Tjukayirla Caves

StartClick to Reverse the Dynamic Map and Driving NotesTjukayirla Roadhouse
FinishTjukayirla Roadhouse
DifficultyDifficulty 3.5/5
Suitable for4WD 
Distance39.71 km
Minimum Days1
Average Speed33.48 km/hr
Driving Time1 hr 11 mins
Article By: Member - Stephen Langman
Page Updated: 14 Aug 2012


Linking Laverton in Western Australia, to Yulara in the Northern Territory, the Great Central Road is a great Outback Highway to travel, with so much history at its doorstep. Until recently, these Aboriginal Art Caves were unknown to the local people of the area, including the Traditional Custodians. In 2007 while undertaking a drive through the land that he had leased from the Blackstone Aboriginal Community, Andrew has discovered a series of caves that range from 5000 years of ago to over 8000 years old.

At the time of writing this Trek file, there are 12 caves that are available for the General Public to view. As Andrew is continually exploring the area around the Roadhouse, there may be future finds to add to this list, as Andrew is convinced that there must be more Aboriginal Art Caves in the area. Have a chat with Andrew, as he is a wealth of knowledge about the local area and has up to date track information on the David Carnegie Road and the Hunt Oil Road that you may like to include while in the area. Another place that is well worth the visit, and is very close to the Roadhouse, is Empress Springs, on the David Carnegie Road. The track out to there is usually in very good condition and should be included in your visit while you are in the area.

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The Great Victoria Desert is the second largest desert system in Australia, occupying 42 million hectors that straddles the two states of Western Australia and South Australia, and also happens to be Australia’s largest dune desert system.

The Great Victoria Desert is a vast sand belt comprising sand plains and sand dunes. The dunes are linear, and generally run in an east - west direction. Despite its name, the Great Victoria Desert is heavily vegetated, with over 500 plant species recorded, from small herbs through to the giant and majestic Marble Gum, which is the most characteristic feature of the desert. Even though the area has low and erratic rainfall, the desert is a mass of wildflowers in times of good rainfall.

Due to the remoteness of this area, the only thing that has changed over thousands of years is the introduction of the Great Central Road within the last 50 years. Just a few steps from the road and you know that you are looking at an environment that looks the same now, as did centuries ago. Please treat this area with respect, leave nothing except wheel and foot tracks and take nothing except photos.


For many thousands of years, the Great Victoria Desert has been home to a number of Aboriginal groups. When times were good, they would venture out to the remoter parts of the desert, leaving little clues that they had been in the area, in the forms of grinding stones, stone chippings and at special locations, those special Aboriginal Art Sites. With the coming of white man, and the lure of reliable food and water, these nomadic hunters and gathers, left this country, so ending the tradition that had been carried on for thousands of years

The first Europeans to pass through the Great Victoria Desert were Explorers Ernest Giles and his party of eight men, including William Tietkens. On the 27th July 1875 they departed Ooldea on their third attempt to cross the great unknown land that separated the farming districts of Perth with the outer boundaries of South Australia. At one stage when they were desperately short of water, Giles’ Aboriginal companion, Tommy found “a miniature lake lying in the sand with plenty of that inestimable fluid which we had not seen for more than 300 miles”. This place he “honoured with Her Majesty’s mighty name”, Queen Victoria Springs and the desert that they had just crossed the Great Victoria Desert. Giles and his group spent 9 days recovering there before heading further west and on to a hero’s welcome in Perth.

With the desert crossed, the area then saw other explorers looking for miners and grazing land for stock. The local traditional owners of this land were lured away from their homelands with reliable food supplies and the most important thing for any living creature, water. The passing of these original people meant that thousands of years of handed down knowledge from generation to generation ended.

While having a day off of work and exploring with his brother-in-law, Andrew discovered the first cave painting just over 5 kilometres from the roadhouse. Inspired by this find, Andrew has since found many more caves in the area, and is convinced that there must be many more such caves out in the desert, just waiting to be discovered. When Andrew showed the caves to a local Aboriginal Elder, the Elder was not aware of the caves or who had painted those special ochre paintings on the cave walls. When Andrew has any spare time, he heads out into the desert around his roadhouse in search of further lost sites that have not seen any person for a very long time.


As with all major outback trips, careful detail must be given to your pre trip preparation. Your vehicle must be in first class mechanical condition, with special emphases on tyres and suspension. A good quality first aid kit should be carried and either a HF Radio or Satellite Phone carried, for reliable outside communications in the event of an emergency. Before you go out to the site, check with the Tjukayirla Roadhouse to which UHF they are using.

Tjukayirla Roadhouse

Tjukayirla Roadhouse offers all basic supplies, from fuel through to food and basic mechanical and puncture repairs. They also offer a safe and secure campground at the real of the Roadhouse, with very clean facilities. Campfires are permitted, but it is a good idea to bring wood with you.


Like any desert outback area, the winter and spring months of Southern Australia are the ideal times to travel this area. Travel during the summer months is not desirable, as very high temperatures will be encountered and could be life threatening in the event of an emergency. A visit in spring can be very rewarding if there has been local winter rains, as the area to be a carpet of wildflowers.

Important Numbers

Tjukayirla Roadhouse: (08) 9037 1108
Laverton Police: (08) 9031 1000
RFDS Emergency Calls – Sat Phones: (08) 9417 6364
VKS 737 Radio Network: (08) 8287 6222


As you will be travelling the Great Central Road, a Transit Permit from the Ngaanyatjarra Council must be obtained in advance. These permits are free and can be applied for online through the Ngaanyatjarra Council website Their contact email address is

It is also a courtesy to ask Andrew for permission to visit the cave, which he gladly will give you and a paper mud map of the track.

Fuel Supplies & Usage

Fuel SymbolTjukayirla Roadhouse.
4cyl 6 litres4cyl 6 litres4cyl 8 litres
6cyl 6 litres6cyl 7 litres6cyl 7 litres
8cyl 6 litres8cyl 7 litres
Usage is averaged from recorded data (* specific to this trek) and calculated based on trek distance.

Best Time To Visit

Travel during the summer months is not desirable, as very high temperatures will be encountered and could be life threatening in the event of an emergency.

Closest Climatic Station

Distance from Trek Mid Point 219.37km NW
Mean Max. °C38.837.033.830.025.321.221.324.028.532.835.437.3
Mean Min. °C23.822.919.816.
Mean Rain mm30.152.434.122.915.414.811.
    Best time to travel      Ok time to travel      Travel NOT recommended

Services & Supplies

The following locations have various services And supplies:Tjukayirla Roadhouse


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What to See

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Where to Stay

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LocationsDistanceDirection Time
Tjukayirla Roadhouse to Old Van and Cars0.71 kmNW328° 1 min
Old Van and Cars to First Cave Turn Off0.36 kmN
First Cave Turn Off to First Rock Art Site4.86 kmNW306° 7 min
First Rock Art Site to End of Track Marker0.03 kmNE28° N/A
End of Track Marker to First Rock Art Site0.03 kmSW208° N/A
First Rock Art Site to First Cave Turn Off4.86 kmSE126° 7 min
First Cave Turn Off to Second Art Site13.9 kmN355° 17 min
Second Art Site to First Cave Turn Off13.9 kmS175° 17 min
First Cave Turn Off to Old Van and Cars0.36 kmS185°
Old Van and Cars to Tjukayirla Roadhouse0.71 kmSE148° 1 min
Tjukayirla Roadhouse to Tjukayirla Roadhouse39.71 km  1 hr 11 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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