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
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.
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.