Gunbarrel Highway

StartClick to Reverse the Dynamic Map and Driving NotesWiluna
FinishYulara
DifficultyDifficulty 3.5/5
Suitable for4WD Bike 
Distance1420.29 km
Minimum Days4
Average Speed56.89 km/hr
Driving Time1 day 58 mins
Article By: ExplorOz Team
Page Updated: 25 Apr 2016

Description

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

Click the "Map" tab below to see the route we've provided. Icons on the map are the POIs you'll need for navigation purposes. Be sure to check the list of Nearby Places on each POI page.

If you'd like to save this information there are a couple of ways to go about it, depending on what you're actually after:-
  • Ideal solution - download the ExplorOz Traveller App from Google Play or the App Store. The app enables you to carry the ExplorOz Places, Treks, & Maps data offline in your mobile device ready for your adventures. It is a complete mapping, navigation and tracking app. For more details, read our ExplorOz Traveller page.
  • You can print a paper copy of the text using the print icon button shown above, near the social media buttons. For the best output it is advised to open each tab/section to load all images and artwork. You will still need to click open each Place page (listed in Where to Stay, What to See) to print off all available information.
  • If you have a Hema Navigator or use Mapping Software such as OziExplorer, or TrackRanger AND you are an ExplorOz Member, then you can click the Download Trek button at the top of this page to obtain the raw data files (eg. GPX) for this Trek.
  • If you're not a Member, or you'd like to batch download the entire Treks database you can obtain this by buying a product called EOTreks Route Files from our online shop.

History

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.

Preparation

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.

Permits

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:

Ngaanyatjarra Council

For people travelling through Aboriginal Land in the Central Reserves of Western Australia to, or from the NT border to Laverton, the permit is obtained online from the Ngaanyatjarra Council website www.Ngaanyatjarra.org.au Their contact email address is ngcouncil@ngaanyatjarra.org.au

Central Land Council (CLC)

For people travelling through Aboriginal Land in the Northern Territory to, or from the WA border to Yulara, you need to use the Central Land Council website www.clc.org.au to obtain your permit. Their contact email address is permits@clc.org.au

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

Fuel SymbolWarakurna Roadhouse.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.
DieselULPLPG
4cyl 160 litres *4cyl 213 litres *4cyl 284 litres
6cyl 217 litres *6cyl 275 litres *6cyl 250 litres
8cyl 218 litres8cyl 226 litres *
Usage is averaged from recorded data (* specific to this trek) and calculated based on trek distance.

Best Time To Visit

Closest Climatic Station

Warburton Airfield
Distance from Trek Mid Point 95.73km E
 JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Mean Max. °C38.036.533.929.324.320.720.723.127.931.634.336.6
Mean Min. °C22.922.119.915.110.46.45.77.111.215.518.521.3
Mean Rain mm28.536.731.418.015.417.912.99.85.714.824.731.5
    Best time to travel      Ok time to travel      Travel NOT recommended

Services & Supplies

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.

Map

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What to See

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This list may not be complete for the entire region. Places listed here are directly located along the plot file associated with this Trek Note. You can locate other nearby Places by browsing the map or searching Places.
Travel the first of the "bomb roads" made by Len Beadell. Find and locate plaques, original bores and blaze trees. Wild camels, dingoes and birdlife; historic ruins and remote stations.

Showing 18 Places

Where to Stay

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Save time and download all digital map data for this trek (all places are included in the trek download).
This list may not be complete for the entire region. Places listed here are directly located along the plot file associated with this Trek Note. You can locate other nearby Places by browsing the map or searching Places.

