Great Northern Highway
|Great Northern Highway|
|Map of Western Australia with Great Northern Highway highlighted in red|
|Length||3,204 km (1,991 mi)|
|Southwest end||Morrison Road, (National Routes 1), Midland, Perth|
|Northeast end||Harbour Road, Wyndham|
|Major settlements||Hamersley Range National Park, ,, , ,|
The Great Northern Highway is a generally north-south Western Australian highway which links the state's capital Perth with its most northern port, Wyndham. It is 3,204 kilometres (1,991 mi) in length, with 3,144 kilometres (1,954 mi) being National Highway. It is constructed as a sealed, predominantly 2-lane single carriageway (excluding a number of single lane bridges in the Kimberley).
This highway is the longest intrastate highway in Australia and also the longest Australian highway in absolute terms. In parts, it is among the remotest sealed roads in the world. Some sections are several hundred kilometres in length without so much as a roadhouse. Economically, it is a vital link as it provides access to the resource rich regions of the Pilbara and Kimberley. In these areas, the key industries of mining, pastoral stations and tourism are all dependent on the highway.
Prior to the 1960s, with the exception of several better quality sections in the wheatbelt area, Great Northern Highway was mostly a series of tracks linking Perth to remote pastoral areas. However, several events occurred in the 1950s that moved the highway forwards. The federal government Beef roads scheme encouraged road building in the Kimberley, which meant trucks were able to transport cattle to port, as against the historical but slow cattle drives. In the Kimberley, a sealed single lane link between Broome and Derby was completed in the 1960s, as were a number of access roads to the port of Wyndham.
Meanwhile, iron ore was discovered in the Pilbara. Here, major improvements to the highway commenced in the 1960s and continued in the 1970s - the section between Meekatharra and Newman opened in 1978, having been upgraded and sealed to two lanes wide. Also in 1978, the road between Halls Creek and Wyndham was upgraded and sealed to two lanes wide, and was followed not long after in 1981 by the widened and sealed 476 km between Port Hedland and Broome, which runs parallel to Eighty Mile Beach and past the western end of the Mandora Marsh.
Work accelerated in the 1980s as part of the Australian Bicentenary roadworks program. In 1986, the widened and sealed section between Fitzroy Crossing and Halls Creek was opened after 5 years of work. Between Newman and Port Hedland the Great Northern Highway was changed in the 1980s to a new route running to the west of the original. It had previously passed through Nullagine and Marble Bar. The new Newman-Port Hedland link was finished in 1989. This marked the completion of sealing the Great Northern Highway (the inland route), and also completion of the federally funded National Highway around Australia.
The section of highway immediately north of Perth runs along the eastern Swan Valley, which attracts large numbers of visitors to its numerous wineries, microbreweries and restaurants. Further north are the gorges and related areas around Karijini National Park and the inland Pilbara mines, which are of interest to some, but the alternative North West Coastal Highway between Perth and Port Hedland offers access to the Indian Ocean and its many natural attractions and is hence favoured by tourists.
In the Kimberley, the highway provides access to many off-highway natural attractions such as Eighty Mile Beach, Purnululu National Park (the Bungle Bungles), Wolfe Creek Crater, the Gibb River Road and Broome, as well as being the part of the route into and out of the Northern Territory. Best seen between April and October when the weather is cooler, these attractions draw in local, interstate and overseas tourists, of which a large number use four wheel drives towing caravans.
The Great Northern Highway presents several major hazards to travellers. Stray cattle and other grazing animals are particularly dangerous and prevalent throughout the Kimberley and Pilbara as potential roadkill. Kangaroos and wedge-tailed eagles, although smaller, are also very dangerous, with wedge-tailed eagles particularly immobile after gorging on other roadkill. Driving at night is best avoided; being equipped with a good frontal roo bar and driving spotlights can help slightly, but is still very dangerous.
Flooding is another hazard, as the Kimberley and Pilbara receive periods of torrential rainfall between November and May. The 'dry causeway' Willare Crossing of the Fitzroy River is designed to withstand enormous floods. However, in the early 1980s, seasonal flooding washed away major sections of the 'causeway' several times. To alleviate the problem, two new bridges were built in 1985 to enable more water to flow through the crossing without overtopping the 'causeway'. Then, less than six months later, Cyclone Hector produced 70% more water than the crossing was designed to handle, and washed away 4 or 5 km of the newly rebuilt section and left one of the bridges without its abutments. It was again rebuilt, and although it has overtopped since, it has not again washed away as disastrously as in 1986.
