and many sites have bores with water.
At the western end of the trek, Wiluna
is a town quite unlike any other in Australia
. Other than the few people who service the passing 4WD explorers
, the town is mostly aboriginal and there's just a few dusty buildings, a store, a pub and the camping ground, which is a far cry from the 1930s when this was a prospering gold mining town of 9000 people boasting the southern hemisphere's biggest mine.
At the eastern end of the trek, Giles is actually not a town at all but the homeplace of the Warakurna people and the location of a remote meteorological weather station, known as Giles. Visitors must stay at the Warakurna Roadhouse
, where modern campground facilities, fuel and basic food supplies can be obtained as access into the aboriginal community is not allowed. Most people plan a visit to the weather station while they are here, which is little different to any other weather station around Australia
. Visits are free, but you need to let them know in advance that you're coming, particularly if you want to observe the launch of a weather balloon.
Conditions vary greatly in this region, depending on how much rainfall has occurred in recent days and the volume of traffic and how long its been since the road was last graded. Please read these notes in conjunction with the detailed and updated WA Road Conditions
Report that have been compiled with the assistance from the Wiluna
Shire Council, the AN4WDRN and the assistance of ExplorOz users who report actual conditions to us.
In general, washaways, heavy corrugations, stone, sand and flood plains are all typical elements of the terrain. The major trouble spots are around Mingkili Claypan and between the Heather Highway
turnoff and Jackie Junction
(extreme washaways). The "abandoned section" from Jackie Junction
to Giles is deeply rutted and in places
quite sandy. During the peak travelling season (late June - Oct), many people make the journey across the Gunbarrel Highway so diversion tracks around major obstacles will be in place and even the abandoned section should not be overgrown unless you are the first group of the season after rains to push through the spinifex.
How to Use this Trek Note
In this trek note, we provide Place to Place distances (see Directions tab), a downloadable plot file, and POI files to enable you to use this as your driving itinerary, or as a base guide to add other side trips. As with all ExplorOz Trek Notes
, you can reverse the order of the direction notes by clicking the arrow alongside the words Start/Finish at the very top of the information on this page.
To see the route, click on the Map tab. Then use the Moving Map Control to take a virtual tour of the route. You can also click on the "What to See & Do" & "Where to Stay" tabs to see more about each Place that the route follows. Click each listed item to open a separate page (and download) for each Place for further information to enrich your understanding of the area.
If you use the Print button at the top of the page the text from all sections will be reformatted into one easy to read document (except for detailed Place information – do these separately). If you are an ExplorOz Member, you'll also be able to download any individually selected Places
(or all in one batch download) as POI/waypoint files to use in your GPS (all popular formats available).
The Gunbarrel Highway was the first road built as part of Australia
's role in the weapons research facility called Woomera
. The area of land designated between Woomera
and 80 Mile Beach near Port Hedland
was chosen as the most suitable area in the world for a rocket range, but it was an uninhabited desert waste-land in the most remote part of Australia
This weapons research project did not just involve the launching of rockets into waste-land, but complex missile tracking instruments had to be placed in position throughout this vast region and so a massive ground survey was required to determine the earth's shape.
The first task was to construct a road running east-west across the centre of Australia
to provide a major service access for the construction of all other linking roads. The Gunbarrel Highway was the first of the Len Beadell roads and so is a very historical journey for people taking the trip today.
Len Beadell, the surveyor for the project, admitted he was " a surveyor who liked to draw neat lines on maps", so he decided to site his roads in areas where long straight tracks could be built. It was Len himself, who light-heartedly named his road gang the "Gunbarrel Highway Construction Party". This was done for distance, fuel and maintenance efficiencies for both his construction team and future users. Which is good for us four wheel drivers because it has meant that with a bit of preparation and a good vehicle setup, there's a whole lot of outback tracks that although are no longer maintained, are still in good condition for travelling.
Technically this is not a hard 4WD trip, but you must be very well prepared and experienced. We would not suggest that you embark on a trip across the Gunbarrel Highway as your first outback camping trip.
There are many bores with water them along this track and we strongly advise that you do not use this water unless there is an emergency. Please do not plan to use this water - carry all your own drinking and washing water. The impact of increased 4WD tourism on these historical areas needs to be considered to ensure that access for all remains. Note - to obtain water, you will need to carry a narrow water vessel (less than 14cm diameter) and about 45m of line! Some bores are very deep.
You will need to obtain 2 Transit Permits from 2 aboriginal land councils (one in NT and the other in WA) for this trek. These are transit permits and they cost nothing to obtain.
The Great Central Road
actually requires 2 sets of Transit Permits because there are Aboriginal Communities on both sides of the border (NT/WA) and each state has its own Aboriginal Lands office and issues its own permits. These can easily be obtained online:
These permits together cover the area between Warbuton and Yulara
, and so you must abide by the restrictions outlined in the permit whilst in this region. For the remainder of the trek, from Wiluna
to Jackie Junction
, you are on pastoral land.
Fuel Supplies & Usage
OPAL unleaded fuel is now available at Warburton, Warakurna, and Docker River. OPAL ULP has similar properties to AvGas and is used to discourage sniffing.
Best Time To Visit
Closest Climatic Station
Distance from Trek Mid Point 95.73km E
|Mean Max. °C
|Mean Min. °C
|Mean Rain mm
Best time to travel Ok time to travel Travel NOT recommended
Services & Supplies
The following locations have various services and supplies: Wiluna
, Warakurna Roadhouse
, Docker River (Kaltukatjara) Aboriginal Community
Supplies, medical facilities, some mechanical repairs, accommodation and a Police station is available at Warburton (not shown on this trek note) and is approximately 50kms south of Jackie Junction