The Gunbarrel Highway
The Gunbarrel Highway is one of Australia’s roughest 4WD tracks, taking travellers through 1400km of remote and beautiful desert areas in Western Australia and the Northern Territory.
Hema HX-1 Navigator
|Grading||Difficult - low range and high ground clearance required|
|Time||4 days minimum|
|Distance||826km Wiluna to Warburton, 1420km Wiluna to Yulara|
|485km, Carnegie Station to Warburton|
|Facilities||Wiluna, Carnegie Station, Warburton|
|Best time of year||Avoid summer months|
Don't make this your first desert adventure. This is for experienced desert travellers and your vehicle needs to be tough. Only experienced four-wheel drivers with confidence in themselves and their vehicles should attempt this trip. The Old Gunbarrel is now off-limits. Consumption of alcohol within Central Reserve lands is prohibited without the appropriate approvals, however it is not an offence to transport alcohol through Ngaanyatjarra lands.
|Permits and fees||A transit permit is required from the Ngaanyatjarruku Council; no fees apply.|
Ngaanyatjarruku Council Ph (08) 8950 1711
What to expect
Anyone travelling the Gunbarrel Highway will find their reserves and skills tested as they trek across desert, stone, corrugations, washaways and flood plains. The road started as a piece in the puzzle that was the Woomera weapons research establishment and is now one of the most respected 4WD tracks in the country.
Most things to see on the Gunbarrel relate back to Len Beadell. Shortly after Everard Junction, there’s a memorial cairn on the extremely rocky Mt Beadell. Shortly before you take the Heather Highway south, there is a plaque on a tree.
You’ll need to camp on this trip, and there are good sites right along the route. Even before you come to Carnegie Station, you’ll see Mingol Camp (known as Harry Johnson Water), an old stock camp with quite a few relics of the droving days.
Those making the trek will need to ensure they are completely self sufficient for much of the journey. Not only will travellers need to ensure they bring along water, fuel and food, but they will also want to be equipped with spare parts – supply points are not a regular sight on this trip. The Gunbarrel is often done in conjunction with other iconic tracks along its path and extents, including the Canning Stock Route, the Tanami Road or those heading from the West MacDonnell Ranges.
The Mingol Camp
The Mingol Camp was set up next to a waterhole and is shaded by giant gums, making it a memorable stopping point for anyone traversing the Gunbarrel Highway. It is here that visitors will want to look out for some of the wildlife that flocks to the area, including perentie. Permission to camp must be sought from Wongawol Station.
Carnegie Station is a point of interest for those traversing the highway, and is run by managers Jodie and Dusty. It is here that travellers will be able to stock up on fuel, as well as visit the small museum dedicated to Len Beadell, the man behind the construction of the highway (and many others through the Outback). After this stop, the road becomes somewhat more challenging, becoming one lane and potentially leading travellers to boggy areas, so it is important that drivers keep their wits about them.
The leg between Carnegie Station and Everard Junction is a challenging one - travellers will journey through lands dotted with spinifex and wattles, as well as dangers such as washouts, rock outcroppings and gullies. Most will do this journey at no more than 30km per hour.
Everard Junction is also known as the Gary Highway turnoff and it is here where a Len Beadell marker has been left for visitors in the form of a diesel drum. After this marker, the highway takes a turn to the north to Gary’s corner.
As visitors draw nearer to Yulara from the south they will approach Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, whose resident monoliths can be seen from almost 50km away. All kinds of travellers – not simply off-roaders – explore the Red Centre, so four-wheel drivers will find as they leave the more desolate regions of the highway, the Outback becomes bustling in comparison. The area is popular for good reason, with many amazing Red Centre views to enjoy.