Tanami Road is one of Australia's great outback adventure tracks

Tanami Road is a very scenic drive linking Central Australia and North West Western Australia. It is the most direct route just north of Alice Springs to Halls Creek in the Kimberley, running across the Tanami Desert.

Tanami Road

How long is the Tanami Road?

The dusty desert road is 1,013 km (629 miles) long, running from National Highway 1-the Great Northern Highway on Halls Creek (in the East Kimberley region of Western Australia) to the Stuart Highway, near Alice Springs (in Australia’s Northern Territory, halfway between Darwin and Adelaide). It’s also known as Tanami Track, Tanami Highway, and McGuire Track. Crossing the expanse of the Tanami Desert, the road is actually a fairly well-formed unpaved road, maintained by the Shire of Halls Creek until the NT Border. However, it is an isolated route that is closed for much of the wet season. Any rain can wash away the road, especially at the Kimberley end.

How much of the Tanami Road is sealed?

The road is mostly dirt with sand sections. It has some very bad bull dust holes and large corrugations, with dry creek beds of large sharp gravel. About 20% of the road is bitumen; the remainder is dirt and gravel, and although it is navigable by two-wheel-drive vehicles, a four-wheel drive is recommended. The Northern Territory Government is working towards sealing the Tanami Road and has invested $16.5 million since 2014-15.

How long does it take to drive the Tanami track?

The road is very scenic, with amazing desert scenery. It’s one of the Australian longest roads. Plan about two days to cross the Tanami Desert, allowing time for you to take in a few awe-inspiring sights along the way. The route is used by road trains and numerous four-wheel drivers, holidaymakers, and retirees seeking to experience the remoteness of the Tanami Desert and travel a part of Australian history from the days of the early gold rush.

Is the Tanami track suitable for caravans?

Rain can close parts of the road at short notice. In the desert, when it rains it pours. Speeding vehicles can pick up blinding dust, making driving conditions even more treacherous. Another inconvenience is storms. A desert storm can turn the dusty track into a muddy pool in minutes or even worse, wash it away. If you’re stuck, other people can't stop to help you because they’ll get stuck themselves. Some parts of the road are prone to severe corrugations, making for an uncomfortable and slow drive at times. Take ample supplies of fuel, food, and water, as various roadhouses along the track can be unreliable. It’s a remote-travel area with limited services and supplies: the longest stretch without fuel is 600km between Billiluna and Yuendumu. You should also carry enough drinking water to last two trips, as all dams and bores along the route are classified as undrinkable. Driving across the corrugations and the dirt requires patience and experience. The Tanami road is just shocking – the corrugations can get six inches high, and it sounds like you’re driving an express train. You’re down to just 20 to 30 kph because the road is so savage. Beware loose surface and dust corrugations. It’s a fight to survive. Careful driving: Techniques are advised. Experience counts. Prepare your car for the journey ahead. Expect 360 miles with no food and fuel with temperatures up to 45°C. It is recommended that 4WD vehicles are used for the road and outlying areas, and you will need to be well-prepared and self-sufficient. It is not recommended for caravans or trailers.
Pic: Bayne 78