Comment: Great Central Road

Hi, we plan to drive from Melbourne to Perth via Uluru/Yulara and the Great Central Road with our good old Toyota Camry around New Year's time. In a few travel books (lonely planet, etc), I can read the road is now good enough for any kind of cars but in some forum, people still say the opposite. I'd like to know where the truth is. Moreover, as it's gonna be in late december/early january, I'd like to know if there is some restrictions due to the temperature (could that be dangerous for the car) or due to the "wet" season (we can't really afford to get stucked in the middle of nowhere for a few days)? Thanks for letting me know
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Reply By: 08crd - Tuesday, Nov 04, 2014 at 17:56

Tuesday, Nov 04, 2014 at 17:56
I have done the Great Central Road quite a few times, the first in 1992, driving an EA Falcon. But never travelled it mid summer,
It has been constantly improved and now is known as an all weather road. Having said that, if it rains you will have a few problems with long muddy puddles and possible road closure.
With regard the temperature in Dec/Jan you can guarantee it will be hot, mid to high 30's, whereas on the Nullabor at that time of year can be mild.

There is usually plenty of traffic on the central road, but at that time of year, you should still let the police know at Yulara and drop in at Laverton police station on arrival.
It goes without saying that the car will need to be reliable well serviced and have really good tyres. Hot weather and gravel roads chop the hell out of tyres, worth carrying two spares.
It is about 1,100k's of gravel, from memory, the road houses have accomodation.
It would be worth giving the road houses a call just before you go, to find out the road conditions. Then watch the long range weather forecast, to pick your departure time.

If it is possible it may be better to use the Nullabor, at that time of year.
AnswerID: 541299

Follow Up By: Xavier F - Wednesday, Nov 05, 2014 at 20:13

Wednesday, Nov 05, 2014 at 20:13
Thanks so much for your feedback. It's so much more accurate than on some other forums.
Unfortunately, after four years in Australia, we have to leave the country quite suddenly and we're just looking for the best way to enjoy this amazing outback we love so much.
I've got a fantastic mechanic and will probably just ask for his opinion regarding the cooling system, airco, tyres and everything.
And we'll take it from there.
Thanks again to all of you (sorry for the common reply), much appreciated
FollowupID: 827447

Reply By: 671 - Tuesday, Nov 04, 2014 at 21:59

Tuesday, Nov 04, 2014 at 21:59
I drove over the Great Central last year and found it as easy as can be. That did not surprise me because it is marked on maps as a major unsealed road meaning it gets more than its share of maintenance and is suitable for all types of cars. Rain is the only thing that is likely to cause you any problems.

The main thing to keep in mind is Outback roads don’t break cars, it is the drivers who break them. The usual problem is too much weight and too much speed as they try and keep to an unrealistic time table.

My Outback trip was in 1967 when I drove a Cooper S from Darwin to Sydney in scorching heat one week before Christmas. I took it down the unsealed road from Mt Isa to Boulia then on to Winton without any trouble at all. The road from Boulia to Winton was in much the same condition as the Great Central last year but it was mostly two wheel tracks with grass in the middle and plenty of dried creek beds for most of the way down from Isa. I just drove to the conditions and if that meant 10 to 20 kph in some places then that was all I did. The thought of not getting through or having tyre problems never even occurred to me.

The heat should not be a problem with a Camry or any other volume selling car. All the major manufacturers know what Australian conditions are like and their cars are designed to suit them. They sell them all over the country and don’t instruct buyers in extremely hot areas to leave them parked from mid morning to late afternoon all through summer..

If you just take it easy and be prepared to take as long as it takes, you will have a good trip.
AnswerID: 541306

Reply By: rocco2010 - Tuesday, Nov 04, 2014 at 22:40

Tuesday, Nov 04, 2014 at 22:40

do a search for thread 109925. Its a report from someone who was on the road two weeks ago.

Just how old is the "good old Camry"?

And if you really cant afford to be held up for a few days I would be looking at going another way. But then I am soft.

Good luck


AnswerID: 541307

Reply By: Zippo - Wednesday, Nov 05, 2014 at 02:17

Wednesday, Nov 05, 2014 at 02:17
Except for rain, the road won't stop you. What MAY stop you is a vehicle not in tip-top condition in the heat you're likely to experience at that time of year. How old is the "good old Camry"? You WILL be using the air-con so the heat load on the vehicle cooling system will be at a peak - make sure the cooling system is checked out before embarking and the suspension checked too - it will take a beating. As mentioned, it is drivers that break most vehicles out there.

Have the vehicle sorted and ready, drive to the conditions, and enjoy.
AnswerID: 541312

Reply By: Member - johntoyo - Wednesday, Nov 05, 2014 at 10:05

Wednesday, Nov 05, 2014 at 10:05
Xavier F, just drove the GCR Laverton to Yulara less that 4 weeks ago in my LC200 towing an offroad van. The lastst 300km starting before the NT border and into Yulara was very corrugated. Some sections were soft and rutted and I can only imagine what there become when it rains. The grader was working on some sections of the NT side but that is only generally an annual touch up.

