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Down the Gunbarrel Highway

Tired of tame 4WD tracks? Really want to challenge those skills? Then maybe it’s time you pitted yourself against the Gunbarrel Highway.


So, you’re gonna do the Gunbarrel?

Before we start, we just want to make it clear that the Gunbarrel Highway is not a beginner’s 4WD track. It’s remote, it’s challenging and it’s not the easy to get help if you need it.

The track itself is 1420kms of very tricky terrain and spans sections of the Great Central Road. Heavy corrugations, stone, sand, flood plains and washaways are all common features of the Gunbarrel, and will test even the most experienced 4-wheel driver. It stretches from Yulara (NT) to Carnegie Station (WA), although there are people who consider the road between Carnegie to Wiluna part of the Gunbarrel as well. The highway covers some of the most remote territory in Australia.

It was built by surveyor and road builder Len Beadell, who built over 6000kms of road to allow access to the isolated desert areas of Australia. In preparation for road building, Len would venture out, often alone, to conduct initial surveys of the land in his Land Rover. No wonder he is often referred to as Australia’s last true explorer.

The highway’s famous name was derived from the name given to Len’s team, the Gunbarrel Road Construction Party, so-called after Len’s desire to build roads that were as straight as gun barrels. Whether he achieved this on the Gunbarrel is a matter for debate!

Before you leave

The best time to take on the Gunbarrel is between April and September. This is when you’ll get the driest weather. The track can be conquered in 4 days and for that time you need to plan to be almost entirely self-sufficient.

Although there are fuel stops along the highway, there are huge sections of the road where there are no supply stops, the longest being 489kms between Warburton and Carnegie Station. And you’re going to be paying top dollar for any fuel or supplies you do buy along the way. It is advisable to take extra fuel on the trip so you’re not relying on the next fuel stop.

The same goes for water. Although there are bores that operate at some of the campsites, it is not advisable to use this water unless it’s an emergency.

Travelling the Gunbarrel will take you through Ngaanyatjarra land, so you will need to organise a permit prior to leaving. These can be obtained by completing an application form and submitting it to the Alice Springs office of the Ngaanyatjarra Council.

Where you can camp

There are several roadhouses along this section of the Great Central Road at Warakurna, Warburton and Carnegie Station. These offer a choice of accommodation from camping to cabins, and there are limited supplies available also.

There is a camping spot at Notabilis Bore, which gives the opportunity to visit Len Beadell’s tree, 25kms from the bore. From here the Old Gunbarrel Highway continues, but this is now abandoned in favour of the Heather Highway.

At Everard Junction there aren’t any designated camping spots, but you can camp along the track.

With the right planning and preparation, the Gunbarrel Highway should be one of the best 4-wheel driving experiences of your life. You’ll be driving through parts of the country that many people don’t even know exist, flowing the tyre tracks of Australia’s last great explorer.

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16 Jessop Crescent, Berrimah Business Park, Berrimah, NT, Australia

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