Showing 5 Places

Directions

LocationsDistanceDirection Time
Wiluna to Wiluna Community Health Centre0.46 kmSE151° 4 min
Wiluna Community Health Centre to Millbillillie10.23 kmE106° 7 min
Millbillillie to Yelma Stockyard Ruins143.51 kmE86° 1 hr 34 min
Yelma Stockyard Ruins to Banjo Creek, Wongawol Rd14.83 kmNE46° 10 min
Banjo Creek, Wongawol Rd to Carnegie102.64 kmNE43° 1 hr 14 min
Carnegie to Football Oval68.62 kmE79° 57 min
Football Oval to Mount William Lambert123.12 kmNE67° 1 hr 53 min
Mount William Lambert to Gunbarrel Hwy & David Carnegie Rd & Eagle Hwy 11.27 kmE81° 11 min
Gunbarrel Hwy & David Carnegie Rd & Eagle Hwy to Mangkili Claypan15.76 kmE88° 15 min
Mangkili Claypan to Geraldton Bore3.35 kmE108° 7 min
Geraldton Bore to Gunbarrel Hwy & Hunt Oil Rd52.52 kmNE58° 55 min
Gunbarrel Hwy & Hunt Oil Rd to David Wynford Carnegie0.25 kmNE67°
David Wynford Carnegie to Everard Junction17.57 kmE90° 20 min
Everard Junction to Mount Gordon14.14 kmE90° 16 min
Mount Gordon to Mount Everard7.53 kmE90° 9 min
Mount Everard to Mount Beadell0.71 kmE105° 12 min
Mount Beadell to Camp Beadell47.18 kmSE152° 1 hr 3 min
Camp Beadell to Notabilis Hill6.72 kmE104° 10 min
Notabilis Hill to Thryptomene Hill Bore25.21 kmSE115° 30 min
Thryptomene Hill Bore to Len Beadell's Tree & Plaque5.07 kmSE140° 7 min
Len Beadell's Tree & Plaque to Gunbarell Hwy & Heather Hwy24.89 kmE104° 28 min
Gunbarell Hwy & Heather Hwy to Mount Samuel11.66 kmE108° 22 min
Mount Samuel to Gnamma Rockholes5.81 kmE107° 10 min
Gnamma Rockholes to Jackie Junction0.56 kmE93° 1 min
Jackie Junction to Mippultjarra Junction75.66 kmE85° 1 hr 43 min
Mippultjarra Junction to Len Beadell Plaque No. 187.75 kmN1 hr 10 min
Len Beadell Plaque No. 1 to Len Beadell Plaque No. 277.46 kmE70° 1 hr 20 min
Len Beadell Plaque No. 2 to Old Gunbarrel Hwy & Great Central Road12.26 kmE73° 14 min
Old Gunbarrel Hwy & Great Central Road to Giles Weather Station84.15 kmE111° 1 hr 37 min
Giles Weather Station to Warakurna Roadhouse19.25 kmE77° 16 min
Warakurna Roadhouse to Docker River (Kaltukatjara) Access0.66 kmS171° 1 min
Docker River (Kaltukatjara) Access to Docker River (Kaltukatjara)97.87 kmE76° 1 hr 13 min
Docker River (Kaltukatjara) to Lasseters Cave3.2 kmSE119° 6 min
Lasseters Cave to Tjukaruru Rd & Kata Tjuta Rd40.45 kmSE117° 29 min
Tjukaruru Rd & Kata Tjuta Rd to Lasseter Hwy/Uluru Rd & Kata Tjuta Rd142.48 kmE104° 1 hr 50 min
Lasseter Hwy/Uluru Rd & Kata Tjuta Rd to Uluru-Kata Tjuta Cultural Centre39.67 kmE89° 29 min
Uluru-Kata Tjuta Cultural Centre to Mala Carpark (Uluru)7.86 kmS164° 5 min
Mala Carpark (Uluru) to Uluru-Kata Tjuta Cultural Centre1 kmE79°
Uluru-Kata Tjuta Cultural Centre to Lasseter Hwy/Uluru Rd & Kata Tjuta Rd1 kmW259°
Lasseter Hwy/Uluru Rd & Kata Tjuta Rd to Yulara7.86 kmN344° 5 min
Wiluna to Yulara1420.29 km  1 day 58 min
Distance is GPS recorded driving distance (not straight line), Direction is straight line from start to end, Time is calculated from actual GPS driving data.

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