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Australian 4x4 Travel - Tanami Road (Track)

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The route taken in the Outback Travellers Guide Tanami Road Guide available from our Map Shop - broken up into 7 sections with lots
of photos and other informationThe Tanami Track as shown in The Outback Travellers Guide

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 water.

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 saltbush.

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 Papunya turnoff.

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 accomodation.

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 bounds though.

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 action.

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.

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Australian 4x4 Travel - The Tanami Road (Track)

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