Tanami vs Buntine

Submitted: Tuesday, May 10, 2016 at 14:52
ThreadID: 132368 Views:2846 Replies:11 FollowUps:4
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Hi Everyone. My family and I are currently planning a three month trip to the Kimberley. We will be leaving Vic on the first of August and heading to Darwin before we tackle the Gibb. We are heading down to the Pilbara before we make our way home on the Northern Highway. We were hoping to cut across to Alice via the Tanami track. However after reading countless horror stories we are now considering the Buntine. Is it any better. We drive a Nissan Patrol and will be pulling an off-road Jayco Hawk. Any advise would be greatly appreciated.
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Reply By: Bob Y. - Qld - Tuesday, May 10, 2016 at 15:20

Tuesday, May 10, 2016 at 15:20
Do you mean the Buntine, Buchanan or Buntine then the Buchanan, and down the Stuart H'way, to the Alice?

Buntine is bitumen from Wave Hill to Katherine, but the Buchanan is good quality gravel(depending on personal standards :-} ) across to Dunmarra. I've travelled the Buchanan from Timber Creek, Top Springs to Dunmarra 40 years ago in a Holden ute Kylie, so doubt if it has deteriorated too much.

Can't help with the Tanami, it's on our bucket list. Many on this site suggest it is okay, as long as you drive to conditions, and are not in a hurry. Often the graders have done sections, and this makes life a bit easier.

If you did the Buntine-Buchanan, it might be further, but you would be able to keep up a better average speed, saving you some time. And it's all downhill to Melbourne too..........:-)


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Follow Up By: Member - pete g1 - Thursday, May 12, 2016 at 20:26

Thursday, May 12, 2016 at 20:26
I should take a tablet........

If you return from the PILBARA via WA's inland highway, turn left at Mt Magnet, go across to Leinster ( c/park $20/night) then down to Kalgoorlie.

Just b4 Menzie’s has Lake Ballard.. with stainless steel sculptures spread out across a salt lake..intriguing images..again kids will scratch their heads ..but u wait..they'll recount the images later in term 3!!
Roads are ALL BITUMEN too.

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Reply By: Sigmund - Tuesday, May 10, 2016 at 16:15

Tuesday, May 10, 2016 at 16:15
The WA section of the Tanami is pretty rough we are told.Yuendumu to Alice is almost all bitumen now we are also told. Certainly Tilmouth to Alice is.

If the Jayco is not the Outback version, and even if it is, you might find things rattling loose.

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Reply By: vk1dx - Tuesday, May 10, 2016 at 16:23

Tuesday, May 10, 2016 at 16:23
Gibb River Road: It's just a big, wide well constructed dirt road. Same as the Tanami section east of Billiluna. The only thing is the corrugations and they get graded away, giving an easy drive and then build up as the traffic uses the road and they develop some good corrugations that make for a noisy drive.

I wouldn't call either of them a challenge. Just long dirt roads.

The Jayco site mentions that the suspension was "Developed after an extensive two year testing program covering thousands of kilometres on second class roads," So it comes down to what Jayco classify as second class roads. Maybe ask Jayco! Hmmmm That's like asking a car salesman to be truthful.

It's your call. I would take a T-van on both without hesitation. We actually had a T-van in tow in 2014 for a drive down the CSR, which meant that we used the Tanami from Alice to Billiluna.

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Reply By: tony_j - Tuesday, May 10, 2016 at 16:51

Tuesday, May 10, 2016 at 16:51
Hi Kylie, I have travelled both those roads but some years ago. The condition of the surface was good on both, but I may have been not far behind the grader. Not sure how often it's done.
If it helps, my view is that the Tanami is a little boring. Some may disagree, but that's my thoughts

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Reply By: Member - Warrie (NSW) - Tuesday, May 10, 2016 at 19:12

Tuesday, May 10, 2016 at 19:12
Hi Kylie, if you are in the Pilbara after doing GRR then you will have gone down the coast. So why go back up to Halls Ck and do Tanami to Alice? Anyway we did Tanami in June 2013. Yes it is1000 km long and boring with corrugations. We were in a 2001 Pathfinder towing a camper trailer and had no problems. Type Tanami Road into Places and 19 links will pop up. There are 4 with each covering a section of the road, plus camping areas etc...... W

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Reply By: Member - JOHN C16 - Tuesday, May 10, 2016 at 22:34

Tuesday, May 10, 2016 at 22:34
Hi Kylie,

In answer to your specific query is the Buntine better than the Tanami. In 2015 the Buntine from the Victoria Highway to Top Springs was a good sealed road. In 2014 the Buchanan Highway from Top Springs to Dunmarra on the Stuart Highway was a lightly corrugated dirt road( and capable of being driven by Bob Y's 40 year old Holden ute).

From Top Springs to Wave Hill the Buntine narrows to a single sealed lane. In June 2015 the only traffic I met here were road trains. Passing road trains requires patience and cooperation. Road train drivers are usually very good and very considerate but there are limits to what they can do with a rig the length of an Olympic swimming pool. I actually prefer a wide dirt track to a narrow sealed road.

There is a scenic and fairly good dirt track South from Wave Hill through Lajamanu to the Tanami near Rabbit Flat roadhouse(now closed). I saw no other vehicles on this track in June 2015.

In summary the Buntine is less rough than the Tanami.

A direct route from the Pilbara to Alice Springs is Marble Bar/Ripon Hills Road/Telfer Mine Road/Gary Junction Road. This route is well maintained and easier than the Tanami.

I notice that you are travelling with family and are leaving Victoria in August for a three month trip. Presumably you will be returning in October. In October there will be no tourist traffic on these remote roads.