At other locations, it is not unusual for the road to be underneath metres of water. However as little as 100 mm of water is sufficient to cause a major accident if driven into at high speed.
Towns and Roadhouses
Towns, settlements and significant roadhouses on and slightly off this highway include:
- New Norcia
- Paynes Find
- Mount Magnet
- Auski Roadhouse
- Port Hedland
- Pardoo Roadhouse
- Sandfire Roadhouse
- Roebuck Roadhouse
- Willare Bridge Roadhouse
- Fitzroy Crossing
- Halls Creek
||Midland||0||0||Morrison Road (National Route 1 west / Tourist Drive 203 west)||Highway terminus: continues south as Keane Street; Traffic light controlled intersection; National Route 1 and Tourist Drive 203 southern concurrency terminus: both continue west|
|Middle Swan||1.3||0.8||Toodyay Road (State Route 50 north-east) , Swan District Hospital||Traffic light controlled intersection|
|2.6||1.6||Roe Highway east (National Highway 95 / State Route 3) / Reid Highway west (State Route 3)||Traffic light controlled intersection; National Highway 95 southern concurrency terminus: continues east|
|12.1||7.5||West Swan Road (State Route 52 / Tourist Drive 203)||Traffic light controlled intersection; Tourist Drive 203 northern concurrency terminus: continues west|
|Bullsbrook||25.1||15.6||Chittering Road (Tourist Drive 359)||Tourist Drive 359 southern concurrency terminus: continues east|
|27.7||17.2||Rutland Road (State Route 85 / Tourist Drive 359)||Tourist Drive 359 northern concurrency terminus: continues west|
||Muchea||36.2||22.5||Brand Highway west (National Route 1) / Muchea East Road eastbound||Traffic light controlled intersection; National Route 1 northern concurrency terminus: continues west|
|Bindoon||66.7||41.4||Bindoon-Moora Road (State Route 116)|
||Walebing||148||92||The Midlands Road|
|Bindi Bindi||165||103||Bindi Bindi-Toodyay Road south||T-Junction: Great Northern Highway southbound continues as Bindi Bindi-Toodyay Road|
||Pithara||216||134||Northam-Pithara Road (State Route 115)|
|Wubin||252||157||Mullewa-Wubin Road north||T-Junction: Great Northern Highway northbound continues as Mullewa-Wubin Road|
||Mount Magnet||545||339||Geraldton-Mount Magnet Road (State Route 123)|
||Newman||1159||720||Marble Bar Road (State Route 138) (via Marble Bar)|
||Mundabullangana||1574||978||North West Coastal Highway south-westbound (National Route 1)||T-Junction: Great Northern Highway south-westbound continues as North West Coastal Highway; Route transition: National Highway 95 northern terminus, National Highway 1 southern terminus, National Route 1 northern terminus|
|1607||999||Wilson Street north||T-Junction: Great Northern Highway northbound continues as Wilson Street|
|Strelley||1647||1,023||Marble Bar Road (State Route 138)|
||Roebuck||2174||1,351||Broome Road west||T-Junction: Great Northern Highway westbound continues as Broome Road|
||Lake Argyle||3138||1,950||Victoria Highway east (National Highway 1) , Katherine||T-Junction: Great Northern Highway eastbound continues as Victoria Highway. Route transition: National Highway 1 continues east, no route number to the north|
|Wyndham||3198||1,987||Highway terminus: continues north as Odonnell Street|
|1.000 mi = 1.609 km; 1.000 km = 0.621 mi
- Google Inc. Google Maps – Great Northern Highway (Map). Cartography by Google, Inc. http://maps.google.com.au/maps?saddr=Great+Northern+Hwy%2FNational+Route+1&daddr=-31.7879864,116.0229729+to:Great+Northern+Hwy&hl=en&ll=-22.796439,124.145508&spn=31.238108,53.569336&sll=-15.464959,128.100602&sspn=0.002014,0.00327&geocode=FfB0Gf4dyxrqBg%3BFS70Gv4dvF7qBilNyh1o4bUyKjFQA6MmtfAEEw%3BFeIFFP8d8aaiBw&mra=dme&mrsp=2&sz=19&via=1&t=m&z=5. Retrieved 12 February 2013.
|Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Great Northern Highway.|