Sandover Highway is one of the most remote roads in the Northern Territory. This outback unsealed track runs from the Plenty Highway north of Alice Springs in a north east direction to the Barkly Highway just short of the Queensland Border. Almost six hundred kilometres of sand hills and corrugations. It’s one of the Australia’s best 4WD tracks.
How long is the Sandover Highway?
The road is 561 km (349 mi) long. Due its unique location and passing through remote areas, it is important when driving in these conditions to be prepared. The highway is a well-formed track with common bulldust hazards and black-soil plains that becomes a quagmire after rain. Although the first part of track can be negotiated by conventional vehicles, use of a four-wheel drive vehicle is recommended after Ammaroo. For most of its distance the Sandover Highway crosses the traditional lands of the Alyawarra people. The Sandover Highway is already a popular route for 'grey nomads', driving their caravans from Alice Springs to Mount Isa.
When is the best time to travel the Sandover Highway?
The route demands 100% concentration. This road has humbled many egos. Much of the territory that you will cover is historical pioneering country. It’s not for the sissies and shouldn’t be attempted by novice drivers. The best time to go is spring or autumn, the longest run between fuel stops is about 320 km. Take a tip from the tortoise: slow and steady wins the race. Be totally prepared and do some serious reading before tackling these regions in Australia. This is a remote-area experience and travellers should be self-sufficient with everything from water to communications – there’s no mobile network coverage.
This track can get very muddy and slippery after rain making it challenging to get through. You'll certainly be out in some desolate country, and even 4WDs breakdown. During and after a storm the road may be impassable, even with a four-wheel-drive vehicle. You will travel for some distance through scrub and spinifex country. You will need to make regular checks that spinifex hasn't blocked the airflow to your radiator as it will lead to over-heating and mechanical failure if left. The road is very rough--only try driving it in a 2wd car, if you're planning to buy a new car. The track was built to provide access to the few large stations along the route.
Is the Sandover Highway dangerous?
Carry plenty of water and spare fuel. The road isn’t used much. It’s a real challenging road and a true test of your vehicle and your stamina. Each year the wet season floods the eastern end of the Sandover Highway and Alpurrurulam/Lash Nash becomes completely inaccessible. Blacksoil is extremely nasty after rain, the resultant quagmire making the road impassable, so check at Arlparra as to the weather conditions. Not even a four-wheel drive vehicle will be able to get through the flooded black soil plains. Flooding can also occur after brief but heavy thunderstorms during the dry season.