Tanami Road, Northern
Territory / WA
The Tanami Road - also known as the Tanami Track.
The Tanami Track is a short cut between Alice Springs in the Northern
Territory north west to Halls Creek in north east of Western
Australia's The Kimberley.
In the past traveling The Tanami Track was a horror trip.
These days it is in somewhat better condition, as it can become very
rutted, as it is the main supply route for some of the gold mines in
the area as well as by road trains.
It can still be rough though with, at times, little traffic. You could
well encounter plenty of bulldust and loose sand, especially on bends
in the road. You must have, as with all desert trips, a well prepared,
reliable vehicle as well adequate supplies of provisions, fuel and
The Tanami covers a distance of a little over 1000km and is the
shortest route between Alice Springs and The Kimberley. Conventional
vehicles often use the longer way around, to the north, via Katherine
to Kununurra and then down The Great Northern Road to Halls Creek.
Much of the trip travels through the Tanami Desert which tends to be
very flat, a little lifeless and widely home to spinifex and
Spinifex is the one you need to be wary of. Many a vehicle has been
lost to fire over the years when the spinifex collect under the car and
the heat from the exhaust sets it alight.
The desert covers about 185,000 square kilometers and extends from Lake
Gregory in the north west to the Davenport Range in the north east, and
south to the Murchison Ranges.
The longest stretch without fuel is 315km from Rabbit Flat Roadhouse to
Yuendumu. Rabbit Flat Roadhouse is only open from Friday to Monday, so
if you are travelling at any other time your distance without fuel will
be around 550km, Yuendumu to Billiluna. Check the latest situation by
phoning the roadhouse on (08) 8956 8744. Camping is also not
allowed at the roadhouse when it is closed.
The track starts just north of Alice Springs left off the Stuart
Highway. The early stretch of about 30 plus km takes you past Mt
Everard and Mt Solitaire before coming to the Kimoth Bore. The road is
sealed and fairly good until you reach the turnoff to the Papunya
Aboriginal Community, about 120 km from The Stuart turnoff. You should
now be heading for the Tilmouth Well Roadhouse, about 50km from the
From time to time you will see tracks branching off the Tanami, many of
them lead to Aboriginal communities and require permits to access them.
It is not advised to be tempted to stray down them. Firstly you
probably don't have the required permits and secondly the tracks can
deteriorate very rapidly.
The roadhouse is situated on the banks of the Napperby Creek and, after
good rain, the nearby Lake Lewis can be an attraction with wide
varieties of birdlife.
The roadhouse is fairly well stocked and you can get most fuels, except
auto gas, water and other provisions. If you feel inclined to live it
up a little in comfort before proceeding there is a licenced
establishment in town that also has cabins and a camping area and
provides hot showers.
Heading further north west for about 100 km you will reach the Yuendumu
Aboriginal Community. Heading further north be very aware of loose sand
and poor road conditions. The area has been known to seen some fairly
severe accidents by unwary drivers.
Travelling in the direction of Alice to Halls Creek it is in this area
that you will see the Wailbri Ranges to the left and the Ngalurbindi
Hills to the right (in a northerly direction).
About 30km out of Yuendumu ther is a turnoff to the Vaughan Springs
Home Stead. Whilst the homestead is about 80km to the south of the
Tanami, you are able to get emergency fuel and supplies there as well
as camping and other
Approximately 220km nort of the Vaughan HS turnoff you will start
seeing the remnants of The Granites goldfields. You will spot several
remnants lying around that are relics of the past. They are out of
Mining has been carried out in this area since the early 1920's and a
little further on you will come accross the present day Granites
Goldmine which started operations in the mid 1980's.
Unfortunately the public are prohibited from entering the mining area,
unless in absolute emergency,so you won't be able to see any of it in
From here you will be heading further north to the Rabbit Flat
Roadhouse. As mentioned above this establishment is only open Friday to
Monday, that's it.
The distance is about 50 km from Granites Goldmine and about 2km off
the main track. Whilst you can buy basic fuel and other provisions here
when it is open, it is very expensive and credit cards are not accepted.
45km further on from Rabbit Flat Road House you will stumble accross
the, now disused, Tanami Gold Mine. Gold was mined here, on and off,
from the early 1920's to the mid 1990's.
Soon after the mine you will come accross a road junction, where the
road to the right, leads to Hooker Creek, some 250km north of this
point, and still in the Northern Territory. You need to head left and
west however towards the border of the Northern Territory and Western
Australia, which is not far away, about 80km.
About 90km from the border there is a road off to the south that leads
to the Balgo Aboriginal Community. Whilst the public are qwelcome to
visit the community and view their art gallery as well as top up on
fuel and basic provisions it is a condition of entry that you contact
them prior to arriving. Their contact number is (08) 9168 8900.
70km on and you will arrive at Sturts Creek. Be wary, if there has been
rain the creek can flood and make a crossing difficult. It is an
excellent camping spot though and this may be the time to relax and
unwind for a while before heading on the home stretch to Halls Creek.
A couple of kilometers or so past Sturts Creek you will see a turnoff
to the Billiluna Aboriginal Community that has a roadhouse come store,
basic supplies of provisions, some repairs and fuel. If you need to
contact them in advance their number is (08) 9168 8988.
It is at Billiluna that the Tanami meets the Canning Stock Route. If
you haven't had enough yet head south onto the Canning. If you are
hanging around you may be able to swap tales with someone who has just
travelled the Canning from south to north.
By now you are heading almost due north on the last leg of your journey
and about 45km from Billiluna is the turnoff to the Wolfe Meteorite
Crater. This crater is labelled the best example of such a crater in
the world. It stands about 35 meters high and is a staggering 800
metres in diameter.
North of the Wolfe Meteorite Crater turnoff travel for a little over
100 kilometres and you will reach a tar road, The Great Northern Road.
You are about 15km from your final destination - Halls Creek. Turn
south and you areheading for Fitzroy Crossing and ultimately Derby,
Broome and Perth, but that's another trip.