No UL petrol, only Opel fuel at the road houses and diesel was up to $2.50 a litre.

I had no tyre damage with my A/T tyres and it is recommend to take at least two spares

It's going to be hot in December, and if I had to do it then in a 2WD vehicle, I would be giving the Nullabor option serious consideration.

Good luck
AnswerID: 541323

Follow Up By: Ron N - Wednesday, Nov 05, 2014 at 15:02

Wednesday, Nov 05, 2014 at 15:02
You cannot buy Unleaded fuel in many places in the Northern Territory.
Even in Alice Springs, only Opal fuel is sold.
Opal is around $2.45 a litre all through the unsealed section from Kata Tjuta to Laverton.

Cheers, Ron.
FollowupID: 827428

Reply By: Rob J8 - Wednesday, Nov 05, 2014 at 12:31

Wednesday, Nov 05, 2014 at 12:31
G'day Xavier,
I just looked up the weather forecast for Giles which is out in the middle and the prediction for this week is high 30's. Won't change much for the next 5 or so months unless you get a storm or 2. If it was me I'd go on the tar unless there is a cultural reason for that long dusty trip.
Good luck whatever you decide but take notice of the other posts regarding tyres and condition of the faithful Camry. Regards RobJ
AnswerID: 541326

Follow Up By: Bob Y. - Qld - Wednesday, Nov 05, 2014 at 13:05

Wednesday, Nov 05, 2014 at 13:05

Further to what Rob posted, I've just checked Warburton weather(just down the road from Giles) and the long term averages gives you over 2 weeks, in Dec/Jan, where the temps will be in excess of 40 deg. Now whether your travel will coincide with these hot days, is up to you to decide.

Keep a check on one of the weather sites (Weatherzone is good) as you get near the Stuart/Nullabor H'way intersection so you can make an informed decision on the most comfortable, and safest route.

As well as the advice given above about cooling system & tyres, I'd be thinking of a milder drive on tar, or carrying LOTS of water for this trip. Would also carry a cheap tarp that you can rig up for shade, if for some reason you need to stop by the roadside, for an indefinite period.

And just in case you're not aware of it, when the ambient temp is, say 45 deg C, the ground temp will be up around 65-70 degs. You'll need good thongs on, if you're walking around. :-)

Have a safe journey whatever you decide,


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FollowupID: 827426

Follow Up By: Peter_n_Margaret - Wednesday, Nov 05, 2014 at 15:24

Wednesday, Nov 05, 2014 at 15:24
have driven across the Nullarbor in November when the shade temperature was near 50c.
It will certainly reach tose temperatures on the GCR from time to time and a breakdown under those conditions would not be a good experience.

OKA196 Motorhome.
FollowupID: 827431

Reply By: Ron N - Wednesday, Nov 05, 2014 at 14:59

Wednesday, Nov 05, 2014 at 14:59
Hi Xavier,

I put up the Tjukaruru - Gt Central Road report the week before last. The link to the thread is further down this post.
I drove from Alice Springs to Perth in a 2WD traytop Hilux. The Hilux was very lightly loaded - just 20L water, 60L petrol, electric compressor, and camping gear.

I encountered about 10-15 vehicles a day on average, so the road is reasonably well-used.

The road is rutted enough in numerous places, to make a Camry drag its undersides on the mounds of gravel - and you risk doing damage to the Camry if it does this.

The reason being, that in numerous places, there are still a few fist-sized rocks in those mounds of gravel between the ruts.
I hit one of these rocks with the front suspension wishbone on the Hilux, although it didn't do any important damage.
Hitting one of these rocks would probably do some damage to the Camry.

The Hilux has 190mm ground clearance under the front crossmember and 170mm under the front suspension wishbones. The rock smacked into the centre lower section of the wishbone, so it was standing around 200mm above the wheelruts.

The Hilux suffered from "gravel rash" on the rear underside of the vehicle and the rear mudguards got pretty hammered from the rocks and gravel thrown back from the front wheels. There's a lot of corrugations, it's a road that is pretty hard on vehicles.

I wouldn't be prepared to take a Camry through there, but if you took it slowly, you could do it.
A lot depends on how heavily loaded you are, and the speed you travel at. It's a long way from Uluru to Laverton (over 1100kms).

The problem with a heavily loaded Camry is that it doesn't have a lot of ground clearance.
You really need about 180mm ground clearance to ensure you don't incur damage to the underside, such as suspension components and fuel lines.

Tjukaruru-Gt Central Rd report - Oct 2014

I ran into 3 days around 38 to 39 degrees in the last week of October. It can only get hotter from now on. It can regularly exceed 40 degrees out there in Summer.

The "Wet Season" of Northern Australia from November to May rarely has any effect on the area traversed by the Tjukaruru and Gt Central Rds.
Summer thunderstorms can be common though, and these can create flash flooding, quickly making sections of the road impassable for a few days.

I have put up some pics of my trip on the PBase photo site, however the road shots don't show the worst of the roads.
Also the road condition can vary greatly according to how recently the road has been graded.

Cheers, Ron.

Road trip Oct 2014 - Tjukaruru and Gt Central Roads
AnswerID: 541331

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