The long way home via the Northern Highway and Nullabor is safe and interesting.
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Reply By: Motherhen - Tuesday, May 10, 2016 at 23:19

Tuesday, May 10, 2016 at 23:19
Kylie, from your planned route, it sounds like the Gary Junction would be much better placed to return to Alice Springs from the Pilbara. Having less traffic it is a much smoother ride so less damaging than the Tanami and is much more scenic and interesting. You may like to read My Blogs from 2008 on the Gibb River Road and The Tanami Road, and 2009 for the Gary Junction route.


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Reply By: Kylie L - Wednesday, May 11, 2016 at 10:19

Wednesday, May 11, 2016 at 10:19
Wow.. thanks for all that valuable advise...has definitely given us much to think about. Will read up on all these routes and blogs and no doubt have lots of questions. We originally planned on doing a half lap of Australia, going through the middle and down west coast back home. But after putting together a rough itinerary we quickly ran out of time. With three children under 10 we cannot be constantly on the move. This is the reason we thought we could go as far as Exmouth WA and cut inland to the Pilbara/ Tom Price and back onto the Northern Hwy. We wanted to visit Fitzroy Crossing, Bungle Bungles and Wolfe Creek (?) on our return. Many thanks.Kylie
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Follow Up By: Bob Y. - Qld - Wednesday, May 11, 2016 at 10:42

Wednesday, May 11, 2016 at 10:42
Thanks for the response, Kylie.

To do that much with "littlies" might be a bit ambitious, as you often won't be able to do big days. Why not plan on travel, say as far as Broome/Derby, on Northern H'way, and back on the Gibb(or vice-versa). That country is so charismatic, and there's so much to see, you could spend your 3 months there!

And there's a lot to see around Darwin, with Kakadu & Litchfield not far away. While in Darwin, Mindil Beach markets, Stokes Hill wharf(for fish 'n chips) and the aircraft museum are 3 of our favourites.

Happy planning,

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Reply By: Member - pete g1 - Wednesday, May 11, 2016 at 15:33

Wednesday, May 11, 2016 at 15:33
gidday K,

Aug '15 Tanami was ok, in a 80 series not towing van, comfortable 2 day trip.
Yes as per previous comments the WA side rougher than NT
play mind games and try and remember the make & model of ALL the wrecks along the way.........keep them in order too !
If you are lucky you may find "parts to go"........
Tilmouth Well, caravan pk has reasonably good facilities & roadhouse tucker.
Yes bitumen just about all way from Alice S to Yuendumu .
Drive thru Yuendumu, refrain from take photos.......
Terrain constantly changing..yes it can be boring but so is Stuart Hwy etc. You'll be too busy seeking out the "smoother side of the road".
If you have UHF radio stay on channel 40..helps to know if roadtrains are heading your way...we had interesting chat to two r/train drivers..one was on our side of the road ..just hidden in the dust of the first rig...heading towards us.
Plenty of discrete o/night off road spots ..gravel pits etc. & timber is readily available along the way..if necessary.
Communities along the way.....yes visit, but be aware of vehicle/personal security. Fuel is available, but I believe it's better to carry yr own backup ..just in case you have dramas - crack a tank/spring a leak, lose fuel etc.
Locals will have paintings etc to sell...
Film crew we met last year had gear stolen from vehicle o/night..even though it was in a secured compound.
Kiss the bitumen when you reach Highway 1
oh & Wolfe creek..A MUST DO !!!
We pondered exactly same route options and don't have regrets to our choice.
Search Hall Creek shire web site for interesting top end info.

safe & memorable travels

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Follow Up By: Kylie L - Thursday, May 12, 2016 at 19:15

Thursday, May 12, 2016 at 19:15
Thanks for the feedback Pete. Great advise we will def take on board!
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Follow Up By: Member - pete g1 - Thursday, May 12, 2016 at 20:10

Thursday, May 12, 2016 at 20:10
just saw a reference to Bungles..............

without embarking or instigating a pro / con debate, I'll offer the following;

Bungles are only accessable by 4x4..seriously ROUGH..check if a camper trailer is OK, should you plan camping out there

It has a reputation of being a VERY rough drive into the Bungles..IT IS

We camped at the entry road "tourist c/park" 1km in from highway.....it's expensive but personal $ balances come into play.

If you wish to get down n dirty..book onto the tourist park's, Bungles day trip bus.

It saves your rig, (#1 priority) ..sanity (#2 priority) & you can off load the troops to other bus travelers..!!! (1A priority??)
Trip includes lunch, not cheap. $295 ea I think.

Alternative..$ balances considered here

Take the early * important* morning flight out of Kununurra; kids will remember flight, you chill out ( take ear plugs) 'n U get to see overall scenery.

Only thing you miss is Catherdral Gorge..now that is SUPA stunning.


sssshhhh..keep this quiet......sssssshhh

if in Kununurra...take the Sandlewood Factory / Hoochery road....because the Ord-Cop ..approx 5-7 kms out of town , on left, has discounted fuel.

When we were there it was 15c lower than town outlets. seriously !


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Reply By: My Aussie Travel Guide - Thursday, May 12, 2016 at 11:15

Thursday, May 12, 2016 at 11:15
We've travelled both on numerous occasions and I wouldn't say one way is better than the other...they're just different. I have learnt that I take every road and its surrounding landscape for what it is, so there is no "boring" track in my opinion. Enjoy the journey! Your set up will not be any problem, just take it easy. Whichever route you choose this trip, it just means you'll have to go back and try the other ;-) Travel safe.
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Reply By: Sigmund - Friday, May 13, 2016 at 09:49

Friday, May 13, 2016 at 09:49
The natural history of the Tanami desert is very interesting. Grab a guide to desert ecology like Oosterzee's The Centre. .

The termite mounds in the underground drainage section will blow you away.
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